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Fotonica Review (PC)

During a recent pan-European vacation I occasionally found myself sitting in front of a laptop with a smidgen of time to kill, a dash of boredom and a pathetic spluttering of bits and bytes through a shitty wifi network providing me with precious, life giving internet. During these moments I looked for some new game to divert me for a few moments between flights, train journeys or goat rides. I needed something fast and engaging; something I could start playing quickly and quit out of at a moments notice. Those goats don’t hang around.

And so I stumbled across Fontonica which was developed by a small company consisting of just two called Santa Ragione. Fotonica is to PC gaming what Canabalt is to mobile gaming; a fast and visceral one-button platform game. While Canabalt is a futuristic side scroller though, Fotonica is a Tron-inspired first person game set in a world of clean lines and retro computer graphics and a pumping techno/trance soundtrack….and its wonderful.

A passer by could mistake the whole thing as a game similar in style to Mirrors Edge, but the kinetic running and jumping and characteristic wobbling camera masks a much simpler game; one which exists completely on rails as your avatar runs ever onward on a single, unalterable path.

As with more traditional platform games it’s the high paths that reap the best rewards with the lower platforms acting as an occasional lifesaver when you misjudge your jumps. Gameplay involves little more than pressing the right button at the right time. Crucially though, its by releasing a button on the keyboard that you jump rather than pressing one. Pressing a key also causes your character to run more quickly. In this way, the game quickly falls into a unique rhythm of flying gracefully through the air before furiously divebombing back to earth. The feeling of motion and speed is engrossing and as your scores increase and you adapt to the feel of the games physics, you begin to feel yourself pulled into the screen as in the very best futuristic racing games like Wip3out.

And its a beautiful world to be pulled into. The different levels each have a unique visual aesthetic. We’re very much in the world of Rez and Tron here, and the effects heavy visuals make a strong impression from the start. Comparisons to such games and movies inevitably raises the question of whether the soundtrack is up to the same standard, and to an extent it is. The pounding techno never reaches Daft Punk levels of aural ecstasy, buts its very good in its own right. Rather disappointingly though the sound often blurs out due to an initially cool effect that occurs when the player is doing well on a given level. As the player excels and their score increases the sound begins to mute as if the player is actually moving too fast for it to keep up. The effect outstays its welcome and detracts from the otherwise excellent soundtrack.

What else is there to say? I never play for more than a few minutes at a time, but when I have those minutes free Fotonica is what I fill them with. Best of all, you can try it now and pay anything you want for it. Fotonica then: it’s the best way to kill time while waiting for your goat to arrive.

8 techno-goats out of 10

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