Saturday, 18 March 2017 00:00

Blink Review

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Developed by nextReality Games, Blink is an odd little game. It’s a puzzle-platformer with a simple but emotionally-driven premise: you’re a kid looking for your dad gone missing, and in your quest to find him, you’ve been granted the power to shift (or blink - geddit?) to a parallel dimension where the light can be walked on. Populated by aliens, they are the last of their kind; the other species, we’re told, could have been wiped out by shadowy monsters, who could also be responsible for your father’s disappearance.

Blink’s hook is its light-based puzzle solving.

Shifting to the alternate universe means you can manipulate lights to bypass walls and access platforms otherwise unreachable. Though such mechanics are well known to fans of the genre, Blinks’ don’t operate exactly how you think they would. Beams of light can’t be used as standing platforms until they cross objects or fog. It’s a smart tweak to your standard platformer, and the challenges it presents is increased by the game’s controls and a timer. The latter is a welcomed addition; the former, not so much.

Controls first.

I used a mouse and keyboard, and although I recognize it isn’t the optimal way to play platformers, not every one of us owns a controller. The lack of key binding options is a bummer, and the two preset configurations feel awkward.

The core issue is that, to remain in the parallel universe, you have to keep a button pressed. That creates a “rubbing-your-belly-while-patting-your-head” situation - unnecessarily so. Press to jump and press and hold to phase through, press to jump again and release to phase back, and press to jump again. You get it: it’s uncomfortable to your hands and requires an unnecessary amount of dexterity.

On the other hand, timed puzzles are fun.

You only have so long in the light dimension before you die, so you can’t sit back and strategize. Sadly, it’s at times frustrating because of the above-mentioned issue regarding controls, but thankfully, Blink’s respawn isn’t punishing. You’ll always start over on the screen you last tackled, so you don’t have to repeat the challenges already surmounted.

As for the puzzles, there are some very clever ones in term of design. At times, though, I was able to bypass them, instead strong-arming my way through screen after screen thanks to quirks that felt like exploits. Furthermore, some weren’t congruous with Blink’s central theme: the manipulation of light. For example, invisible blocks suddenly became a focus, and it felt like a radical, if not unjustifiable shift in game mechanics.

Original visuals make for an interesting art style.

The backgrounds are atmospheric and consequently immersive but the characters are overly pixelated - to an extent it’s almost crude. It threw me off at first, but the juxtaposition eventually charmed me. That does make Blink feel dreamy, and the fantastical settings make for environments you’ll enjoy.

The art is also helped by the music, an original soundtrack that you can purchase independently of the game for less than three bucks on Steam. Together, they create a cohesive world that, unexplainably, is as odd as it’s inviting.

The story is sparse but engaging.

You jump into a world you don’t know anything about, yet characters encountered treat you like you’re one of their kind. An alien you’ll make friends with is who fills you in on the supernatural events that fellow townsfolks prefer to ignore, and his tale is slightly disorienting. It adds to the ethereal feeling of the game: you never know what’s going on, like any kid caught up in cosmic circumstances far beyond their control. Unfortunately, the story’s thread feels abandoned as you delve deeper into gameplay. There aren’t enough dialogues and story-driven encounters later on, especially in light of a job well done early on.


The Verdict

With bursts of pressure, ethereal atmosphere, and engaging soundtrack, Blink brings style and originality to your standard design in puzzle-platforming. If you’re a fan of the genre and are equipped with a controller, its cheaper price point makes it worth a buy.

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