This is one of the few PC reviews I’ve done since starting this site, but it’s a PC game that really must be shared because of the fact that its an indie game and if I don’t share this, you may miss out on one of the most challenging, fun, and different game I have played all year on my PC. The game is called Gateways and it’s developed by Smudged Cat Games. I’ll forgive you if you’ve never heard of them because I had never either which is why I’m sharing this with you now. It’s a game you really need to check out and I’ll tell you why in a second. I suggest you check out the trailer above first though before reading the rest of the review.
Now that you’ve watched the trailer, I can go on. As you can see, the game is built entirely in 2D with retro-styled pixelated graphics. You’ll also note the use of a Portal-like gun of sorts that is being carried around by the main character, Ed. The main premise of Gateways is to help Ed escape his lab. Somehow he has been trapped in this huge lab filled with puzzles and escaped lab experiments and it’s up to you to help him find his way out. You start with nothing at first and must explore the lab, solve puzzles, and get back your gateways guns to survive. The gateway guns are “portal” guns that can transport you from one point to another. That’s where the resemblance to the Portal gun ends however. These gateway guns have far more uses than their Portal counterparts and can not only transport you, they can resize you, reorient you, and even transport you back in time. This allows for some very creative puzzle solving as well as some of the most challenging puzzles I’ve ever come across. As you can see from the trailer, the gateway gun far exceeds that of the typical Portal gun and its multiple uses add layers of difficulty to the mix.
Another difference between this game and Portal is that the game itself takes place on one huge map. This harkens back to the old school days with games like Metroid and Castlevania. There weren’t levels really. They were just huge maps that would open up as you progress with certain parts opening up if you had the right requirements. Gateways is no different. Sections of the map are blocked off by physical barriers until you have the correct means of overcoming them. These barriers are in the form of puzzles that can only be solved if you have all the equipment necessary to solve them. You can try to solve them early on, but you’ll find that no matter what you do, you won’t get very far unless you have everything you need. As you progress, the puzzles get very difficult, and I mean really difficult. You have to literally think differently in order to solve them. If you’re not a very creative person, you might have trouble with this but luckily, there’s help. Each puzzle has a convenient help feature that will solve the puzzle for you if you give up. However, they must be paid for with orbs which you find scattered throughout the game. Use them only on the hardest of puzzles, otherwise you’ll run out and find yourself completely stuck later on in the game.
Because I am playing Gateways on STEAM, I am able to use either my keyboard and mouse combo or my Xbox 360 controller which I have connected to my PC. There is no need to switch control schemes in the menus as the game will automatically switch between the two seamlessly. I can use my controller to wander around, but if I feel like I need to be more precise, I can just put my controller down and use the keyboard+mouse. Both control types work well however so I’m glad there is the option to use either.
I’m not going to spoil the game for anyone here as I think part of the charm of this game is playing it with a fresh set of eyes not knowing what to expect. In fact, when I started playing this game, I didn’t even know what type of game it was. I didn’t have any background information on it nor what type of game it was. I am however really glad I gave it a chance because it was the only game I played all weekend. Again, it’s fun, challenging, and seriously addicting. Don’t let the old school graphics and level design fool you, this is one deep game that you’ll spend days and days playing. Also if you’re a fan of Portal, you owe it to yourself to play Gateways as there are similarities, but all the differences will really make you appreciate what the developer has done with this game.
Gateways is available now as a DRM-free download for $5 on their site here. It will be available soon on STEAM and Xbox Live Arcade on Sept. 13th. Not sure if the pricing will remain the same on there though. Again, I highly recommend this game to anyone who loves a good challenge.