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7.21.2020

Terraforming Earth: A Genuine Procedurally-Generated, Puzzle-Platforming Pleasure

     It isn't often I come across a game so lovely and well put together that I'm taken aback. Terraforming Earth is exactly that type of game.  It's a beautifully stylized, procedurally-generated, puzzle-platforming game completely loaded with heaps of style and charm.


     The premise is that something has gone awry and life on Earth has been eliminated.  Three robots are sent in to remedy this terrible situation and bring life back to the dead planet.  What makes this so wonderful, not including the charm of the robots (who are considerably more entertaining than Portal 2's Atlas and P-Body), is that you can play infinitely and never have repeat levels.  It's a puzzle-platforming gamer's heaven- infinite puzzles to be solved.  Sure, you'll be bringing life to a dead planet, but those puzzles, that's where it's at.

     The levels are each a puzzle to solve in gathering supplies or completing a task.  In doing this, each of the 3 core robots you use to solve the puzzles has an ability to aid in these tasks.  The blocky blue bot (Opi) can lift, jump, and throw things, the yellow orb bot (Curi) can hover and fly at a certain height, and the triangular pink bot (Spiri) can make short range teleports.  Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, but pretty early in the game the puzzle difficulty starts compounding rapidly.  It should be noted that, that statement is NOT a complaint.  I had a few puzzles within the first couple hours that really pushed some abstract thinking- in particular, I had to use the blue robot to throw the yellow bot over a wall and let it fall to a certain height and then hover it all the way across the map to land on a platform.
     That small change made me really explore and reconsider the levels as a whole, and it was a truly wonderful experience- you can't simply look at it as necessarily a step by step process.  Sometimes you have to backtrack or think way outside the box  It is rare that a puzzle can make you push the boundaries of "how" it can work, and it's made even more impressive that it was a procedurally-generated level- meaning the developers put in the extra effort to consider what many players might not have ever remotely thought of, and that sets it above so many other puzzle games.

     One thing that nagged me is the fact that procedural generation can have the potential to create levels that cannot be solved.  I personally had not encountered that issue in all the time I've put in, but it seems like a valid concern that will come up, and the longer I play the higher the probability.  The downside is you'd have to abandon the level, losing robots in the process, and possibly have to regain "Trust." The loss of robots isn't too awful, but the "trust" is a bit annoying.
     The Trust system itself seems a bit to harsh in that you can lose a bunch really fast, due to things outside your control, and then have to spend a ton of time rebuilding it.  Honestly, it needs a bit of tweaking, and definitely could use some better explanation in the game while you're playing.

     The story, which will likely take a backseat for many players, is to return life to the planet and figure out what actually occurred that wiped it all out in the first place.  Along the way there are plenty of hints- even right at the beginning of the game- and it's hard not to make comparisons to Wall-E, but Terraforming Earth really makes it their own here.  But what got and kept me intrigued was all the little banter between the army of robots you create along the way. They complain, comment, and offer tips as you are on your way to fixing the ruin the Earth has found itself in.  It isn't a ton of variety, but it adds a fun layer of AI's perspective on the situation and what should be done.  There's times when a bunch of them are talking over each other and their word bubbles overlap en masse.


     Overall, Terraforming Earth is a tremendously fun game.  The flaws are quite minor, and it is just fun to play.  It's got great music and sound design (the noise of Curi rolling around is outstanding in its own right), truly stunning hand-crafted art for visuals, clean and responsive controls.  The game is an all-around amazing experience.  I got stuck on puzzles and had to step away a bit, I lost robots through trial and error, but I never wanted to quit playing at any point.  As I said in the title for this review, Terraforming Earth is a genuine procedurally-generated, puzzle-platforming pleasure, and I highly recommend it.

     Terraforming Earth on [ Steam ]

     Their [ Official Site ] & [ Twitter ]

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