Many devs have tried to capture the lightning-in-a-bottle that is 3D platformers with varying degrees of success. Glyph is Bolverk Game’s attempt at the genre despite their main claim to fame being a cartoony virtual reality shooter called Dick Wilde.
However if you’re expecting something slapped together by a developer unfamiliar with the genre, you couldn’t be more wrong. Glyph is a surprising addition to the library of Bolverk Games with its creative level design and gameplay.
Developer: Bolverk Games
Publisher: Bolverk Games
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch
Release Date: August 21, 2021
Price: $19.99 USD
The concept behind Glyph is simple. You control a rolling beetle and explore the ruins left behind by an ancient civilization. The ancients have long since departed, having created a guardian which corrupted the surrounding desert.
All that remains of this civilization, are the ruins, and the beetle-like caretakers. In case you hadn’t gathered, the titular Glyph is one of these caretakers. Glyph’s particular role is to explore the ruins in search of gems, coins, and artifacts. These trinkets are used to restore the vault which houses the corrupted guardian.
It’s a simple story, but Glyph doesn’t need to be convoluted. The core focus of the game is of course: the gameplay. With its physics based platforming and creative level design, Glyph is easy to play and difficult to master (all the best platformers are).
It’s entirely possible for a casual player to reach the final boss of Glyph (beating it is another story). But that’s probably my favorite thing about platformers, making the entire game accessible for casuals, while giving hardcore platformer fans something to strive for.
Getting a stage to 100% is a challenge that will test players looking for difficulty. Whether that means finding the hidden switch and doing the optional part of a stage to get a cosmetic; or getting the gold medal on a Time Trial stage. Glyph rewards skillful play while being fun for everyone.
Stages in Glyph are sorted into two categories: Exploration and Time Trials. In Exploration stages, you have as much time as you want to roll around and collect all the coins, gems, keys, and a hidden cosmetic from each stage. But be careful, keys and cosmetics are lost upon death, forcing you to collect them again.
Frankly, this is probably the weakest part of Glyph for me. It feels kind of pointless to lose the keys and even more pointless to lose the cosmetic (since most secret paths concealing them give you a quick way to return to the main play area). If this is for recording level time, I feel like it’d be better for time to keep adding up between deaths or just to have a separate “speed run” mode for Exploration levels. But this is a minor nitpick in the bigger scheme of things.
Time Trial stages are exactly what they sound like. Collect all the keys and finish the stage in a set amount of time. Players are given gems for each medal they get (up to 3) and upon getting the Gold they unlock a trail cosmetic to further spruce up Glyph.
Cosmetics are varied enough to make them worth going for, trailing particle effects are unlocked in Time Trials, and new bodies are unlocked in Exploration stages. Bolverk wasn’t shy about designing all sorts of different bodies for Glyph ranging from winged turtles, to drone copters, to flying skulls. As I said earlier, Glyph is a game that sufficiently rewards skill.
Of course not all cosmetics are created equal. There’s a mechanic in Glyph where you can jump or even double jump if you touch a spot that charges you. Glyph has well… glyphs on him that glow to inform you whether you can jump or double jump. But different cosmetics have different ways of expressing this, and sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you’re charged for a super jump or not without trying it and possibly wasting your double jump charge.
The music is this really relaxed synthwave sounding ambience. I know I say this a lot about the music of games, but it’s serviceable. None of the tracks are grating, but none of them are toe-tappers either. But that’s really where most games fall, not everything can be Final Fantasy XIV when it comes to music (though admittedly that’s setting the bar a little high isn’t it?)
Let’s come back around to how Glyph is a game that takes skill to 100% clear. This ultimately means that Glyph is simultaneously a short and a long game. You can reach the final boss after collecting gems from roughly one third of the game’s stages and just skipping everything else. If that’s what you want to do, then by all means you could call Glyph a short three hour time waster.
But Glyph is much more than that and for fans of the platforming genre there’s a lot of content to behold in this game. There’s over 80 stages and I can easily see myself going back and trying to 100% clear the entire game for fun and walk away with every gem, coin, and cosmetic unlocked.
Ultimately Glyph is the kind of game that collect-a-thon fans will appreciate. Maybe it’s not as grindy with its collectibles as Banjo-Kazooie or other classics, but what it lacks in that grind, Glyph makes up for in its difficulty and creative level design.
Whether you’re a hardcore platforming speedrunner, or someone who wants to try their hand at a platformer a little more difficult than you’re typical Nintendo fare. I’d be hard-pressed not to recommend Glyph.
Glyph was reviewed on a Windows PC using a copy provided by Bolverk Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.