Challenging, frustrating and rewarding in equal measures. Glyph will have you swearing and rage quitting. It might even ruin your day, but you’ll probably come back for more!
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Developer: Bolverk Games
Publisher: Bolverk Games
Release date: 9 August, 2021
Many years ago, life used to flourish until something went wrong. The great cataclysm devastated civilization and buried the city in the sand.
You have been awoken to bring back life and unearth the capital, returning it to its former glory. Navigating assault like courses, you are a spherical object capable of jumping and flying short distances; Collect coins, gems and scarabs to use as currency to enter other courses and work your way to the top of the tower where the guardian awaits. Defeat the guardian and life will once again flourish.
You are Glyph, a spherical object capable of jumping, flying short distances, and maneuvering in midair. The goal is to navigate the course of your choosing, collect all the keys in the level and escape through the portal back to the hub.
There are numerous hubs around the city in different areas. Each hub represents a part of the community and culture which you are trying to revive. A hub might be related to learning, where young people were taught lessons, or dedicated to lost ones and remembrance. Each hub gives a little information about the lost civilization and how society functioned. The description of the hub doesn’t have any bearing on the course though! They just get more difficult as you progress.
Rolling onto the gateway of a course shows you a small preview of the layout, the difficulty, the type of course it is, and the number of gems, coins and artifacts you have collected; Items you collect will act as an entrance fee for other courses.
The course will either be an exploration or a time trial.
Exploration has no time limit and you can freely roam around the level. To exit the level, you must collect all the keys to open the portal back to the hub, or you can just quit but you will lose all progress gained. Any coins, gems or artifacts collected will be saved if you exit via the portal and any missed items can be collected later if so wished.
Time trials are courses which you must complete within a set time limit. The faster you complete the level, the more gems you receive; Bronze equal one gem; Silver equals two gems and gold equals three gems.
You can unlock further hubs by paying constructors the number of gems they require to build the bridge to the next area.
Glyph can roll, jump and glide.
By touching surfaces, you become charged and are able to jump a uniform distance in the air; Touching lit surfaces charges you orb even more, and you can perform a double jump.
If you only have a single jump stored, a SMASH can be used to obtain slightly more height. After a jump, a smash throws you into the ground and the bounce returns you slightly higher than a normal jump would. You can then use the glide option to travel further distances.
The glide mechanic is a burst of momentum that sends you hurtling at speed in the direction you are facing. It only lasts a second or two and can be controlled to some degree. It’s a bit like having thrusters.
Glyph can climb walls by jumping up them. Each time you touch the wall, the orb is recharged and you can jump again.
Courses range in difficulty and the difficulty level is displayed before you pay your entrance fee.
The more difficult the level, the harder it will be to navigate around. This means there will be more hazards and less surface room to land Glyph. The area may decay or trigger spikes or it could kill you instantly. You may have to think tactfully and work out a route, considering where the exit is located. Platforms are spaced out more and surfaces are uneven and tilted making smashing difficult. Gem and artifact locations on harder levels are very tricky to obtain.
Within the level you will be killed if you touch the poisonous sand. The sand surrounds the course. You will also be killed if you touch rocks which are built into the course.
There is a secret button in each level which if found and pressed will reveal a hidden object. If you can collect this you will be rewarded with a different avatar or trail.
Landing near a beetle on a level will give you a verbal clue as to where the button is located.
Collect all the coins in the maze to reveal the artifact which when collected can be used to enter other courses, if required.
The conclusion of the game culminates in a boss fight with the guardian.
There is a tutorial level which will explain all of the controls you need.
The visuals are as about as basic as you can get without being detrimental to the game. Puzzle games aren’t known for their looks and this one is no exception. They are perfectly forgivable though and serve their purpose.
🎵 Sound 🎵
Basic sounds and special effect noises throughout. Again, perfectly functionable but nothing to write home about. It doesn’t mar the experience but it doesn’t really enhance it much either. There is an ambient music track featured in each course but they all sound quite similar. The boss battle injects a bit of drama with its upbeat track though.
Glyph can be a challenging game, especially towards the end when entering difficult arenas.
There is a white circle which acts as your shadow and is very important when judging where your ball is going to land. In normal circumstances the circle only appears just as you land causing numerous deaths. If you adjust the camera to a greater height however, you can see the circle sooner and get more time to plan your descent. This is fine when you have lots of time to consider and judge the ball’s flight and trajectory. When you have to glide, perform small jumps, or when you are trying to jump up circular columns the camera angle can really frustrate and even simple tasks can result in deaths due to the camera. It can be incredibly frustrating and annoying.
On the other hand, the bouncing and gliding mechanics are spot on and you feel completely in control of the ball in most circumstances. You can put together some impressive moves with the combination of controls and watch yourself glide over vast distances. There is a lot of judgement needed to gauge flight patterns but when you take a risk and pull it off it can be incredibly satisfying. Often, these long jumps are accompanied by frantic recovery moves as the ball flies of the surface and it creates genuine excitement if you succeed, or frustration if you fail.
On the whole, the ball behaves as you would expect. Occasionally, I experienced what I dubbed “a flat ball” where even though I had two charges, when I landed, the ball didn’t bounce at all and I went flying into the sand and to my death. This happened quite a lot under pressure.
There is a tangible feeling of jeopardy when playing. If you die, you lose the keys you have collected and you must gather these again to escape the level with all your collectibles. This poses a dilemma. Do you risk the keys you have collected to go for more obscure items or play it safe? It usually depends on the difficulty of the course.
The time trials were very difficult to achieve three gems. I am sure some of them are impossible to achieve. There are no leaderboards but it does register your best time. I felt no desire to better it if I had three gems already though.
There are quite a lot of courses to compete on. I had plenty left over after I had finished the game. The boss battle can be accessed around fifty percent of course completion and I warrant even sooner. It is just a case of getting up to him. The entrance fee is miniscule and once defeated the game is over, although you can continue playing on the courses if you desire.
I soon realized that the only important items worth collecting were coins and to a lesser extent, gems. As long as you have enough gems to get across a couple of bridges to where the guardian is that’s all you need. Thais acts as a disincentive to collect artifacts and hidden objects which are much harder to obtain. The hidden object provides avatars and trails but there are no achievements which further dampened my enthusiasm.
It was such a shame there was no real story tying the game together. There are references to life in the city that help paint a picture but ultimately the game felt like a series of trials and a boss battle. I wasn’t really invested in trying out all the courses and eventually I got bored. There was no clear progression route and it was only after searching that I found the boss. The boss battle was quite fun and hit that sweet spot on the difficulty scale enticing me back for more.
Glyph is a challenging game with tight controls but it does have a tendency to become rather frustrating; Sometimes, due to human error and sometimes due to unexpected behavior. It’s certainly not a game I would call enjoyable but it is very addictive and keeps you coming back for more.