PEGBRJE: Luminous and FORGET THE BRAKES!

Today is a day. More later.

DIE, SCARY SHADOW THING I CAN BARELY SEE!

Luminous is a narrative platformer made by Kieran Sheldon, indie developer and story teller out of the United States. Players follow the story of the hero of destiny named Keith who is tasked with relighting the light and driving off the darkness. At least, that’s what our guardian companion is telling us will happen. A lot.

Luminous at its core is a platformer, where players need to collect items called Sparks and light the beacon at the end of the level to move on to the next day. To do so, players will hop over holes and traps to move forward, only to be met by larger gaps that cannot be traversed normally. Here is where the ‘luminous’ part kicks in, for Keith can ‘go luminous’ to turn the screen a rainbow wave, zooming the camera out and greatly increasing their speed and agility. The drawback is that illuminating oneself is draining, causing the bar on the top left to drain the longer Keith utilizes it. What’s more intriguing is that this is also the health bar, and can only be replenished by those sparks collected. The sparks also represent light, and the less health/light that Keith has the smaller the light given off around him is, meaning that it becomes harder and harder to see and operate. Of course this leads to very awkward moments where it becomes harder to regain light since it’s harder to see the pathways to the sparks, but the amalgamation of health as a resource in multiple ways certainly helps to shake things up. Thankfully, dangerous projectiles are always visible and the scary darkness monsters have glowing eyes, so no worries there.

Let’s talk about the real aspect of this title however; that little guardian. They run the entire narrative of the game, for Keith cannot communicate for unknown reasons. They give updates where to go, they’re the one that gives the quest and gives motivational speeches when things get touch.

That’s what I’d like to say, anyway. Spoilers below.

Upon my first death, I knew that this little companion was going to be playing a massive role in the plot, for the passive aggressive comments started quickly. Every death ramps up the overbearing aggression from this individual, from complaining that Keith doesn’t care to blaming him for not performing well enough. Now, as someone who already dislikes platforming-based titles, this had the obviously intended effect of causing me to ‘tilt’, as they say. It got so bad that I memorized the final missions’ dialogue and would actively say it out loud in anger due to my inability to get past a certain section. I started running as smoothly as possible so that I could just get that stupid little character out of my screen, which almost felt that the more deaths I had in a stage the more they lagged behind. Perhaps that was just a coincidence, but the narrative of how toxic an overbearing figure can be was apparent as soon as any mistake was made. Miss a spark? Boom, virtue signaling about how much Keith doesn’t care about the people of the world. Die? Not doing enough. I won’t go so far to spoil the ending, but it’s exactly what one might expect in this scenario.

Luminous is a short game, but it’s small narrative mechanic combined with the well implemented health=light system makes for an enjoyable experience, no matter how much I may have become frustrated with the missed jumps. Thanks to the multiple ending system as well, it helps players return and try again with a different approach. It might not be perfect, but it will give you a story that might be a tad too relatable depending.

Where’s that initial D music coming from?

FORGET THE BRAKES! is a drifting extravaganza made by Ferran Bertomeu, a solo dev of many, many titles. This one in particular, however, is a tale of two railway engineers ready to build their own engine and set off on the tracks. Except, well, they forgot something important; the brakes.

Players will be unintentionally drifting forever as they attempt to control the front and the rear boogie across the rails. The controls are a bit awkward to get used to, with the defaults shown above as WS for the rear and IK as the front. The goal is to ensure that the train not only doesn’t crash into any obstacles, but isn’t pulled apart as well due to the tracks getting too far apart from each other. It’s a game of focusing on two different yet attached things as they both move, needing to be able to shift focus on a dime to the other side to ensure that the next rail won’t cause the train to head towards disaster. Crash and the score is recorded via time, and the level is then able to be restarted. Keep going, however, and players will see that whoever designed these rails certainly didn’t mean for them to be used often for there are some sinister traps to be found. Some railroad switches will automatically activate upon the front boogie driving overtop, forcing a drift between two lanes that cannot be immediately rectified, which will then make players realize that there are multiple structures in between tracks to collide with and end the run. On the ‘standard’ track convergences these can be directed thanks to the players control input, but these switches are dastardly as they switch the entire track piece over to the other rail, so no amount of player input can stop this event from occurring.

This seems simple enough, but it’s the simplicity that drives the sheer addictiveness of it all. Every failure will always be chocked up to ‘just not inputting fast enough’ or ‘minor setback’, and a retry will immediately be issued only to find that the tracks are randomized slightly and its a new set of rails. If that current backdrop is creating a migraine, there are three others to create 4 different environments, but do be warned: each background is harder than the last, with the city being an absolute terror to jump into without experience. Yet you’ll keep trying again and again to beat that previous score, because you know that you can. Probably.

If you have a few minutes to sink into FORGET THE BRAKES! and were hoping for something to constantly split your attention two different ways at high speeds, then give this game a shot.

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