One of the more popular genres in the indie gaming scene is that of the Metroidvania style. Inspired by Nintendo’s classic Metroid series, as well as the Castlevania side-scrollers that heavily expanded upon the style, it seems like there are more and more of these types of games that come out every year. Forma.8 has recently hit the Switch, and brings with it it’s own variation on the explore and unlock style made popular by this genre, with some ups and downs.
The setting for the game is a little vague, as the story is told through textless cutscenes. This style leads the player to interpret their own ideas on what is really going on in Forma.8. The lead character, a floating exploration droid, named Forma.8 is part of a probing team sent down to a planet to locate a massive energy source. It becomes separated from the other droids, and thus must explore the planets surface and various caverns and subterranean structures to locate the primary target: the unknown energy source. There are assorted cutscenes throughout, but again, it is up to the player to decipher what is going on. Even with the vagueness found in the storytelling, MixedBag does a good job of making an endearing little droid and making you invested in it’s quest.
The game follows other Metroidvania-styled games to a tee in many regards. The map is sprawling, with lengthy corridors and open chambers, all interconnected with each other. There will be many areas that you can’t get into initially but as you find further upgrades and power ups, you are able to backtrack and get into places that you originally couldn’t get into. However, as opposed to a game where you are playing as Samus or Alucard, the exploration and combat encounters are much more relaxed. Forma.8 is a floating droid after all, and the game uses these physics heavily in regards to how you move and maneuver. While the controls are fairly responsive, the speed of Forma.8 even by the end was a little too slow for my liking, and it sometimes made the game feel like it dragged on a bit. When I was trying to get back to a certain area especially, I just felt like Forma.8 was just swimming through molasses.
How Forma.8 floats about, and moves, even with powerups, also led to a number of frustrating moments. When you are trying to maneuver through one of many tight, enclosed areas and there are a number of enemies, well, sometimes you just won’t survive. Thankfully the respawn points are never too far back, but it was often annoying as I had wanted to maneuver certain ways around, but because of how floaty Forma.8 is, it made it incredibly tough. Additionally, there will be areas where you have to get through an area in a certain amount of time, and one slight miscalculation botches your run. Again, due to the physics and floating nature of Forma.8, it would take countless attempts to do and it just got irritating after a while.
That being said, even with how annoying the little things are in regards to the controls, it definitely is a joy to explore the world of Forma.8. MixedBag did a wonderful job in the variety of the environments, and the color palette in a number of areas is absolutely gorgeous. The exterior settings however did look better than say, a dark cavern, so it was always an extra treat to find a passage that leads to the outside world. The audio as well is fantastic; the soundtrack is extremely well done and the ambient sounds of the environments and assorted creatures was also a treat to listen to.
The world of Forma.8 is a fantastic place to visit; there is no doubt about that. The esoteric story, charming lead character, gorgeous visuals, and sound design are a treat for sure. The heart of the game is in the exploration and the combat, but I really was not a fan of how Forma.8 controls or the game speed. It is worth picking up if you are a fan of the genre, but just be prepared for a slower-paced experience than you may be accustomed to.
A Nintendo Switch code of Forma.8 was provided by MixedBag for the purpose of this review.