Forma.8 is a metroidvania that has been in development by MixedBag for the last few years. The first glimpse we got of the game two years ago suggested this could be an intriguing title and with its release, it is time to see if the two-man outfit from Turin, Italy have managed to deliver the goods.
The game begins with the forma you control, a small probe-like machine, crashing onto an alien planet set to explore the world and search for an energy source. This is about as much the plot explains itself explicitly. From here on out you are given almost no instructions or prompts and simply have to explore the environment you find yourself to discover the mysteries that are hidden throughout out. This minimalist approach to the story works in the sense of really making you feel like you are on an alien planet that you have no real information about. It’s entirely up to you to fill in the blanks.
As you might expect from a metroidvania, you are given no set objective other than a faint marker that is located somewhere on the map. From here, you just have to start exploring the masses of caves and facilities in your way. As you go along you’ll get access to a number of upgrades and power-ups from other damaged formas. These include a shield ability that allows you to protect yourself while blasting enemies a short distance away from you and a mine that can also be used as a projectile weapon by using your shield ability. Later on you also get the chance to find a turbo boost.
The enemies themselves fall into two broad categories, plant creatures that can attack you and robotic machines that pose threat. While few of the enemies will actively hunt you down, all of them can injure you if you are not careful. Damage comes in the form of reducing your energy levels, which can only be replenished by finding additional energy or by killing enemies that then drop a small amount.
As you investigate the world around you, there will be a good deal of backtracking to places you have already visited as you find more power sources and open up additional areas. The biggest frustration with the game and arguably its hardest moment come near the beginning with the very first boss. It involves a puzzle that is far from obvious and is a departure from everything you have learned at that point. Once you figure it out, it seems painfully obvious, yet it can prove to be incredibly obtuse at first viewing.
While some of the enemies you come across will pose a challenge, much of the difficult in Forma.8 comes from the puzzles that are scattered sparsely throughout the world. Most of these are not just difficult to solve but also varied to the extent that you’ll have to learn a variety of skills to successfully navigate them. The solutions are rarely obvious and require a small amount of experimentation, though, are all well designed and implemented. The only real thing that carries over between puzzles is the momentum of your movement, which can be difficult to control accurately.
Graphically, Foma.8 is wonderful to behold. The color pallet is expansive and varied, ensuring there is plenty of opportunities to view the distinct shapes and environments in which you find yourself. The way in which the background has been worked makes it appear as if you are playing on top of a layered painting, with the action unfolding across a hand-drawn environment. It works well in establishing the mysterious atmosphere the game is going for and ensures that the world really does feel like an isolated or alien planet. This contrasts beautifully with the dark and bold nature of both the character you control but also the foreground and obstacles you will face.
Equally as impressive as the animations. Your forma moves with a certain elegance that seems to make the small contraption appear to have an air of grace. The enemies are also well-built and animated so that they move in a realistic manner throughout the game, while little touches like water splashing as you enter it and grass gently swaying as you hover above gives it an extra level of realism that helps you become even more immersed.
This is backed up with the sound that accompanies such animations, with the effects combining perfectly with the on-screen actions. Combined with the simple piano-based soundtrack, which can ratchet up into a faster, more electric-based, affair during times of intense action, the game has a wonderful design in terms of visuals and audio.
Forma.8 ends up being a charming and challenging game. Although most of the puzzles and enemies aren’t blindingly hard, finding all of the hidden areas and objects will take a great deal of time and attention to detail in your searches. This provides excellent value for money with its longevity, while the overall design and implementation of the sound and graphics are of a quality rarely seen in this type of game. It all ends up fitting together to give the feeling of exploring a genuinely alien world. Ultimately, the game is one that definitely deserves your attention and should be checked out by everyone.
This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes. Forma.8 is currently available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.