Ynglet Review


Some games just don’t translate well to a review. At least, they don’t translate to the part where you have to describe them. They simply aren’t meant to be conveyed in words and sentences, and reducing them in that way does a disservice. The obvious reaction is that they were made to be played. Ynglet is one of those games. 

Oh boy, here we go. Let’s try anyway. Ynglet is a game about a microorganism. At least, we think it’s about a microorganism. The protagonist and the other Flow-like entities that skim around are bacteria-like, and the levels often feel like you’re swimming about in a petri dish. Until they don’t: because Ynglet’s world warps and flexes so that it occasionally resembles a city map, with trains whistling in and out of sight. Other times, there’s a Fantasia-esque synaesthesia, as blobs bounce and glide to the music. It’s a slippery game to grasp and describe, but there is no doubting its prettiness. 

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Ynglet is primarily interested in you getting from A to B. You start within a level, and there’s a portal in a far-flung region that you need to reach and jump through. It’s the simplest element of Ynglet, and – in a way – positions it closest to a platformer. 

Except you’re not jumping on platforms. They are not platforms, and you can’t jump. So, swap out the platforms in your head with human cells. As soon as you navigate into these cells, through the membrane, then you are suspended within them. You can move/swim within them in safety, and you can even stay stock-still so that you ‘save’ your progress within the level. Every ‘cell’ is a potential save point. 

Now, you have to move from cell to cell to get to the exit. The levels abide by the rules of gravity, constantly trying to yank you down to the bottom of the screen and to your death. But you can’t jump out of your cell: instead, you swim, at pace, out of the cell, and hope you have built up enough momentum to arc up, up and over into the next cell. So, it’s kind of a swan-dive rather than leap. 

Soon, you unlock abilities that make this ungainly movement more precise. You can slow down time and, while you are slowed, fire your little microorganism with a Puzzle Bobble-like dotted line that provides guidance. This punches you in a new direction, allowing you to reach distant cells, or even ricochet off harder elements. 

A ‘Puzzle-Bobble platformer’ gets you to roughly halfway of what Ynglet is about. Intricacy comes from what this ‘firing’ mechanism can or cannot do. It can only be used once, and needs replenishing for it to be used again. Plunging into a cell resets it, as does bouncing on trampolines and ricocheting off orange walls that are designed for that purpose. So, you are often chaining these actions so that you can get from one cell to another. 

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Knowing what will or won’t replenish this ability is Ynglet’s greatest failing. It’s a ruleset that’s not adequately explained (tutorial levels appear between larger, more expansive levels, but there’s no text or voiceover to explain), and it can take some time before you realise the full feature list of a new wall, obstacle or unlock. We sat staring at a green gate for ages, before realising that they were a kind of cooldown-refresher. 

But once you have the rules memorised and instinctive, it’s all rather splendid. Trampolines can be fired through, but not moved through, so you can Puzzle-Bobble through one and then come crashing back down to bounce on it. Some cells explode, but that explosion can propel you further onwards. It’s a world of double-edges, with everything offering a potential upside and downside. 

The result is a sense of wondrous flow. We danced around our petri dish, leaping from one cell to another, ricocheting off several walls to be trampolined into the next cell, stopping for a breather and to save. Collectibles glittered on the fringes of the screen, tempting us to chain together several gates without ever touching the safe haven of a cell. And the music shifted and throbbed with all of our actions, reminding us of the PSP classic, Sound Shapes. 

We have no doubt that none of this is making anything like sense. Hold onto that bemusement, as it’s a persistent state while playing Ynglet. Nothing is described, there is no written story or voices to latch onto. Everything is intuited, as even the level select screen is a bemusing wash of bricks and rings on a map. ‘Understanding’ isn’t so much given to you, as it is explored, as you assume things are true and then test them. It’s an appropriately scientific approach to a game that feels like it’s being played through a microscope. 

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We still curse Ynglet, and there’s ample room for infuriation. It’s too abstract for its own good. At two separate points, we reached the end of a level, only to find it shut, because we hadn’t found some element that was meant to represent a key. A skittering bug was needed, perhaps, which would be fine if the level wasn’t strewn with bugs that we couldn’t grab. And your path through the level is obfuscated. It’s such an alien landscape, that a critical path through it all is harder than you might imagine. We wished for a splash of Mirror’s Edge’s-like colour on platforms. 

But we don’t get games like Ynglet often, so let’s take a moment to celebrate it. It may look superficially like thatgamecompany’s Flow, and it might have the simplest of all objectives – to reach an exit. But in all other ways, it’s deliriously unique. We haven’t come close to doing this little £3.99 game justice. So, take our word for it, and find out by playing it yourself.

You can buy Ynglet from the Xbox Store


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1 year ago

ne if the level wasn’t strewn with bugs that we couldn’t grab. And your path through the level is obfuscated. It’s such

1 year ago

ine if the level wasn’t strewn with bugs that we couldn’t grab. And your path through the level is obfuscated. It’s such an alien landscape, that a critical path through it all is harder than you might imagine. We wished for a splash of Mirror’s Edge’s-like colour on platforms. 

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