Genre: Platformer, Puzzle, Action, Arcade
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam)
Developer|Publisher: Games From Earth | Bonus Stage Publishing
Age Rating: EU 16+ | US Teen
Price: US $14.99 | UK £13.49 | EU € 14,99
Release Date: June 3rd, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Bonus Stage Publishing
A Hero Come Along
Sunblaze is a challenging 2D platformer with an enormous amount of bite-size levels to conquer. It may not be the newest formula but Sunblaze aims to draw in an audience with a funny story and making its challenges accessible to all gamer skill levels, whilst still appealing to those that like things spicy. Let’s see if Sunblaze has the heroics to stand out from the rest.
All superheroes need to start somewhere. You play as Josie (aka Sunblaze) who is looking to follow in her Fathers footsteps and become a superhero. But in order to get there, she needs to train in the simulator. What starts as standard training soon turns to chaos, as the simulator begins to malfunction, with Josie’s only means of escape appearing to be to progress through the increasingly difficult simulations and trusting an AI presenting as a Unicorn.
It’s a plot that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is some witty banter between Josie and the other characters, some of which includes some self-aware gamer jokes that certainly got a snigger out of me. There is also a cat in the game and yes, you can pet it.
Sunblaze has over 500 small bite-size levels to conquer, these are split across six worlds as well as some secret levels to discover. The goal of each level is simple, just reach the computer chip located in the single-screen level. You achieve this by using your typical platform moves like jump, double jump, wall slide and dash. Later in the game, you can also make use of other abilities like hanging from rails, jumping from gooey spots and turning temporarily into a flame. When you reach the end of a level you transition to the next stage instantly with no load times. The game will occasionally pause the action to deliver more story usually midway and at the end of a chapter, all of which can be skipped if you’re replaying the game or just don’t care.
It doesn’t take long before the game’s difficulty begins to show and you have to contend with a large assortment of hazards such as deadly moving blocks, spikes, lasers, bottomless pits and you guessed it buzzsaws. Though I will say this game has some of the most detailed pixelated buzzsaws I have seen in a video game for a while. Each level feels like a puzzle to conquer. Victory doesn’t always come easy and often it’s a trial and error process as to what moment you should jump and use your dash. A single fall or hit means death but the game instantly spawns you back at the start of the level. The game does keep a tally of all of your deaths but you can switch this counter off if it begins to get to you. It did end up in the hundreds for me.
The controls are tight and precise which is pretty important for a precision platformer. It was quite satisfying on the rare occasion where I was in total gamer flow and jumping and dashing through the levels with ease only to eventually get squished by a giant block. Yeah, there were some levels where the stress meter began to rise but there are features on hand to prevent the blood pressure from getting too high.
Should the game hit the stress nerves a little too much, the game offers some welcome accessibility features to help you cope with the challenging segments. This ranges from offering more double jumps, taking no damage or just making you invincible like a proper superhero. You can tailor this to your liking and I will admit I totally used this feature when I was on the verge of throwing my Switch out the window. The game also doesn’t penalize you for using this feature.
Additionally, the game offers a Zen mode which is the entire story mode, only the number of levels and their difficulty has generally been reduced. This is an excellent mode for beginners to hardcore platformers before diving into the more challenging standard mode.
Graphically Sunblaze has a cute pixel art style. Josie has a large head on a small body that makes her look like the video game equivalent of a POP figure, a popular line of figures from Funko with massive heads and small bodies, if somehow you have never heard of these then you are very lucky. There is a lot of pixelated colour throughout the levels and a pleasant chiptune soundtrack that plays in the background as you die over and over. Performance-wise the game runs fine in both handheld and TV.
With so many levels the game will easily keep you busy for several play sessions. With a simple control style, this is also a simple one to dip in and out of between other games. The game may be very appealing to speedrunners looking to ace this as quickly as possible. I think I’ll just keep an eye out for those YouTube videos myself. The only game I will ever be able to speedrun is an old fashioned Resident Evil game. You can also collect the odd computer chip collectable in some levels which requires extra skill to obtain but is totally optional and not required to complete the game.
Conclusion – A Bit of Sunshine
Sunblaze strikes a good balance of offering a challenging platform experience to old and new fans of hardcore platform fans. The bite-sized design of the levels also makes this an easy game to pick up in short gaming bursts, should you have a busy lifestyle. Sunblaze didn’t make a superhero out of me but I sure did have fun playing it.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot
Superheroes exist in real life. They often don’t know they are superheroes but they inspire us to get out of bed in the morning and get on with life. For all you know you are someone’s hero. Could be your children, your friends or possibly that person you did that good gesture to that one time but it meant the world to them. Don’t forget the smallest kind gesture can make the biggest difference.