HIGH Our accumulated skills coming together in the final level.
LOW It’s easy to forget to save.
I’ve long held that scoring a videogame isn’t a mathematical equation, where we start at ten and subtract for every tangible blemish. A deeply flawed game can still be a masterpiece, while a game that’s a perfect expression of what it sets out to do can still fail to leave a lasting impact.
Ynglet is a case of the latter. Anyone who plays it is signing themselves up for an hour or two of stark hand-drawn animation, unique movement systems, and a dynamic soundtrack that reacts to the player’s behavior. It’s a game that achieves exactly what it sets out to do. I have essentially zero criticisms of it — and yet, perhaps due to the abstract nature of its visuals or its complete lack of any narrative thrust, I remember only generalities about my time with it. I was frequently delighted while playing, yet afterward it left my mind almost entirely.
Ynglet is a difficult game to describe. It is, as its Steam page claims, a side-scrolling platformer in which there are no platforms. Playing as some sort of micro-organism, we traverse levels by moving from one bubble to the next. While we’re in a bubble, we can swim freely in any direction, but as soon as we exit, gravity will yank us toward the bottom of the screen.
In this situation, ‘jumping’ is a matter of propelling ourselves out of one bubble with enough speed to reach the next bubble without falling to our deaths. Ynglet only utilizes one button, and it’s mapped to a chargeable dash that we can use to either add distance to a jump or to correct ourselves in mid-air, since we have very little control of our character when it’s not swimming through a bubble.
Ynglet gets a surprising amount of traction out of its one-button approach – we encounter red walls that only become corporeal if the player is dashing through them, blue walls that are only solid when the player isn’t dashing, bubbles that phase in and out of existence each time the player dashes, and so forth. By default, we only get one dash when we’re out of a bubble, but interacting with some of these objects refills our charge, leading to sequences in which we’re executing multiple steps in a single jump.
Despite its mellow presentation and a save function that can be activated anywhere (the player simply needs to sit still for a moment and Ynglet will create a checkpoint in that bubble) things get surprisingly tricky during the final few levels when it tests us on everything we’ve learned all at once. Ynglet squeezes just about every mechanic it can out of the single button that it uses, and then proceeds to find every possible combination of said mechanics, all in the space of roughly an hour and a half.
While Ynglet is clever in this mechanical sense, the truth is that it’s also largely forgettable, if only because the levels themselves are so general and homogeneous. The hand-drawn visuals are lovely to look at, but they’re just indistinct shapes hanging in a featureless void. Although there are weird, intriguing little details sprinkled throughout (like the main hub being a map of Copenhagen) I doubt there’s any motive beyond creating an entrancing audiovisual landscape.
Ynglet includes a “2013 game jam prototype.” I don’t know if the game has been in ongoing development for all of that time, but the care and confidence in Ynglet’s presentation indicate to me that this is meticulous labor of love. It’s a shame for something so beautiful and pure to leave me so emotionally cold, but it’s a tight, wholly unique platformer nonetheless. At five dollars, it’s an easy game to recommend… just a difficult game to truly love.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Nifflas and published by Triple Topping. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately two hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: As of press time, this game has not been rated by the ESRB. There’s no violence or anything objectionable. It’s fit for all ages.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Outside of a few written tutorial prompts, there is no dialogue in Ynglet, spoken or otherwise, and audio cues play zero vital role in the game. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.
He was born and raised in Amish country and has yet to escape, despite a brief stint in Philadelphia, where he attended Temple University. He took a one-credit course there called "Career Opportunities for English Majors," which painted a bleak picture for prospective writers. Mike remains steadfast in his ongoing role as a video game critic, however, and has recently written for GamesRadar. Most of his work can be found on HonestGamers, where he has contributed over 200 reviews to date.
When not playing games or writing about them, Mike is a rabid indie music fan and ardent concertgoer. He doesn't read as much as he probably should, but his current favorite author is Alastair Reynolds.