In water, heat rises and cold sinks. That's the premise behind Thermo, the temperate and mercurial new platformer by Andrew Wolfers, Daniel Carpenter, Grace Ren, Joel Gross, Kelvin Jin, and Robyn Nason. (Did I leave anybody out?) In each of the 30 levels you need to first open the exit portal and then get to it... somehow! The activator and portals aren't necessarily where you can get to them, and that's where water comes in. Floating masses of water are strategically-placed throughout the levels allowing you to use your special abilities, if you have them. Passing between red contacts heats you up, enabling you to rise if you start out in water. You'll continue to rise until you hit an overhead surface at which point you'll fall just as you ordinarily would, though you can steer your descent. Blue contacts let you create an ice platform under you while in water. Yellow contacts enhance either ability... you can create up to three ice platforms in water if you're cold, and walk on the ceiling if you're hot! Dull grey contacts return your temperature to normal, but leave any platforms or ceiling-walking abilities if they're active.
[WASD] and the [arrow keys] will get you around, and the [spacebar] toggles your current abilities, if any. Despite the controls being a little nonresponsive (hitting the [spacebar] a few times and still managing to fall off The Bottom of the Screen, for example) the keen level design keeps you coming back for more. Thermo's cozy, atmospheric soundtrack and tranquil environments enfold you snugly in it like a warm blanket, and the background music muffling whenever you enter water enhances the immersive effect dramatically. All this reduces the tendency to want to ragequit during the games more unforgiving moments, such as when it occasionally refuses to let you jump or when unlike the majority of platformers merely sliding against the side of a platform that has spikes on it will restart the level. Despite its drawbacks and for all its comforts, Thermo will hand you levels that look completely insurmountable at first only to prove easy to master once you've tried a few different approaches. Sometimes leaving special ability effects in place while swapping to another is what you need, such as leaving ice platforms in place while you're cold to walk underneath while you're hot. Or alternatively, keeping your ceilingwalking ability from being hot active while you swap over to cold in order to build your ice platforms from the other direction. Thermo has taken a straightforward game mechanic and wrung it out for all the audacious level design creativity it's worth. Go ahead. Dive in.