I never thought I'd find a game more punishing than Dark Souls, least of all one that looks so...cute.
Fans of precision platformers and speedrunners: I have a treat for you, in the form of Sunblaze.
You'll play as Josie, aka Sunblaze. She asks her superhero father to let her have a go in his superhero training simulator, and eventually he relents. I mean who wouldn’t want to go through superhero training? He starts the simulator, which also serves as a tutorial to teach you the basics of the game. These include quite standard moves such as the double jump and dash.
The training is tough though, as it should be. There's puzzles, obstacles, TNT, spikes and drones, to name a few elements. But what superhero would be complete without her side-kick and trusted feline friend. What more could you possibly need? I'll tell you what you'll need. Some serious skills at precision platforming, and an unwavering determination to succeed.
As you and Sunblaze become accustomed to the simulator, something goes wrong and you become stuck inside. Sunblaze isn’t alone though, she gains a companion in the form of a cute little unicorn. This is actually part of the simulation that has somehow become sentient and is designed to stop her from hurting herself. Allowing her to die again….and again….and again. That took a dark turn.
The rest of the game is basically Sunblaze working her way through various chapters of increasing difficulty. Each of the chapters has its own unique aesthetic and style. It goes from moving platforms, to lasers, to electrified areas of the screen to name but a few. Parts of the more difficult levels can only be finished by dying over and over and over as you can rarely look at the level at the start, and know how it's going to play out. The only way to find out is to trigger some items on the map and see what happens. Although the game becomes progressively harder, the difficulty curve is well-paced. I never once felt that I hadn’t been taught how to overcome a specific obstacle in the game. I could only play for a maximum of 2 hours at a time before my frustration got the better of me, However, I always came back for more, which is a testament to how fun the game is, despite the fact I died over 2500 times.
The game is unforgiving and infuriatingly difficult at times, but so addictive that you could easily spend hours upon hours trying to beat it. Sunblaze takes pride in its difficulty, almost challenging you to play it. Just take a look at the steam page, it even says it has hundreds of challenging, handcrafted levels to keep you dying for hours and hours.
So I've spent a while talking about how difficult this game is, but there is more to it than that. It's charming with its witty dialogue full of references and Easter eggs. It's exceptionally well-designed, with each level following a logical progression whilst continuing to test your abilities. Speaking of dialogue though, as one of the characters is a dad, the game wouldn’t be quite complete without some top-notch dad jokes. There are a plethora throughout the game, which adds charm and sense of humour to an already wholesome looking game. The dialogue is witty and obviously has a lot of thought behind it. Some exchanges between characters will really make you feel your age too with specific references. It almost invokes a sense of nostalgia to go with the pixel art style of graphics, which I always have a soft spot for anyway.
This game is developed by Games From Earth, and published by Bonus Stage Publishing. IT is available on PC and Switch, and is currently on offer on Steam. So what about the verdict? Overall Sunblaze is a great platformer, so if you’re a fan of these, I’d highly recommend it. Is it difficult? Yes. Frustrating at times? Oh yes. Totally addictive? Absol-bloody-lutely.
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