Platform(s): PC (Windows)
Perspective is an experimental first person puzzle game developed by Widdershins, a small development team comprised of students from the DigiPen Institute of Technology. For those not familiar, DigiPen is a video game development school which has produced a number of talented alumni. One of their biggest success stories was the game Narbucular Drop, which ended up becoming the mega-hit Portal. Perspective attempts to provide yet another interesting puzzle game, but instead of portals it deals with the concept of first person perception. It’s a hard concept to understand at first, but once you play it everything becomes quite clear.
Perspective’s gameplay involves you taking on two separate, but very important roles at the same time. The first is all about controlling a little blue knight character and getting him across platforms, all while avoiding dangerous lava. This is done by simply using the WASD keys and having good timing. If the game were nothing more than this, then this preview wouldn’t be very long, but Perspective adds a very interesting twist. Right away, you are also given control of a first-person camera that determines where exactly the little character can travel.
If your character gets stuck between platforms that are too distant from each other, you can actually move the camera to another angle. This allows the gap to become smaller or disappear completely, due to the way the camera perceives the platforms as you move around the level. The same concept applies to the size of the blue character. As you move closer to him he shrinks, and as you move farther away he grows larger. This concept is implemented throughout the game and becomes especially important when you have to squeeze the little guy through a narrow opening. If this all sounds too complicated, take a look at the trailer above to help wrap your brain around it.
Once you understand these basic concepts, Perspective is all about trying to use them in order to solve ever more complex puzzle rooms. Some levels are simple are only require you to get the character across a few rooms and little obstacles. Others, however, will really wrack your brain and force to you think outside the box in order to succeed. Each puzzle resides within a retro arcade machine and requires your character to physically move into its screen in order to load the level. Doing so moves the camera into the level and provides for a very neat effect. These machines are located in a hub world which is basically an interactive level select screen.
The game’s visuals overall are simple, but they’re very clean and eye pleasing. The main focus of course is on the little blue nameless man you control. When I first saw the game a few months ago, he looked a lot like Mega Man. The developers, though, have completely redone the model and he is now a lot more unique looking–resembling a character straight out of Tron. The animations on him have also been vastly improved, which makes the platforming much smoother and more refined. They even added small touches like having him move around a little as he waits for your commands.
The environments haven’t changed much since last time, but they’re now more fleshed out and include more props like lights, posters, bathrooms, and delicious looking ads for medium pizzas. Speaking of posters, the developers have actually gone out of their way to design a custom one for each level. They are strewn throughout the game’s hub world and are very well designed. Each has a unique theme associated with it which relates to the name of the level itself, and they’re basically mini movie posters. Along with the visuals, the sound design has also gotten plenty of love and attention.
From the relaxing Mario-esqe jumping sounds that blueberry man makes as he leaps across platforms, to the sound he makes when he explodes from touching lava; the effects are well chosen and fit the platforming quite well. The soundtrack is also nicely composed and features a number of catchy chiptune tracks. They’re all very pleasant to listen to while you put your cerebral cortex to work, and are not completely static either. As you switch from first-person to 2D, the music incorporates other beats and sounds and becomes fuller. Going back and forth between the two modes ends up customizing the soundtrack somewhat; a clever trick that keeps the music fresh.
What makes Perspective shine among dozens of other indie games, though, is the core idea of switching between two very different points of view. While other games have tried similar ideas in the past, Perspective still manages to keep an identity of its own by providing an innovative twist on the formula. It is also challenges you in ways that you probably haven’t been before, getting you to think of solutions that don’t make a lot of sense at first. The more you play it, however, the more everything just seems to click and fall into place. So far I’m impressed with what Widdershins has produced as only students, and definitely recommend fans of games like Portal to give Perspective a shot.