I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve attempted this. The first six or so times I misjudged my distances and came a cropper. The ten or so times I’ve managed to get through the course, but I’ve been too slow for my perfectionist tendencies (why settle for silver when gold is only a few seconds away?). And so I’ve taken a break, a pause while I reconsider my strategy. Yes, gaining maximum height over my targets means my jumps are accurate, but I’m losing too much momentum. I realise that if I go for ‘low and flat’ hops instead of high arcing jumps and rely upon ricocheting off surfaces, I can maintain my momentum and shave those few precious seconds off my time, though it’ll be a lot more risky: hit the jump or glide button a fraction of a second too early or late, and I’ll miss the platform. The next five or so goes are used establishing the basic soundness of the principle, and the next dozen to finally bring home the gold.
Glyph is part exploration, part puzzle, and part racer. Players take control of ‘Glyph’, a robotic scarab that navigates the world primarily by rolling and bouncing around the few safe surfaces that are available. You see, owing to an unnamed dark force which destroyed the civilization that built Glyph and destroyed the temple Glyph is trying to restore, the ground has also been corrupted. Setting a single mechanical claw off a platform and onto the ground results in instant destruction. Gameplay in Glyph takes two basic forms: exploration, and time trial. In the exploration levels, players are challenged to collect coins, gems and artefacts, (all of which are used to unlock new levels and rebuild the ruined temple that acts as the hub – both game-and-story-wise – of Glyph) and keys to unlock the exit portal. While missing a jump will cost you any keys and secret items you’ve already collected, you won’t lose any coins, gems or artefacts. This makes the exploration a fairly relaxed affair, though later levels get increasingly difficult, adding traps, moving hazards, foes that will boot you off your safe platform, vanishing or collapsing platforms, and even angled surfaces which will bounce you off at odd angles.
While exploration challenges players to figure out how to navigate the environment at their own pace, time trials challenge players to beat set times for bronze, silver or gold (each level rewarding the player with a precious gem). While nabbing bronze is not too much of a challenge, netting gold invariably requires almost perfect accuracy, and developing an understanding and ‘feel’ of Glyph’s abilities. And while some trials rely upon simple speed, others are more of a puzzle – like the example at the beginning of this review – with multiple valid ways to complete the circuit and the need for thought and experimentation to arrive at a viable solution. Though Glyph’s movement abilities are extremely easy to grasp and implement, how to use them to best effect is something that will require more and more skill.
As such, Glyph is a mix of calm and steady navigation, and the strangely cathartic experience of pretending to be a glowing orb arcing gracefully through the air, mixed in with some extremely tense moments. Especially when you’re moving at high speed and have to land on a platform little bigger than the character. Thankfully, this is all backed up by tight controls, smooth animation, and easily readable interface, making movement fun and easy, and keeping the challenge always in the player’s ability to judge distances and time jumps, glides and drops (a move which cancels all forward momentum and drops Glyph straight down).
While Glyph does supply increasingly harder challenges for those who want them, it is also perfectly accessible for the more casual gamer and newcomers. Each level – and there are many, many levels – has a difficulty rating so you can see the challenge before you spend resources to unlock it, so players hopefully never find themselves getting frustrated. Also, the levels themselves are fairly bite-sized, allowing you to play short games. That said, while it may only take a minute or two to complete an exploration level (and a lot shorter for a time trial), if you’re aiming for perfection you will end up doing the levels again and again.
Also, along with enough levels to keep anybody engaged for a good amount of time, there is also a lot of cosmetic collectibles. Trails (which follow Glyph around when moving or gliding), are awarded for getting gold during time trials. New character models and skins are awarded for finding a hidden switch in exploration levels, and then figuring out how to reach the collectible and then get to the exit without exploding (keys and collectibles reset should Glyph die). These are fairly entertaining, ranging from changing Glyph’s colour scheme, to changing Glyph into a mechanical roach, wasp, drone or flying-saucer-with-alien to name a handful.
If you’re looking for some lighthearted fun suitable for any age group, a relaxing romp, or a stiff challenge, Glyph provides all of these, and is easy to recommend. ■