Kaleidoscope

The world of Kaleidoscope has been shrouded in darkness! All that was once lush and colorful is now dreary and colorless. Take on the role of Tint, an unusual inhabitant of Kaleidoscope, and traverse the surreal environments in search of the lost colors!

Inkpots and Fry Guys, the vivid world of Morsel's Kaleidoscope is inexplicably populated with bipedal black and brown blobs. Kaleidoscope has seen an outbreak envelope the planet, sapping it of its color and forcing the inhabitants into space save the brown Murmurs who became unstable as a result of the color drain. An attractive slideshow cinema tells the tale and shows the unnamed inhabitants fleeing the planet into space, leaving Tint and his grandparents to deal with the threat. Since old people are useless, this leaves the heroics up to Tint, a young "inhabitant" to come to the rescue as he braves the twelve levels of Kaleidoscope, hopping on Murmurs to bring them to their senses and collecting pigments and lost colors strewn throughout the game.

Kaleidoscope is hardly the first game to revolve around restoring color to a world, its planet playing the part of a less funky Funkotron, but the game is no less impressive for treading along a known path. Programmed by Matthew Stenback and illustrated by Sang Han, Kaleidoscope is a beautiful game featuring four layers of parallax scrolling backgrounds and multiple sections which gradually restore their coloring as Tint goes about collecting pigments, floating red, yellow, and blue balls found throughout each level. The artwork is extremely polished with attention to detail at every facet of the game, from the swaying dandelions in "Brightmeadow Bank" to the rotating loading screen messages which impart details of Tint and his world over a picnic scene, informing players that the planet's chief exports are "Tree Sap and Rainbows" among other frivolous bits of information. The game is divided into four sections of three levels with each section carrying its unique theme, and though all levels possess a similar structure from one to the next -- flat tracks of land populated by trees of varying shapes and sizes with a smattering of flowers -- enough care has gone into their look and layout to keep the game interesting throughout. The excellent animation of Tint and his enemies along with the lively look of the levels are appreciated, and Kaleidoscope looks as sharp as any game despite giving off a somewhat flat Flash-like aesthetic.

Tint's primary means of attack is the standard platformer jump which turns drab threatening Murmurs into harmless brown friendlies with one hop. While his fellow inhabitants manage to reach outer space with ease when evacuating the planet, Tint is limited to a double jump and three special abilities: running, shielding, and floating. Each power drains a meter which regenerates over time but can also be restored via the matching colored pigment balls. The speed burst is rather worthless in a relaxed game such as Kaleidoscope, but the shield proves useful against bullet spitting flowers while floating comes in handy for navigating certain obstacles, in particular some of the fans which can rocket Tint high into the sky to reach otherwise unreachable platforms and pathways. Tint generally moves about fine, but the game exhibits some wonky collision detection at times; sometimes Tint seems to stick momentarily along the edge of a platform while other times he'll stall during a double jump, often just as an approaching enormous Murmurs closes in to pop him. With unlimited lives and a fair amount of checkpoints, Kaleidoscope is quite the user friendly experience even with its otherwise low level of difficulty, and though these control issues remain present throughout the experience, at no point does it soil the enjoyment to be had aside from when looking to complete the "Memory Lane" stage without dying for one of the game's nine achievement style awards.

Tint must restore his home to order by locating the lost colors, gems which are hidden three per level. Each level is split into three different routes, not all of which are initially obvious, with a missing color found at the end. Grabbing the gem will boot Tint out of the level and force the player to replay the game again; levels are unlocked via collecting the gems, requiring much of the game to be revisited and replayed to make it to the end. While getting kicked out of a level can be annoying, especially seeing as Tint can often backtrack to the other missing colors just fine, the separate paths help keep the following visits from feeling redundant as Tint rarely will have to retrace his steps when going after the other gems. It is possible to beat the game without grabbing all of these colors -- most, but not all, are required unless the player wishes to nab the game's "Jewel Theif" (sic) award -- and when the player finally comes across the source of the color drain, the game alters this collecting design for a nice change of pace for the game's final few levels.

Mattias Häggström Gerdt's soundtrack deserves its own praise, and Morsel thankfully has allowed Overclocked Remix to host the entire soundtrack. Each of Kaleidoscope's four worlds carries its own fitting theme, and the introduction, closing credits, and level select map get their own tunes as well. The seven songs are fantastic, going from the light xylophone backed "Pretty Pleasantries" which introduces the player to the game's first world onward to "Old Oddities" which manages to carry a retro synthetic sound while still blending in with the rest of the selections and avoiding the harsh, grating melodies of so many modern "chiptune" songs. Over 16 minutes of original music by Gerdt and guest and OC Remix founder djpretzel are a pleasure to listen to both during and outside of the game, and even those people not remotely interested in platformers such as Kaleidoscope would do well to Download and listen to the free soundtrack. I may not have great incentive to revisit the game having done everything there is to do at this point, but Kaleidoscope's music will always remain in frequent listening rotation.

Kaleidoscope is not a ground breaking game nor completely flawless, but it remains an excellent platformer and one of the better examples available on Xbox Indies. Despite some qualms with collision detection, occaisionally wonky controls, so-so challenge, and ever so slightly repetitive level design, Morsel's first Xbox Indie effort is a definite winner. Kaleidoscope is an enjoyable platformer whose cute hero and gorgeous art and music enhance what already is a solid effort and turns it into something truly special.

★★★★☆
October 04, 2010
February 15, 2010 | 240 points
Developer | Video | Download

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