Friday, 13 November 2015

Platform/Puzzle Games #6

Squirbs (2015)
By: Team Indev Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

A couple of months ago now I did a preview of a rather interesting-looking indie platformer I chanced upon known as Squirbs. Though not entirely unique, it featured an unusual game-mechanic as well as a rather peculiar main character, but it worked well and I enjoyed it a lot. I'm therefore very pleased to say the final game is now ready! Its star is called Squirb and, in his apparent foolish curiosity, he began fooling with a crystal he found which resulted in him breaking it. The many shards were spread over a wide area but also split Squirb himself into two. Your job is simply to recover all the shards, reconstruct the crystal, and (hopefully) return everything to normal. Sounds simple enough!

But... it is not, for the dual Squirbs that now occupy what could well be parallel universes are controlled simultaneously, with each of them occupying one half of the screen. Indeed, the play-field is split down the middle with one Squirb and resultant single-screen (or half-screen), platformy stage on each. Control of them is simple - left, right, and jump - and both of them perform these actions in unison regardless of what might be around them. The object is to guide them to the purple crystal shard that is somewhere on each stage, but both Squirbs must be touching their respective crystal shard at the same time for the stage to end, and this can make things much more tricky.

Something else that will cause you problems is that the path to each crystal shard is predictably filled with strategically-located hazards and traps, so moving one Squirb to a safe area may see the other fall off a ledge into deadly water or impaled on a bed of spikes! These are the most common hazards I'd say, but there are several others such as lava, spinning saw blades, cannons, and even evil Black Squirbs, all of which will cause the happy Blue Squirbs to explode in a surprisingly bloody shower of entrails upon contact. This will very likely happen a lot too, as there is definitely a lot of trial and error involved in the gameplay here. Fortunately you can try any given stage as many times as you like.

This feature is particularly welcome a feature as there are 100 stages to solve in total. Some may well be bested on the first attempt within 30 seconds but others will require multiple attempts as you practise and experiment with various tricks and techniques, and even when you've worked out how to finish a stage it's still extremely easy to make mistakes and fluff everything up. As well as giving you infinite lives and allowing quick and easy restarts (press 'R' at any time), your progress is also saved on the stage select screen where you can choose between several stages to try next which are divided almost equally over four different themed areas - Forest, Underground, Ice, and Castle.

This adds some welcome variety to the pleasant, well-defined visuals (the Squirbs themselves are great) and the soothing music suits the game well. While the presentation is a little rough around the edges, it's a very nice package overall. The best thing about the game is the design of the stages which must have taken a great deal of planning and testing. Several new items are introduced as you progress through them which can either help or hinder, including mushroom springers, conveyor belts, collapsing platforms, switch-activated doors, teleporters, moveable crates, and a few types of special pad, and it can take a little messing around to work out how to use them correctly.

It's definitely a challenge to finish all 100 stages and there may even be some more stages released a little later via some free updates. On top of this there are also 20 two-player co-op stages to get through as well. Here there are four Squirbs on the screen - the two blue ones for player one and two yellow ones for player two! The single-player mode will see the most use though, I'm sure, and it's a good one. The solution to some stages is quite obvious but it may still end up taking you thirty-odd tries to get there, while others will have you convinced they're impossible, but it's a well-crafted and addictive game which I've enjoyed a lot. Give it a try if you fancy something a little different.

RKS Score: 8/10

Gameplay Video: Here's the release trailer for Squirbs. Head over to its Steam page for more info.


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