I know what you might be thinking: "A quirky puzzle game with a zero budget? Isn't Reflection DS the sort of title James should be covering?" Well, I have a bit of a confession to make: I am a complete whore for puzzle platformers. From Penguin Land to Portal, I've never been able to resist any able attempt to combine hopping and head-scratching. While perusing the downloadable games section of Konami's booth at this year's E3, my fellow editors were mesmerized by Zombie Apocalypse, but I practically had to shove them out of the way to get to the Reflection DS demo as soon as I heard the name of my favorite genre.
The developers have chosen their platform wisely, and the modest price of a DSiWare download is hardly difficult to justify.
I quickly realized that the premise was familiar. This is actually an extension of Reflection Zero, a student project from 2008, now available as freeware. The project was pretty modest to look at, and even the controls lacked polish but, much like Narbacular Drop (ancestor of Portal), its design was enough to get a second look. The new DSiWare follow-up is looking quite a bit nicer, with pixel art backgrounds and a character made from tiny segment sprites that animates fluidly. The art is still pretty rough, but it's come a long way.
The premise lends itself perfectly to the dual screen design. Each screen represents a parallel universe occupied by the same character. Wherever she stands on one screen, she will appear on the other. The hook is that the two levels are different. If your character is standing on a platform on one screen, she may be floating in the air on the other. Similarly, if the way is blocked on one screen, she won't be able to pass on the other. To mix things up, the developers have added a few new moves not found in Zero including a running slide and the ability to kick-jump off of walls. The controls felt very fluid, which is refreshing to see from a first time developer.
I caught on pretty quickly, and, sensing my thirst for a challenge, designer Henry Liu decided to show me some later levels where the formula gets more complicated. In these new stages, the two forms were no longer linked by location, but still controlled as one, making it much more of a challenge to keep them together. To keep things manageable, there are "sync points" littered throughout the stage, but solving puzzles and dodging obstacles in tandem proved to be a bit of a challenge.
My time with Reflection DS was fairly brief, but what I played was just plain fun. It's a simple game - we didn't see any combat, switch puzzles, or usual platformer trappings - but the premise is different enough to be worth a look. The visuals are rough, and don't do justice to the gameplay, but the developers have chosen their platform wisely, and the modest price of a DSiWare download is hardly difficult to justify.