I’m just going to lay this out there – it’ll take some of you less time to complete Refunct than it will for you to read this review. That’s not a passive aggressive swipe at your reading comprehension but a statement on the short length of Refunct. If you happen to buy into that whole “Money paid for game divided by hours of play time = value proposition” calculation then the game costs $2.99/£2.49 on the PS4 and my first run at the game took just 18 minutes. I’ll let you do the math. If you really want to get the most out of Refunct by maybe going for the Platinum trophy, it’ll probably take you a few hour – tops. While this title is short, it’s also very well put together.
Refunct is described by creator Dominique Grieshofer as “a peaceful, short first person platformer about restoring a vibrant world” and that’s a pretty apt description of what this game is. You begin the game without instruction, surrounded on all sides by water except for a hand full of platforms leading upwards with a red beam of light shooting out of the upper most platform. You can jump and crouch and that’s all the tools you’ll need for the entirety of Refunct. As you walk on the uppermost surface of each grey platform, it transforms from its dull hue into a bright, grassy green. The sides of these platforms also gain a subtle shade of orange. While doing this has virtually no impact on the game play itself, completionists out there can find the percentage of the platforms turned green in the pause menu.
Once you’ve reached the first red light beacon and touched it, more platforms rise from the water for you to tackle with another light beacon to reach. This forms the core loop of Refunct – reach the beacons, raise the next problem to tackle from the ocean, repeat. As you progress through these beacons, the platforming becomes progressively more difficult. The initial challenges are (quite literally) baby steps but soon you’re being tasked to make longer leaps across gaps which aren’t recoverable and will require you to back track in order to retry them. While there’s no traditional failure condition or “game over” screen, Refunct basis its progression around making you re-try things out of mild frustration until you get it right.
Each new series of platforms that are raised offer a little something new for you to take on too. Some of the beacons require you to crouch into spaces. One needs you to go swimming underneath a wall to reach. There’s pipes to crawl through and lifts which activate the moment you step on them which you’ll eventually be using as propulsion, jumping at the end of their upwards trajectory to shoot you into the air. Then there’s wall jumping, using the jump button to bounce off walls as you hit them to eek up higher parallel towers. Refunct is a hands off game, giving you no written guidance on how to do any of this, but poses problems for you in its level design in instantly intuitive ways – i.e. the first time the game requires you to wall jump, it’s because you’re trapped within 4 very tall walls which encourages experimentation and problem solving.
Eventually, after hitting quite a few beacons and you’ve raised a small village of platforms and towers from the water, things can get a tad confusing. When puzzles start to build from other puzzles or when a beacon spawns a new series of platforms to rise quite a distance away, the sleek design of the game starts to fall away. It’s still a smartly designed game that will have your toes curl when you’re attempting those “I have no idea is this is the right way forward because this jump seems just too far away AH YES I DID IT!1!!1!!” moments but it because less about intuitive puzzle design and more about forming a shape with the land you’re raising, something which unveils itself at the end of the game and something I won’t spoil here.
Visually, Refunct is clean and bold but a tad simplistic. The lighting, especially bouncing off the water, and day/night cycle are pleasing on the eye but when the world around you is simply blocky and relatively texturless, it’s nothing to write home about. The entire game is backed up by a serene soundtrack of plinks and plonks which complement the game play admirably.
While your first run through of Refunct will take between 15 and 30 minutes, those looking for additional challenges need look no further than the PS4 trophy list. While I’ve railed against trophies in the past, getting the platinum trophy for this game will take practice and thought. The game tests the player to complete the game in less than 4 minuets which is probably the game’s most difficult challenge but also tests you to finish the game while turning only 33% of the floors green by touching them. There’s probably a few hours of practice and planning needed here with these additional, non-mandatory quests adding quite a lot to the proceedings.
Refunct is a short game but what’s there is well crafted. There’s layers of discoveries to be made in the way the game plays and how to overcome each puzzle and this title is designed in a way to make this as enjoyable and natural as possible. While it’s not the prettiest of games, it’s certainly not ugly either. There’s no innovation here, with everything gameplay mechanic on display appearing in other games in more intuitive ways, but if you’re after half an hour of relaxing, simplistic game play that feels as chilled as an ASMR video, Refunct will scratch that itch.
Refunct is available now on PS4 (review version), PC, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.
Developer: Dominique Grieshofer
Publisher: Dominique Grieshofer
In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy please go here.
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