Perfect Universe review - A universe not so perfect, but not without merit
Perfect Universe looks exactly like what it is: a simple game. And there's nothing wrong with that. If you think there's something wrong with that, well. That's your problem.
Perfect Universe is a mission-based physics platformer with a minimalist black and white visual style and a somber soundtrack. That's by far the most basic way to describe it. Look no further for a succinct description, ladies and gentlemen.
If you stumbled on this game's Steam page, you wouldn't think much of it. The description and trailer are both fairly modest and the monotone visuals aren't exactly the most catching. Perfect Universe itself is as modest as its Steam page in almost every aspect.
"Physics" may not be the right term for how Perfect Universe plays as a whole -- the game's first singleplayer mode and part of the multiplayer offerings are "gravitational-based" as the game's description puts it is best.
Movement in the first singleplayer mode, Perfect Moon, is entirely centered around gravitational pull -- if there's ground or a platform below you, you'll be pulled down by gravity, no matter the angle.
Movement in the second singleplayer mode, Moon Life, is what most people would consider physics-based, having you control both of of Mr Legs' appendages separately to maneuver around and over obstacles. There's still the gravity aspect to work with, too -- but your biggest challenge is simply controlling Mr Legs.
And lastly, Star Light -- the third mode -- uses propulsion-based movement, having players control a rocket's propulsion to move.
But let's get to the meat of these modes, and what they're actually like.
A look at each primary game mode
All three singleplayer modes require the player to make the most of the movement style and collect either gems, leaves, or fireworks to progress. Collect them all and you finish; hopefully in a short enough time to get three stars.
Collect enough stars and you unlock more levels, of which there are several. Unfortunately despite a sizable number of levels per, each mode is still relatively short.
The first singleplayer mode is the most familiar to hop into and play -- and ultimately is my favorite out of the three.
This one's simple:
You can jump and glide, and you need to collect each level's gems to progress to the next level. But sometimes it's not that easy -- deadly obstacles like spikes, sawblades, and crushing machines stand in your way at later levels.
It's not particularly difficult, but having to adjust how you control your character based on the terrain's gravitational pull is a fun mechanic. You'll never die from falling off a level, but you certainly will from gravity pulling you into a row of spikes.
Perfect Moon is unique and fun, but that much cannot be said for the next mode.
Did you ever want to control a bipedal alien using an analog stick for each leg? No? I didn't either before I played Perfect Universe, and honestly I still do not.
Moon Life is an exercise in frustration. While you can grab onto obstacles or the ground with one leg to help maneuver more easily, Mr Legs is still difficult to control. Thankfully there are less levels here than in Perfect Moon; but even those feel like too many with Mr Legs at the wheel.
Star Light tosses aside the gravity dealings in the other two modes and instead plops you in a rocket ship and sets you loose to collect fireworks scattered about the sky or hidden among obstacles; depending on the level.
There actually isn't much to say on this one. You propel yourself, bounce off obstacles, and try to get the fireworks. It's a simple throwback to an older style of gaming -- and after dealing with Mr Legs it was a welcome chance to relax.
Now, multiplayer is where it's at for me in Perfect Universe. The game's singleplayer offerings are short and Moon Life, well.. I'd honestly like to forget that one entirely.
The game packs six separate local multiplayer modes into its little $9.99 box, each one controlled differently from the last and capable of making you want to punch both yourself and whoever you're playing with (or the AI, whatever).
Adjusting to the different controls for each multiplayer mode is a task, and much of the fun I and my husband had with multiplayer was centered around fumbling with the controls despite the "How to Play" tooltips for each.
My only complaint on the multiplayer front is how few levels there are for each mode. It doesn't really diminish the fun of whomping someone at Moon Golf, but it does make me wish there was something more to it.
Let's wrap it up
If this review seems a bit lacking, that may be because that's how I felt about Perfect Universe as a whole. The developers put a lot of time, effort, and -- clearly -- their hearts into the game but something feels.. off.
The game's visuals are nice (especially when inverted), the music and ambient noises are welcome, and the variety of gameplay packed into a single title is certainly nothing to complain about -- but the game's floaty controls and lack of real incentive to get three stars on each level are a real detriment if you're on the market for a casual platformer to kick back with.
I really dig the multiplayer modes in Perfect Universe, but as a platformer enthusiast I found myself hoping for something a little more in its three singleplayer modes.
I'm interested in what developer Will Sykes Games will come up with in the future because the concepts in Perfect Universe are unique and interesting. However, there is a definite need for polish that's hard to get over when there are so many other platformers on the Steam Store for the same price.