It’s a lot harder for an indie platformer to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Four Sided Fantasy is the rare game that manages to cut through the clutter. The game is the culmination of a platforming idea that creator Logan Fieth has been exploring for a couple of years now, and it’s an excellent realization of its central premise.
Four Sided Fantasy is a puzzle platformer built around screen wrapping. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, screen wrap means that when you walk off the right edge of the screen you’ll end up back on the left, and the same is true of the top and bottom of the screen. You can turn the screen wrap on and off, so you’ll have to manipulate your position in order to reach new areas (the game is about 75% puzzles and 25% traditional platforming).
Fieth has been developing these types of games since his time at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington, starting with The Fourth Wall, a side scroller that is very much a predecessor to FSF. He also made Perspective, again toying with player placement, that time from a first person point of view. With the release of Four Sided Fantasy – developed by LudoLand and published by Serenity Forge – Fieth can finally close the book on the mechanic.
The game only lasts 2 hours, and varies the formula enough to keep you engaged in a way that’s fun and mentally stimulating. You need to have good reaction time and knowledge about perspective. Though it is a mechanic-driven game, the visuals and music are solid, with simple colours and shapes that make the game enjoyable to look at while being quite spartan in its design.
The visuals also feed directly into the game’s core mechanic. You’ll find yourself looking for colour-coded batteries to unlock the ability to use your screen wrap in certain areas. The game doesn’t have any combat – the only antagonistic force is dull grey television static that serves as a lethal barrier – but the game isn’t very punishing. Colliding with the static only sends you back to your last successful jump.
The game constantly requires leaps of faiths to overcome certain challenges, but there are good visual cues that subtly let the player know when something harmful is on the way, ensuring that the game requires skill instead of luck. I often found myself leaping off ledges and wrapping to avoid near misses, and I enjoyed how the levels were distinct with regards to the artwork and the gameplay. For instance, there’s an early moment in which you descend (ascend?) to an area where gravity means little. Houses and trees are both upright and upside down, and its a simple visual flourish that looks fantastic. Later, there’s a snow stage in which you bounce from the foreground to the background. The level shows which plane you’re on with the help of light posts, and its a great trick that uses negative space to draw your attention.
Each change seemed well thought out, making for a game that scratches an itch for puzzle platforming as well as anything since The Swapper. Though some might complain about the short run time, Four Sided Fantasy does not overstay its welcome, always introducing a new wrinkle just before the mechanic might start to get dull (the game does have a new game plus mode of you want to continue exploring the mechanic). Four Sided Fantasy is a great distraction if you’re waiting for some of the bigger releases coming in the fall, or maybe if you need something to do in between all those hours of No Man’s Sky.