Developer: Games From Earth
Release Date: June 2, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Bonus Stage Publishing
I wouldn’t say I go out of my way to play punishing games. Still, I find myself eager to test my skills whenever I get the chance. Once I saw the Games From Earth-developed Sunblaze, I made it a personal goal to take on any challenge that stands in the way of this adorable protagonist. Although painstakingly difficult at times, if this game teaches you anything, it’s that if there’s a will, there’s a way.
Sunblaze has a narrative, but most of the time, its only use is to move the narrative along. Even the first stage that acts as a “tutorial” for the main protagonist Josie is actually a full-blown set of challenging stages. Everything about navigating this game comes naturally to the player. Windowed tutorials are a thing of the past as you learn the ways of a superhero through trial and error and a few cringy retorts from her retired superhero father.
This feeling of having complete control lasts for the remainder of the game’s hundreds of levels and only ever falters on some questionable use cases. I would say that the narrative does what it needs to do, and even though a game like this doesn’t need one, Josie is just so charming that you desire a reason all this is happening.
Levels evolve in terms of themes and added obstacles over the course of the game, but your moveset generally stays the same. No matter what stage you play, the challenge is present, and only a few gimmicks repeat from level to level. This keeps your skills in tip-top shape, causing even a bathroom break to be enough time to require a few warm-up deaths to get your muscle memory back.
This game will test your skills to think on the fly and consistently adjust to new obstacles.
Levels require one simple objective, get to the Chip to move on. There are side-quests such as data cubes you can try to nab on your way, but they are more or less just an added challenge. Also, so stages have you complete tasks such as breaking a machine, but you’re just here to touch that chip for the most part.
Each level has a rhythm to it that requires you to keep moving. If I took a second to try and think, I would probably die. However, the answer to these platforming puzzles is made more clear after each death. You can’t continue to do the same and hope that things will turn out differently for you. This game will test your skills to think on the fly and consistently adjust to new obstacles.
Josie has a few skills, double jump, dash, wall grab, and a dash jump maneuver. This simple set of abilities will get you through it all. The developer has implemented some unique visual cues to let you know if you’ve used your dash or not by changing the color of Josie’s suit. It works, given you’ll always be looking at her.
Obstacles range from lasers, crushing blocks, electric fields, flying robots, and a ton of other stuff. From a design perspective, there are some clever ways the developer has created the layouts of these levels. They typically use an obstacle such as lasers, and for the rest of the chapter, you’ll see stages that mix the lasers with other obstacles. Creating a host of unique ways to get past these instant death traps.
Sunblaze will push your platforming skills to the limit.
Josie doesn’t have a life bar. Yes, she will die the second anything hits her. After around 100 deaths, I wished restarting after a death was faster, but it’s something that I only felt when I would die over and over and just wanted to jump back in. Still, after dying, the levels reset their timing, which is important because there’s a rhythm to some of them.
I’m sure this is made for speedrunners who don’t stop moving, so if for the duration of the later stages, just think like a speedrunner, and you’ll be alright. However, some stages seemed to have an awkward rhythm that would slow down my movement, but this was bound to happen with so many varieties. When it comes to accessibility, there are a few options for those who just want to enjoy an adventure Josie but don’t have the skills needed to get very far. Titled Zen Mode, players can play through an easier set of stages and essentially train to take on the full campaign.
Sunblaze will push your platforming skills to the limit. Still, as the challenge rises, so does the knowledge that everything in this game can be overcome with a few well-timed jumps and dashes. The charming design is contrasted by the bloody obstacles that await each level, creating a fun challenge that won’t leave you with too many broken controllers.
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