Now I first encountered Breaking Wheel from Insane Mind Games two months ago at BICFest, was on… two months ago at BICFest when my friend and I went to Busan. It was the silliest game at the festival. A game where you play a wheel. A wagon wheel, or maybe a gear. Even a cheese wheel. You roll around and collect coffee and money. Also, there are goblins and orcs.
For the most part Breaking Wheel is your basic 2D-Platformer. You move left. Sometimes you move right. Jumping is involved. Sometimes double-jumping. Spikes and fires and monsters keep tryin’ to make you dead. You collect coins. Also, you collect coffee, which is kind of funny. Cause why would wheels need coffee? WHY!?!? One interesting bit is that your speed and jump height is influenced by how many coffees you collect. Taking damage knocks away some of your coffee so you won’t be able to move so good. Which makes sense, as you have less coffee. It’s a neat little design that I can’t help but feel could’ve been a bit better explored.
The level design is quite clever in Breaking Wheel. The gimmick is that you periodically encounter intersections that shift the field of play by 90 degrees allowing you a new axis to explore. It creates an interesting grid pattern to the levels and makes for some unique exploration options. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a 2D platformer that handles it’s level design quite like this, and I think it goes a long way to creating the illusion of an interactive world within the confines of two dimensions.
The levels are also lavishly detailed. It’s pretty clear that the dev team has a background in Skyrim mods as much of the look and feel of the levels comes from Tamriel. Ancient crumbling staircases, fortresses built from sharpened logs, and ice caves populate Wheel World. A lot of work has clearly gone into to putting together the various backgrounds. It feels a little sacrilegious to be rolling a cheese wheel around in these environment. Really you should be like an awesome wizard. That would be more appropriate and also awesome.
A caveat to my enthusiasm is that Breaking Wheel is not a perfect game by any means. For as good as the graphics look some of the game-play elements lack polish. This manifests mostly as minor things like imprecise hit boxes or enemies walking on thin air*. I feel that I would be remiss in my duties as some wizard on the internet if I didn’t complain about a couple of things that bothered me.
First, the levels are simply too graphically busy. It can be really hard at times to tell what is a platform and what is a spikey thing that will steal your coffee. This can be a real bummer in a game the requires precise platforming as I felt that it lead to some cheap deaths. Compounding this is that on occasion foreground graphics block out the view of your path.
Second, the physics on your avatar are just plain off. Breaking Wheel can stop on a dime and doesn’t roll down inclines. You move more like Mega Man and less like Sonic. You just don’t feel like a wheel, feel me? There are a lot of physics based puzzles in this game, and I found it disconcerting when your avatar didn’t seem to affected the same way.
With those concerns in mind, I’m still quite fond of Breaking Wheel, warts and all. It’s currently about five bucks on Steam. Pick it up if you feel like supporting a small group of indie devs who enjoy making silly games where wheels of cheese blow up orcs.
*Maybe this is a deliberate bit of Skyrim influence. Zing!