The Ruins of Machi Itcza (2013)


Every medium can do things no other medium can do, but games in recent years have pushed so hard to copy reality as best as possible, that the stuff that’s not even possible in reality but video games rarely gets explored. The Ruins of Machi Itcza is, on the surface, a simple retro platformer like countless others before it. But underneath it is gameplay fueled by a mechanic that plays with the internal level topology in a way that would be impossible in reality.

Platformers at its most simplest have discrete levels that are bounded by walls left, right, top and bottom. A few platformers have finite levels that wrap around the corners (go left far enough and you come out what would be right from your starting position), sometimes seamlessly like in Zeliard.

The only other platformer besides The Ruins of Machi Itcza that plays with that and actually uses it as a gameplay mechanism is Continuity (to my knowledge). But whereupon the latter forces you to reorder the level architecture manually to get keys, Ruins only wants you to consider the level at hand, and once you’ve collected enough keys makes more screens accessible to you (four times from a one screen grid to a nine screen grid and so on).

While it is done effortlessly, once you consider how each stage (one screen, nine screens, 25 screens and then the whole game) has to be internally consistent and allow even more exit transitions once the wider structure is available, I felt real awe at how it all fit so well together.

From a pure gameplay viewpoint, it’s conventional platformer fare: jump from platform to platform and avoid death traps, but the ample save points make that rather easy and later on you focus on the route to get to certain areas instead of being really challenged by the platforming gameplay. The ending is a bit disappointing and seems like a lesser retreat of Redder‘s ending, but the rest of the game is nicely done and solid.