Coming off the flashy and fast-paced Futuridium, MixedBag Games takes a more subdued route with their latest project.
Forma.8 features a minimalist style in everything it does. The visuals are mostly black (although some of the well-designed backgrounds really pop), the soundtrack is subtle, and even the game design takes a basic approach. There isn't much hand holding or instruction provided as Forma.8 expects you to test and learn abilities mostly on your own. Many of the collectibles are represented by simple icons that hint at what it does but their functions usually aren't explained outright. Instead, you're expected to adventure forward and trust that everything will become clear as you progress.
Forma.8 follows a fairly traditional Metroidvania formula in that the world is built of large winding caverns with branching paths to explore. Most paths will eventually be blockaded by a barrier that can't be passed until a new ability is learned, methodically filtering you in the one direction that is currently accessible.
These massive and winding caverns are also chock full of shadowy enemies. Forma.8's combat is more robust than I expected as each enemy has a different attacking ability. Some will quickly lunge at you with almost no notice while others will doggedly pursue you until you dispatch them. Several enemies explode in pink or orange miniblasts upon death, harming you unless you keep your distance. Fortunately, most enemies also drop health orbs to help keep you alive which are also scattered around each and every room. Also, you can count on running into several bosses that adhere to the minimalist approach. It doesn't explicitly tell you how to defeat them and you may end up spending quite a bit of time with some of them until you figure out what to do.
Your small exploration droid (which looks noticeably like a severed robot head floating through the air) can pack quite a punch. A small shield blast unlocked early in the game serves as a great way to attack nearby enemies and push them away. You'll also soon unlock mines that you can drop behind you which is one of the best weapons against this desolate planet's alien forces. You'll encounter a good variety of puzzles as well, some that reward you with collectibles and others that are required to progress. Like every other aspect of the game, these puzzles are rarely explained. Instead, you'll want to use visual clues to start putting solutions together.
The one major drawback to exploring the sprawling overworld is the droid's dramatically slow movement speed. I don't know whether this is intentional to match Forma.8's minimalist atmosphere but it hampers and even actively discourages exploring its winding labyrinth as it makes backtracking a chore. There are power-ups that slightly increase movement speed and I encourage players to seek them out immediately. This issue is compounded a bit by excessive room size and a minimal mapping system. Some of the largest rooms seem to go on forever with countless winding paths that can be hard to mentally map. The in-game map system is useful for seeing which rooms connect to others. However, it doesn't document or chart any of the paths you've uncovered.
The unnecessarily slow movement speed turns Forma.8 into a bit of a slog at times, especially during long straight passages and when backtracking. The combat, puzzles, and exploration are all quite enjoyable as is the trust in the player to solve problems without putting the answers directly in front of them. Overall, Forma.8 functions as a competent Metroidvania as long as you have plenty of patience.
- + Tons of winding pathways that Metroidvania fans will love
- + Enjoyable and challenging combat
- + Nice minimalist visuals and setting
- - Painfully slow movement makes exploration and backtracking a chore
- - Map system could be more fleshed out