Available on Steam and XBLA, International Games System takes players on a brain-burning, twisted sci-fi romp inConstant C – a puzzle-platformer filled with physics-based challenges that are as clever as they are punishing.
Set in the remote future, some of the most brilliant scientists on the planet were pushed to develop the “[Superluminal Project]” in an outer space research center. This program was to change space travel forever, offering leisurely journeys and even the ability to travel through time. One day, though, time on the research facility completely stopped and everything and everyone on it entered a motionless state. As an adorable robot, players will awaken aboard this space station that’s locked in time stasis and quickly discover that they can inexplicably move around unimpeded. After quickly befriending the ship’s exuberant AI, displayed on a huge monitor in a central area of the vessel, the tiny bot discovers that it must obtain energy drives that are scattered across the ship in order to restore the station to itsprior condition. This quest will span scores of levels in which you’ll experience over 100 puzzles while uncovering the events that led to this horrible mishap. Actually, for a game that starts out as cute and quirky as this one does, the story it delves into gets surprisingly dark and melancholy.
As you progress, you can view video logs of the crew that explain pieces of the background story of scientists attempting to break the light barrier (the title of the game is a reference to the speed of light in a vacuum) and the accident that led to them being trapped in their time-locked prison, as well as the ill-intentions that sparked it. The serious subject matter was an unexpected addition to the game but something that really elevates Constant C to the next level. Instead of just being a string of difficult puzzles with no real payoff, you find yourself wanting to progress so you can continue delving deeper into the narrative. And the puzzles can be difficult. The prominent mechanic in this game is the ability to manipulate each room’s gravitational pull. The direction from which gravity acts on the environment can be shifted ninety degrees to the left or right or even reversed. To illustrate this, the entire rom shifts it’s orientation on your screen, sending your robot hurtling downward. For example, if you are walking down a long, narrow hallway and decide shift the gravitational pull in a clockwise direction, that hallway has just become a deep pit that will likely cause your death once you hit the bottom. It can be disorienting at first, but getting the hang of playing around with the physics engine is fairly rewarding.
Each puzzle you encounter is built around navigating these areas, which are filled with objects and obstacles, in order to reach the exit of find energy drives. It gets tricky when you realize that, although these objects are frozen in time like everything else, they are affected by the “time field” that your robot projects. This means that anything that is within close proximity to it is also affected by gravity. Simply inverting the gravitational pull of the room doesn’t immediately affect anything but you (everything else is in stasis), but walk under that giant block that used to be on the floor of a room that’s been effectively flipped upside-down and it will react with your field and crush you. Similarly, falling past or unto objects will cause them to begin falling as well, so momentum and inertia pay a large role in understanding the puzzles as well. The platforming possibilities this unlocks are seemingly endless and indeed the developers make great use of these mechanics in a series of fiendishly clever scenarios.
The art direction is interesting as the somewhat serious subject matter of the narrative is contrasted with a fun, cute style throughout. Your robotic character, much like the lead character in Playdead’s Limbo, has an oversized head and is enveloped in an inky shadow with only a few key highlights showing through. The quirky AI monitor you meet early on displays its persona via emoticons and all the human characters are have a unique cartoonish aesthetic. Each environment is varied and the accompanying music tends to have an ambient quality that’s pleasant to listen to while trying numerous times to get through a level that’s giving you trouble. Overall, Constant C is an interesting journey that offers some fresh new ideas to the puzzler genre. The difficulty curve is steep and navigating to your destination can be downright tough but also pretty rewarding. Top that with a slick, appealing presentation, charming characters, and engrossing storyline and you have a title that’s certainly worth checking out.