Forma.8 is a new Metroidvania style title from Mixedbag Productions, where you play as a drone searching for a new power source on a foreign planet. You crash into a building on descent and must find your way into the energy chamber, or at least die trying. You start out with only two abilities; a round AOE attack that pushes foes away from you, and a mine attack that can be pushed by the AOE attack to, in turn, make the mine a projectile weapon. In standard Metroidvania fashion, the only directional navigation you get is a blip on your map and a wealth of undiscovered passages.
The map is quite nice in size, allowing for a plethora of environments and enemies to tackle, leaving a decent amount of content for you to access and entertain yourself on. The downside is that the character is rather slow, even after you get the boost upgrade. You are on an urgent mission for an energy source, but you just float along at a rather slow pace and just hope you make it to the source on time. After the first hour it really started to grate on my nerves that I was moving as slow as I was, but there wasn’t any way to increase it, and so it really put a dampener on my fun. I didn’t particularly care about getting to the next boss fight because it would take me so long to get there, and should I fail on the way, the time will be increased in an area that’s already fairly dull.
And that’s a big issue with this game: the areas are, without beating around the bush, pretty dull. You go from one enemy filled cave to the next, either hunting for the next boss or rummaging for the next secret, and it just doesn’t inspire you on the way there. This is in part because of the graphics being a silhouette style, ensuring the only color is that of the enemy’s eye, or in the background. The issue is that the game becomes dull when it’s the same shade in the foreground, and the only real action can happen in the background, and that only happens rarely, if at all. Most of the time the background is left as a pattern or simple color scheme that doesn’t really add anything to the experience, leaving you with an average experience as you trundle between areas.
The upgrades that help you traverse the game are pretty spaced out, and they’re all assigned to the face buttons of the controller. One is the aforementioned AOE attack, the grenade attack, but you eventually unlock a dash attack that damages you when you hit an enemy. The final upgrade is earned shortly before the final boss, and it’s a short range teleportation move. It takes a little while to charge back up, so it isn’t really recommended to spam it.
You can get four upgrades from a chamber on the map, but it requires you to hunt down the secret hexagons sprinkled throughout the map. If you get all forty, you get to try all of the passives. I had a hard time finding more than nineteen, so I ended up only getting the first upgrade, which added a small boost in speed if I flew in a straight line for long enough. Not spectacularly useful, but it still helped, and hindered, a decent amount.
Of course, there is a small variation in the enemies; ones that fly, ones that jump, and ones that crawl along the landscape. The further into the game you get, the more hits they take, and some have resistance to certain attacks, requiring you to do a small amount of extra steps to kill them. The same concept is held for all of the bosses. You just have to hit a specific action in order to damage them, whether it be feeding them flies or dodging a missile into them. There isn’t a really large puzzle mechanic in killing enemies, but there is a nice selection of puzzles scattered throughout the map.
And it is in the puzzles where Forma.8 really shines, regardless of how few are actually in place. There’s a variable mix of puzzles that don’t really get repeated anywhere in the game, allowing each fresh test to excite you. The only downsides are that they feel underused and lack any documentation that would help you figure out how to begin. One such task is that you have to guide a baby space crab to its mother, but there are traps along the way. I couldn’t figure out how to accomplish leading the crab because nothing seemed to make sense, and so I had to resort to a guide somebody had kindly made on Steam. It turns out that I had to use the grenade ability to guide the creature as I travelled beneath the floor.
It was an awesome puzzle once I got started, but it didn’t seem like a blatantly obvious problem to me. If there had been a burnt out drone that was sitting next to a grenade, or something to indicate the way ahead, it might have given enough of an idea of what to do, but nothing of the sort is there, and it really dulled the experience. If I had enough information to know that it was a grenade puzzle, I wouldn’t have gone through the whole map again as I tried to find a part that I might be missing.
But that aside, and overall, Forma.8 is good. In fact, it could quite easily be classed as great by some standards, but it definitely isn’t a game that I would recommend wholeheartedly to those without patience. It is a slow title that can grate against your patience in some cases, especially in regards to its respawn points, but thankfully still has many redeeming features that plenty of individuals will enjoy.