Friday, 9 November 2012

Within a Deep Forest (PC Review)


The idea of the bedroom coder seems to be making a comeback, Services like Steam and the indy game section on Live Arcade now allows greater access for single person productions than ever before. But this happened people were still developing games on their own. The talented developer Nifflas is one of those people and arguably his most iconic game is Within a Deep Forest.

The plot revolves around an evil Doctor attempting to make a bomb that will freeze the whole world. His first attempt failed and created a sort of bouncy ball; his second attempt, however, was successful and now the clock is ticking down to doomsday. For some reason the bouncy ball takes it upon itself to save the day. Okay, the plot is thin, but it's only a means to an end.What we get is a very clever bouncing game (think Cauldron 2 and you are in the right sort of area). Starting off with one ball, you must make your way around the world solving problems and overcoming some difficult jumping sections.

There are a total of ten balls to collect, each of which has different powers such as being heavy or made out of glass - thus very fragile but able to reflect laser beams. They also all react differently to gravity. Each ball must be used to overcome different puzzles, and finding out where each one is most effective is all part of the fun.

Early levels are okay, but it's some of the later sections that are an absolute privilege to experience. Here there is some level design that truly does seem to come right from the golden age of gaming - fantastic stuff when you consider this is an indie developed game.

Another thing that really helps to make the game stand out is the stunning music. Here we have some of the most atmospheric and enchanting sounds ever. The acoustics really help lift the title to another level, and while the graphics are very clean and artistic, it is the music that simply steals the show.

Length-wise, the title can probably be completed in a few sittings and features a save feature as well as a timed run through mode. There are a fair few levels, but they are normally fairly short and rely more on a short skillful play to get through rather than endless trudging around in order to lengthen the experience. Rest assured, skill is what you will need to proceed here, as some sections of the game are very challenging and require a lot of thought to be negotiated. Frustration is kept to a minimum through the use of frequent checkpoints and the fact you can take any new ball form you find to a training area to try it out.

The title also contains a number of hidden levels to aid replay value, as once you have worked out which ball needs to be used where and managed to get through the game, there is little else to draw you back to it (except any need you may feel to try and finish it in as quick a time as possible).

It is clear a lot of care and attention has gone into the title, from the art style and wonderful music to the borderline genius level design on certain sections, not to mention and the thought and planning that has been used to work out how each of the balls reacts to the world around it. If this game was out on a commercial label, it is doubtful many people would begrudge parting with money for it. The fact that it is available for free means there is no reason at all to miss out, as here we have an absolutely brilliant game that shows that independent producers still have a very important role to play for gamers.

8/10

Within a Deep Forest can be downloaded from Here

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