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A very slow paced Metroidvania that is a slog to play through.

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    gameboy3145
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    Forma.8

    Rating: 2.0 – Poor

    A very slow paced Metroidvania that is a slog to play through.

    If you don’t prefer reading through an entire review, check out my video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfqD2lTOPTc

    INTRO

    Forma.8 is an indie game that was released last year on many platforms including the PS4, Xbox One, and Switch. The game was quickly forgotten most likely due to being overshadowed by Hollow Knight and by a general lack of public interest. For this review, I’m playing the game on the PS4. It’s a game that shows that the developers at Mixed Bag Games definitely have promise, but it’s also a game with a list of issues. Forma.8 uses the Metroidvania formula, while having a strong emphasis on atmosphere. The game has you playing forma.8, an exploration robot unintentionally separated from its companions.

    GAMEPLAY

    Initially, the forma moves so slowly that it forces the player to go at the game’s pace. It doesn’t help that the game’s map system lacks detail. The map provides enough for the player to understand their macro level location, but it’s just not enough for a game of this genre. The maze-like design of the game is made even more challenging with the limited view range provided to the player. For an exploration robot, forma.8 can only see a very short distance, this adds to the navigation frustration during the more complicated areas.

    The forma has a small set of moves including the ability to drop bombs, surround itself with a burst of energy, dash, teleport, and disguise itself as a security robot. The moves are unevenly drip-fed to the player as they progress through the game. The first two moves are obtained pretty quickly. However, the third move took a while to obtain and it happened to be one of the moves that I used the most, the dash. Pacing could’ve been vastly improved had the dash been provided by default. As it is now, the game feels incredibly boring for the first half. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if development was rushed towards the end due to how little the last two abilities are used. The teleport and disguise moves are way more gimmicky and uninteresting than the other abilities. The bomb and energy burst have a strong synergy, while the dash is mandatory considering how slow the forma moves. The teleport could’ve just as easily been a sort of upgrade from the sprint as they have very similar qualities, except the teleport has a shorter range and is instantaneous. It even allows the user to bypass the initially dash specific obstacles. Wearing a security robot disguise sounds neat on paper, but it’s not executed well at all. Stealth just doesn’t work well in this game due to how boring it is and how unforgiving the security robots are when you get caught.

    The combat is simple and at times, it’s actually quite satisfying. Bombs are the primary method of dealing damage in the game. Nothing beats killing a whole group of bugs with a well placed bomb. The bomb can be pushed with the electricity blast providing a thin layer of strategy. The bomb’s blast radius decreases substantially if pushed however. Generally speaking, the forma’s combat style is much more defense oriented than most Metroidvania protagonists. It’s a refreshing approach that fits well with the game’s puzzle focus. The game treats death very lightly. Running out of health just sends you back to the entrance of the section where you died with around half your max health. It’s possibly the most forgiving penalty for death in the genre. The game is on the easier side of the difficulty spectrum, but it maintains a decent degree of challenge due to how fragile the forma is. It’s pretty easy to get swarmed by enemies and die due to a lack of invincibility frames after taking damage.

    The gameplay is at its best during the boss fights. Unfortunately, the game has a total of only four bosses. The difficulty of the bosses is a downward slope. It gets drastically easier as you progress. The boss challenges were mainly dealt with using simple puzzles solving skills rather than reflexes or muscle memory typically required in more action oriented games. The developers initially did a great job mixing puzzle and action together. However, it leaned way too far on the action side in the second half. Regardless, boss fights always felt like a treat that I was rewarded after the slog that is level exploration. The levels feel huge, but incredibly samey despite the occasional gimmick. The lack of true versatility in enemy design results in combat becoming stale. Forma.8 does have different enemies, but the ones that deviate from typical enemies are more like gimmicks than actual enemies. The game has two types of collectibles, artifacts and energy flowers. Artifacts unlock passive improvements such as a speed boost and an additional bomb. Every third energy flower provides a small boost in maximum health. Even with health upgrades, death was swift whenever I got insect swarmed or caught by a rabid security robot.

    The puzzles are like a mixed bag of syringes and candy. Mostly syringes though. The good puzzles would be just the boss fights, while the bad puzzles would be everything else. They tend to be tedious switch puzzles that aren’t all that puzzling. The worst puzzle however had three scales that required specific weights to open up the path. The idea wasn’t bad, but the execution was awful. Moving rocks with the forma’s moves were more finicky than controlling Octodad. I got stuck on the rock puzzle because I thought I needed another move to solve the puzzle. Getting stuck in the game feels awful because searching for the next area to go to felt so slow even with the dash ability.

    Despite all my complaints on the gameplay end, it certainly succeeds in teaching the player all of its mechanics without any text. That’s an impressive feat worthy of recognition.

    STORY

    The story is so minimalist that I often forgot that it even existed. There was nothing that left me invested in the story due to the lack of characters, dialogue, or narrative. Its approach is far too bland for my tastes. Forma.8 never gave me a reason to care about anything going on beyond the gameplay and atmosphere.

    AUDIO

    Audio plays a key role in Forma.8 due to the game’s clear focus on atmosphere during exploration. Most of the music is ambient and it works well for what it is. It adds to the experience for players moving at a leisurely pace. However, there wasn’t anything in the soundtrack that I found all that memorable. Most tracks are usually droning, haunting, or a mix of the two. There’s the occasional boss fight track, but it wasn’t very noteworthy. The sound effects are serviceable, while the attention to detail with the sound effects is outright commendable. The audio has an additional echo layer when underwater. When shocking an enemy immune to electricity, it sounds lighter than usual to indicate that it won’t work on the enemy. This level of detail is crucial for teaching the player organically.

    VISUALS

    Minimalism is the name of the game. Forma.8 applies a very slick art style that is very straight to the point. The art is at its best when presenting a landscape. It’s clear how skilled the artists at Mixed Bag Games are. Most of the time, the art is fantastic. It’s not a style that grabs your attention rather it’s a style that you just appreciate. It works well with the gameplay most of the time. The enemy design is passable. It actually reminded me of the Nevi from the Gravity Rush series. The biggest issue with the game’s aesthetic is when the game contrasts the 2D style with 3D objects. The most common 3D item is in the form of a strange white obstacle that is bypassed with the dash or the teleport.

    ENJOYMENT FACTOR

    I had a below average experience with Forma.8. It has its charms, but the flaws really hampered my experience. The pacing made the game an absolute chore to play at the start and by the end, it felt unfinished. It felt like the final boss was missing. There being only four bosses in the game didn’t help either. Exploration didn’t feel very rewarding because the collectibles were pretty useless until late in the game. The combat ended up being quite tedious after a while. The lack of depth in combat along with a small and uninteresting set of enemies resulted in a weak gameplay experience. I didn’t enjoy traveling from place to place and the non boss related puzzles left me disappointed. The atmosphere was solid throughout, but the light penalty for death kept me from worrying too much about survival. Death was nothing more than a mere inconvenience. I got lost every so often and it frustrated me when the slow movement speed made finding the next area even more tedious. I don’t consider the game very fun and I definitely did not feel compelled to complete the game. Based on the PSN trophies, only 1% of players that have played the game have reached the bad ending. It’s not too surprising either considering the pacing issues.

    CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

    Forma.8 is a neat Metroidvania that starts with solid design intent, but it fails in its execution. The game teaches the player naturally, but the end result is unsatisfying to play. The story hardly exists besides the lore and subtle implications providing a layer of mystique. However, it ended up being uninteresting due to the lack of narrative. It’s too vague for its own good. The music works just fine and the art style is one of the big highlights for the game. Overall, Forma.8 is a good experiment for Mixed Bag Games, but it’s just not a very good game.

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