Also On: PS4, PC
I don’t know about you, but when I’m playing a platformer I’m not usually thinking about the physics of how they actually work. I press the d-pad or joystick one way and my character moves in that same direction; I press a button and the person onscreen jumps. I know it’s all learned behaviour, and that I didn’t come out of the womb knowing how to get Mario from Point A to Point B, but I passed the point long ago where I had to give it much thought.
TorqueL doesn’t work that way. TorqueL wants you to think about those things. In fact, that’s pretty much all TorqueL asks of you: to really consider how you’re getting your character from one place to another. It’s not quite as demanding as a game like QWOP, but it’s not all that far off, either.
This really shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, aesthetically TorqueL is shockingly minimalistic. The characters are stick figures, the levels are made up of lots of straight lines, and the whole thing looks like it could’ve come from one of gaming’s earliest consoles (assuming, of course, they could render a few bright colors). I guess it only makes sense that the game’s controls takes a back-to-basics approach as well.
Or, at least, they do in the sense that you really have to think about how your character actually moves. You can roll your square along the ground a little, but if you want to move from one platform to another, if you want to jump over a fiery red pit, you need to be fully aware of your character’s cardinal directions. Pressing the Vita’s triangle button will always send a green bar straight above your stick figure’s head — which means that if your character is upside down or sideways, the green bar will be as well. It works the same with the PlayStation controller’s other iconic buttons, and it never fails to be less than nerve wracking as you constantly adjust your own sense of direction on the fly.
I’d like to say it gets easier as the game progresses, but it really doesn’t. Even setting aside the little changes in gravity and other obstacles TorqueL adds to the equation the further in your get, it’s just really difficult to always be mentally readjusting like that. At best, I’d say I started getting really good at pressing all four of the Vita’s face buttons at once, jamming me into a spot as I experimented with wiggling my character in one direction or another.
Admittedly, I’m not so great at thinking spatially like that, so I suspect others will have an easier time of it than I did. Nonetheless, it’s a challenge — but in a different way than most tough-as-nails platformers fulfill the definition of “challenging”. Most expect you to have honed your skills to perfection through years and years of playing other likeminded games; TorqueL expects nothing less than for you to relearn all your skills anew.