There’s a hall at gamescom, a hall that seems to host more flags than there is on the outside of the United Nations building in New York. It’s a building full of diverse people and even more diverse games; the international hall. Here, you’ll find a pavilion representing almost every nation on the planet; from Canada and the UK, Spain and Poland, or even as far as Korea and Iran, and these pavilions play host to dozens of developers from that nation all showing off their latest game.
At this year’s gamescom I got a chance to explore the Italian Pavilion, seeing what those guys and girls up and down the famous boot have created for our enjoyment; and after seeing Runes: The Forgotten Path and Lantern, the final game I got a solid amount of time with was the Wii-U version of Forma.8.
Forma.8 is yet another addition to everybody’s favourite fusion genre, the metroidvania and sees you taking the role of a mini Death Star looking object, also known as a Forma.8 probe. After the ship you are aboard crash lands on a mysterious alien planet, it is up the small spherical hero to discover the secrets the planet holds as well as completing the mission they had set out to do.
And it’s all presented without a single snippet of dialogue or text, leaving the art and direction to speak for itself. The opening cinematic manages to show the the importance of the mission, the drama of a crash and the vulnerability of the probe all through comic book frames, music and sound effects, seamlessly transitioning from the cinematic to gameplay. This is achieved with the beautifully colourful 2D paper cuttings art style, creating both depth and diversity, without affecting any of the game’s mystery; if you imagine combining the likes of Guacamelee and Limbo, you get the jist.
Everybody knows how to play a Metroidvania, and Forma.8 treats the player with a impressive amount of respect, much like the narrative, there are no in-game hints, suggestions or direction, instead, you use your gaming knowledge to discover things by using your own devices. Ghosts of perished probes shake with desperation, leading you to discover they reward you with new powers, rocks block your paths but you can see they are fragile and require a little persuasion to destroy; it’s classic troupes without the patronising addition.
Though Forma.8 is a tried and tested genre, it’s always intriguing to see a different developers approach to it. While controlling the probe does get quite awkward at times, it’s naturally floaty movement making precise positioning somewhat difficult, navigating around the peculiar world is extremely peaceful, satisfying and full of interesting lore. This is a game that will go perfectly with everybody's favourite handheld, the PlayStation Vita.