Since overseas holidays are unlikely to happen any time soon, I have taken to virtual worlds to fulfill that urge to explore. Genshin Impact provides stunning vistas over every rocky outcrop, and replaying Baldur’s Gate has been like returning to an old favorite haunt, each grassy valley and Gnoll encampment exactly the way I remembered it. Triangle, a free, short exploration game set on an alien planet, also slakes this thirst. Wandering through fields of waving red grass and marveling at floating pathways, the game is a peaceful experience, although I doubt the protagonist would agree. With a broken ship and limited oxygen available, his visit to the beauteous planet is destined to be a short one.
Players assume the role of Kyle, an explorer near the end of his mission. He managed to find the planet Centaury, difficult given the land’s strange, physics-warping properties, but his ship crashed when he attempted to land on the surface. He ventures out into the alien wilderness, searching for a precious energy resource to send back to Earth. Navigating Centaury is difficult, but Kyle is aided by his radar signal, directing him to large triangular structures that house portals to other sections of the world. As his oxygen supply runs lower and lower, every step he takes through the mysterious world counts.
Triangle is for the most part a walking simulator, aside from a small platforming section in the middle. The ping of the radar lets the player know if they are headed in the right direction, along with a blinking light on Kyle’s backpack. This low-impact gameplay really suits the mood created by the game, a slow and thoughtful piece about the events that shape us into the adults we become. Each time Kyle travels inside a portal, part of his backstory is revealed, explaining why he took on the dangerous mission to explore Centaury. He is humanized surprisingly quickly within the game’s half-hour runtime, which makes his inevitable demise all the more impactful.
The world of Centaury feels truly alien and is utterly stunning. A low-polygon style is used to great effect, creating large planes of contrasting colors. The cyan spaceship pops beautifully against the orange-red grass, and great fang-like protrusions give the final area a sense of dread. Floating boulders look right at home in soft, purple-shaded light, a clear part of the world rather than just a mechanical challenge. Soft music wafts in after Kyle has traveled through the first portal, reinforcing the peaceful nature of the land.
While for the most part the interface of Triangle works well, with clear text and guidance on where to go, a few adjustments could be made to make the game more accessible. The beginning of the game explains the controls for moving around and examining objects, but it omits running and jumping, which is needed to cross the floating boulders later on. Experienced gamers will be able to guess these buttons easily, but newcomers might struggle. The radar system would also be tricky for hearing-impaired players. The light on Kyle’s backpack does blink faster as the player approaches a beacon, but the light is not easy to see, especially in brightly lit areas. A closed caption for “beeps faster” or “beeps slower” could work, or perhaps adding additional shapes and colors to the light.
Triangle is a small experience that is executed beautifully. Wandering through the alien world filled me with a sense of wonder, and the passages depicting Kyle’s backstory made me warm up to him immediately. I might not get to Bali this year, but my travel bug has been sated with this slice of troubled paradise.
Next week we will be playing Estigma, a puzzle game set in a fleshy nightmare. The game can be downloaded from Steam. If you would like to share your thoughts, discussions will be happening in the Discord server.