One of my biggest sins, is to simply buy a game because it is cheap. Not because I get it on a bargain or that I am necessarily greedy, but some times I have found myself just buying a game because it had some good reviews and was about a euro or less. This lead to my library of games becoming huge. I take pride in playing a good amount of my games, but thanks especially to GOG and Steam, I have often more than enough to play and I know I should have given many of them more time. Looking through my library, I found Gateways, a 2D-Metroidvania take on Portal. Since I love both Metroidvania and Portal, I told myself that I should give it a go and get ready to be confused.
Trapped like a rat with guns
Finding yourself lost and without any idea of what happened, you play as the scientist Ed who tries to find out what just happened. The story is not a focus, so let’s get to the meat of the game. Ed is a restricted fellow at the beginning, with only the ability to walk left, right, and jump with the up-button, which is a bit uncomfortable, but can be altered in the menu. The mouse will be used to aim one of many guns and accessories you will find throughout the game. All guns have a function similar to the portal-gun, where you can shoot with the left and right-mouse-buttons to create two different portals. Some will be more creative, such as one gun making you bigger or smaller depending on which portal you entered and so on.
One neat part when you shoot two portals, is that before entering one, you will be shown where you are heading and you can also use R to look around at longer distances, making the jump from 3D to 2D less awkward. You will eventually acquire 4 different guns, each with the portal-effect, as well as some power-ups to support you throughout the puzzles the game has to offer. The puzzles are, for the most part, really clever and quite the brain-teasers. However, some take way too long to clear, making them easily a chore, especially when you have so many guns to choose from as well as useable items. Even worse, is that when you backtrack, you will have to do some of the puzzles again, which makes it simply time-consuming. You will eventually get some shortcuts, but they only help slightly, making the backtracking noticeable and a big drag.
Another element that is bizarre to me, are the enemies. You only have to jump on them and there is no creativity to them. They are basically only there to be some form of obstacles, and I have no idea why when they present no form of challenge. I even forgot that I had a life-bar that could be extended. But while the puzzles are luckily more focused on, they can also be a pain due to switching guns being so stiff and delayed, making it worse to handle, and while the puzzles are clever, I rarely felt a sense of progression. Most of this is due to the map showcasing every time where you need to go to, making the aspect of being a metroidvania pointless. There are collectibles in the form of blue power orbs, which can be used to either tell you how you can solve a puzzle or clear it for you. If you need blue power orbs to tell you this, then you really screwed up. I must admit though, I am happy to not having to solve a puzzle again due to the latter option, but it seems like the game could have instead been linear to give a better sense of progression. At the very least: there are plenty of save-points.
Being such a blind hunt by dragging you all over the map, worthless enemies, tiresome backtracking, puzzles that can go on for too long or even must be dealt with again, it easy to get tired of playing this title. It has some neat ideas with plenty of well-thought out puzzles, but after the end-game, I will never touch this again, despite being under 4 hours long.
Gameplay Score: 4/10
Limiting the technique is no excuse for no creativity
I have a soft spot for limiting yourself in the technical area for creativity, but this is not a good example. The artstyle is limited and uninteresting, with every area being similar and forgettable besides a simple colorswaps and some minor texture-work. Even the enemies and our main-character feel generic more so than anything else, making everything lackluster in its design.
The eerie tones of Gateways’ soundtrack fare better and make the journey more mystical and unsettling.The sound-effects are something out of a futuristic setting with different effects for the guns. However, our main-character’s jumping-sounds are not that pleasant and I wonder why it was even needed.
Presentation Score: 3/10
Who really wants blue orbs?
There are two achievements that cover the “extra”. One is about collecting every one of the 500 blue orbs and the other demands you not using them to solve any puzzles. These don’t effect the game at all, besides making it a blind hunt. I never got the idea of achievements that never rewarded the player or were not about something hilarious. You get a pretty picture on your steam-account, but only to support your narcissism and nothing more.
Extra score: 2/10
I had a miserable time with this. While I applaud the concept and most of the puzzles, the backtracking, lackluster enemies, drawn out puzzles, unimaginative presentation and no reason for the metroidvania-aspect, made it a dull journey for me. There are some really good ideas here, but if you need your 2D-portal, I would recommend just searching up on your web-browser.