Review Context: I can’t say I’m a hardcore puzzle-platformer gamer (the term itself sounds foreign on my tongue), but like many other gamers I’ve had the opportunity to game on the go when riding the bus or simply taking a long trip and I’ve always found such games to be a fair diversion on the go.
Date Playthrough Started: 4/20/2014
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU P8700 @ 2.53GHz
RAM: 6.2 GB
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M
Resolution: 1600 x 900
Publisher: Quantized Bit
Developer: Quantized Bit
Stylized and minimalistic visuals, moody music and a plethora of increasingly difficult levels make up the meat of Volt: Battery on the loose. The game follows the aesthetic style of many puzzle-platformers already on the market, but its gameplay and mechanics are unique enough to make Volt its own beast. While the game is hardly groundbreaking in overall design, gamers looking for a quick diversion of wits are likely to find their cup of tea in Quantized Bit’s first title.
In the game you play the role of a small and somehow sentient battery that manages to dislodge itself from the perils of a trash compacter within a mysterious and unexplained mechanized factory. From then on you set out to explore a dark industrial environment, at which point your goal becomes clear: you need to find a way to escape the factory.
Functional but unpolished controls
The controls of Volt are simple but not quite polished. The player can launch and attach an electrical thread onto another surface with the left mouse button to pull your battery up or anchor yourself. You can launch only two threads simultaneously, and most of the movement in the game is designed behind finding an ideal point to attach a pair of threads and then timing when you decide to cut a thread by slashing across with either your finger or the mouse to get momentum and swing across. Additionally, by pressing the space bar when on another solid surface the player can make their battery perform a small hop in order to get some minor leverage or regain momentum while hanging against a wall.
To keep things interesting the player has a limited number of threads and jumps to carry them through the level. Your battery can make three jumps at the most before violently exploding, and different levels will give you a variable number of electrical threads to catch hold of surfaces and platforms to prevent yourself from falling to the game’s many hazards and traps.
You spend the majority of your time platforming through the game’s levels with the use of electromagnetic threads launched from our electric protagonist and a small hop to get some opening momentum. Unlike most platformers, there is no command for any controlled locomotion of your battery. Players are forced to space their jumps and make the most of the game’s physics engine to maintain enough momentum to get through a level, which is where I think the gameplay suffers a shade from an inability to really control the trajectory or angle of you hops. There’ll be a truly frustrating number of levels or puzzles whereupon players are undone when their battery ends up hopping toward the opposite direction of the intended destination.
Hopping problems aside the overall the command scheme functions as intended and players will be spending the majority of their time aiming their electrical strands as the main mode of transportation.
A retro and expressive presentation
Volt presents itself in a very minimalistic visual style. Dull and subdued colors lend to an oppressive in-game atmosphere as you explore levels full of industrialized gears and rivets that form the backdrop of Volt’s environment. Your glowing strands of electricity stamp stark silhouettes of light across the surrounding environment of the level, and the level’s backgrounds are filled with strange and unknown devices and processes that immerse the factory setting of the world with a measure of life. As you progress further into the game the environment eventually takes the player into different settings and backdrops to represent your advancing progress through the factory.
The game’s music and sound effects fit the industrial edge of the game, but unfortunately they become somewhat tiresome after a few levels, which is a shame since they’d make for a catchy tune by themselves if used with a bit more variety.
Sadly, the presentation of the game does become repetitive as you go through one trap-filled level after another, but most gamers will probably be more focused on the increasingly difficult levels as you advance through the game. With 50 levels, three bonus stages and four boss levels there’s a steady amount of content for players to explore.
WARNING: PLAYER DEATHS IMMINENT
Rotating saw blades, spiked pits and menacing robots vie for your attention as your protagonist happens to be one hit point wonder liable to explode upon impact. Compounded by the limited number of actions the player can take through a single level, much of the game’s difficulty comes from balancing accuracy and reflexes with careful management of your limited mobility options.
At first, you simply launch your electric strands to the nearest ledge or threshold to swing toward a door at the end of the level. Eventually, though, the game turns into a real puzzler and players will become intimately acquainted with seeing the protagonist blown to bits all over a given level. New twists and obstacles are slowly layered into every succeeding level and most players will need to rely on some level of trial and error gameplay before they’ll be able to find their way through a level.
The end result is a challenging game that’ll force players to think on their feet to find solutions to each level’s obstacles. Sadly, while the game has many levels and different stages to play, a lack of extra content or reason to go back to a previous stage means the game will ultimately have limited replay ability. Once a player has found a solution to a level there’s no real impetus to play again. The developers included a timer function as means to track how long it takes you to go through a level, but the lack of substantive unlockable content leaves a bit to be desired at end game.
Not to say that there’s nothing for completionists, as Quantized Bit also included a number of unlockable battery models that change the look of our protagonist. The extra models require a player to take on the extra challenge of finding and collecting their floating points in some of the levels, and it serves as an extra challenge to a player’s ability to move quickly.
Some missing potential
Beyond the silent opening cinematic that depicts your battery’s escape from the trash compactor there isn’t really much in the way of story. This is a shame because the dark and moody environment of Volt has a lot of potential for a narrative if the developers had taken some more time with it, but the end result is still a satisfying gameplay experience. But if you’re expecting an awesome narrative with plot twists and character development you’ll probably need to look else where.
Volt has been released for the Mac IOS, Android devices, and most recently on Valve’s digital distribution platform Steam for the PC. Personally, I feel that its inclusion on the PC was probably a bit extraneous as Volt’s gameplay lends itself to a more casual experience than most gamers sitting in front of their computers will probably enjoy.
The sum of Volt’s clever design, artistic environs, and a cheap price tag make it an excellent addition to your casual gaming experience. Volt makes no pretensions to being more than a steady diversion to most gamers, but it’s a platformer with interesting mechanics and a solid presentation that does its job well.
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