What do koi, palm trees, Roman columns and pizza have in common? In most cases, the answer will not be much. For us today, though, it’s a combination of surreal digital art and platform game mechanics in a new Nintendo Switch game called Verlet Swing. Players have been swinging ropes, vines, lichen, and everything else since the beginning of video games with titles like Pitfall. It is a proven game that is often fun, challenging and visually appealing. So, when I heard about this artistic looking platformer, I had to try it out.
The gameplay of Verle Swing is very simple by nature. You aim with the control stick and press the button to release the line and grab an object or floating marker to start the swing. The entire game is based on this simple action of tying, releasing and repeating to swing through a level until you reach the glowing completion ball and land there, completing that level and earning a ranking. However, after about three levels, you’ll soon realize that this game is anything but simple and your swing skills will soon prove insufficient. Now is the time to put a strategy in place to raise the level and practice rapid response skills.
Each scene is populated by different objects scattered in a thoughtful manner, giving the player some freedom in how they hope to reach the goal. This leads to a rather confusing game, because in most cases I’ve found that there isn’t really a direct path to reach a level, but certainly less resistant paths can be found through experimentation. Each course has a starting point from which you begin, and an ending point where you must land (always seen in the first person) in the glowing sphere that completes that phase. The conditions for exemption from the level are also very easy to learn. If you touch anything other than the last stage track, you will fail and immediately start over. This includes the floor and pretty much every object and wall in the level, meaning you always have to be swinging in the air to successfully navigate to the end.
Verlet Swing is proud of its challenge and even boasts on its shop page that only the best swingers will reach the final level! It took me over a dozen levels to realize it was true. As the game progresses, the levels and routes become much more complex, requiring more precision and much more experimentation in route planning at all stages. I failed a dozen times on a level before I adjusted the plan for that level and finally succeeded. Fortunately, if you hit an object and fail, the level will immediately restart, so you won’t have to deal with damaging load times. Like games like the Trials Bike series, Verlet Swing brutally tests you for perfect runs in the following levels, which in my case barely offer 1/3 of the 100 levels.
Getting to and across the stage is a real test of quick precision, but also highlights some flaws in the game’s mechanics. When swinging through the air and standing up, you should immediately bring the cursor to the object you want to grab and then swing. Unfortunately, and I think part of the problem is that there really is no limit to what your line can do. This often led to me thinking I was holding on to something close enough, but instead I clung to something too far away, then fell to the ground and failed. While the gameplay undoubtedly offers some free methods of getting to the stadium, I’d like to see a limit to what my bolt can do to avoid these unfortunate circumstances of poor targeting.
The great thing about these grueling swing tests is that you do it in fairly random but aesthetically cool levels that I think are surreal art combined with the early days of digital art, but the developer called them dream fever, which I also think is a good definition. The game’s 100 levels are divided into 5 worlds, from the first world called Checkmate, the story, to the last world called Vondercon 1998, each of which has 20 levels in the theme. Each level has a fairly rich but bland color palette that I’ve come across, and with huge items ranging from arcade cabinets to pizza broken into pieces of ice, these are some of the most interesting levels to experience in such a challenging game. In fact, my only visual problem was that I wanted to completely disable the HUD so I could take a few screenshots in the hopes that one day I could use the Nintendo Switch to make my own wallpaper!
The soundtrack that accompanies this game is in the form of smooth electronic tracks that mix very well. Some songs seemed a bit more repetitive than others, but luckily you can play the fool if you don’t want to make mistakes.
I think Verlet Swing is a niche title that will appeal to those who really like hardcore platforming games. The game has no problems with the slider, so if you get stuck, I challenge you to guess a lot of wills, you have to persevere or quit. The levels I played were both visually appealing and designed to allow some sort of free-form strategy to complete a given section. I think it’s a game that just stays in my system as long as I load it up to try and reach a level that has always baffled me, to see if a fresh set of eyes can get past it so I can get through a few new levels.
Checking the swivel arm
- Charts – 7/10
- Sound – 5/10
- Gameplay – 6.5/10
- Late Call – 6/10
Final thoughts : WARNINGS
Verlet Swing combines a unique artistic style with platform swing mechanics in a progressively challenging game that puts your skills to the test. Those who think it’s an artistic walking simulator like Abzu or Firewatch will be very unhappy. If you stick to the game and overcome the difficulties, you’ll be rewarded with new and unique environments, but swinging isn’t hard.
Alex has been in the game industry since the release of Nintendo. He’s turned his hobby into a career, spending just over a decade developing games and now serving as creative director of the studio.
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