Platform: Nintendo 3DS (played on 3DS XL model)
Developer: Hope This Works Games/FK Digital
Publisher: Circle Ent.
Release Date: September 15th, 2016 (NA), September 22nd, 2016 (UK/EU)
Price: $5.00/$7.00 (US/CAN), £4.99/€5.99 (UK/EU)
Welcome to my first review specifically for the site! Today I will be taking a look at Polara for the 3DS eShop, a game developed by Hope This Works Games (I do love the name) and FK Digital, and published by 3DS eShop veteran Circle Ent.
Polara at its core is a 2D side-scrolling auto-running platform game. But it is NOT an endless runner (in the main game anyway). The game has a very elegant simplicity to it, and I will explain why.
Before I continue I want to clarify that I’ve only passed Level 25 so far. So I can’t comment on anything afterward (it was also a personal request of the developer to reach this point at minimum).
The gameplay only requires two inputs ever; any direction on the d-pad to alternate between red and blue, and any of the four face buttons (A/B/X/Y) to jump. That’s it. The goal is to change to the right color to avoid red and blue lasers, but also depending on the scenario, you might need to be the opposite color.
Level 1 in Chapter 1
Color-based obstacles come in many varieties. Typically you have round orbs you must match color with to plow through them (being the wrong one means instant death). Another common obstacle is the red and blue lasers, particularly ones that rapid fire red AND blue laser bullets one after the other. Meaning you cannot be either color (the second you’re in its line of fire, you’re a goner no matter the color you are). Instead your only option is to jump over the line of fire.
Other instances of color are platforms, where you have to be the same color to stand on them, BUT there are times when a platform is in a vertical position, where being the opposite color allows you to pass right through it (or you bump into it and fall to your doom).
The boss in Level 10
The game is split essentially into chapters. Each with 10 levels (with a boss in the 10th of each) with a cutscene telling the story in-between. The story is told through non-voice-acted shifting images. To me the story is not very interesting at all and even a bit unnecessary. Luckily you can just skip them even on their first viewing, and just watch them later if you wish.
Every level has you trying to reach the end of the stage. Luckily there are NO lives. And every stage has loads of checkpoints, so you only need to worry about a small section at a time. But it’s not so easy. Mainly because the game also tasks you to optionally collect all of the P.O.L.A.R.A. letters (think Donkey Kong Country) during a run of a level. While dying doesn’t make you lose them all, you do lose any you’ve collected since the last checkpoint (which again there are A LOT of in the stage, so no worries there). Another optional collectable is a “Special” item. There is only one in each level. A lot of times these are in risky spots, but you teleport back to safety once collected so you don’t have to worry about dying to get one. The reason you would not want to die, is for the 3rd task; not losing a life at all to get a “Flawless” rating at the end of the stage. Trust me, you will die A LOT in a level until you memorized it perfectly.
Level 11 in Chapter 2
At the 10th stage in each chapter, after about midway through the normal gameplay, you will fight a boss. The key here is after dodging lasers as you would in other instances (matching colors with the singular laser firing at you), you are able to bounce back the aforementioned orbs to damage the boss. Luckily, once the boss is at half of its health, you will pass a checkpoint and then the second phase will begin.
Another to comment on are the graphics and audio. Visually it’s not half bad. It’s got a cool Tron-esc style to it, but the game has an alien, post-apocalyptic atmosphere to it. It’s no Metroid, but it gets the job done. As mentioned there is zero voice-acting, and the music is not that bad either. In each chapter the level design and the music changes, so it doesn’t get old in that regard. The game also does NOT support 3D at all, and only runs at 30 frames per second. But that doesn’t bother me at all personally.
Level 21 in Chapter 3
Another thing to note is that what I described above is the Story Mode. There is actually a second mode called “Other Modes”. So far I’ve unlocked one where it’s played like an Endless Runner titled “Random – Normal” where you have to survive as long as you can with the level design being random with each attempt. You unlock more in this section by collecting more letters and Special items. I would like to assume that these are all Endless Runner modes with different twists to them.
Overall I quite enjoyed it. I might pop back into it and play it some more and see what else is in store. And it honestly if you’re into this sort of game, $5 USD/$7 CDN might be a good buy in my book.
+ The elegant simplicity in the controls. Two buttons is all you ever use during gameplay.
+ The art-style and music isn’t that bad at all. Nothing memorable, but it’s decent!
+ The gameplay is pretty fun and challenging.
+ The red and blue mechanic is really quick and easy to pull off.
+ There’s more for you to do than to just reach the goal, such as not dying once and collecting all of the P.O.L.A.R.A. letters.
+ It’s cheap in cost!
+ No lives system and plenty of checkpoints. Seriously you’ll REALLY appreciate these!
– It can get REALLY challenging in the third chapter so far. You have to change color in literally milliseconds apart.
– The story of pretty meh.
– No 3D, but that depends if you even care about 3D or not.
– While the stages and music change up every chapter, it’s not very varied. It loves its post-apocalyptic style and it will stay that way. Well, basically don’t expect green hills ha ha!
– Menus actually have have an animation where they slide and such, which means you have to wait between each input. But it’s not like you’ll be in there for that long, but it’s something I noticed.