When looking at the trailer for Forma.8, two things stood out. First was that its art style was striking. Second and most importantly it reminded me somewhat of Strangely Twisted Shadow Planet, in that it’s a Metroidvania style game where you fly around a bizarre alien world.
As a small exploration probe stranded on an alien planet, it’s your task to uncover a powerful energy source. The minimalistic method of storytelling leaves a lot of interpretation to the player, though I did find the final moments to be somewhat confusing.
With its distinct art style, you’d be forgiven for thinking it wears its influences on its sleeve. However Forma.8’s drone has its own adorable charm, especially if you let it just sit there for a bit. It spins around, dances, before eventually nodding off to sleep. In a planet where blobs and other lifeforms just attack it relentlessly, I felt because of the amount of character given to it just by letting it stay still that I was attached to this machine’s plight.
Despite the cute main protagonist, Forma.8 emulates the sense of loneliness and dread found in Metroid games perfectly. The haunting ambiance, the horrific monster design, all added up to the gut feeling that I was controlling a small helpless drone in a hostile environment. While there was never a satisfying payoff to that dread, it was a touch that’s rarely executed with such aplomb.
Forma.8 isn’t the longest of games, clocking in at around 4 hours or so unless you decide to go collectible hunting. With two endings and a bunch of secrets hidden within, the game still isn’t especially long. However, I did enjoy my time with the game thanks to the rather clever ideas in play.
As you find other forma, the drones that are the same model as the one you’re controlling, you’ll begin to restore your robot’s abilities. These are drip fed to you as you progress, eventually allowing your drone to put up an energy field, lay bombs, and dash among others.
What’s clever is that the main method of attacking enemies is combining the bomb ability with the energy field to propel it in the opposite direction you are facing. There’s a small learning curve, but the game is balanced in such a way that relentless stuff doesn’t appear until later.
However there’s a catch. Most of the time, Forma.8 does a great job of introducing new concepts, but there were a couple of areas where the method to progress wasn’t immediately obvious. Instead of working out what I was meant to do, I’d stumbled upon the solution purely by raging and mashing buttons in the faint hope something would work. There’s a minor difference between working something out and accidentally stumbling on the solution.
Boss battles are a great example of working something out, as the solution to beating them is out of the norm, yet there are clues in each arena. Easily the most fun part of the game by a country mile, they challenged my logic skills to work out how to utilise my abilities, or in certain cases features that seem strange to put in a boss battle environment, to overcome the challenge. My only wish was that there was a climactic final boss that carried on this trend, rather than what was actually there.
Collectibles and secrets are hidden pretty much everywhere. Archives can be exchanged for upgrades to existing abilities, such as a shorter cooldown period on dashing or being able to lay an extra bomb. There’s also the standard health increases, but the Tetromino that are very well hidden eventually lead to one of the bigger surprises that Forma.8 has to offer.
There’s a lot to like about Forma.8. While it does invoke the style of some other titles, it has enough charm and character to stand out. Its gameplay is unorthodox, yet mostly rewarding, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Sometimes the logic of the task at hand is not obvious and it took me a short few hours to get the Platinum Trophy on PS4, but while it lasts it’s an enjoyable romp.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4