We all know and love shoot 'em ups but try playing one with your weapons taken away. Soft Body will get your heart pumping with its intensely challenging gameplay but is it worth the increased blood pressure?
Soft Body puts you in control of a spirit-like entity. All you do is move it around the screen while avoiding every obstacle and projectile in sight. In order to complete a stage, you must rid the screen of all destructible objects and guide energy spheres along preset paths. It's a very intuitive game to learn yet the steep level of challenge will make even the most hardcore gamers sweat. It gets even more difficult when you try to control two entities at once but thankfully you'll only need to do so in the optional harder stages. In the normal stages, you do get to control a secondary ghost but doing so is actually beneficial as it's not only invincible; it can destroy enemy forces, too. You mostly control both entities in a combined form but you can send out the second one by moving the right stick. Once it gets harmed, it simply returns to you. Overall, the combination of basic gameplay and satisfying difficulty will delight any gamer looking for a challenge.
Graphically, Soft Body's minimalistic visuals are gorgeous. Bold colour palettes and easily distinguishable points of interest make it a streamlined experience. The audio is full of atmospheric sleep-inducing rhythms which contrast beautifully with the tension-filled sound effects. Having the sound on definitely adds a layer of stress to the equation. The mix of relaxing music and appropriately fretful effects truly is masterfully implemented as it'll keep you on your toes for every second of gameplay. To bring the presentation to a higher level of excellence, many odd moments play throughout the journey. Between worlds, you'll find yourself aimlessly wandering in a lifeless void only to realise that your entity is growing exponentially the more you move. It's weird but in the best way.
Soft Body contains over 60 stages and each one is crafted with care to provide unique scenarios. Most of the challenge is handled by your ability to discern how to surmount the current stage because there usually is a distinct strategy required to master each one. You'll find yourself dodging lines that sweep across the entire screen, taking out an onslaught of squares that fire homing projectiles, guiding a ball along a path as a turret relentlessly shoots at you, and carefully moving your avatar within the confines of a circle. Thankfully, a comprehensive tutorial is included. Anyway, you'll work through three worlds in the Soft Game mode then if you're up for a challenge, it's time to attempt some Hard Game stages. Additionally, you can play the same stages but with more difficult rules in the Soft Game+ and Hard Game+ modes. Although this seems like a lot of content, each stage is rather short once you figure out how to complete it so you could potentially complete Soft Mode in one sitting. Once you're done, you'll definitely want much more.
Obviously, this isn't a game for everyone. The high degree of difficulty will quickly alienate anyone but hardcore 2D arcade game enthusiasts. Sure, you can grant yourself a couple of extra lives in the options menu, but that won't be enough for less skilled gamers to enjoy themselves. Besides, giving yourself more lives makes playing feel much less satisfying. One issue that I had was that trial and error is often required. Even after playing for a couple of hours, I encountered situations where I got a game over without knowing why. I understood after trying again, but I couldn't help but be a bit annoyed at how unintuitive some of the stages are at first.
Soft Body is an impressive arcade-like experience that old-school gamers will fully embrace. Although it doesn't appeal to everyone and is short on content, I highly recommend it for anyone looking for their next big challenge.
- + Challenging yet simple gameplay that'll give your brain a workout
- + Incredible sense of style and atmosphere
- + Carefully thought out level design
- - By the time you're done, you'll wish there were many more levels to conquer
- - Far too difficult for the average gamer
- - Frequently requires trial and error