If Super Meat Boy has taught us anything, it’s that there’s always room for a good platformer. Despite the saturation of platform games in the market, it’s the root of our love for our subject matter, our beloved retro gaming. Since aforementioned indie game there’ been an upsurge in retro-themed platformers and we’re not complaining! I’ve even given it a crack myself. Even the most basic of game creator packages take time to master and also to polish the final product. So, what if you haven’t got the time to master such programs and still want to flex your level-design muscle? Well there’s Mario Maker of course, but I don’t know too many who’ve got the funds to shell out for that right now… Puns aside, you could do worse than picking up PlataGO! on Steam early access, and here’s why.
PlataGO! wants you to create your own 8-bit (16-bit ish) levels and not only play them yourself but share with other owners of the game. I’m loathe to call it a game as it really goes far deeper than that. And for $4.99 you’d be silly not to give it a whirl. The interface reminds me very much of Theme Park and Lemmings on the 16-bit consoles. All of the assets are pre-loaded and yes, currently you’ve only got ten backgrounds, a similar amount of foregrounds and a limited amount of platform tiles to play with. But as with all multi-choice paths, there are many which you can take, which allows for a surprising amount of creativity.
Super Icon Ltd, the creators of PlataGO! hope that the complete version will be released at the end of 2018, so there’s a real opportunity to be a part of the immediate community and have a real say on the final product. It’s frighteningly easy to construct an evil platform level with buzz saws, spikes, invisible platforms, cannons etc… Yes. I said cannons! The purpose of each level is simple, avoid the traps, avoid/kill the bad guys, collect gems to unlock the exit door and then get the hell outta there. Which I guess was the point for hundred of platform games in the 80s and 90s. In that sense, it does feel limited, and you start to realise why so many of those games had bonus levels, car racing levels, anything to break the relative monotony. There’s scope for improvement and the developers know it.
The ability to choose the graphics style of several different consoles and computers (inc SNES, Game Boy, NES and amazingly, Spectrum) as well as custom styles is a nice touch. Although it has to be said that choosing the SNES doesn’t make everything instantly 16-bit (that would be cool!). The physics are good, although I do prefer my platform games a bit more floaty. A gravity adjuster would suit my needs but perhaps would detract from the accessibility of the package. My favourite feature has to be the bubble feature. Does it need to be used in an underwater level? What do you think? Of course not! And it’s incredibly fun/reminiscent of World of Illusion and I’d be happy to make twenty levels based around it. In fact…
I guess the question is, who is PlataGO! actually for? I’m not sure whether the older generation of gamers would get a kick out of this by themselves. What I think this “game” would be perfect for is introducing kids to level design. We’re in a space where schools aren’t afraid to start kids on programs such as Scratch (highly recommended) so why not open up a learning path for those who don’t want to bother with code and want to focus on level design? Yes, we’re going to need more programmers as time goes by, but we’re also going to need the next generation to be able to design games that are fun. Platformers, at their heart, are a lot of fun. Easy to pick up, easy to put down. Show me a kid who can make a fun level on PlataGO! and I’ll give him/her a job one day.
For $4.99 PlataGO! is a steal. Go check it out.