You could say I’m a fan of tough 2D platformers. From Super Meat Boy to more recent fare such as Dungeon Escape, I’m always keen to try new titles in the genre. So when Flatland Vol.2 dropped in my inbox, well, I was ready to go. What we have is a fantastic entry into the genre; both visually and audibly pleasing while being hard as nails almost from the off, it is the kind of frustrating fun that I can’t put down.
The premise is simple; move and jump a block from point A to B without hitting a single obstacle or hazard along the way. Naturally, this is harder than it sounds thanks to some tight level design and plenty of just gotcha traps that block the way. Controlling our block is fast and fluid, and we’re able to sprint to clear large gaps as well as wall hug and climb by jumping repeatedly. There is also a double jump ability that shoots us off is the desired direction, but we need to hit the ground before we can use it again, preventing it being spammed to climb up and over areas. This simple moveset is all we need, and across the levels is used in smart and dastardly ways to keep the challenge up.
And keep it up Flatland Vol.2 does. From dropping spikes and blocks to seemingly endless rows of spike pits or wall jumps, though short each level will really test players abilities. Minimol Games do a fantastic job of mixing up the same elements in creative ways for a dozen levels before dropping in something else on top of those already in play to up the ante. Difficulty ramps up quickly but evenly, but that doesn’t mean they’re above chucking a nice easy one in amongst the bastard hard ones just to give us a breather. For extra challenge, some levels have a tricky to reach portal that take us to a shorter – yet even harder – bonus level using whatever the core new obstacle is at the time. These are ultra-satisfying to beat, but the journey will be filled with expletives.
The pacing of the difficulty is great then, but it’s also helped by some fantastic visual and audio work that helps ease even the hardest of spikes. The bright neon colours and simple to read designs of the obstacles clearly spell out danger zones, while the assortment of pumping music tracks could quite happily make their way into my game soundtrack playlist in the near future. My only slight gripe here is that though we can pick a song by using the bumpers to cycle though them, that song will then just loop until it’s changed by us again. It would have been nice for them to just cycle automatically, but that’s only because I didn’t want to miss out on any of them and kept forgetting to change it!
There are also extra modes for yet more challenge, though these are merely supplemental in reality. Oh No, Not Him Again (again) sees us chased by a large floating eyeball as we try to beat the levels. It’s possible to change its method of attack, from just the chase to firing mines at us or dropping an area of effect attack to block our path, to up the challenge also. It’s a fun way to spin the gameplay, but in all honesty the levels are hard enough later on without this extra element. We can also turn on a timer that will fail us if we don’t beat the level with X number of seconds. This too can be adjusted, from giving us up to 45 seconds to clear a stage (most only take 10-20 seconds on an ideal run) all the way down to 1 second, which is literally impossible to do – though I’ve no doubt some clever sod will have managed at least one level under this strict time limit… A final option is to just skip straight to the bonus levels, should you wish. The core gameplay is fun and these extras are a nice touch, though also more of a novelty than anything in reality.
My main concern with Flatland Vol.2 though is one that had me cursing more than any tricky level ever did: the camera. Played in the 2D perspective, you’d be forgiven for expecting the camera to smoothly follow us as we jump and sprint around the stage. This would make keeping our eye on the action easy, making all fails be our fault.
Here, the camera is prone to random jump cuts and zooms that instantly throw off any momentum we had going by virtue of making us lose sight of the block for a split second. It’s not every level, but a good portion of them at one or more points suddenly jerk the camera to a new perspective. If we’re in the middle of a jump then it’s enough to make us miss a platform or not see an impending hazard. Sometimes the camera will hide what would have been an easily avoidable hazard, as it won’t change perspective until we’re already barrelling toward it. Repeatedly playing the same stage means we’re able to counteract this somewhat, but it never failed to truly annoy me every single time. It’s an odd blemish on what is an otherwise fantastic game, and one that very nearly ruined the experience for me on more than one occasion.
And yet, despite these camera woes I couldn’t put down Flatland Vol.2. It’s hard, but in that perfectly pitched way that encourages one more go, time and time again. Some excellent audio/visual work helps tremendously, and the extra modes are a neat, if slightly unneeded, addition. Great fun to play all round, and highly recommended.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.