Gateways, by Smudged Cat Games, is a puzzle/platformer that borrows heavily from the Valve series, Portal. You play as a scientist trapped in his own laboratory with no memory of how you ended up in such a situation. Starting with nothing, it’s your job, while making your escape, to gather your equipment and piece together what happened to you. If you’re going to rehash a well-established mechanic from a beloved game series with a more than devoted fan base, you better do it well. Gateways does it…. decently.
Gameplay revolves around solving puzzles and traversing the world in a manner that mixes Portals mechanics with Castlevania’s labyrinth style world map. Players will come across puzzles that can’t be solved until an extra piece of kit is found, which means you have no choice but to explore the sprawling laboratory set before you. While your next objective is shown clearly on your map, you still get plenty of mileage in the game, preventing it from feeling like a linear trawl.
One of the great features of the game is that it tells you whether or not a puzzle is solvable with the equipment you have or whether you need to go out and find more before returning to open the next door. The way the game does this is by having a ‘help point’ by a puzzle. Similar to the games save points, (regular checkpoints that save progress throughout the world) standing next to a help point will give you the option to spend ten ‘orbs’ that can be collected throughout the game to access one of these help points, much like coins in other games.
At this point, you have to decide whether or not to waste ten minutes of your time on a puzzle that might not be solvable, or waste ten orbs on a puzzle that you’re just not getting. It’s hardly the Fable II economy mechanic, but it does provide a dilemma for those with tightened purse strings. To make matters worse, the game actually offers to solve the puzzle for a mere fifty orbs. While orbs aren’t in abundance like rings in Sonic, coming by fifty isn’t too difficult. However, while the puzzles in the game aren’t difficult at all (they all revolve around lasers and buttons or a combination of the two), having it solved for you if you don’t guess it in a couple of goes becomes tempting and that sucks out pretty much all the difficulty in the game. Platforming doesn’t offer much of a challenge either, and the enemies can be wiped out with a stamp or three on their heads.
The equipment you receive includes a portal gun, a torch and a shrink ray. Unfortunately, the portal gun isn’t implemented as well as it could be. While the control scheme is simple (left click for one portal, right for the other), there is no colour indication as to which is which and having to remember which one is which gets confusing. Furthermore, in a 2D environment, being able to see through the portal like you can in Portal is a lot more confusing, and may cause severe brainache especially with the worlds pixelated aesthetic and monotonous electronic music.
Is It Worth Your Money?
Despite the game’s core mechanic having many flaws, the charming visuals and simple gameplay makes this a great title to play through on those rainy days. It is definitely worth the $10 price tag.
Gateways Technical Summary:
- Time Played – 3 hours
- Widescreen Support – No
- 5.1 Audio Support – Yes
- Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None Reported
- Control Scheme – Keyboard/Mouse
- DRM – None
- System Specs – GTX 460, 2.4GHz Core2 Quad , 4GB RAM
- Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
- Availability – Official Site