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How do you make a platformer without actual platforms?

Where you’re going in Ynglet, you don’t need feet

Ynglet has you acting as a space dolphin Image: Nifflas/Triple Topping

If you’re making a platforming game, step one would be to add a platform or two. Indie game Ynglet, newly released for Mac and Windows PC, goes another way: no platforms to speak of! You literally can’t stand in one place because you haven’t got the required feet.

Ynglet has you commanding a microscopic organism trying to find its way in the world after a comet has wiped out the bulk of life on its planet. This organism kinda looks like a squid, with a spaceship-like head and long tendrils spewing out the back. And, notably, no feet. But it’s a platformer?

Rather than jumping from girder to girder, the tiny hero of Ynglet finds itself at home in drops of liquid scattered about a variety of 2D levels. In practice these are really just geometric shapes within which the critter can swim around safely. Reaching another shape requires gathering up enough speed in one drop of liquid to reach the next one safely. The words “space dolphin” appear on the game’s Steam page, which seems decidedly apt.

Like any good platformer, the first few levels in Ynglet ease you into this mechanic with small leaps, followed by slightly longer leaps. More timid players will appreciate the game’s clever checkpointing system. Worried about making a jump? Just chill out in a single shape for a few seconds and the outline of that shape will fill in, designating that you’ll start from this spot the next time you fall to your doom. There’s no limit to these checkpoints and it doesn’t require diving into menu screens to activate, making the game flexible for all skill levels.

There are limits to the creative extent of “leap from puddle to puddle using momentum,” however, so Ynglet quickly introduces a dash maneuver. Holding down a button will slow down time and let you dash ahead in any direction you choose, but you only have one dash per leap, so you have to make it count.

It’s around here that Ynglet really starts playing with the toolkit. Some shapes will launch you like a springboard if you land on them, while others will only launch you if you dash directly into them. Careful placement of these shapes leads to incredible ricochet maneuvers where you’re bouncing between two shapes to gather up enough speed to reach the next bit of liquid. I found it genuinely thrilling to land a tricky jump after launching myself blindly into the void of space.

This entire world is brought to life by the simple, hand-drawn lines of a sketchbook, but these lines become more complex and colorful the deeper into the levels you go. It’s also all paired by a dynamic soundtrack that springs to life as you make more dramatic leaps and launches, giving the package a vibrant vibe that feels like it’s evolving before your eyes.

Ynglet is not a huge, epic adventure, and playing through the game’s levels will take just a couple hours. But in that span you can experience the thoughtful ways a developer can expand on a single, seemingly simple idea, twisting it in unexpected ways to add challenge and fun. And all without the benefit of feet!

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