From the Hip: Boson X

A runner game isn't going to set the world on fire, but the interesting theme and tight design make Boson X well worth playing.  It marries a variety of interesting obstacles with some quite interesting voxel art design in the levels and characters to create a strongly-themed and quite technically-proficient runner game.
From the Hip: Boson X
Date published: Dec 23, 2014
2 / 3 stars

Boson X is a runner game developed by Ian MacLarty and Jon Kerney, and published by Ian MacLarty.  Previously available as a much smaller, free prototype, this game has since made it's debut onto Steam with two more series of stages, and two more playable characters.  Its a very popular genre on iOS, so seeing a PC-native spin on the game style is both unusual and interesting.

The previous free nature of Boson X
is a hell of an elephant in the room

And lets just address that first.  The game that was previously available had the first six stages, the normal particles, and the single playable character.  Added in the paid version is two whole new sets of levels that are more difficult and have different obstacles added, and two additional characters to play.  Whether that is enough for you to pay for something that was previously free is something I'll leave to your own discretion, but its certainly added quite a bit onto the game.

That said, however, the free version didn't go anywheres, and basically serves as a demo of the full paid game.  You can find it here.

Theme and art direction add a unique spin

The art in particular is rather unique to the game, or at the least very rare, because I haven't really seen that kind of vector art which appears rotoscoped since we had Another World back in the early 90s.  Its an almost timeless style, and definitely fits the games science theme I think, given the abstract concepts being illustrated on the computer screen.  It couples well with a weird sort of electronic/techno soundtrack that is quite catchy and true to the theme in and of itself, and the music for the second stage (the Acceleron) pretty much sticks in my head for a good long while after playing.

That theme of it being science based kind of appeals to an obvious bias of mine I suppose, given my personal preferences (I don't describe myself as a wannabe astrophysicist on my twitter idly!) but I think it stood out for me more because of how fairly rare it is to see that kind of theme in games, especially in runner games.  It's quite refreshing and made the game stand out from the many other runners that tend to be more fantasy-world or more mundane in their themes.

The gameplay is well-done,
but remains as fairly simplistic as much of the genre

Essentially it boils down to a Super-Hexagon like 2-dimensional movement either right or left, jumping between platforms and trying not to fall to your death.  Progressing in the game basically contributes to "discovering" the target particle, and when you do, much again like Super Hexagon, you are given a much more difficult second mode to play until you do inevitably fail.  You have to run across blue platforms to contribute to that "discovery" rate, and doing so speeds you up considerably.

Obstacles include terrain that forms walls, moving pieces of terrain that you can run into, red flashing platforms that will start to lower and eventually fall when you run on them, and more.  They're well designed into the levels of the game, but simplistic in design.  Indeed, if there's any fundamental criticism of the game itself, its that it is fairly simple.  This'll bother some people while others will be fine, and for what it is worth, the game may be simpled, but it is very tight in it's design: there's nothing superfluous, it controls very responsively, and I never encountered a single bug or glitch.  The levels also progress at a good clip, not too overwhelming as Super Hexagon can be at first, but it quickly ramps up to that sort of pace - just not TOO quickly.  The six-level progression certainly helps that, and it only gets crazier in the other "research facilities" which constitute the other stage sets - dark particles and anti particles.

On a technical aspect, as I said, it's quite bereft of bugs, but it's also bereft of gameplay options.  While such a simplistic game doesn't require much beyond the basics, its still lacking in some of them.  Given the importance of colour in the games highlighting of obstacles for instance, it lacks a colourblind mode, making it inaccessible to those with colour deficiencies.

The Final Word: Recommended - In a nutshell, Boson X is a simple genre done quite well with a few shortcomings in its available game options.  The interesting theme and vector art style are interesting flourishes, and it seems like a great first entry for a developer - a solid, simple game that benefits from an obvious attention to the craft of the gamemaking.  If you get any runner game on the PC,Boson X is to my mind, the strongest contender.