Indie Review: Pulse Shift
Pulse Shift, created by indie developers 3corestudio, is a puzzle-platforming FPS that allows players to control and cheat physics. It had a lot of ambition, but does it live up to it? Read on to find out.
- Worth The Time?Yes, for hardcore puzzle fanatics this is worth every minute.
- Things LovedThe ingenious level design, the huge variety in puzzles, it uses its game mechanics spectacularly well, the visual style is brilliant and wonderfully varied across chapters, the challenge is excellently put together and the game has a lot of levels that progressively get more difficult, the game is fantastically well thought out, the audio is incredible, it's very creative.
- Things HatedIt can be frustrating, the rewind ability can lock you in death loops, you can die cheaply often, there are some game mechanic bugs.
- RecommendationIf you love lengthy, challenging platformers that will definitely test you and keep you busy for a long time, this is the perfect game for you. If you get frustrated easily or don't have patience for high difficulty, avoid this game.
- Name: Pulse Shift
- Genre: Puzzle Platformer
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC
- Developer: 3corestudio
- Publisher: 3corestudio
- Price: R90
- Reviewed On: PC
Pulse Shift, created by indie developers 3corestudio, is a puzzle-platforming FPS that allows players to control and cheat physics. That’s the basic idea of the game, but that itself is an injustice to how fantastically appealing this game is. The game consists of six main chapters, and a chapter zero which serves as an introduction to the game and its mechanics. What’s awesome about this game is that each chapter brings a new gameplay mechanic to the table which changes up everything, adds variety and requires you to think harder on how to beat the environment. Make no joke, this game is seriously challenging, and it can often bust your brains in the latter stages. But that’s what makes it so incredibly rewarding to beat, especially since there are multiple ways through levels and you can find your way through experimentation and trial and error. This is one of the few games I’ve played where beating a single level can feel like reaching a milestone. But there’s so much to it, so let’s start at the beginning.
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The game is played from a first person perspective. The primary mechanic is the ability to rotate the entire level left or right depending on your mouse click. This essentially allows you to turn the environment on its head and do the impossible, such as get on walls or defy physics by walking around a large cube. Initially, this is your main way to solve the puzzles, but pretty soon you’ll start getting abilities. Usage of abilities is determined firstly by an energy meter that recharges over time, and secondly by your difficulty setting. The higher it is, the more limited you are. The first ability you get is Rewind, which lets you go back in time if make a mistake or take a nasty fall. Then, the rest of the abilities all act as actual game mechanics. For example, Low Gravity enables you to make far jumps and survive long falls, and it plays a crucial role in your success as you progress through the game. Another ability is Vision, which reveals invisible platforms. There’s also Pulse, which lets you fire energy balls at specific platforms to liven them up. Then there is Time Freeze, which enables you to stop time and get through hazards. Finally, there is Projection, which lets you exit your body and become immune to certain hazards, and you’re able to teleport to your spirit at certain outlets. How’s that for variety?
Despite all of these elements, Pulse Shift succeeds extremely well in using them all in creative and fantastic ways throughout its chapters. The game’s level design is simply ingenious, and as you progress through each chapter you’ll notice that the game gets bolder, more confident, tougher and more awesome. The idea of the game is to get to the checkpoint as fast as possible in each level, although there’s no penalty at all for taking your time. However, what I really liked about Pulse Shift is that it isn’t simple. In the later levels, you will first need to find out where the checkpoint marker actually is, and even then you can easily lose it since your perspective will constantly be changing while playing. Towards the end it gets even more brutal in the sense that you’ll need to collect a certain number of objects before the checkpoint even becomes accessible. It sounds daunting, but the challenge is excellently put together and the game has a lot of levels that progressively get more difficult. There’s just an enormous variety in puzzles, and often it’s enough to make your jaw drop to the ground.
You’ll be faced with environmental hazards, disappearing and moving platforms, difficult routes to figure out, thought-provoking level design and engaging gameplay almost all the time. This is a game that will frustrate, excite, immerse, amaze, challenge and stump you almost constantly, and it’s great. Pulse Shift uses its mechanics spectacularly well. It’s truly awesome to experience when you’re figuring out the route you’ll need to take, and carefully using all of the tools at your disposal to get past your obstacles. It’s at its best when you’re faced with massive levels that feel daunting just to look at, and you’ll slowly make your way through these puzzle-beasts to find that checkpoint marker. It just gets even better when you’ll need to start using your abilities in conjunction. It’s difficult to even describe the amount of effort and talent that was put into this game, and it’s just fantastically well thought out. It does run the risk of feeling repetitive at times, but that feeling completely disappears when you hit a new chapter and suddenly everything is fresh and you’re given a completely new, game-changing ability.
As much as I love this game, it’s not without its problems. It can get really frustrating sometimes, especially when you’re stuck on one level and you just can’t get past it because of the high difficulty. Secondly, the platforming can be a bit dodgy sometimes when it comes to jumping, and it can be quite annoying to judge your perspective when you’ve got little room to maneuver. The Rewind ability can be sketchy, because you don’t have manual control of it like you do with your other abilities. Once activated, it will rigidly take you back a certain number of seconds and this means that often you can get locked in death loops, where rewinding will just allow you to watch yourself die again and be unable to do anything about it. It would have been better if it either took you back to solid ground or, if that makes it too easy, let you have manual control. There are also some game mechanic bugs. For example, moving on a rotating platform can sometimes fling you miles back, but luckily a rewind can save you. The most irritating one is the Low Gravity bug. If you take a long fall, the screen goes black and it slowly gives you the game over screen, and it happens that you can survive a big fall thanks to Low Gravity, but the game still acts as though you’ve died even though you’re alive and kicking.
One of the best things about Pulse Shift is its incredible visuals and art direction. The entire world changes completely in every single chapter, and you’ll be amazed by how awesome it all looks. The colours are vibrant and excellently contrasted, the game is highly stylistic and it’s just so dynamic and bold with its graphics. I loved it. Only chapter one feels a bit bland as it’s designed like a stone temple, but that’s only because every other chapter far surpasses it. And if the visuals weren’t amazing enough, I was blown away by the game’s wonderful soundtrack. There astounding variety here, and they’re not just awesome to listen to but some of them do extremely well to actually immerse you into the game and give the experience different tones and feels. As an audio and visual experience, Pulse Shift truly is remarkable, and I just can’t give enough credit to the developers here. In times of sheer, rip-your-hair-out frustration with the game, the soundtrack and graphics constantly took it away for me. Maybe I’m easily distracted by bright lights and shiny objects, but seriously, you try and play this without being impressed. It’s that good, and honestly I think I’ve run out of good adjectives to describe it.
Pulse Shift is hands-down one of the most intelligent, creative and brilliantly crafted puzzle platformers I’ve played. If you love seriously challenging platformers that will test you and keep you busy for a long time, then this is the perfect game for you. It’s just a must-have for hardcore puzzle fans. But I’d caution against it if you’re someone who gets easily frustrated and has no patience for highly difficult games. Otherwise, don’t miss out on this, it’s an incredible effort that’s absolutely worth the purchase.