What do you when you have a yen for some online puzzle platformer fun, but find that no one game will satisfy your itch? Why not try three puzzle platformers at once? Paradox Embrace, by Zeebarf and Steve Castro, provides exactly that.
You play a heroic, red-headed everyman (or possibly three distinct everymen, bound across space and time by their common heroic destiny, as is often the case) whose heroic goal is to heroically defeat some unnamed variety of fell, fedora-sporting, shadow overlord (also often the case). To defeat it, you naturally must heroically traipse about various levels to collect some pretty cool-looking artifacts of heroic, shadow-negating power.
Navigation controls are [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, while [space], [up], or [W] lets you jump, heroically.
The trick to these levels is switching between what I am calling game-worlds, achieved by activating distinct, pedestal-mounted "changers" with the [down] or [S] keys. Each of the three game-worlds has its own themed platforms, obstacles, enemies, doors, and keys, as well as its own slick look for our hero. Aside from doors, which merely require that you collect the appropriate key, you can only interact with these themed elements when you have set the proper game world.
I suppose this could have been overwhelming, but the game-worlds are actually quite alike in many ways, and thanks to clues and details considerately left by the game designers, you will quickly learn what walls and enemies would be active in each game world. An insuperable barrier of green amber in nature-world becomes a passable green fog in tech-land. A slobbering demon becomes a harmless statue once hell-world is deactivated. In this way you recover keys, open doors, and neutralize foes, bringing you one step closer to defeating the shadowy menace (heroically).
Analysis: There's a lot to like about Paradox Embrace. For one, it features Zeebarf's characteristic, offbeat artistic design. From obvious touches, like the way the platforms and backgrounds change between game-worlds, to little details, like the quirky, harmless eyeballs looking at you from the platforms, Paradox Embrace gives the eye a lot to do. It's worth playing just to explore another of Zeebarf's bizarre creations, especially if you are a fan of his previous work.
Caulder Bradford's soundtrack does for the ear what Zeebarf does for the eye. Each level has its own musical theme, which is scored differently depending on the game-world you are in. Your ear will always know where you are, enhancing the sense of the odd as you switch between game-worlds.
It doesn't take long to get used changing game-worlds and anticipating the results, and you soon find that you are negotiating three games at once with ease. The crew deserves credit for making a somewhat tricky concept simple to understand. The level design is tight, not so hard it frustrates, not so easy it blunts the sense of exploration. The controls are a lot cleaner than many browser platformers, though I could complain that it is sometimes uncertain whether certain diagonal platforms can be stood upon. I could also complain that there is a lack of monsters (one for each game-world), or that there are only nine levels (though the ability to replay levels for better completion times increases the game's half-life somewhat), or that the weird epigrams at the end of each level smack of a little pretense. But these are minor complaints against what is a solid platforming experience.
It's not an especially difficult game, and it took me under an hour to complete (and it was possible I was distracted by something). But Paradox Embrace offers awesome design, a nifty gameplay conceit, and a cool world, or three worlds, to explore. So embrace the paradox!