When it comes to building a library for your video games, it’s always nice to add titles that bring a touch of variety to your collection. After all, you can only have so many Call of Duty’s or Assassin’s Creed’s; no matter how many gameplay tweaks or new additions each iteration of these titles may receive, they all ultimately play the same at the end of the day. Membrane, however, a debut release developed and published by Perfect Hat and also an exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, is most definitely a game that will bring something different to your library with its, quite frankly, wacky but unique style of creative, platform-puzzling style of gameplay.
Whilst chilling upon the sofa and browsing through his phone, a helpless person watches on as his personal space is invaded by a common housefly; who duly proceeds to land upon the arm of our hapless hero and twitch and fidget like flies do. In order to do something about this intrusion, the brain needs to send electronic impulses that contain the instructions on how best to deal with the situation; in this case, to move your arm. It’s not rocket science, it’s how things happen in real life and this is where you come in, as the game tasks you with getting the message from the old grey matter, through the ear, past the mouth, down the throat and along to the arm of our chilled out character in order to get rid of the fly.
In order to achieve this, you control a small, yellow, pointy-headed character who must travel through various points set within the body. Starting in the brain, you enter various channels which lead you to different chambers, whereupon you need to collect two of the electronic impulses that are housed within. To help fulfil your quest, your character has the ability to fire small, red bricks which can be used to build various structures such as ramps, bridges and ladders to help you traverse your terrain. However, you only have a limited supply of these bricks so you need to try and think through the best possible way of reaching each of the impulses. Not all is lost though. If you don’t quite manage to construct what you may have perceived as adequate, you can also fire a yellow variant of the bricks which breaks down your structure in order to re-use the red varieties. The game is also quite generous in the respect of making any mistakes, as each chamber can be easily reset with no penalties.
With the dynamics of having a pointed head, you can rotate a three-hundred and sixty degree aim in order to place your bricks with some accuracy. However, due to an elasticity within the fabric of the bricks, it also becomes vitally important to take into consideration the support of whatever structures you may build in order to succeed. The first few chambers offer a relatively straight forward solution to its puzzles, but with progress, further elements become added to hamper your ability to advance. Deadly pink goo, that kills instantly upon contact, or green barriers of dried mucus that need to be smashed by rolling large spheres into them, adds a variety to the puzzles that need to be overcome within each of the chambers.
Set over forty five levels that sees you travelling from the brain, down to the arm, Membrane offers enough of a challenge to set your own electronic impulses in motion. One of the beauties of this title, is there is no set way in which to accomplish your goals and it is down to your own creativity in how you set about achieving these with your own unique solutions. The platforming, shooting, building and controlling mechanics of the gameplay are all particularly tight, making it a joy to play through. It’s very difficult to gauge what sort of experience Membrane can offer you from just looking at its screenshots. Its basic looking premise can fool you into thinking that this game is nothing more than an 8-bit wonder, but you really need to experience its gameplay in order to appreciate its worth.
Both the graphics and the sound are particularly psychedelic, which can make you go insane in the membrane, but in a good way, and it all just adds to its quirky and original charm that simply draws you in and keeps you playing. Although it is not imperative to collect every single electronic impulse in order to finish the game, doing so will reward you with bonus content that adds a variation to its themes through the use of catapulting, trick shooting and boulder balling; this in turn adds to its longevity and replayability values.
The further you progress, the more challenging it becomes which means the more creative you need to get. However, the game in no way punishes you for trying out different techniques to reach your goals, in fact, it encourages you to do so in order to get the most out of its unique gameplay values. There are no lives to worry about and each level can be reset quickly, allowing you to take a different approach to whatever puzzle you may be facing. There’s a real element of fun in constructing a particularly bouncy bridge, then trying to roll a ball along it, or even trying to figure out how to climb an opening that’s out of reach above your head; I won’t divulge how to accomplish this, but once you figure it out, it’s immensely satisfying and you’ll find yourself kicking yourself that you hadn’t worked it out sooner. This is one of the beautiful things about Membrane, you may be presented with a problem that you can see no viable way of achieving, but once you accomplish it with your own creativity, you feel a real sense of accomplishment through your own way of problem solving.
If you’re looking for a new game that will add a touch of variety to your Switch’s library, then Membrane is easily a title that will offer you that. Its innovative design, trippy aesthetics and physics mechanic offers an insight into how polished, indie titles can be and this one, in particular, can easily show how smaller development houses can produce a gameplay model that easily matches, if not exceeds, the mechanics of many triple A titles available today.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.