As the title suggests, combining elements from existing games is often a viable method of producing new gameplay concepts. The resulting illegitimate children often get called out on being little more than minglings of their parents’ DNA with no mutations, either at random or by design. One thing that’s interesting about examining the genealogy of game mechanics is the chance to see where “mutations” occur in the family tree, leading to a more diverse gaming sphere. With that in mind, consider Impulse. Describing it merely as a clumsy mix of the objectives of Lunar Lander with the controls of Asteroids wouldn’t be apt, since this only touches on the interactivity and the goals of the game and nothing else. While these elements are exact replicas of their respective parents, everything else has undergone mutation, with the possibility of I Wanna Be The Guy being the godfather, it being the only self-identified “masocore” game in existence.
Impulse has its sights set firmly on the more hardcore end of the spectrum, in that each and every level of this physics-based obstacle course will take a number of attempts to pass. However, the simplicity of the controls, combined with a quick death-retry turnaround, ensures ease of entry to those of us that didn’t grow up on NES platformers. As stated, the controls for your little sphere are deceptively simple. The left mouse button makes it accelerate towards the cursor, while the right makes it accelerate away. Obstacles on offer are a simple pick-and-mix that add challenge by diversity and variety of obstacles and physics conditions.
For example, one level that has you zigzagging through a short maze, avoiding the walls to save precious time, will return a few levels later with proximity mines on key points. This adds challenge by forcing you to either risk hitting the explosives by zooming by or waste time by arcing around them – and this is only one of many possible combinations of obstacles to avoid, given that you can also be threatened by patrolling shock-orbs, missiles, laser turrets, running out of gas and your own momentum near immovable objects. So, considering the amount of time you’re likely to spend on each level, trying to get through all of them will be an exercise in annoyance, with smashed computer peripherals as decorations. That aside, the elegant simplicity of the gameplay and its myriad of potential combinations is appreciable by itself. If you feel the urge to contribute to the chaos, the game installer includes a level editor which you can use to inflict the frustrations of Super Meat Boy on your fellow man.
Deck16 have created a fascinating and infuriating homage to classic gaming, and the look of the game certainly matches. Comparisons to TRON are somewhat unavoidable, with the black backgrounds populated by neon geometric shapes, glowing orbs, humming lightsparks and glowing particles. I don’t think that Deck16 would want it any other way. The retro look matches the retro feel, and the occasional homage to 80′s games in the level design only cements the decidedly retro theme of the experience. Impulse is simple, expansive and harder than diamonds with studded bracelets, so if you’re feeling impulsive, then set aside an hour or two for some self-mortification.
Find out more about Impulse, the engine powering it and its music at the Deck16 team website.[review pros="Simple, sleek design and gameplay" cons="Quickly becomes harder than concrete with embedded nails" score=69]