Tuesday, 05 July 2016 00:00

Rising Islands Early Access Review

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Who doesn’t love running up and across walls?

It’s hard to say when the “running along walls” trend started, but I always think "Prince of Persia." It then went into many games, from Titanfall to Mirror’s Edge, and while Rising Islands in terms of graphic quality falls short of competing, it does an admirable job of what it’s trying to accomplish. With some adjustments and bug fixes, it could be a fun platformer.

Rising Islands, from developer Lone Hero Studios and publisher Sodesco Publishing, sets up a world that seems very much inspired by Legend of Korra and Avatar (not the James Cameron movie [although this does have floating islands…]). You play as Hairo, who seems to go to the same clothing store that Korra shops at, and you have the ability to switch dimensions.

In Rising Islands, there will be clearly marked platforms that you must scale or run along and each of these platforms is color coded. To run along or use different, color-coded platforms, you must first be in the corresponding dimension. Each time you switch to fresh, your outfit changes into a blue or a red version.

The platforming itself feels very fluid and nice when it works - and it almost always works just fine. There are walls that you must run across, vertical walls you must run up. There are flat platform surfaces that are solid only when your outfit matches it. There are other little mechanics such as launch pads, electric fences and saw blades that are, like everything else, tangible when you match the color.

One small flaw I found myself running across (no pun intended) is the need to “slow down” to nail a jump or obstacle. In a game where fun factor is a synonym for speed, I don't understand the developer's choice to kill momentum. This might just be a matter of taste, but I've always enjoyed holding the run button when playing games that are rhythm-based. Assassin’s Creed, Mirror’s Edge, Prince’s Persia, Dying Light, all had my thumbs go sore. The fact is, I want to go fast. I want to build speed. I want to go fast. Taking that away from the player, if even a little, kills my mojo and lessens the fun. Again, this could all just be a personal issue, but I dislike it nonetheless.

A bigger issue is the delay between the dimension shifts.

When you first trigger the switch, it quickly jumps to the opposite color. However, if you need to switch back to the previous color quickly, nothing happens, and you often end up falling into the abyss below. You'll hardly notice it during the early levels when gameplay is slower, but later on, as difficulty increase and your response times should be quicker, it can be a real game-breaker.

That delay could have been a well-thought out mechanic aimed at increasing the difficulty level. Instead, it is nothing more than a frustrating experience that, frankly, feels like a bug. It's a shame: I would much rather have a quick and fluid experience, blasting through levels thanks to great timing and superb reflexes, rather than a guessing game to anticipate the unpredictable.

The camera could also improve, in particular for gamers opting for mouse and keyboard. It feels much more “floaty” than I would like for something that needs knee-jerk reactions like Rising Islands. One jump was giving me a lot of issues, causing me to restart a checkpoint over a dozen times. Switching to a XBOX 360 controller meant this problem corrected itself, and I then beat it in just a few more tries.

On the other hand, the switch of perspectives was a nice surprise, and I wish the game did more of this.

Instead of relying so heavily on the player to control angles. Not only do these shifts make you feel like a parkour champ, but it also helps you land the jumps with more precision and accuracy.

As mentioned, I struggled with that one spot, but that wasn't the only time I died. Luckily the game has checkpoints right before most of the big jumps, which I think works. Some might argue their frequency makes the game too easy, but nothing is more frustrating than having to do something you’ve already done over and over again, just to get to the part where you'll struggle. For the speedrunners out there, this might benefit you. It will also you to focus on the parts you suck at, so when you go back and try to beat the level in a trial run, you can do it without issues.

Not all Checkpoints are created equal, however, as one checkpoint set me underneath the map and it just kept killing me over and over until I restarted the level. (I died at the same spot again and the bug didn’t appear a second time. Weird.)

Rising Islands isn’t without its share of bugs. The game, as of this writing, is very rough around the edges. It still has placeholders for graphics, and some things just aren't finished. But that’s not a knock against the game. What I played feels like it's a solid game in the making, and I’m looking forward to messing with the final product once it's out.

The few levels I was given the opportunity to play have gotten me excited about what might come next, given the game evolves into a tighter package. Games like these, games that you can pick up and play on the go, are a real treat. When levels are short and accessible enough so we can hop in, hop around, collect some gems, get good times and move on to the next thing, then we'll certainly show up in numbers.


The Verdict

With some adjustments to the controls and camera, Rising Island can be a fun little platformer designed with Speedrunning in mind. While it might seem simple now, the future of this game will hopefully be a good one.

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James McKeever

When not playing video games, James is usually found playing video games. When he simply does not have time for video games, he goes to a thing called "Job" where he makes money to feed himself and his wife and to buy more video games. Since he was too scared to use the controller himself at the young age of 3, James started his gaming career as a "navigator" of sorts instructing his father when to jump in Super Mario Brothers. Since then, the fear of controllers has subsided and James can now jump freely, circumventing the middleman.