Bright colours. Simple shapes. Abstract ambience. Rhythmic gameplay. None of it is exactly new. In the spirit of experimentation, these concepts have been mixed time and again as if by a mad scientist in a lab, with results that are equally as unpredictable. If, however, you want a textbook example of experimentation done right, you need look no further than the wonderful indie platformer with the rather bland name of 140. Is it pronounced “one-forty” or “one-hundred-and-forty”? I don’t know and I don’t care, and neither will you once you’ve had a jab at it.
The game throws players into the role of a shape. I say “shape” because your form changes as you move; standing still, you’re a block. Moving, you’re a circle. Jumping, you’re a triangle. Your shape moves around a highly saturated landscape which pulses and ebbs according to the chords and bassline of the game’s soundtrack. Platforms phase in and out of existence when certain notes are played, and a malevolent form of static alternates between floors and ceilings as the beat goes on.
Scattered around the levels are coloured circles which behave like keys, unlocking new areas or activating previously stationary objects. Finding them and returning them to an activation post becomes increasingly complex as the game wears on, but not once does it ever become frustrating. Tuning into the game’s rhythm becomes a totally mesmerizing experience that offers a surprising amount of replayability despite being a very short title that can probably be completed in an hour or less.
If you find yourself at the end still itching for a challenge, an unlockable hard mode appears upon the game’s completion. Suffice to say, it’s basically permadeath-mode that requires you to understand the game’s rhythms like second nature, or GTFO.
It may surprise you to learn that 140 is the brainchild of none other than Jeppe Carlsen of Limbo fame. Unlike Limbo with its dark, monochromatic hues and unrelenting darkness, 140 is bright, beat-y and very much alive. It’s not often that a soundtrack becomes an indisputable part of a game, but this is a notable example. Would it be as much fun without its thumping, almost clubby electronic soundtrack? Probably not, but it’s a marriage that everybody will agree works just fine.
It’s hard to find fault in 140. If I were to nitpick, I might say that the length is too short or that the soundtrack is too repetitive, but it’s hard to imagine this game pulled off any other way and working as well as it does. It’s a joyful experimental platforming romp with an electronic soundtrack that is absorbing and appropriate, and for a measly $4.99, it’s well worth the asking price. Nab it on Steam right now for PC and Mac and thank me later.