As a child, I often used to watch one of my uncles draw tiling (tessellation) patterns on white pieces of paper. There was something about the rows of repeating shapes and vibrant colours that really struck a chord with me. Weirdly, that was a memory I had completely forgotten until I started playing Ynglet, a 2D platformer game set against the backdrop of a colourful world bristling with life made up of patterns.
The game’s official store description likens it to “floating in the sky like you’re a space dolphin”, but it felt far more akin to microscopic organisms floating amongst the bacterial makeup of the groundwater and air. Ynglet is what would happen if you gave those microscopic organisms a hit of LSD and stuck them in a freshly painted (and poorly ventilated) room. I’ll admit, it’s an unusual metaphor, but one I feel aptly describes the experience.
Ynglet is also actually a game and a pretty enjoyable one at that. The game’s levels take players across an assortment of platforms and floating boxes, each new stage introducing a new mechanic for players to contend with, such as the ability to jump mid-air and bounce or shoot off certain surfaces. Fall out of one of the floating boxes or miss a surface and you’ll fall to your doom and respawn at the last set safe point.
I particularly liked Ynglet’s respawn system. It’s up to the player to set their own respawn point. Of the numerous different boxes and surfaces in the game, players can set many of them as a respawn point by simply staying in them for a few seconds. Player agency is a rare thing in the strict game design set by platformers, so it’s refreshing to see a game that allows you to save your own progress.
Each level is filled with optional extras to find as well, rewarding players for venturing off the colourful beaten path. These optional collectibles are often a little more difficult to find, with a tricky platform section to complete at the end. Motivation to find those extra collectibles lies in the game’s competition percentage. So it really boils down to how much players want to complete Ynglet.
Ynglet’s most impressive feature is its emergent sound design. It’s “needlessly complicated” music software develops alongside the player as they move through each level. Percussion and music react to your movements, creating an interactive piece of music that sounds tailor made to your play through. The music is also just really lovely, featuring lo-fi electronic elements that perfectly match the game’s visual aesthetic.
At around 15 levels, Ynglet took me around an hour and a half to complete. There’s additional challenge to be found in the game’s collectibles and difficulty modes ramp up the gameplay. A negative mode that’s unlocked upon completing the game also mixes things up, providing a new visual look to the game. For an independently developed game, there’s a surprising amount of content to be found in Ynglet.
Ynglet is at its best when you find a flow, and travel across its levels without having to think what your next move is. Admittedly, the level design can be a little unclear, as I found myself a little lost while trying to find the right path to progress. As stunning as the art style is, a lot of the problems I had with finding the right direction often boiled down to there being so much on screen. It tries to visually guide you in subtle ways, adding the occasional visual cues to the screen, but they can get lost amongst everything on screen.
Ynglet makes up for the sometimes confusing level design with excellent controls. The way you move the ‘space dolphin’ around each level is incredibly enjoyable thanks to some tight controls. Inputs used during gameplay are actually pretty slim, but you can do a lot with the organism with only a few movies and the reactive world around you. By the end of Ynglet, I was honestly surprised at how adept I had become at zipping my way around the world.