Some have compared Platformines to the rogue-like Spelunky. This couldn’t be further from the truth as it is more like mixing classic platforming shooters with an objective straight out of Toejam & Earl, but randomising the dungeon. Early footage of the game seems compelling enough to give it a shot, but is this cave full of wonders or is it an elaborate trap?
Platformines isn’t particularly well optimised for PC play. For a start, there’s a little notification that hovers like an annoying sidekick, which informs you that the game is best played with a controller. It’s completely right about that as the keyboard and mouse controls are terrible with no option to re-bind them to suit your play style.
A lack of resolution options beyond windowed and full-screen give this game a rushed look and feel, something noticeable in-game as the visuals rarely impress. Sound is also of concern as the weapon sounds lack punch and the soundtrack is mostly ambience, occasionally bursting into chip-tune versions of classical pieces including several from The Nutcracker, is more distracting than mood setting.
Aside from the controls, the game is relatively strong in its opening ten minutes as you are given a brief tutorial that explains the hub area while setting out your objective to find seven block cannons in a randomised world to reconstruct your digger. You can equip up to four guns, one of each type, while your costume determines bonus perks.
Guns have different stats, making upgrading your weapon selection is key to getting through the tougher areas which are all well randomised without game-breaking dead ends. For the duration of the playthrough, the game keeps offering new guns, money to buy upgrades, and gems to either refill your health bar or sell for more cash.
But something really strange happens about ten minutes in. That sudden realisation that the game has run out of steam all too quickly is quite jarring at first. Enemies do get stronger, but with only a handful of unique varieties, three of which split into smaller variants, the palette swapping becomes all too obvious.
Games of a similar ilk don’t feature randomised maps, but they do at the very least have encounters with larger boss monsters that provide a challenge. Traps can hinder progress and are usually well placed, but they’re also the biggest clue into how the randomised maps are created with familiar traps found in particular formations. It is still a fun game once you figure out the controls, but once the seventh cannon has been found, there’s no tension as you can just warp back to the hub, reconstruct your digger, and leave.
Your first playthrough on normal will be a cakewalk. Teleportation Portals are too generous, providing easy access from the hub to wherever you need to go. Randomised worlds do offer variety every new game started, but beyond hardcore and “iron-man” modes that artificially make the game harder by adding more enemies, more traps, fewer portals, and in the case of iron-man mode: perma-death. If you want to get the most out of the game, then these are decent enough unlocks for a game that sells for pocket change, but they’re far from unique or inspired. We’ve seen this all before.
Platformines can be best summarised by comparing it to one of those rushed relationships. At first, you’ll be wowed by its randomised retro styled world and the end goal of finding all the cannons. But as time passes, you’ll begin noticing the imperfections and bad habits; such as the handling, the lack of variety, the lack of tension. Eventually, it all adds up and you decide enough is enough and go your separate ways. If only the developers had more time to create something challenging, elegant, or even unique. Sadly, there are no gems in this mine.