Glyph, from Bolverk Games, has tranquil exploration combined with fast and challenging aerial maneuvers and platforming. This 3D platformer has you fighting to save civilization from certain death after runaway technology has destroyed everything. Jump, Roll, glide, climb, and more across the devastated and poisoned landscape to restore life to your home.
3D platformers are a genre I love. I grew up playing through Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, and more. It’s wonderful to see how the genre is still staying alive through modern games such as Pumpkin Jack, A Hat in Time, and now, Glyph. With amazing movement, well-thought-out levels, and great thought into the user experience, Glyph has a lot to offer to fans of this genre.
The story in Glyph isn’t too complex and at times can feel rather lacking. You are civilizations’ last hope at rebuilding and bringing life back to the world. The game takes place in The Temple of Aaru, a massive gathering place that was destroyed when technology ran amuck.
As you go through each level you will run into other little Scarabs like you that will give hints to hidden objects and sometimes allude to some story elements. Your largest giver of stories though is back in the Temple. With each new area, you unlock, a Scarab will be there to tell you what that spot did. Places like The Path of Wrath, where warriors came to train and battle each other. Each snippet of info is concise which works perfectly to give you some idea of what happened here and then get you back to solving puzzles. However, if you’re looking for depth, you won’t find much here.
Glyph plays the way I would imagine Super Monkey Ball to play if it was a platformer. Your primary way of movement is rolling and jumping. However, speed is not always the key here (although there are time trial levels for that). The levels have platforms all over for you to jump and climb and stretches of sand in between. Touching the sand is an instakill and should be avoided. Thankfully if you ground pound in the game, regardless of momentum, you stop moving forward.
With the focus on speed and maneuverability, you can change directions at any point in the game. On the ground, or in the air. You can kind of wall climb by repeatedly jumping up a wall. You can double jump after touching charge pads. And you can glide good distances. These are your base movements and they help you get all around the world. Eventually, you will be able to twist, crash, edge, skid, sneak, scale, and corkscrew your way through this game. Glyph really offers a lot of ways to play their game.
There are two kinds of level modes you will encounter throughout your playthrough. Exploration levels and time trials. Time is a factor in both modes. However, in time trials if you do not complete within a specified time you will die. Where in exploration it’s purely how long it took you to complete the level. So speedrunning is definitely something the devs were considering when making their game.
If you’re a completionist the lovely devs were also thinking of you too. Each exploration level has 5 collectibles: coins, keys, gems, artifacts, and hidden cosmetics. Coins and artifacts are used to unlock new levels, while gems unlock new parts of the temple. The game does a great job of keeping you aware of what still needs collecting through the HUD on the top of the screen. Tying the availability of the artifacts to collecting all the coins in a given level also leaves you feeling rewarded for getting everything rather than forcing yourself through an endless slog that other 3D platformers can feel like.
Within these exploration levels, there are hidden cosmetics to be found. The game has over 100 secrets and upgrades that are all achievable from the beginning of the game. No paywalls. No DLC. You can get them all through hard work and ingenuity. In a world where most games charge for these things, this is wonderful and appreciated.
3D platformers are usually bright, vibrant, and full of detail. They often have very unique settings that rely on visual cues to aid the player in finding goals and hidden objects. Glyph does pretty well at this. The character models are colorful, unique, and pop from the desolate wasteland that Aaru has become. The world of Aaru is sadly lacking in detail though. The temple has some awesome architecture but it’s all just sandstone stacked with some banners to give some different color that isn’t tan.
The movement of your hero is really well done and the animations for your different avatars also prove to be just as well thought out. The fact these avatars are so well done it creates a driving force to collect as many as you can.
The sound design here is pretty bare in spots. Background music is reminiscent of relaxation videos on binaural beats. Not to say that’s bad, it does a good job of creating this ere of mystery due to not knowing why things are the way they are. If this relaxing effect was their goal, especially as the levels difficulty increases, then I do think they achieved what they wanted going into it.
Sound effects are actually pretty damn good. You’re this clay or metal creature that has multiple segments and as you roll the sound really actually matches how you’d think this creature would sound as it moves. It’s hypnotic at times. When you bounce it can sound like a baby’s rattle and it really adds to the feeling that there is something inside this ball. Fluttering wings sound so satisfying. What’s even greater is these sounds change based on what your avatar is. There definitely was a lot of care put into how Glyph looks and sounds when it moves.
Glyph brings a lot to the table, and it does it well. However, there were a couple of issues. I touched a little on one already and that is the lackluster story. Often with these platformers, I can go one way or the other. Put the time in and create an interesting story or focus on your puzzles and mechanics and don’t really give one. These kinds of games can thrive with or without really. In the case of Glyph, I feel it could have just been presented as a Puzzle-Platformer and forgo the story because they have solid gameplay here. It’s not a huge point of contention though so don’t let that steer you clear. Just be aware that it doesn’t bring much to the table as far as narrative is considered.
Visuals were another source of disappointment. Glyph’s art is just kind of dull. The levels while well thought out are often just towers or blocks of sandstone surrounded by desert. These blocks really don’t have many variations and are devoid of art and style. I would have loved to see more art and style brought to the models used. Something that made me more interested in the civilization that you are tasked with saving.
Glyph offers an awesome experience for fans of 3D platformers and those that are looking to try a new genre. Its movement is tight, well thought out, and its challenge is appropriate and fair. The devs considered a game not only for speedrunners but those that want to explore. It has nonlinear play which allows you to be able to beat the game without having to beat every challenge. So if a level is severely hampering your playthrough, just skip it. It has a lot to offer and I found myself really enjoying the game and coming back to hard levels and beating them after failing for quite some time. The level of accomplishment this game can make you feel is quite amazing.
Disclaimer: Glyph was provided to me by the developer Bolverk Games for review.
Glyph offers a lot of unique challenges to fans of 3D platformers and newcomers. Being accessible and challenging but fair this is a great game to add to your library.