The worst thing about Platforms Unlimited is that it denies you vengeance. My fellow run-and-jumpers know what I’m talking about. You die at a certain point in a platformer, so you retry, and you die again, and again–until at long last, something clicks, and you bound over the pit, or enemy, or whatever-it-was that had sapped so many lives from your once-ripe supply of continues. But that’s, like, all part of the Platforms Unlimited (Free) experience, man.
Touted as a “Zen" platform game, Platforms Unlimited procedurally generates its levels. Having trouble with a rough stretch of tiny platforms and ledges that buckle under your feet? No worries. Every restart presents a new, algorithmically-generated set of platforms, pits, and evil red squares. The game repeats these sequences for several screens before scrambling the formula and assembling a new spread of hurdles. Developer XperimentalZ Games struck a great balance, here. You repeat screens long enough to master a particular arrangement of obstacles, then the game changes things up to keep you from growing bored or frustrated.
The controls are precise and malleable. Tap the screen to hop a short distance, or hold your finger down longer to leap greater distances. Your square responds instantly, giving you exact control even when faced with devilish challenges like vaulting across a chasm without bonking your head on the ledge hanging right over you.
As you play, you’ll collect gold, square-shaped coins that you can use to unlock power-ups like multipliers that increase the value of coins, double jump, and shields–all shaped like squares, of course. Platforms Unlimited‘s simple geometry and one-button control scheme evoke the minimalism of the Atari 2600 (but are far easier on the eyes), although the abundance of colored squares that clutter the screen after you’ve unlocked half a dozen power-ups or so does become confusing. What’s a purple square do again? Oh, a white square! That’s a shield… I think… maybe.
You also complete challenges such as surviving for so long or collecting a certain quantity of coins, and those challenges feed into the game’s procedurally generated environments. Completing challenges ratchets up the difficulty and gives you a tougher set of challenges. The idea is that your ability to overcome challenges is a measure of how much your skills have improved over time. That proves true for the most part, although the first few sets of trials are so easy that you inadvertently cause the difficulty to pull ahead of your skill level for a short time. This is no big deal, though, since coins pile up quickly–with no IAP to muddy up the economy–and can be used to buy power-ups that put the odds back in your favor.
Platforms Unlimited is perfect for platforming fans who have to talk themselves out of hurling their iPhone across the room every time they fall prey to the same pit or cheaply-placed enemy. An endless supply of constantly evolving environments, coupled with finely tuned jumping, will keep you coming back for a long time.