“Leaps Ahead of The Bulk of The Indie Marketplace.”
<Coming June 22nd to XBLIG and Windows PC by Smudged Cat Games>
An XboxHornet Preview by Liam Jugler..
Your first instinct of Gateway will be, inevitably, to call it a Portal ripoff. In some ways, this is true. Much of the game is built around portals and Portal-esque puzzles. To pretend that the game is wholly unique would be lying to yourself. However, these traits are not solely negative. Gateway does some very interesting and fun things with the concepts it lifts and implements many of them in a variety of interesting and unique ways.
Gateway is actually equal parts Metroid and Portal. You start the game without any gadgets and I feel this part of the game will turn people off. The gadgets are what set Gateway apart from the other puzzle games of its ilk and starting the game off as a boring platformer which slowly turns into an interesting puzzler seems like a mistake. After you’ve managed to find a couple of the Gateway Guns, the game improves massively and I feel as though this should happen much earlier. Once the game begins to throw several mechanics together and the portals begin doing much much more than merely connecting two points, Gateway becomes something more than its first impression betrays.
The puzzles follow a similar pattern. Most of the early ones are obvious and dull, bringing nothing interesting to the experience but as soon as you have several items at your disposal the game begins to come into its own. When Gateway manages to come out of its shell, it is full of impressive little touches; The portals project an image of what’s on the other side all over the screen that is at the same time confusing and a brilliant way of recreating the Portal-view in 2D, The baubles you collect can be used to buy solutions to puzzles which is a commendable effort to dealing with the pointlessness of other collect-a-thons, though the requirement to even have the pointless baubles is somewhat confusing given that you always have more than enough of them and they are never used for anything else. I should also mention that the puzzle design in itself is, in places, inspired; complex brain teasers that combine the multiple effects of your various tools in increasingly unique and strange ways. After that initial starting hurdle is past, Gateway has some of the smartest puzzles I’ve ever seen in the genre.
The biggest negative is the overall world design. The lab is huge and built around accommodating the various puzzles that makes up the game. Perhaps it’s unavoidable given the situation it makes moving from place to place a pain in the ass. The puzzles are also structured and laid out pretty haphazardly. Very early on you’re told to go explore the basement. You’re only there about 10 minutes before you have to go exploring another part of the map, miles away, with no indication that you should other than a big flashing red arrow.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I wasn’t impressed by Gateway. It has a wealth of difficult (in the good way) puzzles and the hints system means progress is never impossible or frustrating. The gadgets themselves are fun to play with and the combinations possible make for some of the best puzzles you’ll see. I have no doubt that Gateway will be worth the money when it’s released and is leaps ahead of most of the rest of the games on the Indie Marketplace. I highly recommend it.