140 - created by Jeppe Carlsen (lead puzzle designer, LIMBO) with music by Jakob Schmid - is a minimalistic rhythm-based puzzle-platform game that has clearly been inspired by the Bauhaus artistic movement. For those who aren't great lovers of art, Bauhaus was a school of art located in Germany that combined crafts with fine arts, and was famous for its unique approach to design early in the 20th Century. Many of the works produced consisted of geometric patterns and shapes - a theorist at the school came to the conclusion that colour and shape are correlated. Using a square, circle and triangle he defined the triangle as being the lightest of the shapes, the circle as a place of pure vitality and the square as a foundation.
In 140, you take control of a shape that transforms. A triangle appears when jumping, a circle represents movement and a square is present when there is a blockade. If this wasn't already enough to take in, the name of this title reportedly has further philosophical significance. The numbers forming the title of the game - 140 - not only roughly represent each shape, but also supposedly acknowledge that the energetic yet melancholic electronic soundtrack is composed of 140 beats per minute.
Despite all the symbolic depth, 140 is nothing out of the ordinary. For the most part it is a relatively straightforward but extremely short-lived puzzle-platform experience that incorporates rhythm-based gameplay to add an extra layer of complexity to standard challenges.
Instead of carelessly approaching a hazardous pit or obstacle with the intention of clearance on the first go, if you take a moment to stop and observe basic visual cues - including the colour and pattern changes - as well as listen to the rhythm of the beat at that specific point in time, a challenge is often easier to overcome. The audio and visual cues make each test easier - provided you're both composed and disciplined when progressing through each task. Otherwise, you may find the overall experience frustrating when you're continually reset back at the last checkpoint.
From time to time there are boss encounters against variations of larger shapes that continually change movement and colour patterns, and also transform in shape. Understanding the audiovisual presentation and patterns in these scenarios is crucial. If you don't register movements quickly enough, expect a lot of restarts. Fortunately, there are plenty of checkpoints and the controls are highly responsive to balance out the difficulty.
A key part of the experience, considering its artistic approach, comes from the visuals and soundtrack. They are an attractive part of the package, blending well with the gameplay; from that perspective, even though it's over all too quickly, this game does make a positive impression.
140 seems like more of an artistic experiment testing the boundaries of games as art; like Bauhaus art, this title is definitely open to interpretation. Some individuals may view it as a deeper philosophical experience while others may just see a bunch of geometrical colourful shapes flying around on-screen. As a game, first and foremost, 140 isn't quite on par with some leading titles within this genre. Despite how well the audiovisual presentation is tied to the gameplay, the ruthless nature of this one does detract from the overall enjoyment on offer.