Release Date: October 16th, 2013
Developer: Jeppe Carlsen
Platform: PC through Steam
Jeppe Carlsen, developer of Limbo, has come out with 140, a game that is simple to play, but difficult to beat. It’s this simplicity, along with the well implemented rhythm-based platforming and obstacles, that creates a game that mixes elements of modern indie games and classic arcade games well. Also the music is fantastic.
You play as a square that turns into a circle when you move and a triangle when you jump. Your goal is to traverse levels full of moving multicolored geometrical figures while a giant rainbow equalizer pulsates in the background. It’s very much like playing the soundtrack of a dance club. Why are you doing this? To beat the level, of course. There’s no story, no narrative, just a goal: win.
Platforms move, vanish, expand and contract to the beat of the music. While you could just play the game on mute and remember the timing, it really isn’t a full experience unless you listen to the game’s music. In each stage you’re in pursuit of a multicolored ball. You must get this ball to a semicircle, and when you do the music changes and the level changes color.
Your enemy in this game, besides your lack of rhythm, is static. The static comes in the form of obstacles that move, rotate, and will kill you on contact. I’d like to add that the kill screen, which muffles the music and turns the screen black and white, is pretty cool. My theory is the static is meant to represent empty air, killing the music and drowning it out.
The platforming and rhythm based obstacle course gameplay is challenging, but frequent checkpoints reduce a lot of the stress. When you die, you go back to the last checkpoint, and you have unlimited lives so you’ll really only have to beat each segment of the level once. The real challenge lies in the boss battles. Bosses take the form of large geometric shapes of static that either need to be broken until they’re no more, dodged, or shot at to a complicated rhythm.
These bosses are stressful, intense, and will undoubtedly make your head spin. If you suffer from motion sickness or are prone to seizures, these battles are probably what will trigger you. But for everyone else, prepare for an intense challenge.
The game isn’t too long. If you don’t die you’ll probably beat the game in less than an hour, but I guarantee you’ll die a few times. You can’t save until you beat the boss of the level, which makes sense considering its arcade style. My biggest grievance is that you can’t pause the game. In my attempt to pause, I pressed the ESC key and held it. The screen faded to black and closed. I was in the middle of a boss fight and nearly tossed my laptop.
Even with these minor grievances, I really enjoyed 140. It was nice to see the minimalistic style so many indie games like to use executed so well, and the game is difficult enough to make your heart skip a beat with each jump. It’s the fact that 140 is so simple that makes it work so well. No plot, no characters, no extras, just you, some geometric shapes, and a goal.