Soft Body Review (PlayStation 4)

At one end of the scale, Soft Body puts you in that serene, almost meditative frame of mind, as the combination of calming analogue soundscapes and abstract visuals cause your mind to melt into a zen-like trance. Then there’s the other side that flips a switch and puts you into survival mode as you are a player are engaged in Bullet Hell entanglement, with only your reflexes and patience to keep you in check.

Name: Soft Body
Developer: Zeke Virant
Publisher: Zeke Virant
Released on: PlayStation 4, PC (Coming soon to PlayStation Vita & OSX)
Release Date: May 17th, 2016

At one end of the scale, Soft Body puts you in that serene, almost meditative frame of mind, as the combination of calming analogue soundscapes and abstract visuals cause your mind to melt into a zen-like trance. Then there’s the other side that flips a switch and puts you into survival mode as you are a player are engaged in Bullet Hell entanglement, with only your reflexes and patience to keep you in check.

Soft Body is a game that offers utter simplicity, as the very best indie games tend to do. Controlling up to two snake-like organisms – A main controllable snake, and its “ghost”, either separately using dual analog sticks, or as a combined whole using one, players complete levels by using the main snake to fill blocks by floating near them, or activating a buzz wire-style puzzle through physical interaction, or combining with the ghost to eradicate enemies through touching them. Being touched by enemies or their projectiles will, of course, kill you, wherein you are then instantly able to start that level again, Super Meat Boy-style.

And that’s it, really. There are a few nuances to these mechanics, with both snakes having their different uses, and in those instances where those two organisms are split, there’s an added level of complication, ensuring that your main snake avoids harm while controlling the ghost to achieve other tasks. While every chapter sticks to a different set of aesthetics, the basics are very much the same throughout. The early tutorial plainly explains the rules of Soft Body’s “world”, slowing introducing each mechanics to the player, while the early stages gently ease you into more complex implementations of those requirements. Once you have those rules figured out, all it takes is a little bit of intuition to figure out what is being asked of you. The reliance on bullet hell mechanics become ever more prevalent, as the hordes of enemy geometric shapes and their deadly bullets get larger and more aggressive. If you’ve ever made a Pacifism run in Geometry Wars, you’ll know what to expect.

Soft Body Review Gameplay

The 100 or so levels of the main “Story Mode” don’t take too long to rush through, depending on your skill – There were certainly a few levels that were a sticking point for some time, especially the chaotic final level. However, multiple modes are soon unlocked, from Hard Modes to New Game Plus modes that really test what you’ve learnt. The Hard Game mode is especially devious, demanding that you’re constantly focused on moving both snakes independently, avoiding attacks while still solving puzzles. This is where the skill-based nature of Soft Body may lose players – Your mileage with the game rests entirely on your reflexes and ability to multitask, while Hard Game mode multiplies this need even further. While death only lasts less than a second, those without the necessary patience may find themselves frustrated at replaying the same level over and over again.

But before it gets to that point, the early stages of calm puzzle-solving and light bullet-dodging are a joy. While indie games with electronic soundscapes and abstract visuals are well-worn territory by this point, it’s the way that Soft Body puts everything together that lets you see past that perceived unoriginality. As a game that harkens back to simple arcade gameplay, it only makes sense for the presentation to be simple as well, especially when so much can happen on screen at once. I did have issues with certain puzzle elements blending in with projectiles, but for the most part these basic graphics help keep things as uncluttered as possible. Each chapter has its own uniform style of abstract geometry and use of colour, which does help to keep things a little fresh.

 

4

Summary

Highlights: The early stages, where soothing presentation and relaxed gameplay merge together to create a beautiful experience.

Low points: The later areas, where things get more intense and chaotic, and admittedly not as enjoyable.

Verdict: Soft Body straddles a line between soothing puzzle-solving and chaotic twitch gameplay, and it’s arguably most enjoyable when it’s offering the former. Despite this, there’s a lot to love here, especially when the intuitive mechanics and simple controls are such a joy to experience.