Electron Dance
16Sep/149

The Revenge of Boson X

BosonXSteam-AntiGeon2

I've talked about Boson X (Mu & Heyo, 2013) a few times now. First, it was my way of explaining why I didn't get into Twine. Then I released a video to explain how players navigate the fast-moving space of the game. Finally, I came out and admitted that I had become addicted, desperate to get on the leaderboards. It was my little Super Hexagon (Terry Cavanagh, 2012) for a while and then I put Boson X away behind a thick wall of lead, with all the other radioactive isotopes.

But Boson X is back.    

Today it is releasing on Steam with three different avatars, twelve extra levels and also controller support. I had a quick look with a free copy kindly donated by developer Ian McLarty and felt that old Boson X twitch returning.

I just lost half an hour to the game. You can too. And more. So much more.

BosonXSteam-DarkGeon1

BosonXSteam-DarkGeon2

I don't want to say too much about it as I'd rather the screenshots say it for me.

There are a few interesting spins on the existing Boson X concept in here and of the few new levels I've seen, several of them trawl deep in the waters of obfuscation. The first time I saw the Anti-Geon level, my head exploded: what am I... what am I looking at?

I still have some of my Boson X skills from a year ago, so I gave it my all. I found play with a controller quite natural and the overall feel is definitely more polished.

BosonXSteam-People

BosonXSteam-Results

The trailer shows off some craziness in levels I haven't seen yet. Or perhaps will never see. I'm not sure I'm ready to commit myself to the game's religion again this year.

Screenshots on the Steam page show off more flesh than the trailer does. The screenshots here, though, are all mine!

BosonXSteam-AntiGeon1

BosonXSteam-Places

BosonXSteam-WatTheHell

However the real reason I'm writing about Boson X is because it prevented me from working on the Electron Dance article I was supposed to finish this evening!

Damn videogames.

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Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. THANK YOU FOR THE REMAINDER, I’M BUYING THIS TONIGHT.

  2. I didn’t think I could get sucked back into this game but holy calf yes I was suckered alright.

    Plenty of brand new seemingly impossible moments where you need to learn the lay of the land through brutal bloody repetition.

  3. BOSON X2: BOSON HARDER

  4. BOSON X^2: GET YOUR BOSS ON

  5. Amazingly, I heard about and bought this game recently without realizing you liked it back in the jam days.

    I played the Jam version and thought it was enough fun to spend $3 on, but didn’t understand what a couple more levels could possibly change.

    I was wrong. The Dark-Matter and Anti-Matter levels (the 12 additional you get over the free version) are so incredibly trippy and difficulty, and yet somehow doable. It is probably the closest I have gotten to having my brain sucked into the computer screen.

    I will say the screenshots don’t really do justice to how the platforms spin into place.

  6. Hey Sandy, I’m glad to hear we have a few Boson X devotees hanging around here. I want to hate the game because it feels so notoriously unfair at times with the random behaviour but the fact that some people routinely hit massively high scores undoes my point.

    The graphical trickery used in Boson X is a huge part of its design. The obvious example is the Anti-Geon which requires some serious concentration to see what is going on because, if you can’t, you’re going to fail because Boson X is a game about anticipation.

  7. Seeing the inner logic of something that initially looks unfairly complicated is one of the joys of Boson X. I remember liking the Graviton level for the small epiphany moments it gave me when I realized how something worked and how I could work it in my favor.

    The level that did that for me this time around was the anti Radion: there’s a sequence of platforms that consists of small walls you can run into, and you’re constantly making split-second decisions of either left or right. It seemed the correct directions were randomized (and they most certainly are) so there was no way of taking that amount of information that quickly and making an informed decision every time. I eventually saw there is a way of abstracting that information by just choosing one direction by default and keeping an eye out for the pattern that tells you “now go the other way.” The level was reduced to the doable category and I felt that sweet relief this game excels at sporadically inducing.

  8. What is to become of me? I beat every level yesterday (thank you, I’m very proud of myself). I then shrugged and thought I would probably move on and play different games. I had planned on playing KSP today. KSP! Now that is a gentleman’s game.

    But I just spent another two hours with Boson X.

    I find the levels of Boson X very compelling. There is the joy of discovery element, which David and others have mentioned. My initial reaction to each new level was always, “no way.” But I have seen the secrets of every level. I know the patterns. I find myself ignoring the close platforms and staring far ahead to recognize the patterns as they are forming.

    I love the level design. Not only are there clearly “intended” strategies – chasing the blue platforms while following the path of least resistance. Many levels have “recover” strategies. You can land on the concentric rings on most levels and still make it to the next platform. In Dark Boson X you can occasionally jump on *top* of the pillars that normally serve as walls. But my favorite level for unconventional strategies is Anti-Radon. Did you know that at low speed (<30%) and with precise mini jumps you can spin the wrong way through the low-wall bits? And if you have three pillars blocking your path, there is just enough space that you can slip *between* the pillars if you time it right (I've only gotten this once). These tricky jumps aren't worth seeking out, but it made me feel clever when they worked and they do offer the chance, however slim, of recovery.

    And I still feel like I am learning. I am moving towards high score strats, certainly. I have moved away from trying to optimize every blue platform for maximum energy, when I was afraid of every death while trying to estimate the number of runs I'd need to luck into an easy 100%. Instead, I now focus on not dying. I land near the middle of each platform and jump off early. It takes me longer to charge up, but I find that on most levels I can make it to 100% charge 1 out of 3 times or more. But it's not as if I am the best. My highest leaderboard position is something like 18 I think, for normal Y Boson.

    But the main draw for me is the way the game shuts down my brain. The timing gets so tight that I cannot afford to think other thoughts while playing. It removes me from the world and I experience true, blissful ignorance for a couple hours. And then I realize I just wasted all the free time I was going to spend playing KSP.

  9. Sandy, we all have our weaknesses! I’ve come to adore Boson X which I find weird considering I bounced right off it at the start. I even told Ian MacLarty by e-mail – who was trying to raise interest in the game – that it wasn’t my kind of thing.

    I wonder if the Steam-based leaderboards are better than the universal ones from the site, so that you have your peers to compete with rather than those with inhuman X-Men reflexes.

    I don’t know about shutting down my brain, but I am incapable of speech when I am playing the game. If I did an unedited, raw Let’s Play video it would go something like this:

    ….
    ….
    ….
    fu–
    ….
    ….
    ….
    bast–
    ….
    ….

    For some reason the new levels have really pushed my Boson X skills. I feel so much more accomplished than when I was playing the original six. I still haven’t finished all of the levels yet.


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