E3 2018: Hands on with Semblance

Semblance is a puzzle platformer that is fondly referred to as “The first true puzzle platformer,” and it’s easy to understand why. Semblance is unique in many ways but the most obvious of which is the terrain deformation mechanic used to solve it’s puzzles.

You control a piece of clay brought into sentience by the spirit of the world in order to help restore the world to softness after a crystalline plague has been infesting the world trees. Everything about Semblance is designed to charm the player, from the soundtrack to visuals to the puzzles themselves. There’s never a moment that feels genuinely impassable, a short pause to evaluate the terrain is usually all it takes before a solution presents itself. That’s not to say the puzzles demo’d were simple, but the mechanics behind them were easy to grasp.

The terrain deformation mechanic is what really sets Semblance apart from similar titles, it adds that extra conceptual layer to every puzzle in game. Most puzzle platformers focus on precision jumping and timing in order to solve most puzzles, however Semblance also makes the player think of the platforms themselves in order to come up with a solution. It’s a rare occasion where manipulation of the terrain is directly responsible for a solution in a 2D side-scrolling platformer, something that is to Semblance’s credit!

E3 2018: Hands on with Semblance - n3rdabl3

Interestingly Semblance’s world map is completely available from the start of the game. There are no “hard-locked” areas that require a certain level of progress to access. The player is able to access any of the different world-trees from the start so long as they can figure out how to get to that stage. It’s advised that you play the earlier stages in order to be introduced to certain level design concepts but with enough mental acrobatics you’re able to overcome some of the trickier world puzzles in order to access the later stages.

You would be forgiven for overlooking Semblance due to its simple visual style of earthy purples, reds and crystalline greens, however the simple colour palette just adds to the personality of the game. This isn’t a title designed to blow you away with incredible visual effects, but keeps things simple, allowing you to focus wholeheartedly on the puzzle in front of you.

Like any good puzzle-platformer there is a series of collectible globes to be gathered throughout, some being far more challenging than others to collect. Longer levels naturally have more of these orbs to swipe as you traverse the stage, however they are an optional collectible but there is a 100% completion ending unlocked by gathering every one of them before finishing the game!

Semblance oozes charm and from the moment I picked up the controller I was hooked. Semblance is definitely a title worth looking out for, especially for commuters thanks to its Switch compatible version, allowing you to tackle a couple head-scratchers on the way to work in the morning. The levels themselves are perfectly placed for that 30-minute commute!

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