As we pretend that day two didn’t happen, having wiped it from our memories entirely, we note that the Xbox LIVE Indie Games Uprising has entered its third day.
qrth-phyl and Diehard Dungeon are followed by the third game in the showcase, Gateways!, and even though it feels silly to keep mentioning that every game is among the very best that Xbox LIVE Indie Games has to offer, Gateways! is among the very best that Xbox LIVE Indie Games has to offer. There’s not really any other way of saying it. Well, we could say it like this: “Gateways!, among the very best Xbox LIVE Indie Games it is,” but that would just be weird.
The obvious way to describe it is to say that it’s Portal in 2D, but that doesn’t really do justice to what Gateways! is. At its most stripped down, that’s what it is, certainly. You get a gateway gun and can use the triggers to place portals which can see you reach otherwise inaccessible platforms. Even some of the puzzles are familiar from Valve’s masterpiece, such as clearing long distances by generating momentum and then firing a portal onto a wall.
But then, everything changes. The first thing to happen is a gun upgrade which allows you to place a large portal and a small portal, and emerging from the larger portal means you get quite drastically bigger, and emerging from the smaller portal means you emerge… how do you emerge? Come on, think! If you can’t get this, there’s no way the game’s for you. How do you emerge? Smaller! There aren’t too many puzzles based around that mechanic, but it allows access to previously unreachable areas of the map. Gateways! takes place in one huge laboratory (your goal: escape) and most of it will be inaccessible until the relevant skill is acquired. 2D platforming. Locked areas. Skill acquisition. Honey, is that Metroidvania on the phone?
The gateway gun is upgraded twice more, allowing you to alter time and gravity. Time is where things start to get really perplexing. You shoot one portal, wait a few seconds, then shoot another. When you emerge from this second portal you will witness yourself performing the actions you just performed, and you must use yourself to stand on switches, or direct beams, or generally just manipulate yourself to solve the game’s puzzles. At this point, it starts to become very difficult indeed, your IQ raising a good five points for every puzzle you manage to solve.
If you can’t solve one though, help is at hand. Throughout the game you collect orbs, and you can spend 40 to view the solution to a puzzle. Obviously if you take advantage of this too often you will run out of orbs, but it’s handy if you’re really in a bind. The game is rather user-friendly all-round, in fact. A map screen is very useful and is keen to keep you always heading in the right direction. Those orbs can come into play again, too: for five of them the game will tell you whether or not the puzzle you’re stuck on is solvable at that point in time, or whether you lack the relevant skill. It’s not something you’ll use often, but it’s a great addition for those that might be suffering at the wrong end of the map trying to solve a puzzle which is currently impossible.
So, Gateways!. It’s 2D Portal, but it’s so much more than that, and borrows as much from the developer’s previous title, the Xbox LIVE Arcade un-smash-hit, The Adventures of Shuggy. Many of the game’s mechanics have their origins there, but here they’ve been refined and perfected to create a seamless world full of puzzles so mind-bending that Salvador Dali would have trouble representing them.
A must buy, then, and among the very best – well, you know where we’re going with that