words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Do Better Games for Xbox 360 and WP7, originally released in 2012.
Like many puzzle-oriented games, the action in Pendulous starts out very simply, building slowly and introducing new obstacles and challenges along the way. At first, you’ll just be learning how to deal with pendulum motion, swinging your orb back and forth and then disconnecting to send yourself sailing through the air to the next grapple point as you make your way toward the goal. Eventually, you’ll need to string together multiple successful swings while avoiding obstacles, activating switches, and using the environment to your advantage.

At the outset, a tutorial level and 7 additional levels are open, which may be selected in any order. The escalation of difficulty is gradual from one stage to the next, so it’s best to complete them in sequence unless you’re having difficulties and wish to skip past a certain level. Eventually you’ll open up levels 8-14, as well as a hard mode. The hard mode sends you into mirror versions of the regular levels without any checkpoints, so this is reserved for players wishing to truly challenge their skills.

Your performance is timed and medals are awarded for completing the levels quickly. A gold medal is awarded for a near-perfect run, with silver falling just short of that, and bronze being awarded for all but the worst performances. Rather than having a traditional HUD, a timer ticks away in the background along with the medals that may be awarded upon completion. Take too long, and you’ll see each of the medals disappear as you exceed its goal time.

Levels are designed to be completed quickly, and most won’t take more than a minute or so even on a first attempt, making the overall completion time fairly short. However, the medal system encourages players to replay the levels to achieve better times.

The player only has 2 controls available to him: the ability to speed up and slow down the swinging motion, and the ability to disconnect from a grapple point. That’s it. There is no midair direction control (though you may find yourself subconsciously angling the analogue stick toward a nearby grapple point), no powerups, and no special moves. Every level is designed around precision use of these basic controls, permuted upon in a variety of ways.

At first, the only danger comes from falling off the bottom of the screen into the miasma clouds below, which will kill you. Checkpoints are frequent on the normal difficulty setting, recording your progress at every few grapple points. In terms of simply completing the level, this means that you will rarely lose much progress. Of course, the setback will cost you time which may prevent you from achieving the higher medals.

As you move forward, you’ll encounter steam jets that push you or pull your orb in a given direction, meaning that you’ll have to take them into account before you disconnect from a grapple point and move into their path. You’ll also encounter laser walls that slowly carry your orb upward, acting as an elevator of sorts. Occasionally, you’ll find areas where you need to purposely disconnect yourself from a grapple point and fall to the floor. There, you’ll find that the structure around you is capable of movement, often featuring sections that jut up and down like pistons to carry you forward, pathways that open and close, and moving objects that push you along the floor.

In later levels, you’ll be tasked with activating switches to open doors, and then hurrying toward them before they close. Switches are sometimes used to temporarily activate grapple points as well. The challenge builds in these areas as the distance between the switches and doors increases with each subsequent level, making for some tense moments as you attempt to make precise use of the game’s mechanics under the time constraint.

Later levels also mix in electrical nodes and beams that will kill you outright if you touch them. You’ll also find extremely large grapple points that let you swing very far around them, and you’re often tasked with avoiding electrical beams while hunting switches and looking for a way past the dangers.

The game is presented with a sharp visual style and clear sound effects and music, which is in keeping with its origins as a Windows Phone game. While the overall feel is certainly casual, and the game can be completed rather quickly, those seeking gold medals on each of the stages will still find a challenge.

Pendulous was developed by Do Better Games for the Windows Phone and the Xbox Live Indie Games channel. This was their first release.