From E3 2017: Reshape a playdough world to your liking in Semblance

Traditionally, E3 begins with us rushing into one of the halls of the LA Convention Center through throngs of attendees to get to our first appointment. This year, our string of appointments began across the street from the show proper in the Devolver Digital lot to see a little game called Semblance.

Semblance is a platformer set in a playdough world. As such, you’re able to deform it to suit your needs. Can’t reach a ledge? Crash into one of the lower platforms to raise it high enough to reach your destination. Spikes giving you trouble? Push those safe points between them up to turn them into stepping stones. It’s a simple hook, but one that Semblance gets a ton of mileage out of.

The demo walked me through a bunch of small puzzles, each demonstrating the ways you can alter the world’s topography to your advantage. Often that resulted in me simply pushing platforms higher so I can reach the glowing orbs I’m supposed to collect. Other times I had to lower a platform so it would touch a beam, which would then make it revert to its original shape, thus catapulting me to heights I couldn’t otherwise reach. A lot of simple ideas, but enjoyable all the same thanks to how snappy it feels.

Most of the challenges were a breeze, the solutions quickly revealing themselves. But the demo was set in early-game levels, so that’s to be expected. It was easy to see how much more complex each level could be once it starts mixing all its ideas together. Still wonder how changing the character’s size – which the demo showed was possible before ending – will come into play. More to the point, though, given how much fun it is to bounce and reshape the world as needed, challenge feels sort of irrelevant. The sheer joy of leaping around its soft, squishy world feels like the core of the fun to be had in Semblance, its environmental puzzles further highlighting how engaging its basic interactions are.

It’s a very pleasant game. Very calm and easygoing. A nice and relaxing start to the show. Semblance isn’t out until sometime next year, but I left the appointment eagerly wanting to play more. Looking forward to seeing how the final game shapes up.

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