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‘Semblance’ Review: Semblance of an Idea



Within a sea of platformers in the indie gaming universe, Semblance attempts to offer a new twist; something that doesn’t conform to established notions, but rather conforms those notions to itself.

The world of Semblance is moldable. You play as a blob birthed from the land, with the ability to charge into and re-shape its surrounding, to solve platforming puzzles and to grab collectibles. You can even smash into hard surfaces to re-shape yourself, changing the physics of how you move and jump.

There are rules, of course, and the re-shapeable sections of the land all have limitations. Sometimes these limitations seem to be arbitrarily defined, forcing you to reset your work and start over, one of the first of a few technical annoyances you’ll be facing in Semblance.

While you are encouraged to play with the viscoelasticity of the world’s moldable surfaces, you’ll often find yourself unsure exactly what works and what doesn’t. At times, you’ll be able to move platforms a certain way, but be restricted in doing so in the next area.

Glitches abound, you might find yourself trapped inside a wall when smashing into it, so it’s a bit difficult to feel confident that you know the rules of the game. These issues only seem to be prominent within the first few areas of the game but are enough to instill an insecurity that carries through to the end.

Speaking of an end, the game’s pacing is also sure to confuse you. Puzzles jump erratically between difficulty levels; you might spend a very long time figuring out a really difficult challenge, only to solve the next one within seconds, as it seems set up to teach a concept you already needed to master to solve the previous puzzle.

It’s not until the very end of the game when it seems like the cufflinks have flown off, and Semblance picks up the pace and becomes exceptionally challenging, utilizing its own elements in profound ways. It’s short-lived, however, and a tease of what could have been.

If there’s a follow-up to this title, a sequel or something of the sort, I want more of the game design found near the end of the game.

And I would love a follow-up, by the way. The concept is just too good for me to not want to see it explored.

Visually, the game has interesting, simple concepts that it often successfully showcases. It sticks to its guns and never deviates from the world it has built, giving you a concise idea of where you are. I mean, as much as you can in this weird, blobulous world.

Soundtrack and sound design are also pretty sweet, serving as a great mixture between soothing, wavy background ambiance and catchy tunes. There were a few times during my playthrough where I put my Switch down with the game on pause to do something else for a few minutes, letting the sound play. It kept me good company.

Semblance sets up a good formula for a potentially complex, intricate puzzle platformer for the ages, but this potential is never fully realized. There are only a few moments where it feels like the tutorial is over, and those are few and far in-between.

It’s a fun time, a great pick-and-play experience but the chance for something more meaningful feels a little squandered.

Perhaps this is a result of the numerous aforementioned glitches i.e. it was a bit too much for a small indie team to pull off. But, my complaint in this regard isn’t the amount of content, but rather the utilization of it, which does not seem to be technically limited here—only conceptually.

If you enjoy a puzzle platformer from the indie sphere, I’d still recommend a try. You’ll be entertained enough, but don’t expect a full realization of what is advertised on the tin.

Immensely fascinated by the arts and interactive media, Maxwell N's views and opinions are backed by a vast knowledge of and passion for film, music, literature and video game history. His other endeavors and hobbies include fiction writing, creating experimental soundscapes, and photography. A Los Angeles, CA local, he currently lives with his wife and two pet potatoes/parrots in Austin, TX. He can mostly be found hanging around Twitter as @maxn_