Parallax is a 2015 First-Person, Puzzle / Platformer. It was developed by Canadian independent games developer Toasty Games. Toasty Games is comprised of Zi Ye and Jesse Burstyn, who initially developed Parallax as a project for a University course and, with the school’s approval, took the game’s concept and developed it further into a full game. It was voted positively by the Steam community on the Greenlight platform and was released on March 10, 2015.
The first thing that I loved about Parallax is its simple, yet beautiful design. It’s so simple and beautiful that it could have been made by Apple to advertise some new product (Full disclosure: Tim Cook doesn’t pay me for this – but he should!). Everything from the UI to the main menu is black and white and the interactions are slick and smooth. This is greatly appreciated and certainly a breeze of fresh air, since far too many games have cluttered and flashy UIs that hurt the user’s experience. If you don’t like black and white, you can choose among other pre-set color combinations, none of which damages the game experience. The game was also translated into a high number of languages, which makes it accesible to gamers all around the globe.
Let’s talk about the game’s playability. In Parallax you navigate through some floating platforms using WASD controls featuring a “jump” key and another “action” key to interact with some objects. The jump key is normally mapped to the spacebar and the action key is mapped to the mouse left click button. Since it plays out rather simply, it can be played with mouse and keyboard or controller without much difference. The controls are responsive and Parallax plays out perfectly, except for those times when you miss that jump or allow that moving obstacle to kick you out of the platform. But that, of course, isn’t the game’s fault (react faster!).
The game’s premise reminds me of the Portal series or Antichamber. Levels are linear, you have to get from point “A” to point “B”, but the catch is that you can’t get there directly since there are so many obstacles on the way. You have to make use of some “dimensional portals” to travel back and forth “the white dimension” and “the black dimension” and skip the obstacles there are also some switchs that you’ll have to tweak with to alter the way the obstacles move or point them in a different direction. Sounds pretty easy, huh? Well, not quite so. After a few rather easy introductory levels, the game puts us and our resolve right into a meat grinder. Puzzles can be quite mind boggling and you’ll have to stop to think your next move over and over very carefully, calculating your steps and the gadgets you want to tweak with. If you feel like your brain is melting, then Parallax is doing a great job as a puzzle game. There is a unique sensation to clearing out that puzzle that a few minutes ago seemed impossible.
Parallax was developed using the Unity Engine, as I have mentioned in earlier reviews, it is a favorite of indie developers because of the freedom and flexibility it provides to them. The visuals are nothing short of fantastic. It has a few customizable graphics options like v-sync and anti-aliasing to beef up the graphics a little on faster PCs, none of them hurts playability and that is really good news. It is also beautifully optimised, I had no incidents with the game becoming slo-mo, getting frame drops or crashing, which is also great news. The ambient music was provided by freelance artist Nathan Antony and adds perfectly to the game’s atmosphere.
I don’t think there is a story to this game, unless it is hidden and I wasn’t able to find it. It’s just a straight out fun puzzle game with quite a lot of them to solve. I had some real old school fun solving all the puzzles, which can become really confusing at times. I enjoyed very much solving them. I’m seriously hoping that the developers are planning to add a level editor and a Steam Workshop option to share user created content. Perhaps a multiplayer competitive / co-op game mode as well? One can only dream.
It’s totally worth the purchase and play time for the game’s price and for all the awesome, creative, fun content you’ll get to play with. You should give it a try even if you’re not a hardcore fan of puzzle games.