Zenmasters live up to their name with the lovely watercolour-swept puzzle platformer Koan, where you play an impulsive disciple struggling to understand the apparently passive ways of your master when all you want is to climb the mountain and get stronger. After all, what good did sitting around ever do anyone? Well, a lot, actually, since in this game meditating is what allows you to proceed. Using [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, you can move and jump (you'll grab hold of the edges of platforms you're close enough to), moving your cursor to the edges of the screen will scroll the level, and tapping [S] will make you sit or rise from a meditative state. Notice those swirling orbs throughout the stages? Grabbing them allows you to place temporary platforms wherever you like with the click of a button while meditating, and when they vanish after fading in and out for a few seconds, the orb can be retrieved to try again. Your goal in each stage is to use these orbs to make your way to the exit, without falling too far to your death.
Koan is one of those games that's both simple and yet simply lovely. While the controls feel a little stiff in a way that puts me in mind of Another World (or maybe Lester the Unlikely), Koan's slow pace and mellow atmosphere doesn't exactly encourage you to move fast anyway. ... well, for the most part, considering the timed vanishing of the meditative platforms, which does sort of feel a bit at odds with the game's narrative. "Sit. Take the world in. EXCEPT FOR NOW NOW NOW BEFORE YOU DROP INTO A PIT OF SPIKES RUN GRAB THAT KEY" It forces you to be a lot more precise in some cases, yet allows for some awkward fumbling for success in others when the running, jumping, and climbing doesn't feel as smooth as it should. Though the game perhaps starts off as too easy for too long considering its slow pace, once you learn the ropes the levels become significantly more complex. No more relaxing climbs through the mountains for you, now it's all spikes and keys and double-sided locked doors and switches. It'll make you wish its rough edges were a bit smoother, though perhaps these are the sort of issues that can only be improved upon with experience as the developer improves... which is sort of apt, considering the game's subject. While not perfect, Koan is still a striking little game with a wonderful distinctive style, and makes me hope we see even more from the developer in the future.