Reviews

Review: Semblance - a platformer cleverer than you are?

Nyamakop
semblance manipulate the world
Semblance - An example of how you can manipulate the world to assist your platforming

Semblance succeeds in challenging through a fresh approach to platforming with just one simple question - What if we allow players to interact with platforms through more than just jumping on them? Nyamakop's answer is quite interesting.

Semblance's man character is Squish, the denizen of a world made of moldable playdough-like substances. This world is infested by hard and alien material seeping in from someplace all over the world. The hard matter appears to be feeding of the soft-world material.

Squish is born out of the sacrificial essence of the guardian of the world. The player must guide Squish through a long voyage in order to gather more of this essence and restore softworld while expunging the intruding hard material.

The main world is separated into four large areas, which each have individual warping points between them. These will take you to stages where you will find the game's main attraction - the puzzle platforming.

Nyamakopsemblance manipulate the worldSemblance - On some stages hazards are only passable by cleverly adapting the ground they're on

Progress is achieved through collecting a specific set of essence orbs inside each of the stages. The player is free to abandon or resume any particular stage at their own pace, should the puzzles become a little too challenging at any point. If you find yourself in need of some mental regrouping, Semblance wont stand in your way - your's truly is guilty of having to take a head-scratching break several times.

Where Semblance becomes its own entity is when it instructs you to change the area around you for puzzle solving purposes. Whether that is as simple as pushing a platform to get a better jump, or changing the level layout to block harmful lasers, this is where the game's hook truly lies.

The puzzle platformer requires thought beyond plain old level traversal - it needs players to be constantly on the lookout for ways to modify the environment itself.

Nyamakopsemblance manipulate the worldSemblance - Simply jumping from the ground wouldn't work, sometimes you need to create a 2D ladder

Semblance's control scheme is a thing of simple beauty. All it takes is a D-pad, a jump, interact and reset level buttons to get its gameplay across. The appeal here lies in how much becomes possible for designing interesting puzzles with so few inputs and abilities to work with.

On the visual side of things, Semblance continues this pattern of elegant simplicity. The levels and scenes are often given depth through shading, and the position of various creatures in the world reinforces that effect even further.

The Switch version is easy to put down and pick up again, since the save system doesn't skip a beat - you continue right where you left your last game.

Semblance provides for a lively playthrough. It takes the standard platformer fare of How do I jump through this stage? and turns it into How do I break this stage through jumping?

Nyamakopsemblance manipulate the worldSemblance - Some of the puzzles will have you scratching your head

Overall, I’d warmly recommend Semblance to pretty much anyone. It’s absolutely incredible as a platforming game, plus the puzzles are deeply engaging in and of themselves. It shines by being just the right amount of complex and captivating for those longer sessions, while somehow wrapping itself around the exact amount of time you can give it if you happen to be in a rush.