1000 Amps Review
PC, Mac (via Steam)
February 22, 2012
Adventure, Platformer, Puzzle, Metroidvania
When I started up 1000 Amps for the first time, a disembodied voice welcomed me to something called the Tree-Amp System. There was also a little light bulb guy on screen called Plug. As I tried out the keys, I found that A moved Plug to the left, D moved Plug to the right, and W made Plug jump. It’s a fairly standard 2D platforming control scheme.
As I wandered around the room, I couldn’t find a way up. No matter what I tried or where I went, Plug just fell deeper and deeper in the room. I couldn’t even see where I was going—the blocks that Plug stood on were invisible until he actually touched them.
When Plug finally fell off of the bottom of the room, I felt like I had missed something. I never got to see what the top of the room looked like.
Plug finally hit a floor after falling into another room. The block he fell on was different from the blocks in the previous room; it made a dinging noise and lit up. This certain type of block is called a node.
Wandering around this room, I found that Plug could now jump higher. Using this increased jumping height, he could reach higher ledges in this room and find other nodes.
With each successive node, Plug jumped higher, and I could explore more and more of the room. When I finally found all of the nodes in the room, everything was exposed.
Unfortunately, there was a one-way passage in the ceiling preventing me from going back up to the room I was in before. I was going to have to find another way around to get back to it.
So, I took the right-side exit out of the room, only to find that, yet again, everything was dark, and Plug’s jump was hopelessly short.
And that’s how 1000 Amps goes. In every room, it’s your mission to bumble about and hit all of its nodes. For most of the game, you can never see a block before you touch it, so when I say “bumble,” I mean it. Luckily, once you light all of the nodes in a room, that room stays permanently lit, even after you leave it. On the other hand, if you leave a room before lighting everything, it will be pitch black next time you enter it.
In essence, each room is like a Metroid- or Castlevania-style map. In those games, you’re dropped in a world with a completely blank map. As you find new rooms, those rooms are added to your map automatically, and by the end of the game, your map has gone from completely blank to completely full. That’s what each room in 1000 Amps is like. You start with a completely blank room, and as you wander around, more and more of it is exposed. With each node you hit, your jumping abilities grow, allowing you to access new places in the room. Once you hit all of the nodes, the room has gone from blank to full.
More often than not, obstacles will stand between you and the nodes. You won’t fight enemies (with the exception of certain non-violent pests), but instead, terrain. For instance, some blocks only allow you to pass through them from one direction, and other blocks act as currents that drag you one way or another.
You’ll also find upgrades that lend variety to these puzzles. For instance, very early on, you’ll come across the ability to teleport to any empty square in the room with the click of your mouse.
With a few exceptions, puzzles are solely about navigation, as your goal is simply to guide Plug to each node in the room. These puzzles have a sense of pacing to them, and largely because of two things: first, the upgrades you acquire, and second—this is the important one—the game’s overall map.
Like the first room in the game, plenty of rooms are impossible to solve the first time you enter them. For example, if a certain node is too high up to hit, you’ll need to find a way to enter that room from the top.
That’s just one example that speaks to the map’s larger importance, though. The map is carefully constructed, with four main loops (or so) all branching out from one central room, and each room on the map has a purpose. Some rooms take you from left to right, some from up to down, some are crossroads, and some are interrupted by other rooms.
A room’s purpose shapes the nature of the puzzle you’ll find in that room. If a room takes you from a lower part of the map to a higher part of the map, it will be vertically oriented, you won’t be able to rely on your jump to get you everywhere in the room, since the room will be too tall. If a room is at a crossroads on the map, it’s important to light up that room, since you’ll be passing through it often. These sound obvious, but that’s the great thing about it. In 1000 Amps, the rooms and map share an essential tie to one another.
This tie goes so far as to place the map under similar rules as each room.
Most of the rooms on this map are only vague outlines, and some rooms don’t even show up. There is one room, however, that’s clearly outlined. That’s a room where I’ve lit all of the nodes.
In each room of 1000 Amps, you can’t see a block until you touch it. On the map, you can’t see a room until you’ve permanently lit it. The act of making a block visible in a room is parallel to the act of making a room visible on the map.
1000 Amps is about going into the unknown and finding a way to light it up, and that holds true on the macro scale through its map and on the micro scale through its rooms. Its unflagging dedication to this idea makes 1000 Amps compelling; you won’t find any combat or minigames or arbitrary variety, only wandering in the darkness and lighting it up. And, since the game clocks in at somewhere between 4 and 6 hours (my personal time was a little over 5 hours), this single idea is thoroughly explored without becoming tired.
- A must play for anyone with interest in the “Metroidvania” genre. 1000 Amps finds a way to match the exploration of its map with the exploration of each individual room.
- A simpler game is often a tighter game, and 1000 Amps is a good example. If this game does something, it does it well.
- The simple, black-and-white graphics and empty, lonely soundtrack come together for an unusual but welcome aesthetic.
- Because there’s no combat, the gameplay is often relaxing.
- Because it’s a Flash game, it can run on most computers, regardless of operating system.
- Because it’s a Flash game, it can sometimes run poorly. When I played it on a machine that was close to the minimum requirements, the game ran entirely too slowly towards the end. That said, the minimum requirements are very low.
- If you’re looking for action, this is not the game for you.
- Because each room starts out dark, you can sometimes accidentally fall out of a room and lose your progress in lighting that room. Rooms are small enough that this is a minor annoyance, though.
- Getting around the map can be a hassle towards the end, since it’s so big. There is a teleport system, but it’s inconvenient to access.
The Metroid-style exploration genre has a long tradition of quality games. What’s your favorite?