Chris Johnson / Chris Larkin (studio)
18 September 2017 (released)
18 October 2017
There are plenty of games that implement certain dynamics to elevate moods and emotions in gamers. These forms of dynamics usually resonate as a gripping story, use of colour/lighting or particular gameplay mechanics which would trigger those emotional responses. Often enough these are vastly complex in design and can often loose the impact by the vast complication. So I ask, what happens when you strip down the flare and presentation back to its bare bones?
Expand is a difficult game to describe as speaking of its nature, tone and enjoyment is something that should be experienced rather than read about. I will do my best to express what Expand is and why you should look into it. With a minimalistic style of presentation, Expand may seem like a simple, straight forward puzzler and in ways it is. But in others its something to marvel at. There is no grand story, complex characters driving a plot through a three act structure with motivations or end goal to work towards. There is simply you and the beautifully isolating labyrinths before you to explore.
Players are tasked with obtaining four items significant to the world, in this instance four light coloured triangles. You do this by going to each corner of the hub world and entering a large set piece filled with many dangers and lateral elements. There are no other NPCs but rather the world reacting to your presence. You avoid deadly barriers coated in red, outrun closing walls and react to shifting parameters in a bid to survive the overwhelming spectacle. To explain what Expand appears on the outside is that it’s simple but highly effective.
Expand at its core is a “mood piece” that connects to players through masterful level designs that also acts as a means of visual communication. The world you inhabit alternates in an intricate manner that symbolises a form of progression and offers new dynamics to engage with. While it’s beautiful soundtrack helps establish a sense of wonder.
As mentioned before, what stands out is the fascinating level design that combines different elements to make it truly dynamic. Player interaction is very simple but what happens around you vastly changes with every move they make. The structure alters as the player progresses with new types of challenges open up that’ll test speed, reflexes and simple problem solving.
Expand is beautiful in its presentation and offers engaging gameplay through fluent pacing that introduces new dynamics with each main level. The music is perfect for the game and certainly sets the mood for just how mesmerizing the visuals are. This is a game where screen shots do no justice on the impact it can make and simply watching someone play this game is enjoyable enough. This is a game that demands attention and through simple mechanics and gameplay becomes very memorable.
You may find that some segments require little effort or lateral involvement, making some moments a breeze to pass through. However, with the game’s diverse nature and ability to change, you’ll find yourself more surprised and tested than you may think. Yet Expand is a rather short game which could be finished in one sitting or two, totalling a couple of hours. There’s no real reason to go back but the visuals and music are a great aspect to revisit if you do.
There’s no other way for me to explain further what Expand is and rather more it’s a game you need to experience for yourself. The increasing challenging is enough to give you that satisfying sense of reward after facing against complex and dynamic level designs while immersing you with its wonderful visuals and soundtrack. This is a recommendation from me as an experience of aesthetics even with a minimalistic approach to its design and presentation.
++ Fantastic soundtrack
++ Simple yet effective lateral gameplay
+ Amazing visuals
- Short length
A PS4 copy of Expand was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review