PAX East 2017: Semblance Preview

Originally published on Trevor Trove on March 11, 2017

South African indie developer Nyamakop (a hybrid of ‘nyama’ – the Kiswahili word for ‘meat’ – and ‘kop’ – the Afrikaans word for “head,” so the company roughly translates to “meathead.”) is showcasing their game Semblance at PAX East this year as part of the Minibooth inside the Indie Megabooth. Semblance is a puzzle platformer built around the simple premise that your character, Squish, can deform the world around him in order to collect essences that will help heal it from an infection spreading across the land.

Built around a few simple mechanics (move, jump, and dash), the game features a series of puzzles with the collectible essences in out-of-the-way places. Starting simply with something like needing to use the dash as effectively a double jump to reach a high-up essence, the game quickly starts playing with its main mechanic: that Squish can change the form of the game’s platforms.

Jumping and dashing up into a flat platform creates a hill. Jumping up again makes the hill steeper. So now you can jump up onto the peak and reach an essence that might have been previously out of reach. Similarly, you can jump and dash down into a platform to create a valley. Squish can also slam into inflexible platforms to change up his own shape. Slamming down might make Squish slim enough to slide under a small hole in a wall. These simple adjustments to the world, as well as obstacles that solidify platforms allow for a bit of the variety in the puzzles presented.

One of the most fascinating elements for me is a bit of the story behind the scenes. Developer Cukia “Sugar” Kimani told me that this world “deforming” mechanic actually grew out of a glitch on another project they were working on and ultimately wound up being intriguing enough to build the game around. Fellow developer Ben Myres shared the difficulties inherent in developing the game out of Johannesburg, South Africa: “infrequent electricity, bad internet, and [limited financial] support.”

Semblance is being developed for PC/Mac with no release date set.

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