As long as Point A is Delusion and Point B is the Hospital
It’s impossible for me to talk about parkour without thinking of a specific scene in the American run of The Office. Much like the buffoons on that show, my only real experience with parkour is from the safety of the internet. Also, I’m guessing if I tried it I, too, would end up broken at the bottom of a box. Welkin Road allows you skip from zero to sixty immediately and test out your parkour skills in the sky. Parkour isn’t a new mechanic to video games. You’ve got your Mirror’s Edges and your Dying Lights. Welkin Road ignores the action of those titles and focuses on something much more in tune with the theme- platforming and puzzle solving.
There’s a simplicity about Welkin Road that works in its favor. Set in first-person, The graphics looks nice, but there isn’t a ton of detail. The sound is mostly ambient wind and your own footsteps. The only things to focus on are the geometric sections in front of you and how you aren’t going to fall to your death. There aren’t that many commands, but every single one of them has to be used in order to succeed. Running, walking, jumping, tucking your knees, and the electric grappling hook are all at your disposal.
Complexity and design are the real focus of the game, and it’s here where I have some conflicting ideas. Welkin Road is well made and the puzzles challenged my brain and my dexterity. The difficulty, however, doesn’t really curve. From the get go, almost every step of the way each platform is a new way to get from point A to point B. By level 5 I felt like I was still playing a tutorial despite each level taking me thirty plus minutes each to get through. Some of my stats said I had fallen 100 or more times before reaching the end.
I’m not suggesting that “the game’s no good because I suck.” Far from it. The trouble I had with Welkin Road is that it’s going to test the patience of a lot of gamers that could really love it. The game takes practice, and even though it’s design really cuts the pacing of each level, it’s hard to ignore how amazing it felt when I’d make it to the next section or better yet finish a whole level.Here I was, though, in all this open space but cooped up to a few walls and long jumps. I can really see cutting the levels down or leaving in simpler sections to let players go fast and pick up the pace.
In its current state controlling felt like learning to play piano. I was shocked to find out the game has no controller support. It works fine with a keyboard and mouse, but some of those jumps could have been made a lot easier and more comfortable on a gamepad. Many moments I found myself grinding my teeth thinking about how much more painless it would have been to bounce off walls using thumbsticks and buttons.
There are a lot of things I’ve criticized about Welkin Road, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I’ve compared other games in the past to something like Trials or even the Skate series. In Welkin’s Road, trial and error along with overcoming physics give you a real reward to successes. The game is in early access, though, and the only way to go from here is up (or down, if you lose your balance). While the game definitely has some pace issues, and a lot of frustration, if you’re willing to practice and want a new type of platforming experience, players will definitely want to try Welkin Road.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Release Date: April 13, 2016; Publisher: Nkidu Games; Developer: Gregor Panic; MSRP: $12.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by the publisher.