The space probe formerly known as 8.

After completing development of their space shoot em up title Futuridium in 2014, Italian developers MixedBag Games decided to approach a different genre - the realm of metroidvania - with their latest creation; Forma.8.

Lurking amid the upper stratosphere of a seemingly strange planet, awaits an alien spacecraft of unknown origins, whose energy resources are quickly dwindling but seems to have now found the perfect habitat to replenish them; readying eight robotic, spherical probes to scour the planet's surface below.

But as the eight contraptions shoot across the sepia sky, one quickly impacts into the side of a large structure, penetrating into the darkness within, and so begins our journey.

Taking inspiration of the aforementioned probe slamming itself into the side of the first obstacle it comes across, the game Forma.8 doesnít get off to the greatest of starts. Controlling your little ship via the left stick is a slow going affair, as you span across the interconnected - and growingly vast - environments at a snail's pace, whilst in a constant battle against your own inertia to evade terrain and enemies alike, akin to a pinball in a high score frenzy.

What exacerbates this feeling is the tone MixedBag are going for, with disparate electronic sounds creating a unique and very isolated ambience - reminiscent of 2016ís Inside - which by itself would be fantastic inclusion, but in conjunction with the already mentioned slow proceedings really hampers your first foray into its design.

Itís quite the feat then, that Forma.8 manages to turn it all around - with the acquisition of a few power ups - and managed to keep me coming back post-game to uncover its many secrets.

What will be instantly noticeable is the recurring art style that creators MixedBag have used in all of their games thus far - which would be best described as minimalist - with muted and mostly singular colour tones taking up large swathes of your visible screen space.

But this minimalism also transcends into the very clean - and robotically thematic - user interface that displays health - made to look like battery life - and a map interface that's far too skeletal for its own good; in conjunction with those minimalist trappings is the sound design of Forma.8, echoing a low key score with only the games sparse environmental sounds to keep you company, well aside from those pesky enemies that is.

Those aforementioned enemies within Forma.8 are pretty much your standard fare, whether it's a jumping enemy, a flying enemy, one that shoots projectiles and so on, itís nothing gamers havenít seen a hundred times before, but the design of the creatures themselves is reminiscent of the excellent PixelJunk Shooter, and really blends well into the aesthetic of the greater world crafted within Forma.8 - only then switching things up late in the game.

To help you tackle these foes are the various power ups youíll acquire from your seven - now fallen - spherical comrades, happening upon their final resting place will net you a unique power up; from a shield blast and bombs - that can be used in conjunction with one another to help you take down enemies - to a much needed speed boost and Velocity Ultra-like short distance teleport that became my de facto method of travel. And to bolster these unique powerups even further are unlockable addons acquired through the collection of hidden 'artefactsí that look akin to a floating, metal nut.

Once you have become accustomed to this metroidvania world, acquiesced yourself a powerup or two and maybe even stumbled upon a secret room, Forma.8 will shake things up a little with a much needed boss fight - the highlights of the game for me.

Whilst few in number, each of the boss fights within Forma.8 are memorable, merely because they take the exact opposite approach to gameplay proceedings thus far. Rather than blasting away with bombs and/or your shield, bosses require different kinds of approaches that are purely environmental in nature; from feeding it nearby enemies to simply running away.

Youíll be doing a bit of experimentation to figure out exactly what is required from you, and thankfully the painless checkpoint system will aid you in this endeavour.

At this point secrets and hidden collectables within a metroidvania title are a given, and Forma.8 is no different, offering a plethora of collectables in the form of Energy Sunflowers or the previously mentioned artefacts to bolster your repertoire. And whilst most will be accessible by either backtracking with a newly acquired power up, or a skillful display of maneuvering in a challenge room, thereís some that are far more obtuse and will have you scouring the map post-game.

With no in-game text to speak of - well outside of trophy names - Forma.8 instead opts for the language of visual, whether it's using symbols or strange Tetris like blocks to hint at possible secrets. And itís likely you wonít figure everything out (I didnít) but the mere fact it's there, hinting at things yet undiscovered is a tantalising prospect in any game, and one Forma.8 revels in.

Whilst suffering from a very shaky start, once you acquire a few powerups Forma.8 transforms into another great addition to the metroidvania genre, and whilst it doesnít do anything entirely new or original - borrowing a lot from its contemporaries - it excels at thinking outside the box with boss fights, whilst showcasing an intriguing wordless story within its isolated yet beautiful world - oh and we canít forget about the bountiful secrets hidden within either.

If youíre a fan of the metroidvania genre, or more obtuse games in general then should definitely look at picking up Forma.8.

Review copy provided by the publisher for the PlayStation 4.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    1st March 2017

  • 3 Out of 5 Stars
  • Very shaky start

    Map UI

  • Minimialist design

    Bosses

    Obtuse story

    Myriad of secrets

Game Info

MixedBag Games presents Forma.8 - PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, iOS & PC Forma.8
Rating: 7
Release Date: 22nd February
Platform/s: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, PC, Mac & iOS
Developer/s: MixedBag
Publisher: MixedBag

  • Song of the Deep
  • PixelJunk Shooter
  • The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human

Yes, there's no bad language nor violence to speak of.

Outside of a start screen and end credits, Forma.8 contains no written language - though oddly does give you the option to change languages in the Options Menu.

Forma.8 boasts a platinum trophy on PlayStation systems, one obtained by unlocking all of its hidden secrets, one of which is an enhanced ending.