One of the coolest aspects of the Metroid series – in particular the Prime trilogy – is the Morph Ball ability. Curling up into a literal ball and using its momentum to reach new places is a consistently unique and fun way to traverse the world. Glyph takes this concept and applies it to an entire game, albeit with a stronger focus on jumping and verticality, allowing for grand leaps of faith across sprawling levels.
As a puzzle-platformer first and foremost, the plot for Glyph is predictably rather minimal. You play as a golden beetle who explores a hub world known as the Temple City of Aaru. You’re joined by an NPC called Anobi, who keeps you company within each level, providing you with some background and history of the area; Anobi’s presence is largely unintrusive, and if you wish, you can completely ignore the lore and focus purely on the gameplay itself.
Within the hub world are warp zones to each level, and these are split into two distinct types: exploration and time trial. The exploration levels require you to search for keys in order to unlock the exit, whilst at the same time collecting items such as coins, gems, and artefacts. These items are vital to unlocking further levels within the hub world, with coins being relatively plentiful and easy to obtain, and the artefacts proving to be rare and often devilishly tricky to reach. Sounds like a breeze, but the majority of the levels are made up of sand, and this can kill your little beetle with one touch, so you’ll need to stick to the solid platforms and structures in order to survive.
The gameplay itself is remarkably intuitive once you get your head around the controls. By default, you’re stuck within your ball form, and you can move around and jump at will. Dotted around each level are energy points; landing on one of these grants you with a one-off ability to double jump. Using this up will then require you to locate another energy point to regain this ability. As you fly through the air, you can also hold down ‘ZL’ to temporarily glide, and this is where you’ll see your character outside of its ball form. Using each ability together allows you to cross great distances without ever touching the ground, and very quickly you’ll be darting around the levels with ease and grace.
There are plenty of levels on offer, with the exploration stages varying greatly in terms of geography and the types of obstacles you’ll encounter. The time trial levels, on the other hand, are a bit hit and miss. Some of them are really fun, but most prove to be incredibly frustrating, particularly if you’re chasing after the high score. They’re also much smaller in scope than the exploration levels, with many specifically designed to encourage speed and momentum.
In addition to the other collectables, each level also offers up a skin capsule: picking up these can be tricky at times, but they’ll grant you a new cosmetic skin for your character. This means you can change from a beetle to a turtle or even a lantern-wielding ghost, and you can also customise the trail effect that your characters leave as you fly through the air. Again, there are plenty of skins to collect, but none of it feels particularly mandatory, so if you’re happy with the default skin, then you can focus on getting through the levels themselves.
With smooth, stable gameplay, Glyph is truly a joy to play. The exploration levels in particular are incredibly creative, with plenty of collectables to keep you occupied. The accompanying soundtrack deserves a special mention too; the ambient music really suits the tone of the game, and the way it swells when you’ve collected all of the required keys is excellent. The only major downside is the time trial levels; if you enjoy this kind of thing, you can bump the score up by one point, but there were a few too many of these levels for our liking.