So, who remembers Thomas Was Alone? A journey about a rectangle, who eventually meets up with other shapes and they have to band together to escape their platforming prison. Minimalist art style, great music, challenging gameplay requiring cooperation between several characters, and fantastic emotional narration by Danny Wallace. 140 is very much like that. As long as you scrub out everything after minimalist art style.
You play as a square, which becomes a circle when moving and a triangle when tumbling through the air. Without any given instructions, I was expecting this to be central to the gameplay; maybe each shape has different properties or abilities? Alas I was wrong, it’s simply that way because it is. I can’t even call it out as being purely aesthetic, as it does literally nothing to enhance the look of the game. The developer seems to have included it because he could, without rhyme or reason, and that theme runs throughout the whole 35 minute experience. That’s shorter and significantly less fun than watching one episode of Pointless on the telly. For free.
By pushing the D-Pad or analogue stick left and right, you move fairly slowly across the screen leaving a momentary blurry trail behind you. By pressing any face button on the controller, you jump. So that’s the instructions out if the way. The supposedly unique twist to this game, which totally didn’t happen before in The Impossible Game, is that the platforming is set to the rhythm of the music. You progress through one of the games short and unsatisfying three levels chasing down little floating circles. You then return these circles to a semicircle in the ground with a dot in the middle. This activates more of the teeth-grindingly bad soundtrack, which in turn causes more elements to activate during the level – Moving platforms, for example. Occasionally you’ll come up against a blob of static, which some people laughingly refer to as enemies. They’re not; they’re blobs of static, and behave just like other moving platforms except that you die if you touch them, which is another good reason to get rid of your old cathode ray tube and finally get a flat screen.
At the end of each and every level, or about once every five minutes for fifteen minutes, you’ll encounter what the developer would probably refer to as a boss fight. The first one is quite good to be honest, and sees you moving left to right with a little triangle which would be sat on your head, if a flat shape had one. On the beat of the music, this triangle inexplicably shoots a laser at a giant static ball which splits up and spits out other static balls. Continue to shoot and avoid, and enjoy the closest experience to gaming you’re going to get from this otherwise bland exercise in tedium.
The second and third levels play exactly the same, with the introduction of a gravity flip every so often, and worse boss fights. The second one sees you avoiding a static square which becomes a static triangle, and the third does the same but with a horrible sequence of spiralling on the screen, which makes me feel sick even thinking back to it for the purpose of this review.
140 isn’t just bad because it’s bland, or overpriced, or short, or it exists. It’s also bad because the combination of the awful music, which is central to the rhythmic platforming gameplay, is mind numbing. Couple that with a huge, chunky graphic equaliser throbbing away to the beat in the background of every level, and what you essentially have is a migraine simulator which keeps your hands busy. Well, it keeps one hand busy. A thumb then. Maybe. Also, you can’t pause the game ever at any time. If you dashboard during a boss fight, you have to replay the entire level; your checkpoints are wiped. When you finish the game shortly after pressing start on the main menu, you’ll be handed a series of mirror levels. These are the same levels, but mirrored, which for a platformer means you run right to left instead of left to right. Also, they have all of their checkpoints removed, including the ones before the boss fights. One touch of static anywhere at any time, and you’re booted straight back out of the level.
I can’t recommend 140
enough at all. The colour blind won’t be able to play it, the deaf won’t be able to play it, and the rest of us will wish we weren’t able to play it. It scores slightly higher than I’m truly comfortable with overall, but that’s because it does work on a fundamental level, and when you first start out, it has a kind of hypnotic quality to it which begins to suck you in. That is until you realise nothing makes sense, the themes don’t go anywhere and you’ve just unlocked the achievement for completing the game.
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