Developer: Hope This Works Games
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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The year is 2012. The App Store is overrun with clones that pass unnoticed among the people, and bots that send the highest bidder to the top of the charts. Many developers promise salvation, but are quickly revealed to be snake-oil salesmen peddling IV drips full of in-app purchases. The masses cry out for solid design, fresh ideas, and rewarding gameplay. Hearing them, Polara emerges from the shadows.
A change of pace from droves of derivatives, Polara is a game that is neither shy about its influences, nor unwilling to do something compelling with them. Harnessing the color polarity system from games like Ikaruga and Outlands and spreading it across 50 levels of breakneck platforming, Polara delivers a highly difficult, repayable experience all its own.
Unlike our depressingly realistic picture of today, the alt-future of the game is filled with a sophisticated laser system that keeps the population in place. By tapping the right side of the screen to jump, and the left side to manipulate the color of their body suit, players are able to weave in and out of the fluorescent minefield, and uncover the truth of an oppressive regime.
Polara boasts tight and varied gameplay, and consummately constructed stages. Rather than rest on the laurels of novelty and squander the core mechanic, developer Hope This Works Games offers a new way to think about color matching in almost every level. What’s more, every new feature - from platforms to gravity fields - scales incrementally such that each stage has a healthy mix of staples and unexpected additions. The result is an experience that keeps players on the edge of their learning curve; one which seems frequently challenging but never unfair.
With Polara, players are also arguably getting two games in one. After completing each stage, a separate goal emerges: the collection of the titular letters and a special medallion. The position of each letter cleverly rewires the way players are required to jump, switch colors, and evaluate timing. Meanwhile, perfectionists will be enticed by the pursuit of "flawless," no-death runs. All told, Hope This Works shows that ingenuity in design trumps superfluous achievements every time.
And with the whole package going for under a dollar, this is a rebellion to get behind.