As a long-time gamer, I love revisiting games from back in the day and thankfully, many developers feel the same way so here's a brand new game for Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive if you prefer) that'll make you feel like it's the '90s again. Oh, what a time that was!
Gluf is a simple game at its core as all you essentially do is hop between blocks while trying to light them all up. This basic premise reminded me of City Connection although the gameplay here is much tighter and more enjoyable. One huge difference is that you must charge your energy at certain terminals in order to light the blocks. The resulting back-and-forth of having to charge your energy then spending it as you light up blocks makes for an impressive amount of possibilities throughout the stage-based campaign. Speaking of which, you'll receive a password at the end of every 5th level so you can quit and continue your progress later after each handful of challenges. Plus, the music and backgrounds change after you complete enough stages, too, so progress is rather satisfying.
Gluf's visuals are fantastic as the stage designs are straightforward and unambiguous while the character and enemy sprites remain cute and superbly animated. I love watching the little frog hop all around the stages only to show a big smile whenever he reaches the goal. The enemies are pretty cute as well and seeing them bounce and fly around is delightful. That being said, I wish that there was more variety when it came to stage backgrounds because even when they change, they don't change that much so all of the levels have a very similar feel. Also, the music is well done and upbeat but the songs have the tendency to loop a bit too much and I found them to get a bit annoying after a while. I wish that the songs alternated for every stage so that they didn't overstay their welcome.
Now that I've discussed the basic gameplay premise, let's dive a little deeper. Gluf is one of those games that's deceptively simple at the beginning yet it gradually becomes much more complex and challenging. The difficulty curve is handled brilliantly, by the way, because it introduces new enemies and hazards at a perfect pace as to never bore you or leave you in the dust. For example, you'll eventually have to dodge lasers from overhead UFOs, carefully observe foes that have the ability to climb ladders, and take advantage of certain flying enemies' movement patterns. Having to juggle all of this can be exceptionally challenging, especially when you have to deal with platforms that disappear as soon as you hop off of them and segments that you can only reach if you follow a certain sequence of events.
The amount of originality, variety, and fun packed into Gluf makes it a fantastic choice for fans of arcade action puzzle games but it can also be frustrating from time to time. The most annoying issue for me is the fact that you have to climb ladders in order to reach each stage's different floors. Although this isn't a problem for most of the campaign, there are levels where the ladders are too tall and you can't see what's above so you may climb a ladder only to have an enemy end your life either along the climb or when you reach the top. That just feels unfair. You could argue that keeping mental track of where all of the enemies are is a part of the challenge but when you can't see what's ahead, that's simply not very fair or intuitive. Luckily, these moments are few and far between.
Gluf feels like one of those games that you'd rent from the video store not knowing what it is then be pleasantly surprised once you start playing it. Its simple yet original premise is executed exceptionally well to create a challenging, charming, and enjoyable campaign.
- + Tight arcade action puzzle gameplay that's challenging, fun, and original
- + Cute sprites and animations
- + Loads of variety throughout
- - Off-screen enemies can be a huge pain
- - Could use more stage backgrounds
- - Music gets repetitive fast