What do koi fish, palm trees, Roman columns, and pizza all have in common? In most cases the answer would be not much. However, for us today, it ties together in the form of surrealistic digital art with a platform-swinging game mechanic in the new Nintendo Switch game entitled Verlet Swing. Gamers have been swinging around on ropes, vines, tethers and anything else since practically the dawn of video games with titles like Pitfall leading the way. It’s a tried and true gameplay mechanism that’s often times fun, challenging, and visually rewarding to see. So, when I heard about this artistic looking swinging platformer, I just had to give it a shot.
Verlet Swing’s gameplay at its core is very simple. You’ll aim with a control stick and press a button to launch your tether out and grapple yourself to an object or floating marker, and start your swinging momentum. The entire game is based on this simplistic action of tethering yourself, releasing, and repeating to swing through a level until you reach the ‘glowy’ orb of completion and land in it, finishing that stage and receiving a ranking. However, about three levels in, you’ll soon learn that this game is entirely far from simple and that your swinging skills are quickly proven inadequate, and that it’s now time to strategize both your route through a level, as well as honing some quick reaction aiming dexterity skills.
Each stage is constructed with various objects littered about in a well-designed way that allows players a bit of freedom in how they will hope to reach the goal. This creates more of a puzzle-platforming game, as there is in fact no one direct path to a level win in most cases I found, but certainly routes with less resistance can be found by experimenting. Every course has a beginning point where you start, and an end point in which you must land yourself (viewed in first person at all times) into a glowing orb that completes that stage. Fail conditions for a level are also very simple to learn. Touch anything else other than the end stage orb and you’ll fail and immediately restart. This includes the ground, and basically all objects and walls throughout a level, forcing you to always be swinging mid-air to successfully navigate to the end.
Verlet Swing prides itself on the challenge, and even boasts on their store page that “Only the best of swingers will reach the final levels!” It didn’t take me but a dozen levels into the progression to learn that this was wholeheartedly true. As you make your way through the game, the levels and routes become far more complex, requiring faster precision and a lot more experimentation on route planning through the stages. I found myself failing levels dozens of times over before I perfected a plan for a stage and finally achieved success. Thankfully if you do hit an object and fail, the level instantly restarts so you’re never in a position to deal with a detrimental load time. Much akin to games like the Trials bike series, Verlet Swing brutally tests you to make the perfect runs in the later levels, which in my case was barely 1/3rd of the game’s 100 level offering.
Controlling yourself around and through a stage is a real test of rapid precision, but does outline some faults with the game’s mechanic as well. As you perform a swing and lob yourself high into the air, you’ll immediately need to move your cursor to whatever you plan to grapple and swing from next. Unfortunately, and I guess part of the challenge, is that there’s really no boundaries as to how far your line can go out from. This resulted in me often times thinking I was going to attach to a sensibly close object, but instead I would latch onto something entirely too far off in the distance and then basically fall to the ground, failing. While the gameplay is surely envisioned to allow some free-form ways of accomplishing a stage, I would have appreciated a constraint point as to how far my latch can go out to avoid these annoying circumstances of a misfired aim.
The large advantage to these grueling swing tests is that you’ll be doing so in some pretty random, but aesthetically cool looking levels that for me felt like Surrealism art combined with early digital art periods, but the developer pegged these as a “fever dream”, which I can also consider an appropriate definition. The game’s 100 levels break out into 5 worlds, from the first being entitled “Checkmate, History” to a much latter one known as “Wondercon 1998” with each world having 20 levels within its theme. Every level has a pretty saturated, but soft color palette that I encountered, and with the oversized items ranging from arcade cabinets to pizza to split apart ice chunks, these are some of the most interesting levels to experience with such challenging gameplay. In fact, my only gripe here visually is that I wanted an option to disable the HUD entirely so that I could snap some screenshots for my long-lasting hope that the Nintendo Switch will someday allow custom background wallpapers!
The soundtrack that accompanies this game comes in the form of smooth electronica tracks that do blend pretty well. Some of the songs felt a bit more repetitive on others, but thankfully you can play on mute if you wish to no disadvantage.
It’s my feeling that Verlet Swing is a niche title that’ll appeal to those that really love a hardcore platforming fashioned challenge. The game has no difficulty slider so when you get stuck, which I will venture to guess many will, you’ll have to persist or call it a day with the game. The levels that I played were both visually pleasing and also designed purposefully to allow some free form strategy to completing a given stage. I think it’s a game that’ll remain on my system a fair while as I boot it up to try and knock out a level that’s stumped me time and again to see if fresh eyes will overcome it, allowing me to swing through a few more new levels.
Verlet Swing Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 5/105/10
- Gameplay - 6.5/106.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Verlet Swing combines a unique art style with platform swinging mechanics in a progressively challenging game that’ll test your skills to the max. For someone thinking this may be similar to an artistic walking simulator like Abzu or Firewatch, you’ll be sorely amiss. Sticking with the game and overcoming its challenges will reward you with new unique environments to play through, but swinging around is anything but easy.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.