First released on PC in 2013, rhythm-platformer 140 now bounces its way onto consoles. Does its minimalistic style hit all the right notes or fail to strike a chord?
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The first thing I'd like to address with 140 is its name. It sucks. Couldn't they come up with something a little catchier or at least something related to the game? Maybe Colourbeat, for example. That's just off the top of my head. It may be rather generic, but at least it has something to do with the subject matter. "140" doesn't have anything to do with anything. It's just a random number. But I guess I'm here to review the game, not its title. So here goes. v1d30chumz 100-24-118-144
In 140, you take on the role of one of three shapes, depending on your actions: a circle if you're rolling, a square while stationary, and a triangle when jumping. Your mission? To platform your way through its three (yes, three) levels while avoiding deadly blocks of static. Every so often, you'll have to collect a small circle which acts like a key. Take this key to a larger circle and it will open up the next section of the level, firing its hazards and platforms into life as well as kicking up the soundtrack another notch.
The music isn't just for background noise, though. The platforms and static blocks often move in tandem with it, meaning your ears (as well as your eyes) play a part in judging your timing. You'll often have to make jumps ahead of time onto a platform that will suddenly appear or past a hazard that will vanish, so waiting for the correct audio cue can be helpful for overcoming levels successfully. As well as the practical aspects, it also sounds pretty cool when the music bursts into life each time you open a new section. It keeps things lively and makes levels feel more dynamic.
That's important, because graphically 140 is incredibly simplistic. Its worlds are comprised of solid colours and geometric shapes with zero textures or additional detail. They do what's required of them, but they aren't exactly appealing to look at. There isn't much to talk about on the presentation side, either. After the title screen, you're thrown straight into the game. There isn't even an options menu or any way to quit a level once you've started, meaning you have to turn the game off and on if you want to play a different one.
As I mentioned, there are only three proper levels in 140, each one with its own boss battle at the end. The bosses have a good amount of variation between them. The first is a kind of Missile Command/Space Invaders sequence, while the second requires you to react quickly to onrushing blocks. The final boss is by far the most difficult. In fact, thanks to the frequent checkpoints throughout 140, only the final part of level three and its boss caused me any trouble. After you beat the three bosses, you'll unlock 140's mirror stages. These are inverted versions of the regular levels, but with one major difference: there are no checkpoints, meaning you have to get through them in one go. This is way more challenging than the regular game; perhaps too challenging, especially in the latter two stages which are full of sections that require split-second timing to complete unscathed.
Despite this added challenge, 140's three base levels feel incredibly paltry (I was able to complete the whole game in about an hour and a half). The mirror stages are something else. I could probably spend all day trying to beat them and still end up with nothing to show for it but less hair and a broken controller. If that's your idea of fun, then have a blast. But for many gamers, 140's difficulty will go from too easy in regular mode to too unforgiving in mirrored mode with no satisfying medium in between.
Another drawback of having just three stages is that there isn't a lot of musical variation, which is a bit of a disappointment in a game where sound plays such an integral part. The tracks on the first two levels sound very similar, and after repeated attempts at beating the mirror stages, you might get sick of them. The controls are also a little iffy when you use the analogue sticks. Pushing diagonally upwards sometimes makes you jump in that direction, and sometimes not (which can lead to unfair deaths in the latter case). Luckily, you can also play with the D-pad which is much more reliable.
140's minimalistic style will either be an appeal or a repellent, depending on your taste. It's fun (and frustrating) while it lasts but unfortunately, it doesn't last nearly long enough. As a result, it's difficult to recommend to anyone other than hardcore platformer fans... or maybe someone who's running low on psychedelic drugs.
- + Interplay between music and level design makes for dynamic gameplay
- + Varied boss battles
- + Mirrored levels add a tough extra challenge
- - Only three unique levels
- - Not much musical variation
- - Controls can feel unreliable when using analogue sticks