Storybook Review

Platformers are generally 2D or 3D, but I guess now they can be both. Storybook is a 2D and 3D platformer developed for the 48 to Play game jam. While playing, you must change the perspective from 3D to 2D to line up platforms so you can jump to them. It is a really cool mechanic in a game that is pretty bland and very short. Since the game was based around showing off the camera changing mechanic, the overall lack of polish, story, and overall enjoyment can be forgiven, as it shows off an incredible mechanic that has a lot of potential use in future games.

The controls are simple, you move with WASD and change camera positions with JKLI. You can put the camera in four positions, either 3D with the camera to the protagonist’s back, 2D with camera facing the protagonist’s left or right side, and a top-down camera that has no real use in the game, but is still offered as an option. The moments where you must change the camera’s perspective are pretty obvious, making Storybook fairly straightforward and stops you from being confused at any point, which leads to the playtime being as short as thirty seconds.

The mechanic of manually changing the camera, and thus changing the genre of the game, was really neat and I haven’t played any game quite like it. Games such as The Witness and Fez both experimented with perspectives and how they can change the environments, and Nier: Automata, a 3D action game, had moments of side-scrolling action, as well as top-down perspectives at occasional times. Storybook uses perspectives in a somewhat different way and opens up the possibility of making games change genres at the push of a button, and that is amazing.

Storybook does have its flaws, though. The environment is not interesting and the switched directions in 2D mode hinders the overall experience. The environment is very bland, platforms float in the air with nothing supporting them, the colors are very dull, and the overall details making me interested in my surroundings were absent.

One of the only lively parts of Storybook was the nameless protagonist’s design, created by Alexo Soto and Max Salazar. The expressions the character makes as well as the design itself was quite likable and fit the dark theme of the game. The character is a child and seems scared an unfamiliar with the world they find themselves in. I liked this small tidbit of detail and seeing how the 2D model in the 3D mode adapted quite well when examined through the 2D camera. The music also added some personality to the game with a some small repetitious tune that went quite well with the aesthetic of Storybook.

Also, while the platforming is simple and is easy, the controls layout changes when entering a 2D perspective. Going left and right is changed to the W and S keys. While this is logically correct, as going right is technically going forward in the 3D world, the change just didn’t feel right and the first time it switched I thought the game was not working properly but then realized that I just wasn’t thinking hard enough.

Storybook presents a very interesting mechanic that should be used in many games in the future, but its lack of detail and lack of story make the overall experience quite forgettable. I would recommend this game to everyone to see how they enjoy the camera mechanic, but the gameplay just doesn’t reach any real point of enjoyment for me, and I think that is okay. It made me really excited to see camera controls in future games. It was also made in a mere 48 hours, so the lack of a story and polish is not surprising.

With only thirty seconds of content, it is quite hard to fairly critique the experience. Every piece of criticism would make the game look bad, but I think that everyone just needs to download this and see how you like it. It is extremely short but introduces a really awesome gameplay tool that has so much potential. As a full experience, it is lacking, but as an introduction to this tool it is quite amazing and innovative.

You can download Storybook here!

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