Forma.8 is a side-scrolling action adventure game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4 and PS Vita with compatibility for PlayStation TV. Italian developer MixedBag has previously developed retro space shooter Futuridium EP Deluxe on PS4 and PS Vita followed by a virtual reality version for PlayStation VR and has shown their diversity by now taking a complete departure from the genre to deliver Forma.8, but will it retain the quality of their previous outing?
The story revolves around an exploration probe that is alone after being separated from its companions and stranded on an alien world with a life or death mission to successfully single-handedly achieve of recovering a powerful lost energy source before time runs out.
The character design of your lead character is excellent as the small size and innocent expression of the Forma.8 exploration probe coupled with the separation from its allies makes it seem as though there are impossible odds of survival when facing such unknown surroundings which results in the player being more engaged with the lead character. Forma.8 starts out with no abilities other than flying to navigate its surroundings, although the exploration probe gradually learns unique abilities including forms of self-defence through attack such as producing a pulse that affects any enemies within the nearby vicinity and a mine that has a greater impact on enemies which can most impressively be shot at an enemy by laying the mine, quickly re-positioning Forma.8, then using the pulse to direct the mine at an enemy or a group of enemies from distance.
There are a variety of enemies that are red at their centre to show their dangerous intentions towards anything that dares to approach them including Forma.8 in a way that is reminiscent of the Nevi enemies from Gravity Rush. Enemies are progressively introduced with the first enemy being ground based with only a small amount of movement, although shortly afterwards pods that look akin to plants start producing flying enemies or ground enemies that are capable of leaping into the air in the direction of Forma.8. Further menacing enemies include spiders with a blast of air that will knock your exploration probe back making them much harder to overcome, a fast enemy that is capable of inflicting a serious amount of damage by streaking across surroundings vertically, horizontally or diagonally if you move in front of it, an enemy that shoots lava at you and more besides.
Environments are varied and capture the imagination as they are set on the surface and underground caves of an expansive alien planet including hazards such as laser beams, rocks, lava and much more. Puzzles are scattered throughout the surrounding environments such as timing your movements to progress unscathed beyond laser beams, noticing fragile walls that can be broken through by utilising your powers, cogs that need to be moved by activating a switch in order to open a previously blocked passage or drain away lava to be able to access a new area and more besides.
Forma.8 supports cross-buy between the PS4 and Vita, although it unfortunately does not support cross-save, so you will not be able to continue from your previous progression on the Vita version when playing the PS4 version and vice versa. Cross-buy presents a superb amount of value as it means that you will be purchasing the PS4 and Vita versions of the game with just a single purchase.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the Vita with the control scheme consisting of pressing X for Forma.8 to produce a pulse; pressing square to lay a mine to attack plant pods who spawn enemies; pressing L to display a map, listing of currently unlocked abilities and collectables; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to fly Forma.8 around the surroundings; and pressing start to display the pause menu, while there are no major changes to the control scheme on the DualShock 4 controller. There are no alternative controls mapped to the touch screen or rear touch pad on Vita and touch pad on DualShock 4, while vibration on the DualShock 4 controller occurs when an enemy attack hits Forma.8, although the light bar is surprisingly not utilised as it could have produced appropriate colours to form an alternative to the health bar contained within the HUD.
Graphically, Forma.8 combines cel-shaded and abstract art styles with a colour palette fusing dark foreboding and bright colours to form a stark contrast that collectively work in perfect harmony to create a stunning visual experience on Vita and PS4 at a smooth 60 frames per second, while PS4 Pro support provides native 4K resolution at 60 frames per second.
The presentation of the game is minimalist with a touch screen based user interface on Vita, despite the touch pad on DualShock 4 not being supported across the main menu, options menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons. The background of the menu screens consists of a dark planet omitting a blue glow in amongst a universe of stars.
Sound effects include musical notes being produced when you collect energy flowers in a relaxing manner reminiscent of Flower, Forma.8 accidentally bumping into walls or rocks, enemies leaping or flying to attack your exploration probe, utilising Forma.8’s unique abilities to hit back at enemies and collecting artefacts or secret objects. Ambient sounds provide more life to the unfamiliar surroundings such as the hum of a nearby generator in the location you begin your adventure, brushing up against grass, rippling water and spewing lava which are all complimented by a soundtrack of instrumental music that fuses tranquil and futuristic genres to maximum effect. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation on the PS4 version which is surprising as it could have produced a number of sound effects; most notably of all being the unwinding musical notes when collecting energy flowers or ambience.
The trophy list includes 30 trophies with 15 bronze trophies, 8 silver trophies, 6 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Harmless No More bronze trophy for reactivating your shield; the Find Them All bronze trophy for finding the first artefact; the Addicted To Life bronze trophy for finding the first energy flower; and the Another Lead bronze trophy for finding the first secret object. The majority of the trophies will be earned through natural progression, although there are a few potentially harder trophies such as the In Top Shape silver trophy for finding all energy flowers; the Open World silver trophy for opening every passage; and a few larger enemies along the way such as the Go Veg silver trophy for defeating the fire plant. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 20 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although the progressive nature of how enemies being capable of utilising their respective attacks that increase in power with every new enemy variant introduced certainly provides some unpredictability to what may lay around the corner as each new enemy usually requires a unique strategy to defeat them.
There is no local or online multiplayer which can be appreciated as co-operative multiplayer would not have been fitting to the premise of the lead character being isolated in a hostile environment. However, I would have liked to have seen a unique form of competitive multiplayer in which one player would be controlling Forma.8 and the other player would have full control of every surrounding enemy in an attempt to destroy the lead character. There are no online leaderboards which could have included the fastest times for completing the entire game, the highest amount of collectables found and the most enemies destroyed along the way to successfully completing Forma.8’s mission.
Despite Forma.8 not having any multiplayer or leaderboards that games in similar genres often have; the replayability is still more than ample as it stems from exploring a huge open world containing challenging enemies, puzzles and collectables such as artefacts, energy flowers and secret objects which will keep players engaged and coming back for more for quite some time.
• Title: Forma.8
• Developer: MixedBag
• Publisher: MixedBag
• System: PS4, PS Vita and PlayStation TV
• Format: PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: Yes (PS4 and PS Vita)
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1
• Memory Card Space Required: 490MB (Version 1.02)/Hard Drive Space Required: 620.9MB (Version 1.03)