Cyborg monkeys and multiple time clones
Ed, a mild mannered inventor of temporal shifting gateway guns, has awakened to find that something has been tampering with his precious lab. In Gateways, Ed must battle his own cyborg monkey creations, solve the puzzles barring his way, collect blue orbs, and find his scattered ray guns; all in an effort to regain control of his domain.
As the name of the game would suggest the gateway guns are of some importance to Ed. Having discovered that they were still in and about his lab, seemingly waiting to be discovered, Ed puts them to use. The first gun is the simplest and players may guffaw at its similarity to a certain portal-making gun from a different game. Using the mouse to plant two gateways on cement (and only cement) surfaces will allow Ed to move between them. To the benefit of developer Smudged Cat the first gateway gun sets up the stage for an array of more complex devices – such as the gun that acts as a gateway but also shrinks Ed to half his size or blows him up to double. Then the game really get hairy when the time-shifting gun is found – allowing Ed to highfive his past self after a successful puzzle. Lest we involve gravity but the last gun made it Ed’s play thing – flipping the map to his fancy.
The guns have definitely made the game very entertaining and added a teeth grinding complexity to the later puzzles. For instance, making it through having to coordinate five little Eds to hit particular switches at the same time while getting through all the doors before the time runs out without bumping into yourself and reversing the temporal shift will definitely be cause for a victorious outburst.
Still, although a set of neat tools, I found the guns to be a bit disorienting, leaving me feeling a touch motion sick at first. Once I became used to the sudden camera shifts and control jumps caused when passing through a gateway, however, the game was on. I do warn the risk of creating gateway loops where Ed bounces back and forth through space like a queasy kid trapped on a tilt-a-whirl. Ed will get out eventually… but the damage will be done.
Certainly, the Gateway guns are Ed’s primary tools to solve the increasingly tricky puzzles. Unfortunately, they are scattered throughout the maze that is his lab. You see, the whole of the game takes place on one giant 2D map that is gradually revealed as puzzles are solved and doors are unlocked. Some puzzles Ed meets can be passed without trouble, but if he doesn’t have a required gun or power-up, the player will undoubtedly be bashing their head into their desk repeatedly.
To somewhat thwart that process of head bashing, whenever Ed approaches a new puzzle he also finds a marker. For five blue orbs (which are scattered around the map like the rings or coins of old) Ed can find out if he has the proper skills to get through. If he does, the marker will tempt him to spend 40 blue orbs to complete the puzzle for him. Purely for the sake of testing out this game mechanic I bought an answer or two and let it literally take control of Ed and not just show me how simple the puzzle was, but do it for me. I can definitely see the benefit of this system since it prevents the player wasting time on puzzles they wouldn’t have the ability to complete to begin with. Blue orbs are not horribly plentiful either so coasting through the game isn’t a possibility.
Puzzles won’t be Ed’s only obstacles amongst the twisting halls of his lab. That same malevolent force that has Ed jumping through gateways has also set loose Ed’s cyborg monkey creations. Ed doesn’t really explain his robot monkeys but has no issue jumping on the domes enclosing their heads. In a surprisingly graphic explosion, monkey brains will fly left, right and center if they fall in the path of Ed, the destroyer of domes! I found the monkeys to be less threatening than the spikes Ed tries to avoid. Much like the classic look, the game also uses many classic elements; jumping on the heads of your rivals, leaping from precarious moving platforms, and not falling in spike pits are as key to progression as creating a few gateways.
Ed and his lab are chopped into eight bits of 2D nostalgic beauty. Every level of Ed’s lab is distinguishable by crisp and bright color and varying degrees of lighting.
Although I had to come back to a few of the puzzles after taking a calming walk, I was taken with how brilliant some of them were. Gateways is a lighthearted game that makes you have to think through obstacles but doesn’t bog you down with too many moments of frustration. For players looking for a puzzle challenge, I think it would feed that need for the short amount of time it takes to get through it; not a huge time investment but a good time nonetheless.
Tested on PC
Review copy supplied