Given the length and period of time specific AAA games often demand of a player to invest, it’s nice once in a while to approach a game that lies entirely on the opposite end of that scale. A scale — regardless of the amount of pairs of hands involved in the project — that underlines the importance of judging a project on what it ends up delivering, rather than how much of it. For a game that can be approached with a lot more of a relaxed and downtempo state of mind, more importantly, finished within that same day, the end delivery becomes all that more important. Then again, it’s a good time at present to be a lone-man developer/studio and with the continuing popularity of platformers, puzzle-platformers and puzzle-platformer-leaning adventure games alike, striking a short-term chord can potentially mean your solemn little identity is suddenly flung into the starry-eyed, more long-term lime-light.
Let’s be clear, short games — the ones that often take up, at most, around two maybe three hours of your time and rarely have a secondary pull to warrant to a return — are no bad thing and I’d be lying if I said the averaged-out duration of a game’s “campaign” is what settles the final score, but in the case of a game like BOOR, created by fellow one-man developer, Dazlog Studio, you can’t help but come away from its two-or-so-hour adventure still feeling a little short-changed at what’s offered up. Be it the depth of its puzzles or the length at which it covers its lead narrative on a human colony overrun by an oppressively ominous AI, BOOR is the kind of game that bets (perhaps relies) on the good-will garnered by modern-day classics of this ilk — of 2D puzzle platformers that may, or may not, carry with them a strict code on color palette and aesthetic — to see its tale through.
For those already indoctrinated on the mentality as much the philosophy of these kinds of games, there’s very little BOOR does that either surprises or startles the player with its 80-plus assortment of button-pressing, lever-pulling puzzles that use, but don’t fully push, the abilities of young girl whom [though unexplained] can duplicate herself — controlling a secondary clone while the original is left idle — albeit for a short period of time. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a definite degree of tension, indeed skill required, in order to time things to perfection — making one wrong move ultimately meaning all your good work is undone and requires a quick-if-frustrating restart of that particular puzzle. In this sense, BOOR does good (especially in later puzzles) of keeping the clear goal feeling like it’s within arm’s reach to coax the player to success.
Dazlog Studio’s visual approach should also be noted given the very clear restriction of its own color palette to primarily one main hue — a reddish-pink — that, together with a mix of greys alongside the standard black/white clash, comprises the game’s underlining aesthetic. Coupled with its simple geometric shapes and rigid design and BOOR, if a little minimal, is nonetheless crisp, clean and pleasing to the eye on a design front, as if taken directly from the portfolio of some contemporary illustrator. An intentional link or not, the way central gameplay mechanics are also stripped-back, surprisingly makes boss battles (though in themselves confined to relatively basic attack patterns and three-hit standards) does slightly up the challenge and difficulty — giving off more than what their visual design may allude. Like puzzles, these battles have no real check-points, hence your player-character’s own one-hit mortality will mean replaying the whole set-piece all over again should you get hit.
Though life and death can sometimes, annoyingly, come down to positioning your character within the right pocket of pixels, these stand-alone moments never really overstay their welcome — managing to do enough good on the difficulty curve while at the same time providing enough of a test of players’ platforming skills to break-up the game’s regular flow of one puzzle after another. In regards to the puzzles themselves, though the majority of the game’s efforts do stick to a relatively approachable and smoothening difficulty curve, some of the later entries do unfortunately suffer from a spike in the game’s closing act/chapter — players likely put-off by both the requirements and sudden increase in length these particular moments will often last.
Perhaps the greatest disappointment about the chosen placement of puzzles especially is how little some of the more unique spins and uses of one’s duplication ability, are used in comparison to the reliance on merely pulling levers and jumping about on ever-smaller platforms within these closed-off moments. One puzzle, requiring you to move certain tiles into place within a certain number of moves/turns — a highlight of the eighty-or-so offered up — are few and far between. It’s only during the closing segments does the variety, as indeed the difficulty, see an unpredicted spike and it ultimately comes across as the developer relentlessly, desperately trying to shoe-horn variety in right at the end rather than methodically drip-feeding it in much earlier proceedings.
Again, to reiterate, short games are no bad thing by any stretch. Providing that they’re willing to entertain as much vary up said means of entertainment within their stricter time-frame, the value of one’s own time is almost meaningless compared to other avenues of critique. However, BOOR‘s tale (or lack thereof) is over so quickly and without much consideration for any sort of narrative taking place — outside of a few stretched corridor segments and speech-bubbles one has to button-mash through in order to carry on — it’s hard not to quickly pass off and forget the very basic structure laid out before us. The fact the inclusion of a game-within-a-game element — the presence of three basic, score-racking arcade games during one of the game’s interludes of sorts — can likely be regarded as the game’s only real memorable moment and it becomes clear that BOOR‘s execution is in much the same vein of plentiful fellow 2D puzzle-platformers, some executing their formula in much more memorable and unique ways.
For those looking for the kind of wind-me-down indie title that can still rustle up a good, nuanced frustration from time to time, BOOR will meet that demand (if not exceed it) without letting its potential annoyances get in the way or become the focal point. Unfortunately, there’s not much else to find in this brief puzzle-platformer that warrants the case a bulk of the developer’s true focus was really, truly invested that deeply. The simplified and illustrative presentation is a pleasant assortment of pinkish-reds and greyscale tones and the way this basic geometry can at times deliver something a little more complex and demanding in the gameplay front can be regarded the game’s real height at points. A pleasant experience it may be, just don’t expect anything other than conformity to a tried-and-tested formula.