Adventure Lamp – A well crafted, charming puzzle platformer


Reviewed July 26, 2016 on PC

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Disclosure: A PC (Steam) download code was provided by the publisher for this review

Adventure Lamp is a deceptively simple puzzle platformer from indie game developer Ryan Davis. Though the basic mechanics of the game are limited - move, jump and throw hat - great level design results in an enjoyable (albeit short - my playtime after completing the main campaign was between two and three hours) experience.
Adventure Lamp began life as an entry in Ludum Dare, where the theme was "unconventional weapon". As a result, the game has a rather novel way of attacking. Simon, the main character, is an explorer who has become trapped in a cave and separated from all of his gear apart from his mining helmet. Naturally, he throws his hat to defeat enemies and trigger things such as switches. It may sound simple, but there is something oddly satisfying about seeing the character slightly lunge forward and send his hat flying across the level.
The story in the game is fairly light, and merely provides a framing device for the platforming levels. There are around 150 such levels; each of which can be beaten in 30 seconds or so. Mechanically, the game excels. The move set is fairly limited - move, jump, crouching for a more powerful jump, and throwing the hat are essentially the only options - but it feels good. There is a very deliberate pace to the flow of the game as, for example, the more powerful jump is not an instantaneous action, and waiting for the hat to return after being thrown can take a second or two. It felt very methodical - work out a path through the level, and then execute on it - and poor execution is punished as it isn't possible to instantly redo an action such as throwing the hat. This somewhat slower pace made the game standout from the more twitchy platformers I have played recently (such as 10 Second Ninja X and Ninja Pizza Girl).
These simple mechanics are built on over the course of the game. The first levels of the game are extremely straight-forward - a few jumps and enemies that are easy to avoid. New level elements are introduced at a fairly rapid and consistent pace, both making the game more challenging and preventing it from becoming stale. The difficult curve is very smooth; when new elements and enemies are introduced, the game subtly teaches how it operates, and then increases the difficulty by incorporating both new and old elements in future levels.

These elements include switches to activate moving platforms, wind and conveyor belts that push Simon and his hat around, enemies that cannot be killed by the hat, and levels that are lit solely by the light of the mining helmet. Each of these ties into the core mechanics extremely well. For example, in some of the dark levels, Simon must place his hat on a switch to trigger a platform, but leaving the hat there means he is walking in abject darkness. All in all, the constant evolution of levels, coupled with careful level design, means that Adventure Lamp is an extremely well designed game. The controls feel tight (I played with an Xbox One Elite controller), and pretty much every time I failed a level I knew it was my fault.
The only negative comment I can make about the gameplay is that it wasn't much of a challenge. Some of the later levels can be tricky, but I rarely had to try a level more than five times or so before getting to the end. This is alleviated somewhat by the inclusion of a new game plus mode, which features a different character with more difficult jumping mechanics, but it would have been nice to see some more difficult levels included in the main story.

This strong gameplay is complemented by good art and sound direction. The game has a fairly simple, clean look, but it works and is cohesive. The simple look makes examining a level straight-forward and intuitive, and it generally runs well. The later levels of the game build on this simple art style, adding things such as moving backgrounds and foregrounds, and particle effects. The dynamic light in the dark levels, that updates when the hat is thrown across the level, is a particular highlight. The game's soundtrack is also appropriate for the game, starting off relatively slow and environmental, and building in tempo and intensity as the end of the game approaches.
I must caution that the game doesn't always run perfectly. Towards the end of the game, the frame rate occasionally became choppy and made it much harder to control. This isn't a huge knock against the game, as restarting the program fixes the problem, but it is a little annoying at times. The developer has updated the game with performance improvements, so I hope that this issue will be resolved in a future release.
Overall, Adventure Lamp is an excellent puzzle platformer. It is a charming experience, and its short length does not detract from the fact that the game is well-crafted. Each level feels unique, and there is a good variety in the 150 or so in the game. Though I would have liked to see some more challenging levels, and there are occasional technical hiccups, it is easy to recommend Adventure Lamp as the core ideas are strong and well implemented.