Indie Quickie: Concursion

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? An interdimensional, multi-genre 2D side-scroller.

Who made it and where can you get it? This is the first game made by indie studio Puuba, with publisher support from Mastertronic. The game sells on Steam (PC/Mac) for $9.99, with a soundtrack bundle available for $14.98 as well as a free playable demo.

How much did we play? Around two hours, which was enough time to complete the 19 levels and two bosses that make up the first two of the game’s six worlds. I found all 66 gem shards in those levels (that’s 100% collectible progress so far!), but only beat the goal completion time on three of the stages. (I am an OCD collectible nut more than a speedrun whiz).

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? I haven’t encountered any bugs or technical flaws, but I did find the initial setup process for using a gamepad a bit clunky. You can’t simply plug a controller in and begin playing. Initially only the D-pad works until you dig into the menu and manually map commands to the face buttons. If you plan to use an Xbox 360 controller, don’t expect to be able to just jump right in. Of course, the good news here is that the game does support custom key mapping.

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Why should you play it?

    Concursion begins like any of those classic 2D platformers starring a certain Italian plumber and his super bro running and jumping through the Mushroom Kingdom. A reptilian evildoer has captured the princess, and an unassuming hero rises to rescue the damsel in distress and restore peace to the lands. Only in this lighthearted romp the evil dude, Darklord Biganbad, has torn open rifts causing different worlds and realities to bleed together.

    Obviously derived from the word concur, which among other definitions means to combine, coincide, converge or occur at the same time, Concursion twists the traditional platforming formula by simultaneously blending five classic gameplay styles into a single experience. The game starts as a straight up Mario Bros. clone 2D platformer with simple run, jump and enemy head stomp controls, but gradually the gameplay broadens into a side-scrolling shmup, an action-platformer hack ‘n’ slash akin to the old Shinobi games, a low-gravity space jumper in which jetpack propulsion is used to float past asteroids and other hazards, and a pellet-munching maze runner paying homage to good old Pac-Man. But there’s more to the game than just five disparate genres. The magic of Concursion is the way the different styles change on the fly as the hero character crosses in and out of interdimensional rifts that appear throughout each level like small windows to the other worlds. As the hero crosses the barrier into another dimension, the genre seamlessly transforms, forcing you to quickly adapt to the physics and mechanics of the new world or, as the levels get trickier, figure out how to combine the properties of two dimensions to solve a puzzle or reach a collectible.

    One area might have a gem shard surrounded by a barrier of breakable boxes that can’t be destroyed in the current dimension, but over to the side of the screen is a small rift to the shmup world. By crossing into the rift you can transform into a spaceship and fire its blasters through the dimensional divide to break the boxes blocking access to the shard. A more common use of the cross-genre design is combining the different movement physics to access an otherwise out of reach ledge. This might entail hitting the jetpack thrusters in one dimension to launch the hero out of the rift into the surrounding ninja dimension where the hero can then use a double jump or wall cling to go even higher. Enemies and hazards also change if they cross into a rift. For example a flying spaceship from the shmup dimension might cross into the platformer realm and drop to the ground as a dragonling. Or a moving platform might pass through a series of vertical rifts, temporarily changing portions of the platform into one-hit-kill spikes that must be vaulted over. The level design is incredibly smart and also quite challenging. Occasional frustration may occur in pressure situations where you have to make jumps or dimension shifts without knowing what dangers or platform sequences wait on the other side, but so far the levels only take a few minutes and offer enough checkpoints to prevent too much trial and error tedium from setting in. Of course, if you’re up for a true old school challenge there’s a Hardcore mode with fewer checkpoints.

Parting Thoughts: In an overcrowded sea of retro indie platformers, Concursion is able to stand out as something more than just another ho-hum game of running and jumping, even though those two actions do make up most of the gameplay. The game is faithful to the purity and simplicity of the classic games that established each individual genre back in the day, and yet somehow the game combines such familiar gameplay concepts into an experience that feels altogether unique and unexpected. Novices can look forward to easing into the mechanics thanks to the forgiving difficulty curve, while platformer perfectionists should be able to squeeze plenty of gameplay hours out of this one by searching for optional gem shard collectibles hidden throughout each stage (shards unlock character bios and bits of lore in the Extras menu) and replaying to top the goal completion times and speedrun leaderboards.

Disclosure: A free Steam key for Concursion was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!