Overall Score 75%
I guess that it was probably the commercial release of Portal that set the bar for games that toy with our sense of spatial awareness. I think that itís a brilliant premise for a puzzle game to do this. We tend to perceive reality in terms of how it relates to us in a very ego-centric way. Games are a fun and relatively inexpensive way of challenging our flat-earth perceptions of what is up and what is down. To solve a puzzle by the manipulation of gravity, time, or somebodyís concept of a fourth dimension is something that eludes most of us in our comparatively mundane everyday lives. In a video game though, itís as easily done as piloting a lunar landing capsule, kicking the winning goal of the World Cup, or planning the downfall of the Orcish Empire.
Refexio conceals this grand aspiration behind a cutesy player character, simple gameplay design and a standard platformer interface. Arrow keys move the blue rodent over and under obstacles towards his goal on each level of being eaten by an abstract mouth like thing. He can not only jump and grab hold of special blocks (which can be positioned on the level as desired), but he also has a very unique power. Elements in the gameworld can be ďreflectedĒ on an axis by the use of the spacebar. Actually, reflected is not a great word for the process since the elements can only exist on one side of the axis at any one time. For example, a group of blocks in the right bottom corner of a level can be moved across the map by reflecting them over an axis running straight down the middle of the playfield. Certain blocks however are resistant to this process and are easily distinguished by their darker colour. The process is a little tedious to describe, but feels intuitive enough after a bit of experimentation.
The first few levels are fairly easy and serve as a tutorial for the new player to come to a basic understanding of the concept of reflection in the game. Levels can be replayed at any time once they have been cleared, and the game will keep track of a playerís progress automatically. The fun starts when there are many different axes of reflection to choose from (W,A,S,D and X are used to do this), and when reflections need to be activated as our hero is in mid-air and falling to his peril. The gameplay blends cerebral puzzle based concepts with agility based platforming really well. Only players that are good at both will prevail. Although there is a certain amount of freedom for the player to approach the puzzles as they see fit, the fixed (albeit selectable) axes of reflection and level layouts generally mean that there is one optimal solution to any given map with a few variants on some of them.
Many levels feature multi-objective layouts that require the manipulation of switches before the character can proceed to the goal. Once a solution has been found, most only take a minute or two to complete. There are over 50 levels to beat spread over 7 worlds , of which Iím about 30 into at the moment after a couple of hours play. As a simple game, itís probably best enjoyed in small sessions. I like the gameplay but itís not especially addictive or immersive in a way that would make you want to play it for hours on end. Thatís certainly not a criticism as much as an observation and it will give that game an appeal to more casual gamers as well.
Controls feel quite tight, but there is a degree of forgiveness when reflecting blocks. If the player character is in the exact position where a block would be reflected, the level ends, but if there is any degree of doubt it tends to go in the favour of the player. The character is pushed lightly away from the materialising block. Also jumps across gaps when slightly short seem to be judged in favour of the player where other games might punish. Most reflections can be reversed immediately for no adverse effect. In all, the game does not push the player through the levels and there is a feeling of freedom to take time and ponder the solution before making a move.
The presentation of the game feels a bit lightweight. Annoyingly there seems to be no way to customise keyboard controls and my Dell laptop seems to have an issue with pushing the up and left arrow keys in combination with the spacebar. There is an option to use an XBOX 360 controller, but that was not tested. I plugged in my generic USB PC game controller and it was totally unresponsive in-game. There is no multi-profile support. The game plays in a small fixed resolution window on your desktop which on large high-res monitors may frustrate some players. On my 1600x900 laptop, it was happily playable though. There is no fullscreen option.
I like Reflexio. Graphics are clear and functional and have an anime style softness to them. Music and sound effects are no more than required no less than expected. Game pacing and difficulty leans more towards casual play and yet the game maintains a clever ďfourth dimensionĒ aspect of play that works as a hook initially, and is explored quite extensively through good level design. Itís lacking in some customisation and personalisation options that should come as stock in a modern PC game but those flaws donít really impact too greatly on the playerís enjoyment of an otherwise solid title.
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