Glyph Review: A Rock-Solid 3D Platformer

Glyph is a 3D Platformer developed and published by Danish indie studio Bolverk Games. It was released in February 2021 for Nintendo Switch and August 2021 on Steam. MSRB is $20. A free demo is available on the Nintendo Switch eShop. I played the Nintendo Switch version.

I bought Glyph on sale intending it to be the newest back scratcher for my ever-present Platformer itch. My initial impression from the demo was that it would give me the standard gameplay I had come to expect from the genre. However, after several more hours interacting with Glyph’s rocksolid physics, I’ve concluded that it rises well and above that standard. Fans of classic 3D Platformers will want to consider owning this game.

In Glyph, you need to master the physics to hop from one small island in the sand to another

In Glyph you control a mechanical beetle tumbling around desert ruins (a literal SANDbox) littered with glowing trinkets. For some unexplained reason, you spontaneously combust if you touch the sand, creating the ultimate game of “The Floor is Lava.” The game would be a lot more frustrating if the controls weren’t tight, or if the physics engine wasn’t polished to a shine. Thankfully, Glyph excels in both of these while also avoiding many of the trappings of classic 3D Platformers.

For example, I rarely had a problem with Glyph’s camera. Considering that poor camera placement is a common plague among Platformers, I’d say that this is quite an achievement all on its own. Similarly, once I got the hang of how my beetle moved, I could maneuver it almost exactly where I needed it to go. The moveset is rather basic — just a jump, double-jump, hover, and ground-pound. However, looks can be deceiving. It’s the way these moves combine with the physics that make the game rise above most of its peers. Sometimes the Classics would loose their focus on unrelated ideas, but Glyph ignores this Siren’s Call and uses your small pool of abilities to their upmost potential. Using the double-jump quickly will make you go high, but you won’t go far horizontally. Conversely, timing the double-jump more slowly will net you distance at the cost of some height. Your ground-pound can halt your momentum in an instant, but be careful as this maneuver will also make you bounce. Once you get the hang of how it works, your movement becomes as creative and expressive as any of the 3D Mario games. Yes, it seriously has that much polish.

There are tons of hidden secrets– you’ll need to look carefully

Speaking of collectibles, you have quite the assortment to look for. The most important are the golden keys, as they are required to finish each level. The next most important are the pink gems; they unlock new areas of the hubworld and mark are your overall progress. Gold coins unlock Sandbox levels, and artefacts unlock Time Trial levels. Finally, there are costumes cleverly hidden in each level to give some cosmetic change to your beetle. There’s plenty of reason to explore and experiment with your moveset.

These were probably one of my favorite gimmicks — you’d fly immensely far with this.

Most levels are the aforementioned Sandbox levels, which allow you to collect and uncover secrets at your leisure. Most have a level gimmick, such as rings that let you recharge your double-jump, or trampolines that launch you high into the air. The game smartly does not employ a lives system, allowing you to fail however many times you need to. Paired with its synthwave soundtrack and muted color palette, the game was rather relaxing. The more keys you grab, the more the music will crescendo, like an ’80s Lofi version of a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. It’s a simple but effective method to tie the game’s sound to its gameplay.

I ended up preferring the Sandbox levels over the Time Trial levels

The Time Trial levels are linear gauntlets that have the potential of rewarding you with a larger sum of gems, but they are much more difficult to complete. They’re not unlike the Speed Relic challenges from Crash Bandicoot 3. You need to be both quick and accurate to get the Gold time, and it would take me several dozen attempts to do so. While I had fun with Glyph’s physics and moveset, these Time Trials convinced me not to invest in a 100% completion run. Eventually I just started skipping these levels altogether.

The story is almost nonexistent, but that works since Glyph can support itself on its polished gameplay alone. Your beetle character was awakened by the other remaining robots in the hopes that you could restore this ruined world to at least some semblance of normalcy. There’s nothing much else to it besides some basic lore. It ended up as inoffensive yet unimportant window dressing.

I think I can tell what’s going on based on the pictures…

My biggest complaint about the game is that the final boss feels a bit out of place. Don’t get me wrong, the boss a good test of your skills, but it’s the only boss in the game. It seemed to exist just for check a box as a video game. I would’ve preferred some linear platforming gauntlet or a timed chase sequence to be the capstone to the game, but the Big Bad was still acceptable.

Boss aside, if you’re a genre veteran like me and wish for a modern yet still challenging take on classic 3D Platformers, then Glyph is exactly what you’re looking for.

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