One of the key mechanics of a solid platformer is how tight and responsive jump maneuvers are. Without a solid jump button and resulting physics, platformers can feel broken and frustrating to the point of rage. We’ve all (ok maybe most of you are sane) thrown a controller, punched ourselves, bit our fingers, or screamed bloody murder while dying over and over again in a platformer that featured poor jump controls, and it sucks. What if there were a platformer that didn’t use a jump button at all? How would it play, would the experience be enjoyable, or pure hell? Well the team at Candescent Games has tackled this exact scenario in its upcoming game Tinertia, which believe it or not, doesn’t have a jump button.
Tinertia is indeed a platformer even without a jump button, thanks to the fact that the main character Weldon (a janitor bot) has a rocket launcher for an arm that can propel him to the heights he needs to conquer each level. Rather than using the tradition “A” button to execute a rocket jump, Tinertia changes things up by tying the rocket blasts to the right thumbstick. By doing so it wreaks havoc over your brain’s ability to control your hands, because they so desperately want to hit the “A” button to make jumps rather than tilting the right thumbstick to do so. This mechanic forces you to focus on each and every jump, and it’s not easy to master at first thanks to the years of conditioning you’ve had with other platformers that do feature a jump button. This is the brilliance of Tinertia though, and what sets it apart from other platformers to provide a unique gameplay experience for fans of the genre.
Physics also play a major role in how Tinertia handles its rocket jump feature. Tall ledges will need to be scaled like a ninja thanks to the forces of gravity constantly wanting to keep Weldon firmly planted on the ground. Long jumps will need to be executed with extra bravado to propel Weldon to safety. Controlling him mid rocket jump is also challenging thanks to the magical forces of physics.
Candescent Games definitely ensured each level would be a challenge both with physics and the unique rocket jump mechanic, and the team’s planning has paid off. I played a few levels of Tinertia at PAX Prime and found out just how difficult it can be during your first attempt. Levels should take twenty seconds or less, but my first spin took well over two minutes. I died multiple times just trying to convince my brain that the right thumb stick could indeed be used to “jump”, but even after I sorted that confusion out, Tinertia’s level design and the physics still kept me from achieving a speedy run through the level.
Surprisingly, I loved the challenge of learning a new way to jump in a platformer, even though I died multiple times trying to make simple leaps that could be done with your eyes closed in a traditional platform-centric video game. You will have a hard time putting down the controller because you don’t want to be bested by a video game that should be easier than it really is. Tinertia motivates you to get better at using its intriguing controls thanks to the near instant respawns after death (think Super Meat Boy), so you never really have time to stew and hate the game for being so difficult. Besides, you are responsible for your deaths, not the game, you just have to learn to play by its rules.
What makes the brutal challenge of Tinertia so pleasant, besides the satisfaction of conquering a new level time record, or just beating a level without dying a million times, is its brilliant visuals. This game is a beauty on all levels. What really stands out about the graphics besides the rich colors is the feeling of 3D motion on a 2D plane. The backgrounds are so vivid and alive that they feel like you could enter the third dimension to explore them even though you’re locked into a 2D side-scrolling plane. Little Big Planet 3’s visuals are the best example of what the small Candescent Games team achieved in Tinertia, which is a huge complement to their work considering the team is only seven people large, and a few of them aren’t programmers or artists, so it’s not like they had a large development force to ensure AAA quality. Each of the levels scattered throughout the game’s eight core worlds feature unique environments that follow a theme, and the level of detail and charm in each one is intoxicating. This game really does look like living art, so at least you can stare at a masterpiece each time you die and prepare for your next attempts.
The boss fights, which there are eight of in the final build, also look beautiful and take advantage of the 3D effect achieved with the motion background used in each world. For example, the boss fight I experienced at PAX had some mechanical spider looking thing chasing me in the background while I frantically had to try and avoid its clutches. You don’t have a gun to fight them, so you are essentially battling the environment and the various platforms that must be navigated. It is a very unique way to approach a boss battle, and when paired with the killer visuals they fights themselves become beauty in motion.
Tinertia is currently available on Steam’s Early Access platform for Macs, PCs, and Linux. This version of the game only features thirty of the planned eighty levels, but it will give you a taste of what the game has to offer. The final build should be out sometime in 2015, and a PS4 release is also planned.
If you love platformers, but want to be challenged with a whole new way of playing them, then Tinertia is a game you need to get behind thanks to its non-existent jump button and precise use of physics. You can check out a gameplay trailer to see it in action after the break.
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