Platformance: Temple Death

A game by Magiko Gaming for Xbox 360 and WP7, originally released in 2011.
Platformance: Temple Death is a game that is very much like its predecessor, Platformance: Castle Pain, which was also released on the Xbox Live Indie Games channel. Rather than putting out monthly installments as might be expected from a single-level game, a year has passed between these two entries in the series, and this is far from a slapdash effort on the part of Magiko Gaming. That’s probably for the best, because we may have been up to Platformance: Gazebo Hangnail by now.
The basic mechanics are the same, and all of the controls (move, jump, zoom) are spelled out for you on the starting screen. You have a low non-variable jump, no health bar, and you are required to make pixel-perfect movements to avoid loads of insta-death traps that will cause your character to explode humorously into a pixelated blood spray.

What sets the Platformance series apart from the likes of Aban Hawkins and La-Mulana is the fact that the entire game is a single contiguous level. In fact, the game world is presented in a large picture frame, and the player is free to select between 3 zoom levels. The first zoom level shows your immediate surroundings, and this is the preferred way to play the bulk of the game.

The second zoom level shows the entire world all at once, inside the ornate frame that houses it. And finally, there is a mid-level zoom that gives you a wider view of the area. This last view is useful when dealing with obstacles that are coming at you from a distance, such as the energy ball that accelerates toward you in the run for the final key.

It should also be noted that the order of the zoom levels has been reversed from the original game, which started out zoomed in tight, and each button press zoomed the camera out further. Reversing the order is a somewhat odd choice given that the fully zoomed out perspective is more of a novelty than something to be used in gameplay, so it’s unlikely that players will have an immediate need to switch to this perspective unless they are checking on the position of the ghost.

As in the first game, you will activate a ghost early into your adventure. Once activated, the ghost will pursue you relentlessly, following your path slowly through the environment. Since you have infinite continues, you can keep starting back at the most recent checkpoint each time you die (which will be a lot). But if the ghost catches up with you, it’s game over. You’ll get an end-game screen that shows how long you lasted and how many times you died, and you’ll get a message that goads you into continuing… something along the lines of “you’re not going to let them get away with that, are you?”

The ghost in Temple Death has a different design than the ghost in the first game, and that’s meant to fit with the overall theme. The first game featured a knight running through a castle to rescue a princess. In this game, you play the part of an adventurer on a quest to rescue an actress who has been kidnapped by “savages” during a film shoot in the Peruvian jungle. Thus, rather than a standard ghost, you will be hunted by a ghostly tribal mask.

And rather than donning the armor of a knight, the lead character is outfitted with the now-standard adventuring garb… a brown leather jacket, fedora, and a whip (there are a handful of references to the Indiana Jones movies as well). However, you won’t be using your whip – or your pistol – in the game, because the only thing you can do is run and jump. This is a platformer, after all.

As in the first game, you will be lighting checkpoint torches that act as respawn points when you meet your untimely death(s). Spikes and moving platforms are abundant as well, and you’ll be jumping over, running under, and dashing past obstacles throughout your adventure. There are even some moving spikes that expand and contract, spinning blades that force you to get your timing right to get past, and springs that send you bouncing in to the air… potentially into danger, if you’re not careful.

Once again, the game world is persistent, which means that everything is going on all at once, and it is not changed based on your actions, even when respawning at a checkpoint. Therefore, if you zoom the camera out, you will see every enemy, obstacle, and platform moving about, regardless of the fact that you are nowhere near them. Many obstacles are meant to be encountered more than once as you pass back and forth through the level.

For instance, on your journey toward the temple, you must work your way through a jungle by jumping between vines, riding a log down into a fast-flowing river, and jumping before you reach the edge of a waterfall. This is all very reminiscent of old-school games like the Pitfall series and Jungle Hunt, and the chunky sprite art definitely adds to this feeling. Once you make it through the temple, you will cross back over you previous path, which will take you once again past the waterfall, and you must dodge rocks as they fall. Soon thereafter, you’ll drop down into a water section, and you must once again be wary of these same rocks that are falling from high above you.

The design of the world makes logical sense and impacts the design of the intra-checkpoint challenge areas. The temple is built in a stair-stepped fashion, meaning that you can climb it from the outside, but it also means that the interior wall of the temple is slanted. Water sits at the bottom of the level, fed by the waterfall from above, which is in turn fed by the flowing river that you cross at the beginning of the game.

You’ll have to swim through the pit of water and jump out… but if you make a mistake in the platforming section above, you’ll fall back down into the water again, losing some progress. Even the branches of the tree that you see in the opening log-riding section has roots that extend down into the dungeon below, where the actress is being held captive.

While you are free to zoom out at any time to see the whole world at once, the level is still designed in such a way that you will pass the captive actress a couple times before you are ever able to rescue her, and you will often get glimpses of other dangers before you approach the areas that house them.

The kidnapped actress is named Grace Belly, an obvious reference to another actress who was famous around this time period (the game takes place in 1947). The actress has a bit more sex appeal than the princess from the first game, and she not only spreads herself across the front of the box and title screen, but her sprite-based counterpart spends the entire game lashed to a pike in a bikini.

There are a number of in-game rewards based on how well the player performed, namely the number of deaths accumulated in each difficulty level. By beating certain milestones, the player is rewarded with such things as an autographed photo of Grace Belly, and even some of her undergarments. The game also has a number of “Flopwards” that reward various failures, such as a high number of deaths, the number of times the player “rage quits”, and a few humorous ones based on being killed by the ghost.

Completing the game shows you standing next to Grace Belly, and just as in the first game, she may not be terribly impressed with your progress, particularly if you died dozens of times on your way to rescue her. You’ll be given your completion time and number of deaths, and be told to try for the next milestone. You can try again for your personal satisfaction, or for placement on the online leaderboards.

The game features 3 difficulty levels. Each successive difficulty increases the speed of the obstacles and the ghost, while adding in new traps to make your life more difficult. The easiest difficulty level shouldn’t be much work for veteran gamers, once you’ve worked out the nature of all of the obstacles. Hardcore mode will test your mettle, and insane mode may have you recalling the controller-tossing days of your youth. Good luck getting the 1-life achievement in that mode…

There are some humorous loading screens to be found in the game as well. In Platformance: Castle Pain, starting up a new game started with the message “Capturing princess…”. This time around, that changes to “Capturing actress…”. There are a number of possible quips that cycle through, including things like “Sharpening blades…” and “Igniting fireballs…”.

Platformance: Temple Death is the third game to come out of indie studio, Magiko Gaming, and the second in the Platformance series.

Bunker Buster
Prior to Temple Death, Magiko released a game entitled Bunker Buster on Xbox Live Indie Games and Windows Phone 7. Bunker Buster is a flight/bombing game that is meant to harken back to the gameplay presented in an old cassette-based Vic-20 game called Blitz.

In Blitz, a plane moves slowly across the screen from left to right, flying over a cityscape with rows of tall buildings packed tightly together. The only control the player has is to drop bombs, which will fall straight down, destroying a few sections of the building they hit. The taller the building, the more bombs you must drop to destroy them, with the ultimate goal of destroying every building to clear a safe place for your plane to land. As the game continues, the plane slowly gets lower and lower to the ground, so if the buildings are not destroyed quickly enough, you will eventually crash into one of them. Proper timing and precision bombing are required for success.

Bunker Buster is based around these same basic elements, and features bombing runs on specified targets, as well as destructible environments. At first, the destructible environments just add to the cosmetic appeal of the game, as a stray bomb may blow a hole in the ground or the side of a hill. However, as the game continues, the player will be placed in situations where bombs must be dropped to clear obstacles that block the primary objective. You may have to perform a single run to clear the path, and then fly back over the target to bomb it.

There are 6 different types of aircraft, ranging from your standard planes and helicopters to guys in jetpacks equipped with missile launchers. You fly through 32 single-screen levels, destroying targets and avoiding friendlies. Controls are basic, with one button increasing your height and the other releasing your bombs/missiles. Flight is a bit wobbly, since you will constantly be at odds with gravity, thrusting upward in spurts to escape its grasp, which requires you to fan the button to get through tight spaces. Some types of aircraft are heavier than others, and you’ll have to fight harder to keep them airborne.

Bunker Buster was also the first of Magiko’s games to feature Flopwards, which are achievements centered around poor performance, such as destroying too many friendlies, crashing too often, or running out of fuel. The title also features local and online leaderboards.

Platformance: Castle Pain

As mentioned above, Platformance: Castle Pain is the first game in the Platformance series, and features the same sort of complex single-level layout, packed to the walls with spikes and traps (and spike traps). This game is set during the Dark Ages, and features a knight with a helmet and sword – serving as cosmetic accoutrements only – traveling through a castle to save a princess. The knight makes his way through the area outside of the castle, dodging an active volcano, working his way through deadly caves, ducking under pooping birds, and finally infiltrating the castle itself and dealing with its challenges.

The game was well-received, and has since been updated to include leaderboards.

As the name implies, Platformines is a cross between a platformer and the now-popular mining sub-genre of action-adventure games. Players set out across a large procedurally generated world to hunt for valuable minerals, destroy monsters, uncover hidden treasures, and even fight off other explorers along the way. Collected resources can be used to increase your life bar, add to your carrying capacity, and increase your firepower… all of which are needed to get back into the mine and fight your way through more dangerous territory and greater rewards.

You set out from a teleporter and collect many minerals as you can while fighting enemies. Monster-type enemies occasionally drop cash, with tougher enemies dropping higher denominations, while human enemies sometimes drop weapons or stat-modifying hats. Discovering teleporters around the game world allows you to warp quickly back to the safety of your home base and to explore outward into new areas.

A shop system allows you to sell off materials and unneeded weapons to buy upgrades, but larger health bars and bigger sacks are prohibitively expensive until you get into more difficult areas of the game, forcing a steady progression. The freedom of the open world allows the player to play carefully and slowly edge his stats upward, or throw caution to the wind to gain rewards more quickly.