Antipole (Xbox 360) review
"The gimmick is simple. Go to the right and win. You can jump, you can shoot, and you can invert gravity within a certain radius of the character. And that's it. There's no plot or villain, just you, a plasma rifle, and a hellish maze of circular saws, moving platforms, and angry robots. "
I love flash games. They're one of the few places I can really find consistent creativity in the gaming market anymore. They bring to mind the good old days when a handful of people could make a game with a budget made entirely of dreams. Creativity is really all a developer has to go on when they don't have $100 million to churn out another Call of Duty clone.
And I say all this so that no one thinks it's a knock when I say that Antipole is a flash game that you play on your X-Box. The game's simplistic robot sprites and somewhat repetitive tiled backdrops aren't going to win any awards for visual design, but they're sharp and functional. There's no clutter to get in the way, and it's pretty easy to tell exactly what is what. This is important, because tiled backdrops and simple platforms conceal a seething core of pure rage against you.
The gimmick is simple. Go to the right and win. You can jump, you can shoot, and you can invert gravity within a certain radius of the character. And that's it. There's no plot or villain, just you, a plasma rifle, and a hellish maze of circular saws, moving platforms, and angry robots.
All of this comes together pretty well into solid puzzley platformer. You're encouraged to speed through the levels by a timer that keeps a running tab of your best times, and it is rather satisfying to perfectly execute a series of difficult jumps, but the moment this game went from merely neat to truly satisfying was when I found out you could make flying enemies drop bombs on themselves.
The way your gravity powers interacts with the game's various obstacles varies wildly from total resistance on their part, to mobile robots projecting their own anti-gravity field that results in a double-reversal thing you have to deal with to navigate corridors finely tuned to test your platforming prowess.
All of this means Antipole gets pretty brutal in the later levels. Sure, there are only three buttons, but you really need to consider how those buttons will interact with each other and the environment, and carefully plan your jumps.
There are points where you have to use your gravity powers to bob and weave your way through long stretches of pitfalls lined totally with spikes and filled with obstacles while flying things are trying to bomb you or laser you to death, but my death counter wasn't really hurting until they added in the instant-kill acid which ignores your health, but not your gravity powers. See, spikes are relatively easy to avoid when they're stuck to walls and such. Acid isn't, because it moves with you, resulting in a chamber full of flying liquid death.
So, hair-tearing frustration then? Not really. The game's pretty solidly balanced so that things are difficult but not in a 'swearing at the screen' sort of way. The controls themselves are responsive and avoid being too stiff or too floaty. The game feels like it was play-tested well enough that dying is my fault, even if I'm surrounded by acid and explosives most of the time.
Antipole is why I like flash games. It's clever and difficult and fun. It's not a headscratcher, what you did wrong, or what you need to do is always immediately obvious, and it's not going to change your views on life with a complex narrative. But damn it, it's fun and different and that's all I really need in a game.
Freelance review by Josh Higley (February 22, 2011)
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