The current trend of making hyper minimalist games has recently brought us Platforms Unlimited (out now, $0.99), from the people over at the appropriately named XperimentalZ Games. They claim that their latest title is an ‘uninvention’ of the Endless Runner genre, stripping the concept down to its very core and providing users with a zen-like procedurally-generated minimalist-challenge like no other. While they’ve definitely delivered with absolute success on every last bullet point listed in the opening sentence of Platforms Unlimited’s description, the question still remains if the game is better off for it.
In the title you control a blue square endlessly sliding across a horizontally scrolling field of randomly generated rectangular platforms, all as you try to collect the yellow squares (coins) and avoid all of the red squares (enemies). Platforms Unlimited certainly does keep its control scheme as simple as can be, with the only action possible being jumping via the holding down on the screen wherever the player should see fit. The trick to the jumping mechanic is that you hold the screen in order to determine how high you want to leap, with the entire jump being permanently locked in once the screen has been released.
This style of jumping — which used to be ‘popular’ in a large number of Japanese NES releases, such as The Mystery of Atlantis — instantly turns Platforms Unlimited into a brutally hard experience. With the large gaps that are often spawned between tiny platforms, and the red enemy blocks that frequently litter the area, you will commonly find yourself over/under shooting your target nearly every time. This means that your average session time — when you first start playing Platforms Unlimited — will be less than ten seconds, especially since the randomization prevents you from practicing your jumps.
If one collects enough of the aforementioned yellow squares, they will eventually be able to use them to unlock the chance for power-up squares to begin appearing — quite rarely — during their randomly generated runs. These include things such as temporary protection from the red squares, to trampoline blocks that launch you above the top of the screen (not really helpful, as you don’t know what the scenery will be when you finally land). Other than physically grabbing these coins during your gameplay sessions, they can also be earned by: completing your standard Endless Runner style assignments, and also by finishing one of three randomly created — but fixed in structure — daily challenge levels.
While the game’s controls certainly work without any faults, and the developer’s claims of being a hardcore minimalist challenge are certainly true, the question still remains if Platforms Unlimited is actually fun. Unfortunately it seems that when you strip all of the variety and whimsy commonly found in most Endless Runners, leaving behind a basic game about a cube with unforgiving jumping controls, the end result is just bland tasting. While some truly masochistic gamers — whom certainly do exist — might appreciate the ultra difficult jumping, most people will just be bored by a game that was deliberately made as a very bland example of a genre that is otherwise crowded with quality entries.
iFanzine Verdict: When XperimentalZ Games claimed that they were going to make an ultra hardcore Endless Runner that stripped the genre to its very core, they certainly delivered on every last bullet point that was promised. Platforms Unlimited challenges players to eternally keep their blue square alive, using nothing but screen presses for jumping, as they attempt to avoid giant chasms and red square enemies. The problem is that between the hardcore difficulty, and the complete lack of whimsy usually found within said genre, the title ended up being bland and uninteresting. While some may well enjoy the extreme level of difficulty found within Platforms Unlimited, most people will be far better served to look almost anywhere else for their Endless Runner needs.