Note: forma.8 is available on a variety of platforms, including PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Wii U, Xbox One, iOS, PC, Mac, and Linux. This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version, released August 24, 2017.
It's no secret that I get excited about a new Metroidvania. Many of my favorite games over the past few years fall in this genre; something about using newly acquired abilities to explore new areas of the world makes a game enjoyable to me. With that said, forma.8 is the first Metroidvania I've had the chance to play on the Switch. I was eager to jump in. It's about time.
The game starts with a simple premise: You play a probe on an unexplored world, separated from others in your group.
The first thing that stood out to me was the art style. Rather than going with the pixel art trend that I've seen so much of lately, forma.8 uses vector art througout the game. This was a welcome change of pace for me. The visual style is very clean; background art uses rich color, while foreground characters and creatures are primarily displayed as a silhouette against the brighter background. Overall, the aesthetics help create an immersive experience without getting too distracting.
Movement and Controls
When you first start moving around, you quickly notice that you have no abilities beyond movement itself. It can take a little time to get used to the controls themselves; the controls act more as thrusters than a movement direction. For example, if you're heading to the right and quickly press Up, you'll end up moving at an angle between the two, since your momentum will keep moving you to the right. I've heard some people use this as a point of complaint, but I feel like it's a reasonable way to handle a flying probe. Just take some time to get used to the motion and expect your movements to be more circular than linear.
As you continue to explore, you quickly pick up your first abilities, which see you through much of the first portion of the game. Most of your time is spent exploring, rather than focusing on combat with enemies. Common enemies often had the feel of environmental hazards, letting you focus on exploration. This doesn't mean combat isn't part of the game. Boss battles do happen and can be fun puzzles on their own.
As noted before, the first two abilities come rather quickly. After the second ability, I stalled a bit. The game pace slowed down and I had a hard time finding where I should go next. In many Metroidvania games, you'll have some sort of beacon or objective marker that you are trying to approach - not so in forma.8. This is an unexplored world, after all.
Eventually, I realized my problem was that I had forgotten the first rule of dungeon exploration as established by my old tabletop RPG group: Always turn left. I was lost without an idea of where to go because I wasn't using any sort of method to ensure I explored the whole area. Apparently chasing yourself in circles doesn't get you anywhere. I took a step back, turned left, and found myself back on course.
After picking up the third ability, the game pace picked up again. Puzzles were fun to work through and boss fights and other challenges took several attempts to beat without feeling like a grind. Maybe the earlier slow pace was just because I lost my footing? Sounds about right when I'm the one playing a game.
Ultimately, you find yourself in situations where you are combining your various abilities in order to be able to overcome the challenges presented. Getting through certain areas felt so satisfying.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with forma.8. I spent plenty of time exploring; it took me roughly 8 hours to get through the story with only 71% completion. There are enough hidden areas and locked doors that I expect to play again searching for that 100% completion.
The visual style gives the game a clean look and the various puzzles and enemies make exploration an engaging process. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a relaxing game that moves at your pace, rather than something pushing you along.
Note: A review code for the game was provided by the publisher.
- Forma.8 is a refreshing metroidvania with a focus on exploration. Enemies still exist, but they feel more like environmental hazards than the focus of the game.
- The clean visual style allows for beautiful areas in the game, without getting too distracting.
- Fun puzzles, challenges, and bosses make gameplay interesting as you gain more abilities and upgrades.
- Movement controls take a little getting used to.
- Early acts in the game are a little slow until it picks up with more interesting areas and puzzles.