Pretty fly for a yellow guy…
Perfect Hat’s psychedelic puzzler takes something that comes as a split-second reaction to you and me and expands upon it to give us a unique take on what happens when a fly invades your home and lands on your leg.
I always thought that swatting a fly was a natural reflex – never considering it much further. However, with Membrane, we now get an insight into what goes on inside your body to cause this reaction (Of course, I know it’s not what actually happens -or is it?).
Playing as a small yellow person with a triangular-shaped head, your goal is to make your way from the brain down to the hand – stopping off at various body parts along the way including the ear, throat and elbow. Each body part contains single-screen levels for you to figure out using the game’s unique gameplay mechanic.
You see, our yellow protagonist has the ability to shoot projectiles from his head that can be used to manipulate the environment to your advantage. Pressing the Y button fires red cubes from the protagonist’s head, and these are used to create structures within the level. These cubes stick to certain surfaces and to each other, meaning you can create platforms, ladders and ramps to help navigate towards the exit. These red cubes are finite, so you also have the ability to fire yellow triangles using X that will destroy the red cubes so they can be reused. A great physics model ensures that you will need to think about how these cubes will interact with the environment – bringing a welcome challenge to proceedings. Holding L or R brings up an arc that is used to aim, but this can be a little fiddly at times as it relies on using the analogue stick – I feel this could have worked better if it allowed for more precise aiming through use of the d-pad.
The first few levels ease you in to the game’s mechanics before slowly introducing new hazards and environmental objects that you will need to avoid or make use of in your mission to reach the hand. Perfect Hat has got the difficulty curve in the game spot on – you will be challenged but the game never gets unfair and, if you do get stuck, the developers have taken their time to publish handy hints on their website. My only criticism of the progression system is that you need to complete each stage within a body part before you are able to move on to the next – meaning if you do get stuck you will need to work out a solution in order to progress further.
The game also has collectibles in each stage in the shape of two orbs (and a few, well-hidden others). Collecting these trickily-placed items is beneficial, as they unlock bonus games to play from the main menu which are a fun distraction. I do think these orbs could have been utilised further to prevent the above progression niggle, maybe collecting a certain number unlocks the next body part – as this could prevent players from having one level preventing progress.
Aesthetics-wise, Membrane does find itself at the simple end of the scale. It has an interesting, no-frills art-style that allows you to focus on the puzzles at hand. The vivid use of colour combines with a brilliant, self-produced chiptune soundtrack and the strangeness of viewing the body parts from the inside – creating the aforementioned psychedelic feel to the experience.
So, hats off to Perfect Hat. Their Nintendo Switch debut is a charming game that will provide a well-balanced challenge to fans of the genre. Some people will pass this by due to its simple aesthetics, but in doing so will miss out on a fun, puzzle-platformer that won’t make you go insane in the Membrane…