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Hands-on with forma.8 - the unbearable tension of extraterrestrial spelunking
By Chris Priestman 03 March 2014
Game Name: forma.8 | Publisher: MixedBag | Format: iPhone, iPad, PS Vita | Genre: Action, Adventure
The giant, man-eating plant I just roused from its slumber is spitting out fireballs three times the size of my little probe. Not even my dad is this grouchy in the mornings.

The cavern is large enough for me to dance around the fireballs (just), but the glidey movement means I have to plan my dodges in advance rather than relying on my reflexes.

This slow, drifting movement is what makes dystopian action-adventure forma.8 challenging.

Take it slow

forma.8

When I first entered the dark caverns, passing the beautiful streaks of light bursting through holes in the ceiling, I tended to bounce off the walls when passing through the narrow passages.

This inertia-laden movement is just something you have to adjust to, but it can be enormously frustrating. We think it could be tightened up a little without affecting the game's challenge, which consists of anticipating hazards and getting out of their way.

Tiny inside

Movement aside, forma.8 is most memorable for making you feel small. If you're not underground, pushing huge cogs to navigate past creaking machinery, you're on the surface, admiring the scenic view of yellow skies and purple mountains.

The tense silence, alien habitats, and colourful mountainous backdrops conjure up memories of Another World. You dodge red lasers, take electro-pulse powers from corpses of probes that worryingly resemble you, and do battle with native flies and leaping creatures.

Later on you have to dash up and then down lava chutes, jumping to the crevices on the sides when the magma rushes up.



Do it yourself

To its credit, forma.8 never tells you what to do, but rather gives you subtle hints through level design and toolset.

A good example is when you first get the bombs, which you drop by swiping left. Bombs are more destructive than the electro-pulse, which is your primary way of dealing with enemies until that point.

You are told that the bomb can be used to blow up crumbly walls, but that's it. So, when faced with a red-eyed enemy that suspends itself in a narrow corridor, and sends out a nasty red pulse if you get near it, what do you do?

forma.8

It took me a while to discover, through experimentation and lateral thinking, that you can propel bombs by using your electro-pulse.

This lack of explicit guidance can be frustrating, but by the same token it's immensely rewarding to discover a solution by yourself using the tools you've been given.

forma.8 will be coming to iOS and Vita later this year. You can read more about it on the game's website.
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