Standing out from the crowd of games on the Switch’s eShop right now is a very challenging task indeed; countless indie developers have flocked to the console to show their support and generate sales of their games, and the digital store’s user interface doesn’t really offer much help to lost customers. On gameplay ideas alone, however, TorqueL -Physics Modified Edition- manages to pop its head over the masses by providing a puzzler experience with an interestingly unique control style. So is it worth checking out?
In theory, TorqueL consists of a very simple concept; you must move your character – who is standing inside a movable box – from ‘point A’ to ‘point B’. In practice, though, this isn’t as easy as it looks; while a flick of your control stick will move the box left and right, you’ll need to manipulate the four coloured sides of the box, extending and retracting them, to fling yourself around each level in what quickly becomes a physics-based moment of madness. You can use the sides to boost yourself upwards, prevent yourself from landing on any fatal sections, or even to pull yourself up and around certain ledges.
Each side of the box is mapped to one of your four face buttons – A, B, X, and Y. When the box is standing upright this is rather easy to understand as the sides follow the same shape as the four buttons (with ‘B’ being down, ‘X’ being up); when the box has been flipped over to a random side, however, trying to work out which button is needed to extend which colour becomes incredibly difficult, especially during any intense platforming sections. On other consoles the sides are coloured in the same way as the buttons on the controller and, while the Switch version rather cutely uses the SNES’ famous button layout, the lack of button colour on Joy-Con and Pro Controllers means that you lose the instant connection between button and control.
The game has 50 levels to explore, although individual runs won’t see each and every one of them. As you make your way over the spinning platforms, gravity-defying holograms, and red pools of grizzly doom, you’ll eventually start to notice that certain levels have two exits. Depending on the exits you choose to take, you’ll find yourself going on different ‘routes’ through the game, often skipping various levels in the process. If you want to see everything that the game has to offer, you’ll need to do several run-throughs to explore every last room.
The main problem with TorqueL, though, is that it never really goes anywhere; the obstacles remain the same throughout the entire game, each level feels a little too similar to the last, and while impressive at first, the control scheme never has the chance to truly evolve or show itself off throughout the game’s steady progression. The levels get trickier the further you get, but for the most part this feels more frustrating than fun.
As well as this, there are a couple of areas where the game is held back to its overall detriment. In a similar way to games such as Super Meat Boy, deaths are a very common occurrence during most levels but, unlike Team Meat’s gruelling platformer, the time it takes for you to re-spawn after each death here kills any adrenaline or momentum you had before. There is also a clock that tells you how long your entire run has taken through each chapter, providing an incentive to speedrun the whole game, but the often unpredictable nature of the controls makes this slightly too infuriating to attempt.
The game’s visuals get the job done but are rather bland overall; it’s nice that there are no distracting elements on screen, allowing you to focus on your run, but it feels like a little more character may have given the game that little bit extra. The soundtrack is particularly interesting in theory, too, but doesn’t quite work in practice; electronic music plays as you roll, coming to a halt whenever you stop moving, and rolling backwards makes the track play in reverse which is a clever touch, but this stop-start quality starts to get pretty tiring after a short while as it never changes.
Overall, then, TorqueL was designed with an intriguing, and potentially promising, idea, but it isn’t given the chance to be fully explored. Understanding the concept is simple, and anyone will be able to give the game a go, but ultimately it often feels like you’ll be just as likely to progress through the levels by spamming the buttons and hoping for the best, rather than spending time trying to work out which side of your box should be used. It would be interesting to see the idea developed further, especially if it could be used in conjunction with other mechanics and gameplay scenarios.
Standing out from the crowd with a unique, physics-based control scheme is all well and good but, by restricting its usage to just one simple idea, the game feels like it needs to be developed further to truly shine. The mechanics are undoubtedly interesting, and they’ll pique your curiosity at first, but after several levels players will be craving something new and that unfortunately never comes. Not a bad way to idly pass the time, then, but not something to shout home about either.