Resembling no other platformer.
2D platformers have come a long way since the early days. From Donkey Kong to Celeste, we’ve been jumping on enemies, dashing over pits and bouncing on walls since the start. In fact, we’ve played so many that it is a bit rare to see something truly new and unique in the genre.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t amazing platformers nowadays, however – just that most of them aren’t as fresh they once would have been. Still, here and there there’s a game with a little innovative twist. Semblance is one of these.
The game’s narrative is a subtle one and starts when a kind of crystallization infection spreads across a strange-looking forest. You then control a small blob creature who must jump, dash and bounce to collect red orbs, which seems to be the only way to cure the sickness from the trees. You’ll find some paintings about the lore of the world as you progress, but in the end, it is up to the player to figure out the meaning of what is happening.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that Semblance changes how you would normally approach a platforming challenge. At its base, it plays similarly to many other games; you move your character with either the right stick or directional buttons, you jump with B, and can also perform a dash by pressing Y or ZR. Due to the format of your character and the way it moves, the game even evokes memories of The End Is Nigh in some regards. However, it has a totally different approach to platforming.
The character you control isn’t the only soft thing in the world. In fact, every part of the scenario that has a continuous color is soft too. Therefore, with your dash, you can hit the floor, walls and platforms to bend them with the impact. As you may expect, this idea is used in every way imaginable, as each challenge comes with a new twist on that basic mechanic – shaping the floor to reach higher places, to hide from enemies or to evade a hazard are just some examples.
As you progress, new elements will also be added into the mix (such as harmful lasers or terrain that can change the shape of your character), but the game manages to keep a steady learning curve, and also does a good job in respawning you instantly if you die – like The End Is Nigh and Celeste. This unique gameplay comes with some small detriments, though. At times, I found myself stuck on the floors I tried to bend and had to restart the level.
The entirety of Semblance is represented with an interesting art-style void of boundaries, which blends the silhouettes of the characters and the setting. You’re free to access any of the first three ‘worlds’ of the game in any order you like, through a level-select system with the appearance of a tree. So, if you’re stuck on a challenge, you can just go back to it another time.
Semblance provides you with a balanced challenge that, thanks to an innovative take on the platformer genre, is worthy of your time and effort. If you want something which pushes the traditions of platforming, Semblance is definitely a good option.
With a soft world that you can bend with your actions, Semblance brings something unique to the 2D platformer. Barring some collision issues, it does provide a steady learning curve, with innovative challenges, all presented with a distinctive art style.