If you consider yourself a gamer, games are the meals that we look forward to, the fuel that sustains and recharges us to deal with the challenges of life. Many games are four course meals, loaded with features and hours and hours of gameplay.
Let us take a moment to honor the snack game, the simple short experience that is complete, enjoyable, and a perfect bite-size treat between big budget feast games. Boor is a great example of a good healthy gamer snack.
Eden is a human colony far from Earth whose settlers made an artificial intelligence, “BOOR”. Designed to help them, this machine instead turned against them.
When a little girl accidentally lands on the planet, BOOR has taken over Eden and there are only a few survivors. With her special ability to multiply herself, she’ll help them to destroy BOOR.
Boor is a 2D puzzle platformer with about 80 separate puzzles, and each puzzle is presented on one screen. As the hero, you can create a ghost-like clone of yourself to activate switches or solve other environmental puzzles. That’s it. There are no skill progression trees, or magic boomerangs to equip, just one simple “superpower”. The character controls well, with a rather long somewhat floaty jump that becomes second nature to gauge after a few puzzles.
The levels in Eden are sprinkled with various hazards such as deadly lasers, homicidal robots, spikes, and many other pitfalls. Touching any of these is instant death to the girl’s grey ghost-clone, which merely returns the player to controlling the girl directly. A gradually narrowing bubble around the ghost-clone lets the player know how much longer they have until the grey clone will disappear. This time limit creates a challenge to reach switches before the time runs out, which can be extended by power-ups sometimes found in a level. Having a disposable clone also means you can take a stab at a level without risking the main character’s “life”, although the stage quickly resets if the character “dies”.
I really enjoy how the game’s puzzles were laid out. As I said before, each screen contains one puzzle, and many times paying attention to the opposite side of the screen provided the key to escaping the pitfall set directly in front of the player. The puzzles are explicitly designed to accommodate the grey ghost-clone, who can pass through grey walls to activate switches or otherwise help the red “real girl” pass. There are no tutorials or explanations, rather the levels are so well designed that it becomes clear what is needed with a little experimentation. Past puzzles give insight on future puzzle solution, and the difficulty is expertly increased as the game progresses.
The art direction and sound design match the game play and level design by being simple and charming. Using mostly red and grey, the game creates a very memorable minimalist backdrop for the puzzle action in the foreground. The backgrounds are not random, there is a sense of progressing deeper into the machine that has taken over Eden. Enemy robots are animated almost whimsically, more cartoon than threat even though they kill ruthlessly. Paltian’s (Jacobo Cáceres) soundtrack is simple, but effective, relying heavily on repetitive rhythm and simple tones that are at times whimsical and at other times starkly foreboding like a cold machine that has turned on its human creators.
Boor embodies the mantra do one thing and do it well. By sticking to a limited scope, Boor is able to give the player a short, satisfying experience. Gradually ramping difficulty is possible by excellent level design that gently teaches the player how to succeed in the next challenge, while never resorting to handholding or tutorials. Respecting the gamer’s time and intelligence in this manner provides a satisfying sense of accomplishment when challenges are completed. Although it doesn’t really come up with any new groundbreaking ideas or techniques, Boor manages to engage the player with a well crafted short satisfying experience.