Welcome to a new regular feature here at Gamecritics –This Is Not A Review. In these articles we discuss general impressions, ideas and thoughts on any given game, but as the title implies, it’s not a review. Instead, it’s an exercise in offering a quick recommendation (or dismissal) after spending enough time to grasp the ideas and gameplay of a thing without necessarily playing it from A to Z.
The subject of this installment: Soft Body by Zeke Virant
It sounds a little strange to say it, but i was constantly reminded of Friday casserole when playing Soft Body.
For those who aren’t familiar, a Friday casserole is when you have a lot of leftovers at the end of the week and you don’t want to throw them all out because it’s a waste of uneaten food, but you’re not really sure what else to do with it. So, you toss it all into a baking dish, maybe throw some sauce or cheese on top of it, and you call it good.
Sometimes it ends up being surprisingly delicious! Sometimes you trash it and go out for Thai.
So, Soft Body.
This indie puzzler reminds me of Friday casserole because it strikes me as such a weird mixture of different elements, and I’m not sure that the stuff here comes together for me.
First, there’s a a smooshy, slug-like thing called a “soft body” that flies around the screen in abstract puzzle levels. This creature is controlled with left stick and it ‘paints’ blocks that it touches. Players must paint all blocks in a level in order to move on. This part is simple enough, but then a “ghost body” is introduced. Controlled with the right stick, this second body is used to fly around and attack enemies.
At this point I was feeling like the game was hitting a good level of complexity considering that there are enemies in each area firing projectiles. Being tasked with touching unpainted blocks, dodging bullets and managing two separate fantasy slugs felt fine. There’s more, though. In addition to the rest, there’s always a ball on a track in each level. The soft and ghost bodies can merge to push the ball, so the game is then about painting, dodging and pushing.
I finished the tutorial and a handful of levels, and I just felt… confused? I mean, I understand what the game wanted to me to do but I didn’t understand why. The various elements of Soft Body don’t merge together in a natural or holistic way, and from a thematic point of view, I wasn’t getting much either. It’s the electronic version of Friday Casserole. To be fair, this particular dish isn’t terrible by any means, but it’s not something you’d have a second helping of if something else was in the freezer.
Soft Body gets a little hectic at times and controlling two bodies at once definitely adds another layer, but I can’t say that it clicked with me or that it was really enjoyable — It came off more like some sort of mental exercise than something crafted with a great hook at its core.
Phad thai it is!