Polara (universal) by Hope This Works Games Inc. is exactly what hardcore platforming fans have been waiting for: it’s challenging in the most unforgiving ways possible, throwing obstacle after obstacle at players from the get-go. Thankfully, with a powerful, agile female protagonist at your fingers, it’s not just an exercise in frustration.
At the heart of Polara is a typical futuristic fare, involving rebel forces and a woman named Agent Lara who is torn between the government she works for, and the freedom fighters trying to convince her otherwise. The story becomes forgettable through the game’s 50 levels, but Polara at least provides some nice art as a lens to tell its story, and it does give some context to the action on the screen – something too many games of its kind don’t bother with.
But the story is secondary to the gameplay, where the game’s design really shines. The twist to side-scrolling in Polara is in the suit the player wears, which can change back and forth from red to blue depending on what colored obstacles await on the next platform. Console gamers will notice the similarities to Outland, running, jumping, and changing colors through Story and Random modes.And although the game is challenging, it helps players by keeping the control scheme simple. Touching on the left side of the screen changes Lara’s color, and the right side controls her ability to jump.
There are 50 levels and 6 random stages to choose from, and all of them are going to take some time to get through. The levels are short, but crank up in difficulty from the second level – which will make it difficult for casual gamers, as its only a few boards past the tutorial when the game starts to get challenging. It will lead to a lot of deaths completing a level, and even more afterwards: after completing a stage, it can be completed again for a different objective, adding P-O-L-A-R-A letters to strategic places in level layouts.
Visually, Polara does a great job coloring and animating Lara, giving each color a sharp, neon contrast to the level design. Unfortunately, said level design is repetitive and lacking in color which places too much emphasis on the character and obstacles, and takes away from the game’s atmosphere with the non-descript designs.
Polara is definitely not a game for the impatient: the death count at the end of each level is a constant reminder of the game’s unforgiving design.But it doesn’t go out of its way to be cruel or unfair, it’s simply more challenging than the many, many casual options available in the App Store. With a fun gameplay twist and smooth, consistent platforming action, Polara is definitely worth a look for gamers looking for some side-scrolling action.