"Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night, nor plasma beams, nor giant spinning saw blades, nor weird, vicious, mutant dog-like things with spikes growing out of their back, stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
Hmmm, that doesn't seem right. But it must be, at least if you're Finwick, the scrappy young title character from Jackson Lewis's gorgeous new game. If the character and the tight level design seem familiar to you, it's because Lewis is the supersecret mastermind behind Platform, the serial puzzle-platforming adventure that captured the hearts of so many in 2007. In fact, Finwick is billed as a sequel to Platform, though the phrase "spiritual successor" might be more appropriate in this case.
You see, Finwick's not trapped in an alien warehouse with no idea how he got there. He's just making his very first delivery for the Royal Mail. Nothing weird or creepy about that, right? Of course not! At least that's what he thinks until he starts coming across mutant fish, vicious dackpaws, and creeped-out forest denizens. The further into the forest he ventures, the stranger things become!
Controls are pretty typical of platformers: [left] arrow and [right] arrow to move, [space] to jump, [up] arrow to climb ladders and [down] arrow to activate switches. Use [Z] to switch between characters once Finwick's friend/love interest Pentella joins him on the adventure. If you don't like the key assignments, you can customize them using the Options menu ‒ always a plus for games requiring precision movements.
Fans of Platform will be excited to hear that the full version of Fenwick offers 79 levels of platforming nirvana. Yes, that's right, I said full version, meaning that to access all 79 levels, you'll have to fork over $5.99. Luckily, the first 25 levels are totally free ‒ no registration, no gimmicks, no nothin'. There's a couple of training missions that I wish were skippable, followed by about a dozen single-character platforming challenges. After that, Pentella enters and the rest of the game requires the use of both characters. Although the bulk of the game is only available to those who pay, the 25 free levels are well worth playing on their own.
Analysis: Instead of simply making Platform 2, Lewis took the time to really craft a distinct, polished product. The levels are smoothly tied together by the carefully crafted (if a bit formulaic) story, with characters whose differences go beyond the color of their shirts. The dialogue seems a bit choppy at times, but the controls are smooth as butter ‒ a welcome upgrade from the slippery, unresponsive controls that plagued Platform. Shadows, textures, and a pleasing palette make the artwork appear as if it was painted right onto your screen. Not a pixel seems out of place anywhere.
The level design continues to uphold the high standard set in Platform, although the difficulty seems just a tad lighter (perhaps that's simply an effect of the better controls). For better or worse, the jetpack is nonexistent in Finwick, although there are plenty of other twists to knock your noggin. Along the way, you'll see tributes to classic video games like Donkey Kong and the Indiana Jones style mine car games.
The free levels end at just the right time to tempt you into purchasing the full game: the story is moving along nicely and the levels have just gotten into their full swing of awesomeness. You'll know by the time you get there whether or not you'll want to continue into the full game. All I can say is that if you do pay for the full game, you will not be disappointed. The full game lives up both to the promise of the first levels and the legacy of Platform.
I'm not sure I can say enough good things about it, so I'll just leave it at this: In Finwick, Jackson Lewis has once again crafted a brilliant gem of a platformer.