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Multiverse Hands-On Preview – SGC 2013

by on June 25, 2013   Twitter   Google+  

SGC had plenty of indie games that show great potential. Each of them offered new, exciting, and challenging experiences that the mainstream sometimes fails to deliver. But the crew at ScrewAttack also invited some talented game design students from the University of Texas Dallas you dig deeper, you can find game design students who also show great potential and can compete on even footing with the rest of the indie developers-- and they probably earned them good grades as well. I had the opportunity to speak with a group of talented game design students from the University of Texas at Dallas who created Multiverse, a platformer akin to NES classics and Super Meat Boy but with its own twist.

Rick is the star of Multiverse and he has a serious sleep disorder. Thanks to his disorder, he frequently travels between dimensions, dodging hazardous objects and solving light puzzles—all of this while sleepwalking. Rick is spry for an overweight sleepwalker. He can run at the pace of Mario or Super Meat boy, and he can jump high as well as from wall-to-wall. These actions are enough to pass many of platforming traps, but they aren’t enough to complete the levels which take place in two different dimensions (think dark world and light world). Fortunately the protagonist can also switch between dimensions at any time from the press of a button.

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While playing Multiverse, I was reminded of Super Meat Boy and Portal. It’s a 2.5D puzzle platformer, though the developers put more emphasis on the platforming. Levels were short and full of dangerous jumps and traps. It had similar difficulty level of Super Meat Boy, but it was also fair. Upon death, I seamlessly transitioned to the beginning of the stage—no waiting or loading screens in-between. Some obstacles required me to switch dimensions in order to proceed. The developers usually provided indication with some ethereal purple markers. For instance, they set up a section clearly meant for wall-jumping; however, every other wall in the pattern only showed the purple shadow of a wall. This meant that I had to switch dimensions as I jumped from wall to wall with proper timing. While this took a few tries (deaths) to get used to, it eventually clicked and I felt immense satisfaction each time I passed a challenging section-- until I died perhaps a few paces later, of course.

Switching dimensions is always a joy, especially considering how surreal the game’s setting is. I usually began in an industrial hell for me to escape, and at the click of the left trigger (I was playing on a PC build with an Xbox 360 controller) I could switch to a more whimsical fantasy or medieval setting. Two knights may be standing in one dimension where a hulking shadowy figure stands in the other. In between dimensional shifts, I glimpsed a slew of breakfast items, such as a man holding a trident-sized fork, and there was a fried egg on the ground that served as a trampoline. There’s more to the setting, but like any dream I can only remember so much, which perhaps is what developers intended. Regardless, the designers’ attention to detail help bring out the dream-like qualities of Multiverse’s setting.

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One of the students, Addison Ziegler (environmental artist & level designer) introduced me to the first few of the levels of the game, which were challenging but they were only part of the easy build. He invited me to return on Sunday to try out the seven new levels which he deemed the hard build. I managed to make it far, but I had trouble on the sixth level due to its pits filled with a mixture of static and kinetic grinders. They also cranked up the wall jumping puzzles from before by adding spikes—oh and watch out for those bullets! I regretfully gave up, but I never felt discouraged from trying again. Only one person could complete the hard build, and I tip my hat  to him or her.

The developers are students at the University of Texas at Dallas, and they are looking to spread the word of their game beyond the classroom.  They plan on releasing the game for free spring of next year, which will be playable for PC and Mac. Depending on the success of the game, they could potentially bring Multiverse to PSN, Steam, and XBLA. They’ll be launching their website in September, but in the meantime you can follow them on Twitter. And don’t forget to check the trailer above!

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