PEGBRJE: forma.8 and Cardiac

Oh joy.

forma.8 is a curious action-adventure Metroidvania made by MixedBagGames, an indie studio based out of Italy. Players are the forma of the title’s name, launched from space on to an unknown and unexplored planet to search for… well, something. Thing is, upon landing, nobody else seems to be around, and one begins to question whether or not any of them survived the impact, or survived the moments that followed.

As this forma, players will be searching for more than just a reason for their existence, but for what happened to the others that were sent before; especially after discovering one that didn’t survive the impact. As this forma, gravity is not a limiting factor as they can fly, so it takes on the exploration aspect of Metroidvania’s rather than the expected platforming. It embraces this challenge by making the passages varying degrees of sizes coupled with a somewhat loose control scheme, making the forma a bit difficult to control tightly; it’s more of a drift king than anything. Now as one may come to expect in this style of game, players will be immersed within a world that prefers to show and not tell, leading them to search for the correct way to go in order to further their own exploration and the plot at the same time. Backtracking and ‘looping’ back around is relatively common, and there are a few times where a return to an old familiar location brought a smile to my face as a new ability unlocked a new pathway. Unfortunately, these powers that allow for exploration are found from the fallen forma brethren, so a moment of silence for them.

Through this exploration, players will come across red-eyed entities that can damage the player if touched, seemingly of various shapes and sizes that are immediately hostile upon sight. The only way to destroy them is to utilize those powers as Metroidvanias normally do; one part puzzle solving, the other part enemy destroying. At firs this starts with just a simple energy burst, dealing damage around the forma, before expanding to others such as mines. The interesting aspect is that all of these powers have the ability to interact with each other, such as how the energy blast can propel the mines in a direction thanks to the blast. This expression of skill will allow for players to pull off some seriously interesting moves, sniping out enemies and solving puzzles as they attempt to discover just what exactly the quest of our little forma actually is.

If this all sounds a tad vague, that would be by design; forma.8 wants you to explore and find out for yourself. The world is drawn simply through the use of vector art, yet its expressions and worldbuilding are fantastic for giving only visual cues to understand. There’s so much to see and dive through that its hard not to get sucked in and find out where we are and what exactly the end goal is. If you love Metroidvanias that focus more on exploration of the world and less on the platforming and direct combat, this might be exactly what you are looking for.

Images I can now hear for 500, please.

Cardiac is… well, it’s a thing by katanalevy, the indie developer name for Chris Evry of Scotland. Players are — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — a heart. A beating, pulsing, tendril creating heart. One that will explore this bizarre dreamscape and attempt to piece together if anything even makes sense.

As this mass, players will latch themselves to a specific area thanks to the large amounts of tendrils that can be produced so that the beating flesh mound can drag itself along. This allows it to scale walls, enter tight spaces, essentially go anywhere and everywhere if there is something for it to stick to. By traversing the environment, players will be able to discover where the ‘end’ of each area is, usually indicated by a fade that slowly moves towards black.

This is, well, the last of what I can say that makes sense without completely derailing this entire segment and sounding like a babbling incoherent mess. This game is wild. There is no actual direction of where the player is supposed to go, rather they are to explore the bizarre regions and map it out on their own, all the while everything around them is in monochromatic darkness. Granted that might be for the best, because getting close to each item reveals a horrifying mess of flesh and bone — some are sticks covered in fingers, others are a fused tower of skulls. What exactly they are, I have no clue; it’s a dream, after all! Nothing really needs to make sense, and it capitalizes on this surrealist landscape in spades. What sticks the most, however, is not the visuals but the audio, for everything has a uncomfortable hum to it in the background. The music is there to accentuate the lack of visual clarity, so everything heard is subtle yet confusing. There is only one sound that is clear to the ear, and I wish it wasn’t; the squishing of the mass. Every move, every roll is accompanied by a nauseating squelch of flesh as it traverses the ground. I can hear it everywhere now, even by looking at the picture above. It had my hairs standing on end when the background audio would pull out and leave only a room tone and the squishing before it would slowly build back up with new audio elements, all the while the mass continues to beat. Even once the end is reached, suddenly the familiar starting location appears again and we are back to scaling the same once again.

What I’m saying is that this game is perfect for starting October’s spooky season.

It makes utterly no sense in terms of ‘sanity’, diving headfirst in to a surrealist landscape of uncomfortable dreams. The fact that you do nothing but move makes it all the more unnerving, for there is nothing to destroy or attack, and nothing can hurt you; but it’ll feel like it will be. If you can stomach this stile of game, it isn’t very long at about 20 minutes before the loop kicks in. Dive on in and become traumatized by the sound of a flesh mass moving with me.

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Jacob Vorstenbosch

Jacob Vorstenbosch

Just a Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.

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