Semblance for the Nintendo Switch Review: Deforming the Genre

Semblance for the Nintendo Switch Review

South African developer Nyamakop’s first game is a fantastic puzzle platformer named Semblance. The game takes the word Plat-former to a whole new level, as the game is all about forming and deforming the platforms to solve various puzzles to get to the next area. The game has a good amount of puzzles to keep players entertained during its four hour campaign, and the easy controls and simple visual design make the game easy for anyone to enjoy.

Semblance focuses more on gameplay than story, since the latter is mainly left for piecing together thanks to the clues hidden throughout the game. Narrowing down the story to the simplest way possible, it’s about a sort of infection that contaminates trees with its malice and causes the habiting creatures to be crystalized. When things calm down, the game’s main protagonist, Squish appears and heads over to find the cause of the problem. The rest of the story can be figured out by finding the hidden wall drawings scattered around the place.

As mentioned earlier, the main gimmick of the game is to form and deform platformers to get across to the next area. This is done by controlling Squish, who feels great to control. The character can jump and dash mid-air or on the ground to move faster. Dashing into a platform changes its shape, and it’s crucial that players hit it in the right spot to progress onward. Pressing “A” near platforms turns it back into its original state, which is really helpful. It’s like trial and error, since I could always retry and improve. The intuitive controls teach the player to perform some special tricks like wall-jumping. These techniques aren’t taught by the game but can be easily learned by testing out the game’s mechanics.

Additionally, in each world there’s a different game mechanic to keep the gameplay from feeling stiff, for example deadly lasers, red beaming lights that make platforms return to their original form, pink walls that can change the shape and physical capabilities of Squish to move faster or jump higher, etc.

There are three worlds, all with their own sets of levels. The main goal of each level is to find some sort of energy orb, which can destroy the evil malice that’s covering the trees. The levels have various orbs, these can be easy to find but occasionally tough to obtain. To reach an orb the player must solve the puzzle of that area, or in some cases do some platforming. The puzzles are for the most part not all that challenging, but there are still some levels that left me scratching my head for a few minutes.

Aside from that, there are some flies in each level that can be destroyed and hidden totems that can be activated when found. Odd enough, it seems that both of these don’t serve any purpose, since I gained nothing for finding these after beating the game. I’m not sure if I missed one or more, and if so it’d prove very hard to keep track of where it’s hidden.

The game is great for the most part, and one of my only issues with it is the somewhat frequent glitches I accidentally found while in my playthrough. The main one I encountered was getting temporarily stuck inside a wall, although other issues include platform glitching out or camera zooming in and out for no reason.

The visuals are really simple for the most part, with some plants or trees in the background to make the world feel a bit more vivid. Each world changes the color of the environment and Squish himself, which is a cute little detail. The game’s music is fantastic, but sadly for the soundtrack, the game is quiet most of the time, and when the music finally starts to pick up it quickly tones down after a while. It’s disappointing since what’s there is a joy to listen to.

Semblance is a fantastic puzzle platformer that takes the word plat-FORM to literal. The main gimmick is brilliant and the gameplay never felt repetitive thanks to the different mechanics added to each world. Controlling Squish feels great, I enjoyed the simplistic visuals and the music, although it lasts for a short time, is still outstanding. The only thing negative I can really talk about this game is the glitches that I encountered throughout the playthrough and the lack of replay value once beating the game. Overall, Semblance is a well-crafted game that any fan of the genre will enjoy, and it’s a great addition to have in the Switch’s library of games.

Very Recommended

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Review by Lucas, reviewed on the Nintendo Switch. Provided by Sandbox Strat and Good Shepard Entertainment