Saturday, February 16, 2013

#11: EDGE - Rolling, Cubed

EDGE is a puzzle-platformer in which you play as a rolling cube. You have all the incredible powers typical of rolling cubes, such as existing in three dimensions, having mass, and rolling with more difficulty than, say, a sphere. 

In EDGE, the gameplay is the entire game. Much like most puzzle/platformer games, there is no story line or multiplayer. You simply roll your cube in one of four directions through the elaborate levels collecting rainbow-colored prisms and reaching the end zone as quickly as you can. Getting all the prisms may take you longer than a straight roll through. While the game does not force you to meet any particular time threshold to progress to the next level, you do receive a letter grade at the end letting you know whether your cube rolling skills could use some work. For people like me, the game is about completing the levels, not about training to get an S on each one, but at least it's there for the more obsessive among us.

"Close enough."

There are two noteworthy aspects of controlling the cube in EDGE that make this game feel more novel than merely a four-direction platformer. 

1. You are rolling a cube. Think about the last time you tried to roll a cube in real life. It didn't roll very easily, did it? One might argue that cubes don't even roll at all, they merely flop one side over until flopped again, in rapid succession. Regardless, this translates into controlling the game. You need to push your arrow keys / control stick pretty firmly in a given direction to get the cube to tilt far enough to fall into the next square over. Momentum helps with that as well. This means that there is no "walk" or "roll slowly" mode, for the most part. But that middle-range of movement control still sees some usage, as you're about to see.

2. Your cube has the strange, almost Catherine-like property of being sticky to whichever cube of ground it is rolling toward (as in Catherine the game). It can also climb a maximum of one cube upward via this same property. However, this means that if the cube you're moving onto is itself moving, you cling to it until you're firmly in one space or another. If you can prolong your movement by edging your control stick that direction just enough to keep the cube suspended in attachment without landing anywhere, you can travel that way. This method has the added bonus of subtracting any time spent "edging" from your final time, so hardcore speed runners will no doubt take every opportunity to "edge" while waiting, even when it's not technically necessary.

This would be an example of using edging at a time when it is not technically necessary, but it does shave off time to get a better score.
Sometimes the levels can be creative beyond just the puzzle design, either in some kind of resemblance to an object, a tie-in to the funky chip tune soundtrack, or because they temporarily made your cube into a Mechwarrior:

While entirely cosmetic mechanically speaking, stuff like this helps break apart the otherwise somewhat monotonous level design.
Now, the important part: did I think the game was actually fun?

Sort of. I was enjoying myself initially, but as the levels became longer and more intricate they started to lose my interest, as the central game mechanics remained essentially the same but with more elaborate setups and more opportunities to clumsily fall or get crushed. I have never been one to stay interested in platformer or puzzle games for too long, so this was no surprise to me. My main complaint, honestly, was that the deliberate clumsiness of controlling a rolling cube stopped being novel and started being frustrating. I like tight and responsive controls, and even if a cube being bad at rolling is realistic and required for the "edging" mechanic, I found it frustrating. I did not complete the game, but I did get about 3/4 of the way through the original levels, and 1/4 through the free DLC levels (props to Two Tribes, the developer, for going the free DLC route).

I would say I got my mileage out of EDGE despite not liking it that much because I either got it as part of a Humble Bundle, a bundle on Steam, or a daily deal. With a base price of $8, there's a good chance I paid $2 or less overall, which is about the price of a microtransaction purchase in a disappointing phone game. Not bad.

Thanks for reading. Please comment and follow/share/bookmark/staple/lick this blog if you enjoyed it! And if you have any suggestions for what you would like to see in future entries, please leave that in the comments as well. . . If you suggest a game and I own it, I will most likely play it for the next entry.