Sometimes, when I have a rummage around the indies or in this case XNVRs backlog of codes I like to try and find a few with a connecting theme. This time around, it’s the turn of the platformers. You know what they are right? Jumping platform to platform with impeccable accuracy or call bullshit because you fell off and drew up wild conspiracies that would make someone like Trump look grounded. Anyhow, our offering this week is Venineth from Venineth Team and IN-VERT from TERNOX. Shall we?
First up is Venineth, a 3D platformer. You play as what could be described as a Lawn Bowl. Exploring distant worlds and unravelling alien technology (according to the steam page blurb). Given I just need a bit of context to get into the game itself. Venineth seems to have none? Like, why are we a Lawn Bowl? How did we get in this position? Did a Pensioner yeet it into orbit during a game of Bowls and we are trying to get home? Who knows?
From a gameplay side of things it’s much better. plays out non-linear and doesn’t handhold at all, which is refreshing to see from a platformer, so it’s down to you to traverse the terrain. You can have a helper to point you in the right direction but it’s refreshing. The controls are simple if you can translate the UI (more of that later). Though it can be a bit tricky when it requires a sensitive touch when the platforming gets more precise, and that you’re barreling down a hill at full yeet. Tt has its challenges and does draw you in, and the Ball Physics are consistent enough to get by.
Other aspects — Given it runs on Unreal Engine 4, it does look very nice. However, against the supposed Alien Architecture that litters the environment, it just looks like bits of geometry smashed together. And also things like doors that clip through the environment and moving platforms just ghost through stationary platforms, it just looks shoddy. Like they could have made it neater, but there was a nice restaurant around the corner and it would have been a shame not to use it, and around 20 levels to get through it will take some time.
Also, the UI is fucking horrible. Mainly using Hieroglyphics that even Howard Carter would struggle to translate (if he wasn’t too dead to care) and the text in a font that also just looks horrible. Look, I don’t mind the hieroglyphics that much and the logic in keeping to the Art Style, but some text in a clear and readable font isn’t that much to ask for isn’t it? also technically, it’s weird. My PC isn’t too shoddy and can run most stuff fairly well, but weirdly it can’t run smoothly with high settings on full screen, as the framerate chugs like your mum during hen night. Weirdly, run it on at full chat in a window, it is perfectly smooth. I’m not exactly a PC bloke but it doesn’t make much sense.
So Venineth, good gameplay with consistent physics with a hands-off approach and non-linear way of things and does look nice. Lack of story context, horrific UI and lack of TLC with the environment. Just falls off my radar of interest.
On the opposite side of the scale, we have IN-VERT a 2D pixel platformer, and this one has context. We are a Robot who is trying to find his master. Which is more than what Venineth has (the Lawn Bowl thing is an educated guess), so the narrative context “Tick”.
While Venineth is more physics-based, IN-VERT has a game mechanic where you can switch between two different dimensions to navigate obstacles. Which gradually ramps up the difficulty, till your having to time your jumps and changing worlds at the same time. It’s a simple mechanic but highly challenging and when you get it right. You can’t help and feel a wee bit smug. There are one or two issues, and there is a lot of trial and error. As I said you’re having to sync your jumps with switching dimensions, and most games just leave you with the jumping, and the jumping is a bit floaty. So you will either overshoot or miss the ledge for overcompensating for the floaty physics, but with 70 levels and a few boss battles to boot – for 4 quid it’s good value.
Other aspects, while the pixel art is very nice and the stills for the cutscenes are very nicely done, but It looks a bit safe, didn’t push the boat out far. Particularly colours – it could have gone into more detail and not look like a port of a game from the Atari 2600. The soundtrack is nice though could have had a bit more variance because it repeats one track constantly and after a while does get a bit annoying. Technically I had no real bugbears and issues to report. UI is simple and doesn’t use hieroglyphics.
So IN-VERT, while it doesn’t look like its rival Venineth with its 3D environments and its more consistent physics. For me, it’s a much more enjoyable game, there’s a story with enough context to be on the same page as the developers. The parallel worlds mechanic is enjoyable and challenging and for 4 quid for a challenging platformer? Very good value. Venineth does have its moments but just doesn’t maintain my interest compared to IN-VERT. I would declare it the winner of the Grimey Knife Fight for Indie platformers. Tune in next week for the knife fight Hell in the Cell for king or queen despot with Nathan Drake, Laura Croft and Tom Nook.