Platform games are two to a penny these days on the Nintendo Switch and whilst they may vary in their offerings, I’ll guarantee you that you’ll never find another quite like Blue Isle Studios’ Valley. Although around three years old, with previous releases seeing the light of day on Steam, Xbox One and Playstation 4 consoles, the uniqueness of this title, as well as some outstanding gameplay and visuals, ensures that this is a title that retains a freshness and will have you leaping from your chair, as well as around the valley, in pure delight.
Although I have described the game as a platformer, it’s not in the same vein as you might expect. Instead of your usual two-dimensional affair, Valley is purely a three-dimensional journey that not only involves parkouring your way around the environment, but also incorporates a good deal of exploration, a story to follow and a generous helping of combat; plus there’s also one or two surprises that simply keeps you playing from start to end. The game starts with you choosing a gender; either male or female. Once your protagonist has been chosen you begin to learn that you are, in fact, an archaeologist who has embarked on a journey through the Canadian Rockies on a personal quest to find a mysterious object known as the Lifeseed.
However, after a disastrous canoeing excursion, you soon find yourself stranded within a cave complex that leads to some uncharted territory; as well as some startling discoveries. In what was once a military testing ground, you stumble across the L.E.A.F. or the Leap Effortlessly through Air, exoskeleton suit. As a form of tutorial, you make your way through a military testing ground that was designed for the suit, as you leap great distances and run at incredible speeds. Through the reading of various documents that are scattered around the landscape, creating the narrative for the game’s story, you also learn of a military expedition that was also searching for the very same thing you are looking for, the Lifeseed. Now equipped with your bionical suit, you continue your search for the mysterious object, as well as implement the suit’s powers to bring life and death to the valley.
Dotted around the environment are a series of glowing orbs which are used to fuel your suit. With a full complement of energy, you are able to give life to deceased plants and wildlife, as well as having the capability to take life from them too, with which to sustain your own energy levels. It’s here that a clever mechanic comes into play within the game, as with each time you die in the game, a part of the valley also dies with you and in order to regain your own lifeforce, or in gaming terms, your lives, you must bring back to life the elements of the valley that may have died. It’s quite a unique take on the premise of how many lives you may have within a game, although in reality, it’s never that difficult a prospect that promotes any sense of urgency or near-death panic.
The main premise of the game involves exploration of the landscape. Although not entirely an open-world, its paths aren’t entirely linear either; often with branching routes that can lead to some much needed items. Hidden within the crevices of the valley, old military crates lie in waste, often housing upgrades for your suit that can allow you to leap further distances, grapple onto objects and energy capsules that allow you to carry more fuel, or energy, that is needed to keep your suit running and granting life to any decay within your surroundings. It’s here where the absolute joy of this game lies, as leaping and running around in your L.E.A.F. suit is a joy to behold.
The control scheme is sublimely easy and accessible to use, promoting a smoothness of movement that produces a genuinely exhilarating ride. You get a real sense of speed and agility as you leap, climb and run through the ravines and plains of the valley. It’s also here where the game shines too, with some truly impressive visuals that forces you to stop what you’re doing and take in the sights with awe. The scenery is truly spectacular and if you’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing Ark: Survival Evolved’s vistas on the Switch, then you’ll know exactly what I’m taking about. For a game that centres around life and death, the landscapes they have produced really are a living and breathing utopia of wonder.
If there are any negatives, then it has some performance issues and a lacklustre combat element, but in all honesty, they are all really quite minor. Considering the lush visuals of the game, it’s not surprising that on the Switch there are some instances where the frame-rate dips slightly. However, these instances are so few and far between, that they’re barely noticeable. The combat however, is an element of the game that neither excites or exhilarates, producing a very run-of-the-mill experience that is never particularly engaging or even feels dangerous. However, once again, it’s not something that really detracts from the overall fun of the title. Perhaps my biggest qualm comes from the overall length of the game, clocking in at around five hours from start to end; depending on your level of exploration or speed-running techniques. It’s a perfectly acceptable game length, but because of the fun I have had with this game, it just felt is was over too quickly; although it didn’t take long for me to jump back in and start over again, such is the allure that it holds.
Overall, Valley is a fine example of what can be done on the Switch. Within all of its elements, from platforming to exploration, it is a game that is a joy to play. It’s ease of control and smoothness of execution forces you to play and investigate every nook and cranny that you come across. It’s clever life implementation, restoring the valley to further bolster your own life-force is incredibly unique, even if it is not always a necessary procedure as the game isn’t terrifically difficult to traverse through. In simple terms, this a game that just oozes pure fun and highlights exactly the level of entertainment that video games can provide. It may not be an extensive game, at least in terms of play time, but what time you do have with the game, will be an unforgettable experience and for once, is one that is for all the right reasons.
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.
User Review( votes)
Valley is a fine example of what can be done on the Switch. Within all of its elements, from platforming to exploration, it is a game that is a joy to play.