Semblance is one of those games that I knew I simply had to play as soon as I saw the very first gameplay footage. I’m a fan of puzzle-platformers anyway, but one that actually lets you morph the world around you to create your own path through each level? Count me in.
The terraforming platform-puzzler has finally released and it’s been fun to play, though not all my expectations have been met. Sure, there’s some neat puzzle design and I loved the game’s aesthetic, but it lacked the variety and content to stand tall as a puzzle-platforming great.
Semblance puts you in a world that has been inflicted with a strange disease, one that can only be vanquished by collecting orbs that are scattered throughout the environment. You’ll get these orbs by melding the environment around you through a series of platforming-inspired puzzles. There isn’t a whole lot of backstory to the experience outside of that, so players are left with their own imagination along with the simple yet beautiful aesthetic design of the world to guide them along.
You take on the role of a blob – a charming little blob that can jump, dash, and ground pound, but a blob nonetheless. He can also manipulate the world with ease, so he’s got that going for him.
There are countless levels to navigate through as you progress through the game, and whilst they all seem to feature a set path that you need to follow, that path will also need a bit of tinkering with before you can reach your goal. As Blob, you can jump and dash in any direction, with the dash forming holes around the world that you’re able to use to your advantage. You can also hit a platform from below and part of it will rise, which not only helps create a higher point for Blob to jump from but can even be used to block one of the world’s hazardous lasers (yes, Semblance has lasers – all games need lasers). It isn’t all about manipulating the world to create a path but also to protect Blob’s gooey skin from whatever hazards are out there to get him, so there’s certainly a bit of a thought-process involved with each level.
As you progress through the game you’ll unlock new abilities which see Blob himself changing in appearance – Skinny Blob can jump higher for example, while Flat Blob can jump further. It’s easy to see Semblance primarily as a puzzler given that you’ve got to figure out a way across each level, but these additional abilities do help underline that fact that there’s plenty of platforming to do too.
There’s no denying that the puzzles are at the forefront though and in fairness they’re all cleverly designed. There were never many situations where I found myself frustrated or stumped as to what to do and manipulating the world is easy enough; it’s just a case of figuring out how to get yourself to the right places in one piece.
The only real problem was that it took less than an hour with Semblance before I started to grow a little tired of the game’s repetitive formula. There’s no denying that there are some neat ideas in place, but the further I progressed through the game, the more I realised I was doing the same things over and over again. The aforementioned abilities do spice things up a bit, but not quite enough to keep me hooked in.
That’s not to say Semblance is a bad game though, because I really did have fun with it. I just feel like it didn’t reach its full potential, with the terraforming mechanics proving neat throughout but never feeling utilised in too many different ways. It’s only a couple of hours long too, so just as puzzles felt like they were starting to flesh out more, you’ll find yourself reaching the end credits. It’s a bit of a shame.
Semblance offers a nice unique take on the puzzle-platforming genre and has plenty of neat ideas on show throughout. It’s pretty relaxing to play too, with the simple set up making for an experience that plays out at a nice pace and will never frustrate the player.
That’s part of the problem though. If Semblance introduced a bit more variety and challenged the player a little bit more it could have been something special. Instead, I couldn’t help but to feel underwhelmed and grew tired of things quick.
It’s not a bad game though and puzzle-platforming fans will certainly have fun with Semblance, but it’s hard to not see it as a bit of a missed opportunity – especially on a platform that already has a good bunch of puzzlers to play already.
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC, Mac