Life isn’t easy for a malformed tetronimo. Nobody needs a piece with only three squares when every puzzle is tuned to require four, so the physically disabled tetronimo segment ends up in the reject pile. The long-term solution to his troubles is pending incineration, but its got very strong opinions about being slagged, so with a little clever jumping it escapes into the factory. It’s not the first escapee, though, and soon runs across a little single-block fugitive. The solution to both their problems is obvious, so one merger later and the two are working as a single functioning block in a factory that still seems determined to eliminate them.
Refactor made an appearance a year ago as Tetropolis, complete with a Kickstarter campaign and fairly impressive demo. Although the Kickstarter didn’t succeed that didn’t lead to Tetropolis‘ death, but instead a reassessment and rebranding. The Tetris-style puzzle game got a makeover to be original instead of riding the coattails of an established brand,and an unrelenting graphical polish was mercilessly applied to every square inch of the presentation. Refactor looks and plays better now than it did as Tetropolis and that was already a promising game.
Basically, Refactor is a Metroidvania-style platformer with shapeshifting Tetris piece. While it usually rolls around in square form it can transform into the classic shapes, each with a different ability. The demo was for the first section of game so the primary ability on display was the square’s ground-smash, useful for knocking sense into the end-of-demo boss, and the long piece has a spring-jump, but the really impressive bit of gameplay is open to all the shapes.
In addition to being a classic-style Metroidvania, where you explore everywhere and come back with new abilities to familiar areas, Refactor also lets you play with level construction. It’s not apparent at first that each room is shaped like a Tetris piece, but once you get access to the map it’s impossible to miss. More than just a stylish touch, the room shape creates a puzzle in its own right. Red pieces are locked into place, but blue ones can be picked up and moved around, rotated into place and accessible so long as the doors line up. You can even see bits of debris cascading down the corridor as you rotate it, piling up at the new floor. Rotating the piece also rotates the room’s traps and platforms, turning a simple walk across the floor with a few easy jumps into a deadly trap-filled column of impending death. Figuring out how to line up the rooms of an area to progress makes a nice puzzley break from the platforming, and there’s promised to be plenty of secrets to chase after for particularly clever arrangements.
Refactor is a multi-layered meta puzzle platformer, with the puzzles making the platforming work while the whole world exists in service to a puzzle game. For a rolling square the tetronimo controls surprisingly well, jumping and hopping with a good sense of momentum. The end-of-demo boss fight was nicely creative, needing a combination of all abilities to clear the challenge with platforming skill being just as important as dodging and smashing. There’s been a lot of care in the fine details of Refactor and even in an early-game demo state they come together to make a puzzle-platformer that feels like it never wants to stop being inventive. It’s surprising to see how good a platforming hero a random pair of deformed tetronimo blocks can be, but they’ve got the moves and the puzzles to stand out in a well-worn genre.