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Within A Deep Forest (PC) artwork

Within A Deep Forest (PC) review

"If you are just one person, and you want to make a game, what should you focus on? Maybe the first thing is to get the ball rolling with a hero. "

If you are just one person, and you want to make a game, what should you focus on? Maybe the first thing is to get the ball rolling with a hero.

A ball of goo formed when the appropriately-named Dr. Cliche failed to create his doomsday bomb on the first try.

That doesn't seem like it... Maybe an epic plot!

The second try was a success, and now the world will end in the near future.

Ok, ok. Maybe all that's necessary is a sound premise.

A large adventure, emphasizing exploration and puzzles using a unique character with unique talents: A ball that can change its composition to meet the changing objectives of the levels.

That could go somewhere. Within a Deep Forest takes place in a surprisingly diverse world that is completely free roaming. A large primary map splinters off into a number of levels, and your reward for completing these various locations (once you find them) are new materials for our springy hero. Transforming into iron makes you heavy enough to smash barricades and push through fierce wind, but you will no longer bounce very well. Deadly laser beams pass harmlessly through glass, but falling too far earns you a trip back to the nearest save point when you smash into a hundred tiny pieces. It's all give and take, and so the game becomes a balancing act. Figuring out what traits you need to accomplish the goals before you is a healthy part of the game's challenge.

The rest of the it is more concrete. Some of Deep Forest's jumping puzzles are downright evil. It's not complicated controls that lead to these problems. Aside from token directional control provided by the arrow keys, the only inputs are two buttons. One makes you bounce higher, and one makes you bounce lower. Simple. The lack of complicated input to worry about gives you more time to figure out just how the hell you're supposed to jump through a web of lasers into a tiny crevice without impaling yourself on the spikes below. Instead of considering which buttons to hit, you can focus on making minuscule changes to your speed and trajectory as you fly through the air.

And you can ponder what you did wrong when you bounce off the wall and splatter on those spikes anyway.Within a Deep Forest has a good deal of moments like that. Its challenge is a big part of its identity, but it does not define the game.

Instead, it's very much about atmosphere. The entire game has a kind of dream-like ambiance about it. While its visuals are generally simple and blocky, a mass of little things fill the game with life. Sparkling fireflies flit about the darkened trees of a serene forest, stars twinkle vividly in the sky, and tiny unnamed animals scamper harmlessly about. None of these little touches effect gameplay in the slightest, but they do effect the experience, simple as they are. Grand pyrotechnics would seem out of place in a setting like this, and simplistic effects punctuate the world in a much more subtly satisfying way. Moody music fills out the atmosphere, just a quiet hum in the background. It's at once calming like the forest you're in, and a reminder of the bomb. The world is memorable because its alive, and often downright strange.

Far above the landscape; That Hover Thing awaits your arrival. It's an alien spacecraft brimming with railguns trained on you, and home to flying jello monsters that happily bounce you into walls lit with lasers. Buried at the end of a strange, flowery cave lies Utopica, which exists as a result of a yoga master's powerful mind. Here one room is many, forcing you to solve its puzzles from multiple angles before you progressing further in. And still more awaits, much more. Ahead is the gate to the Lunar Cheese Extraction Facility, where exhaust fans are placed just right to push you into boiling oceans of molten brea and errant puddles of living cheese threaten to have you for dinner.

Yes, the locations can be cheesy, but that's a big part of the fun. It's impossible to predict where you'll be next, and if isn't somewhere that's silly, it's somewhere beautiful or alien instead. No matter what, though, that somewhere is brilliantly and carefully designed.

In some ways, the fact that Within a Deep Forest was made entirely by one person is a testament to its quality. There was care put into every object, every jump, and every background. It's the kind of care you would see in a painting by a master of the trade. It's not any one brush stroke that makes the painting beautiful. So it is Within a Deep Forest. It's not any single aspect of the game that makes it beautiful, it's the experience taken as a whole.

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Community review by dragoon_of_infinity (August 01, 2007)

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