Video game heroes come in all shapes and sizes: The short, portly Mario; the imposing Master Chief; the miniscule Prince of All Cosmos. From the State of Yucatan, Mexico’s Fat Panda Games studio is looking to create a fresh hero, one that refuses to stay in one shape or size. In the shape-shifting Flatman, which launched its crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo at the beginning of July, Fat Panda Games are making bold aesthetic experiments, all while evolving the platformer beyond it’s status quo. While it’s clearly in the early stages, Flatman has some creative ideas that complement its already fantastic visuals.
Flatman is an amorphous creature who’s out to save the kidnapped princess of the Flat Kingdom from an evil force. Flatman’s special ability allows him to change into three different forms: circle, square, and triangle. Each “shape” has its own set of abilities. Circle form has a moderate speed, but an increased jump height. Triangle is faster, best for long jumps. Square has a very slow speed, but increased strength and weight. You can switch between forms with the press of a button, keeping all abilities within an easy access. The different shapes also come into play with enemies – using a rock-paper-scissors system, each shape has an advantage against another. Triangles pop circular enemies, circles roll down square enemies, and squares smash triangular enemies. Flatman takes a simple concept and adds layer upon layer with special skills and unique attributes.
The brief demo I got to play showed only a small snippet of what’s to come. Differently-shaped enemies appear, allowing Flatman to take them out with each shape’s unique skills. The skills must also be used to navigate levels, jumping wide gaps as a triangle, or pushing heavy boulders as a square. There weren’t too many moments in the demo where a certain shape was required, which could allow for creativity in speed runs. The game’s controls do feel awkward at times and collision detection is extremely imprecise for some enemies. Enemies placed on walls are also far too difficult to avoid. Still, the game is built on interesting ideas, and there’s plenty of time to fix these issues.
The graphics might not be too technically advanced, but the blocky aesthetic has plenty of charm. With characters that look like construction paper puppets and enemies made of origami, the world of Flatman is full of whimsy and creativity. The first boss is a giant polygonal, paper plant with a kitschy look and some great animations. Flatman himself doesn’t move like the rest of the world, instead morphing between forms. His white-lined body twists itself into each mode, and while that’s still charming, it feels too different from the rest of the environment. It makes his character seem out of place, but overall, the game’s world oozes charm.
Flatman is still early in development, so many of the problems can be fixed up long before the game’s Spring 2015 release window. The collision detection and level design have some serious issues, which make navigation less fluid than it should be. But Flatman takes pride in the clever ways its aesthetic design drives gameplay. Overall, Flatman is shaping up to be a creative little indie platformer with a charming art design and some inventive mechanics. If the technical wrinkles can be ironed out, this could be one of the top indie games of next year.