Parallax is a first-person puzzle-platformer with a lengthy series of stages that contain brain-melting puzzles. Stages consist of portals and platforms, strategically placed so that you have to manipulate them in order to get to the final platform.
March 10, 2015
Publisher: Toasty Games
Developer: Toasty Games
Genre: Indie, first-person puzzle-platformer
Platform(s): PC and Xbox One
Release date: March 10, 2015
As technology changes, so, too, does the gaming industry. Consoles get smarter, work faster, and allow better experiences with each generation. We saw this in 1996 with Super Mario 64, and then again in 1998 with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, when these two Nintendo mainstays rocked the console world with new gaming mechanics and presentations. With the release of the Nintendo 64, game developers were empowered to create their envisioned digital worlds in stunning three dimensions.
Since the release of Valve’s Portal series, the industry has been seeing more and more “first person puzzle-platformer” games released each year. Since Portal, unique games of the same vein, like Antichamber, Pneuma: Breath of Life, Quantum Conundrum, The Ball, and Q.U.B.E., have unleashed themselves on the gaming world, creating new experiences for the player.
This brings us to the latest offering of the “first person puzzle-platfomer” genre–a mind-bending indie title called Parallax.
You are dropped into stages of mind-melting puzzles that force you to go between two parallel worlds while trying to solve them. There is no formal story in Parallax, but the lack thereof just forces you to use your imagination to supply one.
There is nothing worthy of warning, aside from the fact that your brain might explode! However, if you’re afraid of heights like I am, you will have to get used to your constant falling off the stage’s platforms due to the ridiculously small walkways in most levels. There is almost a full second of falling before the animation trigger hits and you respawn in the same area as before.
There are fixed portals and objects around the level, and it is your job to traverse them in order to finish the level. These portals transport you between two different worlds, light and dark. Portals are opposite in the different worlds, so if a portal is open a certain way in one world, it will not be open in the opposite world. Most stages have their ending platform in the main world (light), meaning that if you end up in the dark world at some point in the level, you have to return to the initial light world in order to finish the stage. This creates an interesting dynamic, forcing you to plan your a route while thinking about both worlds and their different characteristics. By pressing buttons to change the portals’ directions and moving certain objects, you can manipulate the world around you. Beware, though, that sometimes a button can change three or more portals or objects at once, causing you to exercise your strongest critical thinking skills. Sometimes, you are required to manipulate an entire stage one way just so that you can press a certain button, only to revert the entire stage back to the way it was before in order to reach the ending platform.
The game is broken up into stages, each providing a different environment and puzzle scheme. This continuous variety removes a certain feeling of consistency and immersion within the game itself, but none-the-less works for the puzzle-based formula. Some stages are vastly different from each other. One stage might consist of platform manipulating, while another might challenge you to arrange multiple portals into a certain order. Another reason that the staging scheme works is because it allows for breaks in-between. Some of the levels will have you pulling your hair out at first glance. Once you break the stage down, though, you can begin decoding the puzzle and finish the level logically. The pause screen actually keeps track of your deaths, time, and action count, allowing you to get a feel for how well you are doing.
Parallax definitely resonates as an Indie title, especially when you look at its unique presentation. Though polished, it is also very simplistic throughout its monochromatic color scheme. While every stage shares a singular look of monochromatic platforms, Parallax is unique in that that it allows you to change the color scheme at the start-up of the game (before you load up your save file or start a new game). I used a different color scheme (black/white, blue/white, brown/white, etc.) for each of my play sessions, and admit that it felt refreshing to change up the simplistic environments once in a while. The background music also holds an indie vibe, as drumming rhythms, synthesizers, and deep bass pump through the speakers. The background ambiance changes between the light and dark worlds, and the dark world carries a softer, more sombre tone than its counterpart.
Multiple language options are available, though hardly necessary, as there are only a handful of words in the game.
Parallax is a first-person puzzle-platformer that will provide your brain with a bevy of exercises. This is not a game that you can merely coast through and hope for the best. Parallax requires you to think about every single action you make. Monochromatic color schemes keep distractions to a minimum, allowing you to break down each stage’s puzzles, unimpeded, and reach the ending platforms. If your brain is in need of a serious workout, give Parallax a try; it’s one indie game that packs in plenty of content–and will exercise your critical thinking skills–without breaking your budget.
+ Simplistic, polished levels
+ Workouts for your brain!
+ Good amount of stages
- Stages become increasingly difficult
- Not a lot of room to move around in most levels
- Too reminiscent of Steam's Portal series at times