The premise of Refunct is deceptively simple. You simply have to travel onto every platform in the world. This involves the player having to traverse across a variety of different obstacles to reach these platforms. In essence, it is a freerunning experience that tests your ability to learn and experiment as you play along, climbing walls and leaping over gaps.
Other than that there is almost nothing else to distract from the end goal of reaching the final platform. There is no story or dialogue and even the world itself starts completely bare. New platforms only emerge as you travel throughout the level and press the appropriate buttons to bring them out of the water. It is a strange minimalist design that lends itself to inviting the player to get on with the task at hand.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the entire game is the way that it teaches you new skills and concepts. There is no tutorial or text box to explain how to reach a new area. Instead, you are subtly given clues through the way that the platforms are laid out in the world. The developer has essentially managed to come up with a way of teaching you by pushing you to test out the environment and come up with your own solution. It’s a rather unique way of learning that incorporates an element of discovery. It makes the game a much more enjoyable experience and you will soon be running across walls and sliding under ledges like a parkour expert in no time.
This is all aided by the expert way in which the title is presented. As mentioned previously, the visuals have a distinctive minimalist style to them. The limited but bright color palette gives everything a rather friendly and inviting atmosphere, pulling you into the world. Meanwhile, the wonderfully soothing soundtrack manages to keep the entire playthrough as relaxing as possible, stopping any frustration from bubbling over without being too much of a distraction.
The main issue with Refunct is simply its length. It is possible to complete the game in less than 30 minutes if you take your time to learn the basics and experiment with the controls. There is some replayability in the fact that 100% the game requires you to collect every item in the stage – something that will take a bit longer to figure out. There’s also some achievements that task you with completing the game with some extra parameters. These include having to beat a set time and only jumping a particular number of times.
Yet, for the relatively low price that this title costs it seems churlish to expect much more in terms of length. Especially when you consider how well executed Refunct is in terms of gameplay and presentation. There are few other games that will provide as much value for money in regards to the sheer enjoyment you can get from playing it than Refunct.
Ultimately it feels like Refunct is more of an experiment for what could be a more fleshed out retail release. In that sense, it certainly serves its purpose well and whets the appetite in anticipation for something even bigger and better. Even without the promise of anything extra to come though, Refunct manages to be a thoroughly enjoyable game that manages to charm and challenge in equal measure. Few titles manage to get the balance between teaching and allowing the player the learn for themselves as good as this one and it demonstrates how freerunning can work as an gameplay mechanic outside of the likes of Mirror’s Edge. For the tiny entry cost, this is an experience that it definitely worth paying for.
This review is based on a digital copy of the game that was provided by the developer for review purposes. Refunct is available on Xbox One for $2.99.