Take the addictive nature of Celeste, add a Mega Man inspired stage select, spice things up with some basic combat, and present it with a purposefully limited palette that smacks of the most recognizable gaming handheld. Linked Mask takes this formula and mixes up a batch of six grueling towers that will test the limits of your platforming prowess. Set on conquering a deity atop each stage, doing so will grant the player with a different mask and accompanying power. With tight controls, multiple abilities and weapons, clever stage design, and top-notch beats, Linked Mask is the game for any platforming perfectionist.
The game looks very close to what we remember a GameBoy game looking like, but with several enhancements to bring it into 2021. Impressive parallax scrolling improves every scene with some truly awe-inspiring elements that foreshadow incredible set pieces. The pixel art is tastefully constrained while densely detailed, conveying your progression with bold shifts in background art. The graphic style and the forced limitations placed upon it hearken back to a simpler time and it’s a fairly successful nostalgia trip. Overall the demo for Linked Mask shows off a considerable number of backgrounds as you try your ascent repeatedly. And you will try repeatedly.
Precise controls are a necessity for any game that demands such rinse and repeat gameplay, and Linked Mask provides meticulous platforming for a challenging summit. Slopes will send you careening with physical abandon into traps, tumbling through the blue and green backdrops. Hazards come in all forms as you gain altitude through the tower. From requisite spikes and lasers, to moving platforms and Thwompian blocks, there’s always an obstacle that will need fast thinking and faster fingers to overcome. With some focus and determination, you can turn this monolith mounting simulator into a truly sublime steeple scaler.
A soundtrack that rivals any indie game I have played motivates repeated attempts at climbing the spire of The Non Mole. Sega inspired tunes accompany the opening area, complete with smooth synths, wailing electric guitar, and perfect bass lines that fade into strings. The next track is much jazzier and bouncier, matching the change in platforming mechanics on offer for the second segment of the tower exactly. The next area of the tower ramps up the precision to an extreme and the music here is so good, I want to listen to it outside of the game. A four-on-the-floor house song drives the player forward in this section. The incessant deaths that you will rack up here will be a mere setback while the groove pushes on, dropping the bass exactly as you get into the zone.
Anyone that enjoyed Celeste should easily give Linked Mask a try. The gameplay and control will feel instantly familiar but the game is different enough that it feels fresh while trying to look dated. Any fan of platformers in general would be remiss to let this demo pass by unplayed. Spoonman Games have crafted an experience that feels inspired by opposite eras in game design and come up with a fun yet painfully precise action adventure. If that isn’t enough to get you interested, try it for the music then, you’ll be nodding your head and stuck on “one more try” until you find yourself at the top of the tower. The wait for the rest of Linked Mask might be a while longer, with no set release date currently. Make sure you attempt to scale this software while the demo is available during the Steam Game Festival.
This preview is based on a public Steam demo. The Linked Mask demo is available now as part of the Steam Game Festival 2021 and is set to release TBA.