In a world littered with remakes, clones, and 20 iterations of the same game with the current year tacked onto the name, it’s refreshing to come across a video game that introduces actual unique game play. Four Sided Fantasy is a 2D puzzler that not only challenges the mind with its one-of-a-kind mechanics, but also enchants the senses with stunning artwork and beautiful music. First introduced on Kickstarter in 2014, Four Sided Fantasy enchanted backers by revisiting the classic video game concept of wrapping around the screen found in Asteroids or Pac-Man but with a new twist. The screen wrap can be activated at will, turning a normal side scrolling adventure game into a mind bending puzzler that, just when you think you have it figured out, throws another physics curve ball at you.
The screen wrapping concept alone would make this game worth playing, but it’s the artistry that really sets it apart. Four Sided Fantasy proves that you don’t need individual hairs rendered at 60fps to make a beautiful game. The minimalistic artwork is reminiscent of a Japanese tapestry, and is woven not only into the game play, but into the seamless transition screens as well. You could literally stop the game at any moment, take a screen shot, and have a picture worthy of a desktop background or suitable for hanging on your office wall. Perfectly complementing the artwork is the ambient soundtrack by MJ Quigley, creating an auditory and visual experience that evokes the serenity of a mountain retreat or a stroll through an autumn forest, or the intensity of a midnight lightning storm.
In fact, the whole game blends together so well, it really is more like an artistic experience than a video game, which unfortunately may turn off some hard core puzzlers. While thought-provoking, none of the challenges required more than two or three attempts to complete, with probably 90% of them requiring little more than a quick glance around the screen to figure out. This is where comparisons to other games like Portal fail. The appeal of Portal, aside from the brilliant writing and voice acting, was the frustratingly difficult sequence of events that provided a real sense of accomplishment when finally solved. With Four Sided Fantasy, on the other hand, you get the impression the creators don’t want the puzzles to get in the way of the overall emotional experience of the game by forcing you to try and fail over and over again.
The result is a game that, without taking the time to find all of the hidden features and just playing straight through to the credits, could probably be finished in a couple of hours. Add in the hidden rooms and the Game+ version that is unlocked after you beat the game (the same rounds but with different visualizations of the screen wrap), and you have a few hours of entertainment for under $10. Even after beating the game, I feel like there are unanswered questions in the narrative regarding the boy and girl, the nature of some of the hidden elements, and what’s the story behind the ubiquitous surveillance cameras. Could there be another version or some DLC in the works? Because I was definitely left wanting more.
Four Sided Fantasy is available for PC via Steam and for PS4 in the PlayStation Store.