I have a special place in my heart for well-crafted platformers. Few game genres can evoke such fond childhood memories as the ones I came back to while playing Antipole. If it isn’t clear already, I had a blast playing this game.
I won’t spend any time here on story as the game does not bother to either and honestly it is probably the better for it. What Antipole lacks in story it more than makes up for in fun, frustrating and fast-paced gameplay. You play as the fairly non-descript Johnny Hurricane, a man in a loud-colored trench coat and broad brimmed hat who really, really needs to get from one end of a level to the other. I know, you’re thinking that this sounds boring and common. Perhaps the more eloquent of you might even think it pedestrian. You are both wrong. Your goal may be simple but reaching it is not.
You have two tools that you may use to complete your goal. The first being a gun for shooting enemies and the second being the unimaginatively named ‘Gravity Manipulator’. The latter allows your character to reverse gravity in order to walk on ceilings, extend jumps and can even be used offensively in some cases. Your manipulator operates on a rapidly depleting/recharging meter. The anxiety that is produced when trying to time a series of jumps while maintaining just enough meter to make it to safety can only be described as nerve-wracking. After familiarizing yourself in the first few levels with your character’s speed, jumps and equipment the difficulty is scaled up just enough to keep you enjoying yourself and maybe make you just the slightest bit angry.
Levels consist of long corridors with stationary and moving platforms, roving enemies, acid pools, and of course, spikes. The real challenge here is to maintain a sort of reflexive rhythm in order avoid environmental traps and keep up your momentum. I found myself deep in frustration more than once with a level until I’d suddenly discover the proper patterns and speed needed to succeed. This is why I’ve enjoyed the game so much, it demands that you be in the moment and reactionary while still planning and strategizing.
Enemies are well varied and some even introduce interesting wrinkles into a level by counteracting your gravity field with one of their own. Others will simply barrel (or hop) at you like little robotic kamikaze bent on your destruction. One of my favorite things to do in this game was to wait for an enemy to move in the right direction toward a ledge, turn on my gravity manipulator and drop it onto the spikes below. As you are hit by enemies your heart meter will decrement until you die. As you might expect you can recover these hearts by killing enemies and picking up health as a drop. During the game you will encounter a series of boss battles that I can say for certain are some of the most satisfying parts of this game. The bosses will take time to figure out and most likely require multiple tries before you beat them but the time spent is well worth it.
Sometimes Ugly is Good
Antipole is in a word, ugly. This is harsh perhaps but nonetheless truthful and I say this with all the love that a person should be legally allowed to feel towards a game. Antipole is ugly in a great way. Character, enemy and boss designs are largely uninspired true, but they really don’t need to be. This game is almost a pure study in level design and gameplay, not flashy graphics. Don’t get me wrong, I love my high-res textures as much as the next guy but the shareware sense of style here really hearkens back to the true old-school platformers that I played as a kid. The original, 2D Duke Nukem comes to mind.
Could the game look better? Of course. Should it? I don’t think so. The simplistic art and garish color palette actually lend the game a lot of personality in my opinion.
Antipole has been one of the most fun platformers that I have played in quite some time. The level designs were fun and occasionally tormenting. The gameplay was deceptively simple, required a bit of finesse and demanded my full engagement. The art was atrocious and charmingly so. I really have nothing disparaging to say about this game. If you are at all a fan of platformers you really should pick this game up and at $1.49 right now on Desura you really have no reason not to.
Antipole Technical Summary:
- Time Played – 5.5 hours
- Widescreen Support – Yes
- 5.1 Audio – No
- DRM – None
- Control Scheme – Mouse/KB and 360 Controller Support
- System Specs – Core 2 Duo 2.94GHz, 4 GB RAM, 1GB Radeon 4800
- Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
- Availability – Impulse, Desura
- Demo – Yes
- Bugs – None
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