July 7th, 2012 | By Dominic Tarason
Always beware the quiet ones. Spanish freeware guru Locomalito is definitely one to keep a shifty eye on from now on, as it seems that he’s been silently toiling away at a new game. Or, rather, a remake. Endless Forms Most Beautiful was a semi-procedurally-generated arcade maze game originally released earlier this year, but for a platform that isn’t exactly in vogue nowadays; the ZX Spectrum. While it’s good to see such archaic systems still getting some indie love, it doesn’t exactly make the game wildly accessible for most modern gamers. Enter this Windows remake, with an appropriately retro FM synth soundtrack by long-term co-conspirator Gryzor87.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful is a fairly simple arcade score-attack maze game. Playing solo, cooperative or competitively, two representatives from different galactic tribes hop through weird dimensions in search of Imps – strange little critters found across all realities which, according to the manual, are delicious when dipped in chocolate. Whether you’re planning on eating them or not, they’re worth points, and you have to collect all of them to end each level. Controls are super-minimal here, with just the arrow keys or WSAD used for players 1 & 2 respectively. There’s no jumping, but you warp between floors so long as there’s ‘thin’ floor below or a ‘thick’ one above.
The other interesting quirk is that the playfield wraps round, but not in the way you might expect. Run off the left side of the screen and you’ll appear on the right, but one floor higher. Move off the right side and you’ll descend a level, so it takes a little more attention than you’d think to dodge all the enemies. It helps if you think of the level as one big corkscrew spiral. There’s also various surprises to mix things up. Sometimes when you grab an Imp, it’ll drop a bomb, which’ll clear out all enemies on that level, but also kill you if you’re there when it goes off. There’s also a range of powerups to help speed things along.
The original Spectrum version asks you what your favourite four-letter word is at the start. As well as being an excuse to write rude words, this is used as a seed code to generate the strange and unique Imps that you’re trying to gather, and also the levels themselves. The PC version sadly skips this clever step, and seems to just pick randomly by itself. While there’s a linear progression of difficulty through 15 stages, the layout changes slightly based on what the wheel of fate landed on. It’s not a huge amount of randomization, but it helps keep the game feeling fresh if you’re playing it repeatedly. There’s also a vein of rather silly British humour running through the whole thing, especially visible in the rather daft (and also randomly generated) information on each kind of Imp.
It’s all good, clean fun, and with decent replay value alone or with a friend, so it gets my full recommendation. With EFMB complete and released, Locomalito announces that he’s returning to work on his Ghosts n’ Goblins-esque Maldita Castilla. You can find an early demo of the game on the official page, and it’s well worth a play if you ever enjoyed the old Capcom platformer series. Oh, and you can also download the original Speccy version of EFMB and an emulator to play it on over at the bottom of this rather nifty RGCD review, if you want to see how it played on the original platform. Personally, I’ll take the remake any day of the week.