Verlet Swing is one of strangest games I’ve ever played, and I’ve played some oddities. That being said, the crux of play couldn’t be any simpler if it tried; swing to success. There’s no story present, no meaning, nor anything of the sort. You’ll simply dive on in and attempt to enjoy Verlet Swing for what it is. I say that loosely, because in truth, Verlet Swing is a hard game to find much fun in. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a fair bit of fun to be had, but, you’ll need both patience and perseverance to get to that point, and lots of it, might I add.
Booting up the game takes you to a clean and concise menu. Here, you can jump straight into the action, browse some challenges, and of course, modify some settings. The game supports Mixer integration, a mode that allows a streamer’s viewers to get in on the action via altering effects that are applied to the game. It’s a straightforward affair for the most part in this regard, but, it’s better in than out. When you’re done toggling the options, your first port of call will be the main event; level select. Here’s where we see the first problem.
Progress is locked. What I mean by this is that before you can move to a new level, you’ll need to complete the level that sits before it. This much is true throughout the entirety of play. There’s five locations to work through, each sporting twenty levels a piece. I wouldn’t normally see much issue in a game that’s structured this way, but due to the vast amount of times I’ve found myself stuck and frustrated, yet still wanting to play on, I question the game’s design choice as far as progression is concerned. It just seems so freaking pointless.
It seems pointless because there’s not any real need for it. I mean, the game lacks a story as well as any meaningful beats, so why prevent a player from pursuing other avenues mid-game? I just couldn’t find any proper reason for the contrary. Verlet Swing even comes with a ranking system; you’re given up to four stars (or pots of tea, here) based on your performance. Surely, it would have been wiser for levels and areas to unlock based on that factor(?) rather than forcing you to bear with a level you’ve been stuck on for hours on end.
Nevertheless, that’s how progression works here. If anything, it highlights how tedious the game can be. Still, that to the side, there’s enjoyment to be had. The game is penned as an FPS (first-person swinger) in which you’ll take to the game’s short and confined levels through swinging from a starting point to a finishing point. There’s not much to keep on track of as far as handling is concerned. You’ll aim with the right stick, move with the left stick – albeit very slowly and carefully, and grapple through holding the right trigger.
Some mechanics are introduced later on in, but nothing to really write home about. The game’s levels take little more than a few seconds per-whack on a good run, and by that, I mean a run that sees you making it from start to finish with no errors made. In Verlet Swing, should you bump into a structure or touch the ground, you’ll fail and will be made to restart the level from the beginning. Believe me, failure will come thick, and it will come fast. It doesn’t help matters that the game’s difficulty curve is all over the place throughout play.
Each area, as alluded to above, sports twenty levels a piece. These areas tend to vary from an aesthetic point of view, with levels that often consist of themes that are specific to each area; food, life underwater, tropical vistas, and so forth. Regardless as to where you are in the game, the core objective remains the same; make it to the end. That’s a lot easier said than done thanks to the lack of a consistent difficulty. Several time I found myself struggling for great lengths of time on a level, only to be met with a collection of levels that were easy.
This sort of issue rinses and repeats throughout, making for a trek that doesn’t feel quite as refined as it should. Bear with it though, because underneath its problems rests an experience that, although regularly frustrating, can be quite rewarding. Succession is achieved through maintaining a steady momentum whilst ensuring that you avoid any obstacles that sit between you, and your goal-point. Starting out, the game keeps things quite simple and fluid, with levels that are designed to feed you into the basics of play.
Before long, though, you’ll meet the game’s true framework. What started out as a simple case of getting from beginning to end, diving underneath rotating pizza slices and large statue heads along the way, soon becomes more taxing. The game’s levels tend to get more outlandish as progression is made, and inadvertently more obtuse as a result. Statue heads that explode when you reach them, giant bubbles that bounce you away, large rotating glaciers that will end a run if you touch them, and so on. There’s a lot to overcome within.
To its credit, the game’s handling remains responsive throughout. I never once felt like I was cheated out of success, nor did I feel like I had been wronged by the game’s mechanics. You’re afforded just the right amount of freedom of movement, allowing you to set your own pace as you swing from structure to structure. Slower runs will naturally have a knock-on effect as to what rank you earn at the end of a level, but, it’s nice to know that you can come back at any time and re-run levels that you think you can improve on later.
There’s rules to be mindful of when playing. You’re only allowed to swing from specific structures and objects. These are usually highlighted when aiming your cursor at them, giving you instant insight as to whether you can grab on to something or not. Whilst swinging, you can move a little to the left and right, giving you just enough wiggle room to outmaneuver something that’s in your way. Though, the game makes a habit of throwing a curve-ball your way through object and structural manipulation. This can be fairly tough.
It’s one thing to swing and latch onto a large statue head, but it’s something else altogether when said statue head explodes into several small chunks, forcing you to move quickly and think fast on the fly, and frequently. That, largely, is how the game is played. Occasionally you’ll meet a level that requires you reach new heights. To do this, you’ll need to use the swing’s momentum to propel yourselves high in the air at just the right moment, and often, you’ll need to do this via grappling on to several objects in swift and rapid succession.
Because you never really know how a level will react until you gradually get further into it, attempt after attempt, you can expect a lot of trial and error. That being said, many of the game’s levels can be completed in more ways than one. There’s usually several routes to success, each pathway holding its own difficulties and obstructions in one form or another. Despite my best efforts, there wasn’t that many ways to circumvent the game’s (at times, very) harsh layouts. That’s by no means a negativity folks, quite the opposite, in fact.
You see, getting from A to B can be a puzzle in itself. With the end point in sight via a telltale beam of light, which way do you go? Do you swing through the nest of bouncy bubbles and risk being shot to the floor? Do you try and find just the right momentum to make it through a small tunnel? Or, do you try your luck and move through a barrage of spinning, lengthy objects? The choice of direction is mostly always yours to make here, but, as pointed out already, the game tends to throw new tricks your way through each new area reached.
Like I said, the game doesn’t hold back, but again, it’s here in which I constantly found myself wondering why the developer bottle necked progression, rather than opening it up. The many failures I endured were due to my own errors, but, that’s pretty much a given due to how demanding Verlet Swing gets. There’s perhaps a bit too much going on in some levels, and, without beating a dead horse, due to the inability to move elsewhere and come back later when you hit the proverbial brick wall, it can come across unnecessarily strict.
I want to say, this is not a terrible game, not in the slightest. It’s just bogged down by silly design choices. You see, although I had more than my fair share of annoyances playing the game, success feels truly gratifying. I cant help but feel as though this is the sort of vibe that the developer was trying to evoke, but maybe didn’t take into account that we all have our limits. Nevertheless, if you’ve a love for this sort of experience, warts and all, Verlet Swing will cater for your needs; challenging, and although rage inducing, fun when it wants to be.
When you’re done swinging through the game’s levels, there’s replay value to be had through leaderboard support, through improving your rank, and through taking on the game’s challenges. Sadly, these too are gated behind levels unlocked rather than teapots earned, but, at least they’re present and accounted for. There’s plenty of challenges to tackle here, and although many of them do recycle much of what you’ll have done by the time you can play them, these add a few more hours worth of play into the mix.
In regards to the game’s visual and audio presentation, I wasn’t completely sold here. Sure, Verlet Swing looks unlike anything you’ll have played before, but the over use of vibrancy can be very jarring on the eyes, not to mention the blurred design choice used in place of sharpness and definition. Don’t get me wrong, it looks okay, but the novelty wears off when the headache sets in. I can say the same about the soundtrack, being that it does very little to excite and tends to become repetitive once you’ve listened to it time and time again.
The bottom line in all of this? Verlet Swing just about manages to get more right than it gets wrong. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with its functionality, nor with its core concept, but the niggling issues that surround the package makes a habit of breaking immersion and instilling frustration. If you’ve the stomach and the patience to forgive it for its drawbacks, you’ll pull more from this than I could. Though, with that in mind, I would certainly make sure your controller still has an active warranty before diving on in.
Technically speaking, the game handles well and performs well, but due to some baffling design choices and an inconsistent difficulty curve, Verlet Swing is a lot more frustrating and a lot more restricting than it needed to be. That being said, if you’ve the patience and perseverance to overlook said drawbacks, you’ll find quite a bit of fun to be had here. Just, be sure to check the warranty on your controller first.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.