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Semblance Review

Semblance is a puzzle platformer that features multiple worlds to explore and a relaxing, vibrant, atmospheric art style. It’s a relatively short game, with just four worlds in all and the levels within each aren’t extensive. Regardless, the casual experience it offers, along with interesting level mechanics that affect your strategy, make it worth playing.

QUICK & CASUAL

For fans of either puzzlers or platformers, this release is a gem deserving of a playthrough or two because of what it does well; you’re definitely missing out if you take a pass on this. You’re unable to reset a level to re-obtain its collectibles or have multiple profiles in case you want a friend to try Semblance out, however, limiting playability in a sense. This isn’t ideal, but not too much of a big deal considering that a playthrough is fairly short and you can start over. (Note: Starting over bugged out my application, but the issue was resolved by relaunching.) In just over an hour, you may easily get through the first two worlds — essentially half the title.

WORLDS OF DIFFICULTY

From the Overworld you can hop into different worlds, each which unlocks after completing the previous one. Each world features several levels where your task is to obtain the collectibles, called Essences. These orb-shaped Essences are guarded behind a puzzle you must crack. Puzzles early on are quite easy, but the difficulty and complexity of them gradually increases with each level and becomes quite noticeable come the levels in the third world, Snow. Even the Intro Puzzle here proves tricky, for a few sections are replete with hazards that kill you. Fortunately, you respawn at the beginning of a section if you die.

PLATFORMING, ENTER STAGE LEFT

Merely jumping isn’t enough to reach the orbs. Instead, you must rely on an innovative feature that renders this title as much a platformer as a puzzler. Smashing into the land via a dash or ground-pound move allows you to terraform it by molding, transforming, and moving particular parts. If you die, what you’ve terraformed remains intact, permitting you to make minor adjustments and retry for that collectible. But, ensure that you have an escape route back to safety — if you touch a hazard (a spike, laser, etc.) you lose that Essence and must retrieve it yet again, providing a penalty for death. After reaching safety, you’ve no reason to worry about dying in that section again, for the title registers that you’ve “fully” obtained the collectible and dying won’t make you lose it.

BEYOND JUST COLLECTING STUFF

You must obtain all of the Essences to complete the level, but you’re free to exit at any time and come back if you’re unable to figure out the puzzle. You may continue to explore the area and might discover a shrine. To unlock the next world, worry about the collectibles, though shrines are also worth getting (for the Steam achievement at the least). What’s neat and adds some depth to gameplay is that each world introduces some new mechanics that you must take into consideration when planning out your strategy and preparing for a puzzle: which parts of the section to terraform and in what spots, issues related with timing your jumps, and so on.

The second world, Swamp, introduces a beam that resets any terraformed land back to its original, non-terraformed state. This restricts what you can do before you hit a beam and have to redo your terraforming. But, for a good deal of puzzles, this is precisely what you must do. When the land snaps back into its original state, it causes a catapult effect, launching you into the air. One level in particular capitalizes on this added component by forcing you to use the land to catapult horizontally. Obtaining these collectibles won’t happen until you’ve mastered the timing. Even more mechanics become available in later levels, always keeping gameplay fresh.

REFRESHING ART

The atmospheric visuals make this a casual experience (and the difficulty more or less follows suit here) that’s able to hold its own in case you’re not all that versed with puzzles: think of Ori and the Blind Forest but more minimalistic in style. This isn’t a bad thing; I enjoy the art in both. Each world offers different scenery which is refreshing and keeps any sense of monotony at bay.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

The only conceivable complaint stems from that you can’t (at the moment, anyway) have multiple save files. A playthrough is short, however, designed to be approximately three or four hours. I only encountered two glitches; one was associated with starting a new game and the other where sometimes the player would become lodged inside of a wall — this happened frequently, but was easily rectified.

7

The Verdict: Great

There are plenty of things Semblance does well: It adds new mechanics as you progress, forcing you to strategize attempts to reach an Essence; it maintains an overall a casual experience while gradually increasing the difficulty; and it has a great atmospheric visual style. If you’re looking for a quick, neat platforming fix, I recommend getting Semblance.

Chris Hubbard
Written by
August 13, 2018
Published in Strategy

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A fan of RPGs above other genres, Chris has been playing video games for as long as he can remember. Some of the games that had the most influence on his gaming preferences have been the Final Fantasy and the Diablo series. More recently, most of Chris' gaming time has been going toward Gems of War and Clicker Heroes (give it a try, it can be addicting), along with open-world RPGs such as Skyrim and ESO. He's also dabbled with RPG Maker software, and it is a goal of his to someday create an RPG.

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