Little girl standing in front of an open mouth holding a white animal

Indie Alert: Pulse Review

I didn’t know what to expect when I first read the unique concept of Pulse:

Journey as Eva, a young girl who [h]as lost her sight at an early age, and has since developed the unique capability to see the world around her through sound.

This first-person adventure allows players see what Eva “sees”: a semi-transparent world full of vibrant colors and polygon shapes. The transparency mixed with the shapes reminds me of an abstract C4D (Cinema 4D) effect. Sound obviously plays a very important role in Pulse. Rain drops, walking, wind, birds fluttering, and running water can all help get a glimpse of the dark world surrounding you. Jumping in place also helps if you don’t have room to walk.

There are these little, white animals called Moko that you can throw, which creates a sound when they land. Mokos are also used to get through obstacles throughout the game. Sometimes you have to throw them into little barrels they have to run in or sacrifice them to open the next level. They follow you around, waiting for you to need them—so cute, with their cute little faces. At first, I didn’t want to throw them and lose them. Throw them. Throw them everywhere. It really helps.

white little animal with big black eyes

Each Moko has its own facial expression: angry, questioning, happy, scared.

Pixel Pi does a great job of making players feel like they are blind too, which makes the game tough to play.  With no map, the transparent world is deceiving and makes traveling a confusing trek. What you think is a clear path to a far away cliff in the back, is actually a wall that doesn’t fully appear until you’re against it. I got lost, a lot. Eva does leave glowing footprints for you to trace your steps, which was a little helpful. Whenever the world shakes or turns red, you’ll know you’re going the right way. I still had to stop and take breaks to make sure I didn’t become completely discouraged. Also, stay out of the water and try not to stumble into the unknown.

A blank background with the words "You have lost your way in the unknown" across the screen.

I saw this screen a lot.

The soundtrack is very chill and relaxing. It fits with the game so well that it feels like the music is coming from the world itself. Purchasing the soundtrack on Steam is an option.

The story is vague—on purpose—for most of the game. Eva is on a pilgrimage her in which village didn’t want her to go, and the world and her village are in danger of collapsing. An obscure bird appears throughout your journey to give you cryptic messages about the events leading up to now. These hints help you to piece together what has/is happening to the world. I wasn’t really attached to the story; it felt like something was missing. Maybe a cutscene or something to show a little more background leading up to the beginning of Eva’s pilgrimage. A little something extra to make me care more. The scene could have still been through Eva’s eyes—or maybe jumbled pieces that the bird could remember—allowing players to have a better connection with her perseverance through the obstacles ahead of her. I was more interested in the obstacles Eva had to face and discovering more of this unique world.

A bird talking

The game is short, about an hour, possibly longer if you take the time to get all of the achievements. It can be completed in 30 minutes if you speedrun. There’s even an achievement for completing it in 30 minutes or less.

I wanted to love this game. I really wanted to and I really tried. The concept is great and the world has a lot of secrets I would like to discover, but I don’t think I’ll be playing Pulse again. The world is beautiful, but the thought of having to go through the trouble of seeing it just deters me. However, I would recommend trying it for the  different experience. It’s not like any other game I’ve ever played, and I don’t regret playing.

Pulse

I definitely want to see more from Pixel Pi. They are a talented group with a lot of creativity and imagination. There is definitely more worlds and stories they are holding onto. I hope this is only the beginning for them.