A test of your musical aptitude and patience across an old school platformer, 140 makes its way onto almost as many platforms as the name suggests. Described as minimalistic by developers Abstraction Games, this is a title from the gameplay director of Limbo, Jeppe Carlsen. No wonder, then.
You take control of a morphing shape the definition of which depends upon your input. a square when stationary; a circle when travelling left or right, and a triangle while jumping. The only way to die is by colliding with what can only be described as white noise, which in turn covers the screen before returning you to the nearest check point. Be prepared to see this a lot through trial and error. No story exists to complicate matters; no characters to get acquainted with; just a simple game to kick back and enjoy.
A minimalistic platformer brings with it minimalistic controls. No instructions accompany the game, and not so much as a menu exists. That’s fine, but at times it’s hard to tell if you are looking at a loading screen or the game waiting for you to make your next move. That being said the game feels like it wants you to explore and to experiment. No hints, no waypoints, just you and your shape. Eventually you will work out the aim of the game is to move your shape towards its goal (a coloured semi-circle) with a ball collected through the level in various challenging ways. It really is as odd as it sounds.
The interesting element of 140 is everything revolves around the beat of the background soundtrack and is crucial to progressing. Platforms move, disappear and reappear in time with the beat. The timing of movement and jumping is critical, guessing or taking a chance can be unforgiving with the only way to progress to play in time with the rhythm with little room for error. It ends up working well; getting your timing spot on gives a feeling of satisfaction and you learn to embrace the flow with the music as an aide to progression. Playing without sound or listening to other media will likely end badly; the soundtrack is as meaningful as the gameplay itself.
Mixing up the pace are boss fights to greet you at the end of each level. Take the description ‘boss fight’ with a pinch of salt; there isn’t a giant enemy there to greet you, but a mixture of new puzzling elements. Ultimately the boss level offers a change in pace and direction. One boss level felt comparable to Space Invaders; placed above are sections of white noise with your ‘shape’ along the bottom of the screen providing shots of light. Damaging the white noise separates it into smaller particles (like Asteroids) requiring some dodging skills while continuing to attack. Another boss level placed your shape on rails with sections of white noise in your path and the closer to the end the white noise becomes more and more difficult to dodge. I won’t spoil the final boss for you, but ended up being a frustrating encounter compared to the enjoyable previous two encounters. Still, it offers the game a nice change of pace and mixed things up.
Graphically the game is basic to say the least keeping, with the minimalistic theme. In the main the background is filled with sound bars jumping up and down in time to the beat. The platform you move along is a different standard colour and that is about all there is to describe other than sections of white noise acting as a deterrent, all in 2D. At times it can be beautiful, with a nod towards games from the mid-eighties. Other times it can appear to be dull and uninspiring.
The soundtrack, considering its crucial role, is disappointingly uninspiring and generic. A prime opportunity for the developers to include some catchy tunes, something to really engross you in the adventure and bouncing along with your shape is missed. Sadly as important as the music is, at times I wanted to reach for the mute button.
Ultimately 140 is an enjoyable platformer with some brain testing sections. The synchronisation with the soundtrack is executed superbly despite the uninspiring soundtrack. At the beginning of the review I mentioned 140 being a self-described minimalistic platformer and the end score reflects this. With only three levels to play through, there is little replay value other than a mirror mode. There are also some incredibly tough achievements for those into such things. If you enjoy music themed, puzzling platformers which can be breezed through in a couple of hours this is well worth the play. However due to a lack of depth and uninspiring soundtrack there are better ways to spend your money.
140 was provided to us by Microsoft via a download code for Xbox One.