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Feel like you’re being watched? So does Blue. He’s the little enzyme Xeno Industries has decided to put into a maze to test his intelligence. Well, to be more accurate—your intelligence. Test Subject Blue is a unique twist on a platformer that uses world-wrapping portals to make you think “left” to go right or “down” to go up.
The first challenge you’ll have to master, however, is the controls. Blue is quite responsive to the keys, but his hitbox is not the size I expected. He seems to often run into the side of platforms that I clearly need to land on (yes, you can make that jump; try again). I feel that if Blue could jump just a little higher though, it wouldn’t be so difficult to just stick a landing and let the player move on with the puzzle. In some cases, you’ll even have to stand halfway through a portal to make your next jump. That said, once you learn to use every last bit of a platform, you’ll find that moving Blue about the stage isn’t so tough.
Right away, you’ll notice that Blue cannot go directly to his goal. He must use the green portals to get to areas that would normally be out of reach. Since the player is not in control of where these portals are placed, he/she will have to use some critical thinking to navigate a path through the stage.
Between levels, the scientist makes notes on Blue’s progress, which is a slick way to pass helpful hints to the player. And he is indeed watching you try to figure out the puzzles. I didn’t actually realize he was out there until he tapped on the glass – a nice touch.
This is a real love-to-frustrate yourself game. It’s amazing how Nitrome was able to kill me 20 times with a single turret in the level (I mean you, level 8). Luckily, there are checkpoints very appropriately placed so that if you get past a section, you can pick up where you left off. Quick respawns also keep you motivated to continue. And you will need to be motivated. This game takes determination.
Some levels do seem a little out of order. At times I found myself thinking, “if it only gets harder from here, there’s no way I can finish this,” only to find the next level fairly easy. Stick with it! It’s a lot of fun to see the unusual ways the creators use the portals.
Blue does have a proton cannon which he can use to fight back against the turrets and Orange enzymes, but not the proximity mines. You can fire it faster while jumping, which helps in some situations. Creative use of Blue’s proton cannon must be made when the “Evade” Orange enzyme is added. These guys will dodge your first shot, so you’ll have to fire at them twice. Crouching and shooting seems to be the most effective method.
Nitrome continues to successfully reinvent the platformer. Test Subject Blue is challenging and fun to play. The graphics are fitting and the music and sound effects are effectual in engaging the player without getting boring. If you like it, try Nitrome’s Fault Line for another interesting gameplay mechanic added to an old genre.
By the way, it is possible (though not necessary) to beat the last level without destroying any of the turrets. Good luck.