William and Sly
If you think you're familiar with the work of Lucas Paakh, think again. Just released, William and Sly is a gorgeous adventure set in a world of melancholic beauty and high fantasy. You play Sly, a small fox living with William. You'd love nothing better than to spend your days leaping through the trees in search of mushrooms, especially those hidden away by greedy gnomes, but today William needs your help. The elaborate teleportation system he set up has suddenly become deactivated, and it's up to you to find out why and fix it with the help of the mysterious fairyflies. Just be careful of where you step, as the sinister Darklings are also after the fairyflies... for an entirely different reason.
The world outside William's door is enormous. Rain-slicked mountains, towering fir trees, and hidden caverns await your exploration. Tapping [shift] will bring up your objectives screen, and your map when you finally gain one. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around, and tap [up] or [W] to leap. Don't be afraid to fall, because Sly can take anything you throw at him. In fact, the silky-smooth control scheme practically begs you to push it to its limits and run, leap, and maybe even soar your way to discover every hidden item. The game is a stunner, with a haunting soundtrack and incredibly smooth visuals.
Analysis: The downside is that as fun as it is to play, you'd better enjoy it while you've got it. If you're not intent on exploring the map for all it's worth, you can actually finish the game rather quickly. Is it still fun? Oh yes, tremendously. But it winds up feeling like a chunk of a much larger game rather than a complete one on its own. The tidbits of the mythos behind it we're offered hint at a much bigger world, and after activating all the stones I would have liked to have been able to explore it further. In a way, this is actually a mark in its favour; leaving someone craving more can be a big compliment.
William and Sly feels like the casual gameplay equivalent of one of those relaxation CDs, only instead of whale songs we've got a lovely landscape to explore with some very fun platforming. The area design is actually well laid-out, and with how big the map is I'm a little flabbergasted at the amount of work that must have gone into it. The platforms and trees are placed at logical intervals so running and leaping through them feels natural and breezy, and you'll get more adept at spotting corners where hidden mushrooms may lie. If you're looking for an epic journey, William and Sly may fall short for you, but taken as a treat rather than a full meal, it's still a gorgeous game with a lot to offer.