Forma.8

forma.8 Review: Smooth, Breathtaking Graphics + Awesome Ambient Sountrack = Great New Indie Title for Switch!

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MixedBag has just released an exciting new title for Switch: forma.8, an indie “Metroidvania action-adventure” originally released in February for other gaming platforms. Inspired by dark and moody retro titles like Metroid and Castlevania, forma.8 is a visually striking 2-d experience that has you playing as a drone who has just crash-landed on an alien planet. As the lone survivor of the crash, your drone is unable to speak and unsure where to go—and with no tutorial or guide, you the player are also unsure of these things. But like the drone you control, you’ll learn what to do as you play.

Your drone with its allies, right before the fateful crash.
Your drone with its allies before the fateful crash.

GAMEPLAY
Unlike many games of its kind, forma.8 focuses on exploration rather than combat. While combat does matter (to an extent) and there are a number of boss fights (more on that below), your primary focus is exploring the vast world where your drone has found itself stranded—and you’ll be doing lots of exploring. You’ll often run into dead ends, and you’ll find yourself backtracking again and again (and again). (If you don’t like to backtrack, you might want to pass on forma.8.) An in-game map will help you keep track of your long and winding journey, but there’s a good chance you’ll still end up lost and confused while you’re getting used to the game.

Here's an example of the in-game map. It's pretty abstract, but still helpful.
Here’s an example of the in-game map. It’s pretty abstract, but still helpful.

When you first start forma.8, you’ll have no special abilities, but you’ll gradually accumulate them as you play. The first ability you’ll gain is a pulse that damages nearby enemies when you press B. The second ability is an exploding mine that you can release with Y. The game tells you how to activate these abilities when you first get them, but it doesn’t tell you that you can combine them to “pulse” the mine into a certain direction. Of course, we just told you about this trick—but as for the other tricks that you can use after gaining more abilities, you’re on your own!

Using the pulse ability creates a burst of energy around your drone, which damages enemies in close proximity.
Using the pulse ability creates a burst of energy around your drone, which damages enemies in close proximity.

Your abilities will help you navigate the alien world of forma.8, but they’ll also help you solve puzzles, squeeze through tight spaces, and beat some intense bosses. Also, it’s worth noting that boss battles often require you to get creative and combine certain abilities (like the combo of the pulse with the exploding mine) to create special attacks, which can be tricky to figure out on your own. Learning and practicing all the possible ability combinations is one of the hardest parts of forma.8, and it may be a deal-breaker for some players—but if you love to dive head-first into a challenge, we think you’ll love this aspect of the game.

The first boss battle in Forma.8. Good luck!
A glimpse into the first boss battle in forma.8. Good luck! (You can do it. We believe in you.)

GRAPHICS AND SOUND
We think forma.8 is artistically stunning with its striking visuals and dark, atmospheric sounds. Its soundtrack reminds us of the music of Brian Eno, the master of ambient music—a huge compliment, in our opinion. In fact, while playing for this review, we found that the soundtrack (almost) always made us feel at ease, even when we faced daunting situations. And forma.8’s jaw-dropping animation style is just as good as its soundtrack: the developers have absolutely nailed the precise use of color and shading that give breathtaking depth to a 2-dimensional game. For these reasons, we think forma.8 is a great game to play when you just want to chill.

The game's use of color and shading creates breathtaking depth for a 2-dimensional game!
The game’s use of color and shading creates breathtaking depth for a 2-dimensional game.

CONS (AND MORE PROS!)
Of course, it’s hard to find a game that’s perfect, and forma.8 does come with some cons. First, your movement is quite slow when you start the game, and it stays slow for a while. This makes backtracking even more annoying (if you find backtracking annoying in the first place, that is). Also, your movement style is quite floaty, and floaty + slow = difficult movement. When you first start the game, you’ll probably have a hard time getting your drone to go where you want it to go, and you’ll likely bump into cavern walls like a ping-pong ball when you’d much rather peacefully glide between the walls. Then again, this gives you something to work towards: you can always improve the grace of your movement, and some players might find this quite satisfying.

See the smooth trail behind this drone? That indicates smooth movement, which is hard to achieve in tight spaces.
See the smooth trail behind this drone? That indicates smooth movement, which is hard to achieve in tight spaces.

Another drawback is that targeting enemies with your abilities (and combinations thereof) can be very difficult, which can lead to a loss in health and/or life. But then again, that leads into one of the game’s pros: forma.8 is quite forgiving. For example, when you die, you respawn at a checkpoint that’s never terribly far from the place where you died, and when you’re low on life, it’s really easy to get more: just kill an enemy and collect the shining light-beads it leaves behind. Plus, the game often leaves generous bundles of light-beads in the areas you explore, which make it super-easy for you to go from close-to-zero health to full health in a matter of seconds.

This is one of those enemies that's pretty tricky to take on.
This is one of those enemies that’s pretty tricky to target with your arsenal of abilities.

CONCLUSION
Overall, we loved playing forma.8, and it’s the perfect game to play when you just want float dreamily through a strange, beautiful world and listen to some awesome ambient music. But while forma.8 can be viewed as a relaxing game, it can also be a rather frustrating game, especially if you struggle with the controls and/or hate having to backtrack all the time. But if you love a challenge and don’t mind the repetition of backtracking, we think this game might be perfect for you, and you can pick it up for $9.99 right here!

Try out Forma.8 today!
Try out forma.8 for Switch today!

 

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