Published on December 6th, 2018 | by Craig Forshey0
Synthwave Escape Review
Sometimes the most unlikely of pairings end up making something special such as with the terrific new vaporwave themed puzzle platformer Synthwave Escape, a neon sidescroller that combines the brutal 2D platforming of Super Meat Boy and the character swapping puzzle solving of The Lost Vikings together into one unique package. In this kooky pixel art adventure from developer Moby Pixel it’s up to players to help a mullet rocking doc and his three loyal robots escape from a nightmarish labyrinth dedicated to the 80’s that packs in just as many death traps as it does strobe lights. Only by making clever use of each of the robot’s different special abilities and deftly dodging their way through progressively more deadly gauntlets can players hope to learn the backstory that has lead them to this predicament which is told through some genuinely funny cutscenes.
Although the idea of merging hardcore platforming with logic based puzzle solving might seem alien at first Synthwave Escape quickly assuages any such doubts thanks to its top notch retro visuals and highly polished gameplay. Players control their bots using a virtual gamepad scheme that allows for left/right movement, jumping, using a special ability, and switching characters. I had initially feared that the lack of a dedicated run button might make the platforming unwieldy but the robots all handle well with a fast but reasonable pace and have their own emergency powers to get them out of a jam in a pinch if need be.
The goal of each level is to get all of one’s robots to the exit door by hitting switches to remove any barriers in their way which is usually easier said than done thanks to the dozens of rotating buzzsaws and cannons shooting in their direction while they try to figure out how to advance to the next stage. While one robot can dash extremely quickly over short distances another can flip gravity upside down which gives them access to parts of each level that the other robots can’t reach which usually is essential to finding the level exit. Speed is key as the clock is ticking down on each stage but it’s also important not to get too zealous as the robots can only take a handful of hits before they go kaput and cause a level restart.
The totally tubular 80’s inspired pixel art looks great with modest but stylish level design that puts the color purple to great use alongside the rest of its neon minded aesthetic. The characters and special effects all mesh together well with a really cool dynamic zoom-in feature to the camera that gets in close at certain points to highlight the action. Between missions players are treated to groan-inducing banter between the bots as well as adorably silly cutscenes that infuse proceedings with some well received levity. True to its namesake Synthwave Escape features a really catchy original synthwave soundtrack that will transport players back to the 80’s with its dated but daring digital ditties.
Summary: Synthwave Escape is a terrific puzzle platformer that is as challenging as it is stylish.