Welcome to 140, a game so well executed that it makes perfect sense that your “character” will only ever be in the form of one of three simple shapes. It is a square when immobile, a circle during horizontal movement on a surface, and a triangle when jumping or otherwise in the air. These three forms just feel right as you jump around the levels in what is, at its core, classic 2D platforming. The interesting conundrum that arises is that describing such a simple game in such a simple way just doesn’t do it justice. Yes, 140 is “just” a platformer, but its unique and quality execution sets it apart from being “just” a platformer.
With only basic shapes and colors to look at, the moody and entrancing music does a superb job of pulling the player in and immersing them in a world of rhythmic platforming. If you don’t normally wear headphones while gaming or if you were thinking they wouldn’t be necessary for a game like this, I would highly recommend wearing them. Wearing headphones will help you pick up on subtle musical nuances that are an integral part of the overall experience of this game. This isn’t a fast and frenetic platformer, but rather one that slows you down, pulls you in and makes you listen. If there were any kind of analogy that fits how this game plays, it would be that it’s your dance partner and the soundtrack is the leader.
140 is a positively miniscule game. At only three levels long, and taking about an hour to two to finish, it’s about as bite size as a game can be while remaining fun and engaging. The game starts by placing you in a hub area, with zero narration, text, or instructions of any kind. You are greeted by floating orbs rolling off to your right, one of which drops just low enough for you to collect. With the orb in tow, you then roll over an area that is clearly meant to be the place to which you take these orbs and that begins your unique journey. This isn’t the only place you will be collecting an orb, however, as these orbs are integral to progression in the levels and bringing them to their designated spot will cue new layers of music, which in turn activates new parts of the level. And while there are no explicit instructions, 140 does a very good job of providing visual cues and clues as the game progresses to introduce you to new concepts before throwing you into a more complicated situation.
The only controls to speak of are the four arrow keys on your keyboard, which is all you need. They are superbly tuned and have great feel to them, which is important in a stripped down game such as this. Every aspect of the platforming action is set to the music. But rather than a Rayman Legends style rhythm platformer where a full out run with timed jumps and punches will get you through the level, 140 goes at its own pace and forces you to go along with it. You will be with the rhythm completely at some points, surviving by jumping perfectly in time with it, while going at the pace of the rhythm in other areas will get you killed. You have stop, wait, observe, and possibly just sacrifice yourself so you can see the intention of the puzzle laid ahead of you. The pauses cause in interesting break in fluidity, which in turn causes you to listen more earnestly to the entrancing soundtrack to pick back up on the rhythm of the stage.
The layouts of the stages are great and obviously well thought out with segments that require precision timing and some out of the box thinking to progress. There are also three “boss” areas at the end of each level that all fit within the rhythm themed gameplay. All three are completely different, with the final “boss” being the most unique and brain teasing of them all. You will be given free rein to select whichever level you so choose once the game is completed, with the implicit understanding that the challenge that now lies before you is completing the levels death free.
With so many games attempting to “push the envelope” in this day and age, it’s more than a little refreshing to run into one that pulls it back to square one almost literally. Sometimes all you need for a good game is a quality concept coupled with a simple but stellar follow through. 140 does just that in a small minimalist package. Top notch platforming mechanics combined with a brilliantly captivating soundtrack that seamlessly meshes with the unique visuals and gameplay turn it into an experience that shouldn’t be missed. 140 is gaming minimalism done right — just don’t expect it to last you very long.