XBLA Review: Constant C

It takes a lot of balls to solve this puzzle.

It takes a lot of balls to solve this puzzle.

By: Justin Redmon

Scientists in video games always seem to be meddling with things they shouldn’t, ignoring numerous warnings and obvious dangers all in the name of knowledge gained. Of course, afterwards they always seem to be the first clambering to escape after opening portals to other dimensions or creating world-threatening cataclysmic events. International Games Systems uses the folly of scientist as a backdrop for Constant C, serving up a world frozen in time with nothing but puzzle platforming to save the day.

CONTROLS (4.75/5)

When it comes to controls, Constant C has everything covered. Jumping is a bit floaty but provides ample time for harder jumps or mid-air gravity switching puzzles. Speaking of gravity switching, all directions are relegated to the face buttons on the controller, making quick direction switches a snap.

Beyond the puzzle controls, a handy camera function lets you zoom out and move around the level, scoping out dangers before you come to them and focus on certain areas; although on some puzzles it does seem to stop just shy of letting you see everything you want. Nevertheless, Constant C handles quite nicely, letting you focus on the puzzle at hand instead of wrestling with the controls.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/5)

While you’ll mainly be focusing on solving puzzles, Constant C isn’t a slouch when it comes to looks, either. Backgrounds have a nice amount of detail, and certain elements spring to life when you walk near them: computer monitors run lines of code, frayed wires spit out sparks and so on.

The rescue bot you control through puzzles stands out nicely among puzzle elements, and Tron-esque lighting on his body lets you know when his next gravity shift is available for use, turning off then flashing back on when recharged. Dying gibs your robot, and the explosion also stains the background with ash that remains throughout the rest of your attempts to finish it. It’s a nice effect and constant reminder of your failure.

Story elements are delivered through discovered videos, however, and humans are presented in a style that looks like a mix between PaRappa the Rapper and Scribblenauts. While it’s a bit cutesy, it’s quite expressive and does a great job bringing humor into the short story segments; although some might find the art style somewhat conflicting in comparison to the darker tone of the story.

As for sound, the game does a decent enough job, but I can’t help but wish more tracks would stand out like the theme that plays during a short chase segment. Instead, most just seem to fade into the background rather than add to the experience.

GAMEPLAY (3.75/5)

The story behind Constant C involves a group of scientists meddling with the speed of light. Ultimately, things go horribly wrong with a rapidly expanding time field that freezes everything within it threatening the entire space station, and shortly thereafter, the world. Luckily a few scientists prepared for such an outcome, so a handy rescue bot equipped with a four-dimensional time field and gravity switching sets out to find a solution to this possibly world-ending catastrophe.

Story aside, Constant C really hits it out of the park with its mechanics involving the time field and gravity switch, as, when combined, they create some crazy unique puzzles that are a treat to solve. With the entire station in stasis, gravity doesn’t act upon any object floating or otherwise, that is, unless you’re standing close enough to them for your time field to allow them to move. Simply put, boxes won’t drop until you’re on top of, or beside them, and lasers and other activated machinery only work or change when in close proximity to you.

You can do some pretty slick tricks in conjunction with gravity switching, like letting a box drop a ways, flipping gravity right side up, and riding the momentum from it dropping upwards to reach a higher platform. Levels slowly ramp up the intensity, with complex manipulation of gravity needed to block lasers, move boxes and spheres, and controls two time fields simultaneously to reach your goal.

The physics can be a bit bothersome, though. Walking up the sides of objects can sometimes accelerate your character’s movement for seemingly no reason, flinging you off into hazards, while maneuvering objects via gravity switching and time fields can sometimes make solving a puzzle a hassle even knowing the solution beforehand. That’s because boxes and the like have a tendency to react to the same gravity switching differently between puzzle attempts, adding a feeling of unfair perfection to an experience that tries to feel loose and organic — this only seemed to be the case on certain puzzles with a far stricter design.

Besides just finishing the level itself, most levels have a data tube hidden away among the hazards. Collecting it unlocks story cut scenes to figure out what happened to the space station. This is actually a sticking point with the game’s difficulty, however, as collecting the optional data tubes is where you’re going to get most of the puzzle challenge. In fact, most levels can easily be described as a cakewalk for those who forgo the data tubes and story elements. There’s not a whole lot of replayability offered here, either, as unless you decide to tackle the time trial mode offered in conjunction with the main story, this title will more than likely be a one-time venture for most.

Still, Constant C’s mechanics are solid enough to shine through whatever small problems present themselves, and it creates an enjoyable experience that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome by offering plenty of puzzle-solving craziness that’s more than adequate for anyone who’s looking for their next fix.

OVERALL (4.25/5)

Constant C’s gravity manipulating mechanics make for some interesting puzzles and make this a worthwhile addition to anyone’s game library.

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About Herija Green

Avid gamer, adventurous lover and all-around damned handsome man...
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