Platformines is a 2D sidescrolling platformer/shooter mashup from Magicko Games. It starts off with a solid foundation, but sadly fumbles with everything else and fails to deliver a satisfying experience.

The basics of the game are all decent enough, and could work as the starting point for something great. At the simplest level, it all just works. The platforming serves its purpose, if it is a bit floaty at times. You aren’t confined to a single, or even double, jump – instead you can jump five or six times in a row, depending on your current loadout. This lets you string together maneuvers to traverse the mines or outsmart your foes. Combat works as well – as the game goes on you unlock four types of weapons that feel distinctive and have different uses. It’s all really simple, and there are quite a few quibbles with both parts, but it does a fair job of stringing the experience together.

The underground system of caves, the eponymous mines, is vast and interesting to explore – there’s a good deal of different biomes and new things to discover, and the game does a good job of opening up as you progress. You’ll be effectively confined to one or two areas at first since everything else is too deadly to survive in for more than a few seconds, but you’ll improve your equipment quickly and be able to explore previously untraversable areas in short order. And there’s an exhilaration that comes from hitting a pocket of particularly valuable ore and buying a new piece of equipment, or finding an upgrade in the wild. Platformines has the potential to be something great but, unfortunately, it falls flat in quite a few key areas.

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For all my talk of different weapons and contrasting biomes, the game quickly devolves into a bit of a grind. Vast as the randomly generated worlds might be, there’s very little incentive to explore, and your objectives remains the same throughout the course of the game. Your task is to find a number of tools to help you rebuild your ship, and there are certainly ways to play with that basic concept and make it interesting. Unfortunately, there are no real attempts to keep things fresh – your goal is never changed beyond “Go here and collect your new toy.” Even the building of the ship fails to provide much variety – it’s a simple little two or three minute puzzle once you have all the necessary components, and then you win the game.

This issue, the lack of progression, extends to other areas of gameplay. The vast, vast majority of items you’ll find are vendor trash – some can be used to heal you and some are guns, but even those tend to get thrown at the nearest shop as soon as possible. The improvements you get all just increase your stats by varying increments. There’s no unique or interesting equipment to find, just 5% more damage or an extra 25 inventory slots. The only equipment that has any visual impact is the new headgear you can find but, again, the only actual difference is a few stat points that get thrown about.

The difficulty curve is all over the place as well. It starts out solid, with areas becoming more and more accessible as you improve your equipment and get to grips with the mechanics, but the challenges you face quickly outpace your own advancement. There’s no balance or fairness – your foes get exponentially stronger and deal a hundred times more damage long after you’ve bought the last health upgrade and upgraded your guns and armour beyond what’s available in the shop. It’s not like Super Meat Boy or Dark Souls either, where the difficulty and your failures are at least partially due to areas where you can improve. Instead, since the world is randomly generated and enemies and traps are spawned in huge numbers in later areas, survival becomes almost entirely luck based by the end.

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This means the already poor structure of progression devolves even further. With no more upgrades to find, there’s no reason to hunt down new ores or traverse the tiny, premade dungeon chunks that pockmark the world map. And the difficulty spike basically means gameplay immediately goes from leaping around, fighting enemies and collecting loot to rushing between checkpoints until you find your objective, dying over and over again along the way. Of course, even finding your way is an issue – the map system is so broken that, when combined with the procedural generation of the world, actually finding the right path to your objective is more trial and error than anything else.

Despite the crisp graphics and animations, despite it all looking good technically, there’s no personality to anything going on. Your character creation is quickly rendered moot once you realize that one of the only defining features – the hairstyle you choose – will be replaced in five minutes when you find a better headpiece. That’s not to say the game covers up your hair, it literally replace it – the hair you choose at the start is little more than an item you start with. It’s an odd design choice. Everything else lacks character as well – enemies are almost all either palette swaps or randomly generated NPCs with random weaponry, and the one or two consistent NPCs are utterly bland. Despite the variety in the world, there’s no real sense of location to anything – everything blends together beyond the changing colours, and everywhere uses the same tiny, fiddly dungeons to tuck away their loot.

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And speaking of your character, there’s a pretty glaring issue with character creation. Obviously I’m not the best person to talk about this, given that I’m unaffected by it in the vast majority of situations, but it’s something that needs to be discussed. The game has an issue with how it handles races. My issue isn’t with the fact that, for all the different character creation options, you can’t actually choose a race or skin colour – that’s something that is far too common in games to delve into here, an issue that would require a separate look. My issue, and, in fact, the first thing that put me off the game on loading it up lies in a few specific options. Specifically, there are two sets of eyes which are kind of… not a good idea. “Asian” and “Bollywood,” both of which are closed eyes with what appears to be a Bindi accompanying the latter. These are presented alongside options like “Playful” and “Closed Blue” and “Sunshades.” This aspect is utterly baffling and downright uncomfortable. It meant I entered the game already wary of what was going on, and I can’t imagine how it would make someone feel who actually was directly affected by it.

There are other issues as well. The save system is archaic and often frustrating, with no autosaves to speak of and the only save spot in the game being in the central hub. There are some minor issues with platforming and combat that can be quite infuriating, and the tooltips that pop up are inconsistent or downright unhelpful. It may have some decent ideas somewhere in the mix, but Platformines really fails to deliver.

Review: Platformines
It has some solid ideas but, ultimately, Platformines fails to deliver on its potential.
Pros
  • Decent platforming and combat
Cons
  • Utterly repetitive and grindy
  • Poor structure & difficulty curve and no sense of progression
3Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
10.0

About The Author

Deputy Managing Editor

Alison has been gaming for about as long as she could walk, or talk. As time went on, she became deeper entrenched in gaming - from videogames to pen and paper games, they're all great as far as she's concerned. She's even studying software engineering and game development at university! Follow her on Twitter @HandsofaDream

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