Sunblaze
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

Sunblaze is a precision platformer offering six challenging chapters of action, with some goofy humor and a charming protagonist. The game is unforgiving but fair, so it always feels like victory is just one more attempt away from attaining. The developers have also included enough “accessibility” options to ensure players of any skill level can enjoy the game. As with all games in this genre, Sunblaze can sometimes be frustrating, but the feeling of overcoming its challenges is worth the blood, sweat, and tears.

Gameplay: You will die frequently, but it’s hard not to give each level just one more try.

Graphics: The game features beautiful pixel art visuals and neat themes for each chapter.

Sound: Sunblaze has decent music and sound effects

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Sunblaze

Developer: Games From Earth | Publisher: Bonus Stage Publishing | Release Date: 2021 | Genre: Action / Platformer / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

If there is one thing we’ve learned from special training simulations such as the Holodeck and the Danger Room, it is that sooner or later, they will go haywire and try to kill you. Thus, it was no surprise that this is precisely what happens in Sunblaze. Josie, aka Sunblaze, is a superheroine in training who is eager to follow in the footsteps of her superhero father. Unfortunately, her training becomes a matter of life or death when she becomes trapped inside his training simulator. It is up to the players to help Josie overcome the rogue AI in control of the training room and make her way back to reality.

With over 300 levels to conquer, Sunblaze is certainly not a game for anyone intimidated by precision platformers. The game does a good job of easing players into the action, but it doesn’t take long to show its claws. Hiding underneath its pretty pixel art graphics is a game that delights in killing players at every opportunity. Josie does not have a health bar, and instead, contact with anything deadly will result in instant death. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact that pretty much everything in Sunblaze is deadly. Platforms unexpectedly give way beneath your feet, lasers shoot deadly beams all over the place, lethal spikes adorn almost every surface, and crushing blocks can turn Josie into a red smear if she ventures too close. Players can generally complete each level in Sunblaze in under a minute, but before reaching that point, they can expect many, many deaths.

While the unforgiving difficulty of Sunblaze will undoubtedly scare away many players, it is also a surprisingly accessible game. Each level is set in a single-screen room, and usually, all that is needed to proceed is to collect a microchip. If players die, the level instantly resets and places them back at the start to try again. While quick reflexes are required to overcome the platforming challenges, the game sometimes veers more into puzzle territory. Early levels can still be conquered by winging it, but later levels require players to take stock of the situation first and plan their route through the gauntlet of obstacles awaiting them. There is definitely a rhythm to the way things move and fall around Josie, but it is up to players to sync up to this flow instead of going against it.

By the time we watched Sunblaze’s credits scroll past, our death count was in the quadruple digits. This was after playing through the “normal” levels of the game, which also unlocked an even more challenging “Lost Levels” chapter. We also didn’t manage to grab all the optional data cubes littering each level, which rewards players with “Hard” versions of the levels. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun along the way, and each death made us more determined to get things right on the next try. Of course, not everyone will be this patient, which the developers clearly took into consideration. Not only did they include a “Zen” mode, which features the whole story, but with reduced levels and difficulty, but Sunblaze also has “accessibility” options. These options range from infinite double jumps and dashes to full-on invincibility, which means this is more of a cheat mode than anything else. However, the game also doesn’t penalize players for using these options, which means everyone has a fighting chance at completing Sunblaze. We recommend leaving the accessibility options as a last resort, though, as some remove all the challenge from the game and, with it, the satisfaction of overcoming these challenges.

Visually, Sunblaze favors a pixel art aesthetic with chibi designs for Josie and her dad. They are also the only two human characters in the cast, which also includes a pet cat and AI presenting itself as a little unicorn. Sunblaze doesn’t feature enemies in the traditional sense, apart from some drones that have to be smashed on certain levels. Instead, Josie’s main adversaries will be the multitude of traps and obstacles standing between her and the exit of each level. Since the game is set inside a training simulator, the background “theme” changes for each chapter, along with the types of hazards that are introduced. Everything from mine levels with TNT crates to underwater-themed levels with sharp coral makes an appearance. However, there’s rarely an opportunity to stand still and marvel at the scenery once Josie is in action.

In most cases, as soon as Josie takes her first jump, she will be in non-stop motion until she reaches the exit or succumbs to an unexpected trap. There are some minor visual cues to help players, such as how the color of her uniform changes to indicate whether or not she has a dash move left. With traps such as sharp spikes, crushing blocks, and buzzsaws, the game also inevitably has some blood, but Josie reappears almost instantly back at the start of the level when this happens.

The music in Sunblaze could easily have become annoying, given the number of times we had to restart levels, but thankfully, this is never the case. Despite the game’s frantic pace, the background music is almost soothing at times, which helps calm the nerves when things inevitably go wrong. The controls are also up to the task, and Josie is very responsive, so it feels like every death can be avoided if you just try a little harder. There are obviously some trial-and-error moments in the game, but after a while, players should know what to expect from their surroundings with just a glance. Jumping, double-jumping, and dashing make up the bulk of your moves. Still, eventually, Josie will also have to master the art of turning into a sunblaze and scorching across levels while avoiding water or traps.

Sunblaze is, without a doubt, very frustrating at times, but to its credit, it never feels impossible. There’s always a moment during a level when you figure out precisely what needs to be done, and from there, you simply need to master the sequence of moves required of you. It also helps that the story is generally quite entertaining, and we looked forward to the banter between Josie and her dad or the AI. Unfortunately, these take place with text boxes instead of voice acting, but the cheesy humor helped dispel some of the platforming stress. Overall, Sunblaze will not convert anyone who hates precision platformers, but it offers an excellent experience for fans and an accessible entry point for players curious about the genre.

System Requirements

  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 7 or newer
  • Processor: Intel Core i3 M380
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4000
  • DirectX: Version 10
  • Storage: 500 MB available space
  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Lion 10.7.5, 32/64-bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i3 M380
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL 3.0+
  • Storage: 500 MB available space
  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: glibc 2.15+, 32/64-bit
  • Processor: Dual Core
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL 3.0+ support (2.1 with ARB extensions acceptable)
  • Storage: 500 MB available space
  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system

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