RETSNOM or MONSTER is a unique puzzle platformer with a disturbing story. The game was created by SOMI, which is just one man from Korea. RETSNOM is a surprisingly deep and complex game with some interesting level design and unique gameplay mechanics.
RETSNOM is created by a single person which is very impressive considering the amount of detail, depth and thought put into a game. Its incredible to think that some AAA games have thousands of people working on them and then there’s games like this that feel so personal and considered and created by a single person. I wasn’t sure what to expect when starting out and it soon became clear that it was a puzzle game with platforming elements. The game uses a retro pixel art style, which seems to be a popular trend amongst indie games and it works really well. Its also important to mention that the game is incredibly challenging, but not because of the enemies but the puzzles and platforming sections.
The story behind the game is about a single father who is searching for a cure for his daughter’s illness. RETSNOM is set sometime in the future where a deadly virus has drastically changed the world and yes there are zombies (or monsters). We have seen this type of narrative over and over whether its television series, games or film but RETSNOM actually feels very unique and has more of a psychological twist to it. The father you play as must journey through a maze-like laboratory that’s ever changing. As you venture deeper into the maze things become more troubling and you may feel like you’re losing hope.
The game has some very interesting and unique gameplay mechanics that certainly took some time getting used to. The main thing you will be doing is flipping certain sections of the environment to change pathways and reveal new areas with a mirror-like effect (hence the backwards title). A good example of this is when you approach a wall or drop you can stand next to it and flip the section to progress forward. This may sound simple but trust me it gets incredibly challenging and I found myself getting stuck on numerous occasion. You can also preview what the mirror effect will have on the area you’re standing at which is very handy. If you get stuck the key is to just keep trying to flip the world in all possible areas until something falls into place.
If that wasn’t enough to make things tricky the game also throws different challenges and mechanics at you as you progress. When it begins to rain the mirror becomes clouded with condensation, causing further difficulty. The game heavily leans to on the side of puzzle solving but the puzzles are incorporated into some well designed platforming. The gameplay is fairly slow but it needs to be considering the time it takes to solve puzzles. I actually really enjoyed the pace of the game and the overall design and structure of the world.
If you do find that you are getting stuck, to the point of throwing your controller across the room, you can skip levels. After you have finished the first level in a world you can play any stage within that world. This is a nice idea as it allows you to move on and try something else, and you may possibly learn new skills and techniques that will allow you to go back and try that troublesome stage again. You have to finish nine stages within a world in order to move forward.
The controls you use are fairly basic and what you would expect apart from the mirror flipping aspect. You can even kill yourself if you find yourself stuck in a certain area, which I accidentally found out when playing around with the triggers. When you do this you kneel down and bash your head against the ground until your head turns into a mushy pulp, which you might feel like doing yourself when getting stuck in certain sections of the game. I thought this was a clever mechanic that comes in useful and it adds to the brutal and quite frankly desperate tone of the game. For a game that uses a pixel art style its surprisingly gory with bright blood splattered on a neutral coloured backdrop.
The overall presentation of the game is great, with simple colour schemes and clever level design. It may look simple at first glance but its far from it. I really enjoyed how the levels and mazes became more elaborate and challenging and I progressed further. The characters in the game look very simple but I thought it worked well. The sound design is also very impressive with music that feels unsettling. The sounds and music add to the tension and enhance the overall experience and bashing your head against the ground sounds and looks utterly horrific.
Overall I enjoyed my time with RETSNOM despite the moments where I got stuck and wanted to quit altogether. It’s the kind of game that may put casual gamers off and I would recommend if you get stuck you take a break and come back to it later, you would be surprised at how quickly you solve puzzles that were once seemingly impossible. I would recommend this game if you like puzzle platformers and the fact that it was created by just one person is outstanding and a perfect example of what you can do if you put your mind to it.
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