Free Platformer Perspective Makes You Remake a 2-D World
Earlier this year, when Fez finally hit Xbox Live, I was struck by how well the game managed to make a 2-D to 3-D conversion work in practical terms.
Other games have done this before too, but not as well as Fez. Games like Paper Mario had players shifting to 3-D briefly to maneuver Mario into new places, but each Fez area or level had four different sides through which players needed to adventure in order to get to everything. The complexity of the puzzle-solving was extremely high.
A student-made platformer called Perspective has a similar depth of complexity. It might not be as intensenly intricate as Fez, but it’s something of a brilliant idea. It combines a first-person perspective with 2-D play, and makes you, the player, a camera that shapes the 2-D platforming world.
You actually control two characters in Perspective — one in 2-D, one in 3-D. The 3-D character, who you control from a first-person perspective, is moving through an arcade and needs the help of the 2-D character to open up doors as he goes. Getting to the switches requires entering various arcade games, and in each one, both the player character and the 2-D character have to work together to get the 2-D character to move around the walls of the space.
The way it works is this: There are blue objects and orange objects. The 2-D character can walk on anything that’s blue, but can’t cross anything orange. Walls, carpet, other objects — in the 2-D world, it all makes up negative space, which means you can jump across it, fall across it, or whatever. All that matters is having a blue place to walk and not running into orange places.
Players can move around the space, using their perspective to line up blue objects with the space on the wall to provide the 2-D character a new area to move. So for example, say there’s a blue cube halfway across a room. You can walk over to the cube and face it so that the cube is between you and the wall where your 2-D character is standing, and if you line up the perspective correctly, you can switch to the character and allow him to walk across the cube as if it were a platform. Then, you can move to a new object, line it up similarly, and advance even further.
It sounds a bit confusing, but in action, it’s rather brilliant. You’ll continually come up against an obstacle to circumvent in the 2-D world, like an impassable gap, an orange obstruction or a blue wall, and you’ll need to move around in the 3-D world to create a new path. That sometimes means finding a new object to serve as the floor, and other times, means positioning other things, like walls and corners, in your line of sight to create new gaps and cover other objects.
As you might guess, puzzles get progressively more challenging as you go forward through various levels. The size of your 2-D character never changes, for example, but his size relative to other objects can change depending on your distance from them — walk toward him and he’ll appear smaller, pull back and he’ll get bigger. So in addition to rearranging the room using your sight lines, you’ll also have to frame various puzzles in your view differently in order to pass through them.
The further Perspective advances forward, the more complex puzzles get. The really ingenious part is that puzzles don’t just require you to find the nearest blue thing and stand near it in order to add it to your view of the 2-D level before you; often as things get more involved, you’ll have to move around rooms and find ways to make your perspective work around corners or incorporating other objects from around the room to make them work. The game also takes a very interesting look at negative space — you’ll spend a lot of time figuring out how to make walls, ceilings and carpets work for you in order to avoid obstacles.
If there’s a flaw with Perspective, it’s that the student game is so short that it leaves you wanting more. The title is free, but it’s also a student project, and as such, it’s not much more than an hour or an hour and a half in length. But like games such as Portal, Quantum Conundrum and Fez before it, it introduces a whole new world of puzzle-solving that maximize the power of video games as a medium. Perspective literally has you switching between 2-D and 3-D worlds and remaking levels simply by looking at them differently. It’s kind of an amazing idea when you think about it, and not only are the puzzles complex enough that it’s hard not to marvel at the planning that went into them, the game is extremely conscious of its own mechanics, which results in a highly polished and altogether smart experience.
In short, Perspective is a great start that will hopefully one day lead to a larger, more complex game, and it’s one you should definitely check out. It’s a great demonstration of the mind-bending creations only possible through video games, and it’s an interesting challenge that is a great way to spend an hour or two.
You can download Perspective here.