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Game Info:

Cosmic Leap
Developed By: Michael Hall
Published By: Zen Labs
Released: March 17, 2016
Available On: Windows
Genre: Platformer
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1
Price: $0.99

Thanks to Zen Labs for the review key!

It’s another season of the universe’s highest rated (and only) game show, Cosmic Leap! This year’s contestants, fresh from the empire’s newest liberated sector, are some of the most promising yet! Can the star player, known only as the Duke, survive this harrowing test of reflexes, gather his crew, and catch the eye of the Emperor?

Part platformer and part runner, Cosmic Leap’s goals are simple: navigate various obstacle courses and reach your rocket ship at the end, preferably within a set time limit and/or while gathering five coins scattered throughout the stage. Unlike your average platformer, however, the stages are made up of planets of varying sizes. The bulk of the game lies in jumping from planet to planet, dodging missile-shooting UFOs and leaping over spikes and flaming skulls, all while figuring out the best route to the goal.

All of the game’s one hundred stages, separated into ten levels, contain two objectives: finish under a certain time, and collect all five coins. These do not – and in most cases, cannot – be done in the same run, giving most stages a second life to them. Accomplishing both in a single course will unlock a “cosmic” stage, which are generally harder than the normal ones. Most of the normal stages also contain extra characters and spaceships flying through the area; jumping into these unlocks them for personal use. In essence, this gives each stage two or three variations: speed for the time limit, precision for the coins, and a mix of both for the starships. Most stages take no longer than twenty seconds, so retrying isn’t usually an issue – and with how brutal the difficulty can get later on, you’ll be retrying a lot. Cosmic Leap introduces a few mechanics as the game progresses, such as wormholes or even multiple characters to control simultaneously, helping to keep the gameplay fresh throughout.

Cosmic Leap
Highlights:

Strong Points: Decent, novel concept; good music; great entertainment-to-price ratio
Weak Points: Poor controls; hazards are occasionally hard to see
Moral Warnings: A character named “Hella Handsome Man”; implied slavery and general dictatorial tyranny

While the inter-level variety is up to snuff, the controls are less so. Your character moves forward automatically; pressing any direction will make him halt, and a second press will send him on his way again. Which way, however, depends on both the control scheme and his facing. The standard setup makes right clockwise and left counterclockwise – which effectively reverses your controls when you’re on the bottom half of a planet, as pressing right will make you run left and vice versa. The alternate settings keep the directions relative, fixing that problem – but instead, if you wind up on the leftmost or rightmost edge of a planet, moving in your intended direction is more or less a dice roll. Internalizing a clockwise movement rather than a directional one is in your best interest; otherwise, expect a lot of misdirection and confusion. There’s a hefty amount of momentum on your character as well, so skidding straight into obstacles can be rather common. It might serve the game to have an option for a two-button control: one for changing direction, and one for stopping and starting; as it stands, however, you’re left with two different but equally clumsy control schemes.

Additionally, jumping comes in two flavors: a single jump that keeps your speed and planetary alignment, and a double jump that slows you down while allowing you to switch planets. The first flaw here is that you can’t jump while standing still: trying to results in your character running forward again without ever leaving the ground. Secondly, switching planets feels almost arbitrary at times; sometimes the gravity will catch you from far away when you don’t mean to cross over, while occasionally you’ll practically bump your head on your intended destination but fail to properly change planets. Lastly, though the game is two-dimensional, each planet is a 3D object, so you’re not always running on a monitor-relative 2D line. This serves to make some jumps higher or shorter depending on the direction you’re moving, and make obstacles nearly impossible to clear with a standard jump – or even slam headfirst into an orbiting missile you’ve previously run under with no issues. All in all, while these problems don’t make the game unplayable, they do make it frustrating at times.

Graphically, the game’s blocky 3D models create a pseudo-retro style reminiscent of 8-bit games but with a more modern definition and color palette. The game does look quite nice, with bright colors and quality space-themed backdrops, though the lighting can shroud obstacles from view – sometimes, the only way you’ll know a spike in on the underside of a planet is by running straight into it. The forty characters all carry their own distinct styles; expect to see some less-than-subtle references to other characters, ranging from Commander Keen to Carmen Sandiego. Cosmic Leap also comes with a visual filter emulating an old-school CRT television, with scanlines and a slight warping effect on the edges, and you can freely toggle this on and off in the settings.

Cosmic Leap
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 65%
Gameplay - 11/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 2.5/5

Morality Score - 96%
Violence - 9/10
Language - 9/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The sound effects and music clash somewhat, with the former limited to NES-esque beeps and boops and the latter sticking to standard 21st century fare. Still, it keeps with the thematic blend of old and new, and both do their jobs well. The music especially stands out; though only six tracks play, one for the title screen and one per two levels, each song keeps a high-energy tone and is enjoyable to listen to even as you’re replaying a stage for the twentieth time.

It is also worth noting that the game suffered slight freezing twice, with the first lasting for just a moment and the second taking a good five seconds to resolve. Aside from those two blips, the game ran perfectly fine – though a few hazardous projectiles have a tendency to clip through planets and hit you. Finally, though the controls are configurable, the standard keyboard layout has the relevant buttons widely scattered around the keyboard, and has the rather baffling decision of putting the default “accept” key on the space bar but have the UI show an outline of the enter key. The title screen displays a prominent “controller recommended” text box in the bottom left corner, and you should heed its advice.

As a relatively simple 2.5D platformer, there aren’t many moral issues to find. What little violence is there is of minimal concern: characters explode into pixels when struck, and your offensive options are limited to tricking UFOs into shooting things for you. The language is almost entirely clean, save for an unlockable character named “Hella Handsome Man.” Despite the tone and genre, Cosmic Leap contains some semblance of a story, told via the game show host in between levels. While downplayed, it does imply a tyrannical empire, slavery, and physical torture behind the upbeat, goofy interludes. This will likely go over the heads of younger players, but adds a surprising and appreciated depth to the game. Regardless, the controls and difficulty are bigger hurdles for children than any of the small moral problems.

Altogether, Cosmic Leap is a promising game that’s entertaining when it works and frustrating when it doesn’t. The fast-paced platforming action is engaging but marred by the clunky controls and sudden seemingly-random deaths. Still, with a price tag of only a dollar, it’s worth taking a look at; if you try to A-rank every stage and unlock everything, you’ll get well more than your money’s worth here.

-Cadogan

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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