The Other Side
There's nothing I like more than seeing a game followed up by a thoughtful sequel that takes the series in a new direction while still maintaining some of the original's integrity. Hollywood may have shied away from this trend these days (how many Jaws movies have been made at this point?) but that doesn't mean we don't get a good sequel in the indie gaming community every now and then.
The Other Side, a new puzzle platformer from developer CoolioNiato, is the next game in the series apparently started by the recently-reviewed One Step Back. This time, your goal is to collect golden sparks around each level. Collect all of them and the door will open to the next level. But you played One Step Back, and you know it's not that simple. After you gather your first spark, a golden aura appears around your character which reveals hidden platforms and walls within the bounds of the aura. Later on in the game, this aura can be turned on and off by pressing the down [arrow] or [S], depending on your control scheme. The Other Side doesn't present you with any enemies, but you can die by falling off the screen. Oh, and did I mention that the levels turn when you move onto slanted walls? Well, they do, so prepare to get a little dizzy.
The Other Side is packed with ideas, but manages to be a lot more brooding and relaxed than its predecessor. Once again, we have smooth platforming that has one evident flaw: it's pretty slippery. A few times, I would walk slowly off the edge of the platform and go sailing through the air with momentum that made it seem like I had run off the platform at full speed. Fortunately, this glitch isn't too difficult to overcome, and the rest of the game is well worth it. Though not all platforms and walls are visible, the game rarely feels like a scavenger hunt. The levels are laid out well enough that a few minutes spent hunting for the correct path often gives satisfying results. Much like One Step Back, the gameplay shifts towards the last few levels, which I will once again refrain from mentioning at the risk of spoilers. I will say that the impact of the shift is not so dramatic this time, but won't elaborate any further.
The atmosphere created by The Other Side is suitably melancholy; the levels are twisted, disjointed, and sometimes disorienting. The music is something straight out of a noir crime film, and the story, while perhaps a little heavy-handed, suits the game more than its predecessor. Once again, I have to point out the developer has created a real experience driven by all the elements of the game, not just one gimmick. Though it's not as innovative as One Step Back, it ties in well without feeling forced. Jaws producers would do well to take notes. Hopefully, The Other Side isn't the last game in this unique and creative series.