Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Simple but multi-sided
Two Tribes, in bringing its Classics series to the Wii U eShop, is among the first to deliver inexpensive experiences — especially with launch promotional prices — that have primarily made their home on other platforms for a good period of time. The updated edition of Toki Tori is based on its PC brethren, while now we have EDGE — originally developed by mobigame — which has been popular on smartphones, PC and as part of the PlayStation Minis series. It now arrives on the Wii U with all previous content included, and aims to prove that a simple concept, cleverly executed, translates well to a home console experience.
The core mechanic of EDGE, throughout its extensive range of over 100 levels, is to move a cube through a tricky obstacle course to the goal. Like many pick-up-and-play experiences it drives you on with a scoring system, from S+ down to D, motivating you to initially conquer a stage and, in the very likely instance you haven't indeed gained the top grade, try again.
The assessment of your performance is driven by multiple factors, with the need to collect small cubes throughout the stage essential to top grades, while EDGE time — which we'll come to shortly — is accumulated and reduced from your finish time. The collectibles are vital for speeding up your cube's movement, too, which becomes fundamental in later, more challenging levels.
The simple concept is allied with a control scheme that's equally basic. You move the cube with the left stick or D-Pad, and that's it — no buttons are used, while the GamePad screen mirrors the TV and doesn't include touch controls. This is for the best, as the virtual D-Pad available in smartphone and tablet versions of this title is nowhere near as useful as the physical controls. This is a difficult and challenging game — after some early stages set you up gently — and the physical controls are vital in providing the precision required to progress.
With that level of challenge come subtle twists in the level design that are, often, produced with enough wit and skill to draw a smile from even the most focused gamers. Screenshots may give an appearance of a simple game where you navigate through polygonal, cubic environments, but the execution goes beyond its visual aesthetic. With progress you'll meet challenging moving platforms that, occasionally, take the form of objects such as a giant robot, as well as switch systems, collapsing floors, rhythm-based springs and more. Some levels take an entirely vertical approach, in which you use a mini cube to climb a tower before tumbling back down, some force you to dash as quickly as possible, while others require you to sit back and carefully plot your route.
It's a throwback to a more challenging, arcade-like era in gaming, yet with a modern touch of exceptionally generous checkpoints and unlimited lives; you only fail a level if you give up. The aforementioned EDGE time best represents this, as you pivot your cube against moving blocks, defying gravity by clinging on at a precise angle. It's tough to master and used in increasingly devious ways, sometimes requiring timing and that pivot motion over quite a few seconds; we found this easiest to achieve on the digital input of the D-Pad, using the left stick for most other movement — it can be done with the analogue input, but with greater difficulty.
Driving all of this are the visuals and soundtrack, which look terrific in HD and with a smooth 60 frames-per-second performance. It looks great on a TV, bringing to mind a smoothed out and shiny 1080p iteration on the first 3D polygon graphics of the '90s, albeit far cleaner and pleasing on the eye. The soundtrack is fantastic, too, with retro-infused beats often merging with techno for a pumping accompaniment, with occasionally quieter moments for slower levels.
The crux is that EDGE provides a beautiful balance of clean presentation, a simple concept and strong execution. The only downside is that, occasionally, the fixed camera view can lead to unintentional falls into the abyss; as the checkpoints are so frequent, it's a minor problem. It's also debatable whether less skilled gamers will see much of the extensive level of content, but the generous accommodations given and the enjoyment on offer may be enough to coax these players to push themselves to improve and, by extension, broaden their gaming horizons.
As a simple gaming experience, EDGE comes close to providing the perfect budget download experience. There are presentation values both simple and delightful, and the basic premise of navigating a cube through a tough level is embellished with clever design. Perhaps the difficulty will drive some away, while an addition of camera control — even in a limited capacity — would have been welcome; yet this is a title that gets so much right. If you haven't owned EDGE on another system or — alternatively — only own it on a touch device, then this is a must-buy.