Gateways is an indie 2D Metroidvania style platformer from Smudged Cat Games (the makers of the recently reviewed The Adventures of Shuggy). It stars the lovable scientist Ed, who is determined to find out why things within his lab are amiss. Along the way, he needs to solve many different types of puzzles using 4 different ‘gateway’ guns. Each one has a unique spin and will leave you asking, “why didn’t they do this in Portal?”
Ed wakes up to find that his lab is a mess and that everything is completely out of place. He then tells the player that this needs to be figured out. As the game progresses, thought bubbles that give a nod to old style comics are used to inform the player. Some are merely to introduce the mechanics of the game, but others shed light on the entire situation and are great for those that want to get to the bottom of things.
At first, I had an issue aiming the gateway gun whilst using a static camera. However, it wasn’t long before I was informed that you can pan the camera slightly away from the character, allowing you a better aiming perspective. Looking around, it’s easy to notice the wide variety of puzzles that you are going to have to solve once you pick up new guns or some other items.
Some forms of the gateway gun are beyond ingenious. For example, the time altering gun will melt any brain in some of the later, more complex puzzles of the game. Opening up a portal, doing a few actions, and then opening up the other side and watching yourself in the past is amazing and completely seamless. As soon as you open up the other side of the portal and you look through, what you did plays out from the instant you started that first portal. Things really begin to shine when you have 4 or 5 iterations of yourself, each doing a different task in order to solve the puzzle, and timing becomes key.
One of the few drawbacks is that the lab doesn’t change too much from one area to the next. It is mostly subtle color palate changes and an increase in difficulty that let you know that you are in a different area. It doesn’t take away from the game too much, but it would have been interesting to explore other areas of the facility especially after seeing how well this was done in The Adventures of Shuggy.
Another unique feature, that I am ashamed to admit I used, are the help points. Scattered all through the game, these help points alleviate some of the stress of not being able to solve puzzles. They let you know if a puzzle can be solved with your current items and, if you are completely stuck, will actually show you the solution. Each help point costs an amount of power orbs, which are collected throughout, so there is a limit as to how many times you can use them. This, combined with the fact that you feel foolish for failing to solve the puzzles yourself, means you probably won’t become overly reliant on their help.
Gateways is tight, well done, and fun. It will give you all the satisfaction of a Metroidvania style game with the unique challenges of a puzzle game. I find myself going back into the world over and over again just to see if there are any other ways to solve some of its puzzles. If you liked Portal, you will love this!
Gateways is currently availible through Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) and on the PC for ~ $10.