Roundy things don’t like hard, flat surfaces. In fact, nature abhors them so much it rarely allows them to exist. Humans like that flat vs. spherical interaction, though. Think 10-Pin Bowling, pinball, Pool or even just one of those ’roll a ball bearing around a maze’ doofers you get in Christmas crackers. There’s something tremendously satisfying about making the two opposing surfaces interact.
Games have visited these frictionless plains on a few notable occasions – I’m thinking squarely of Super Monkey Ball and Marble Madness here – but a new contender is always welcome. And so to Glyph, where you play as a little scrunched-up Scarab beetle in the desert. You have to guide the little critter in its rolled-up form to its objective, bouncing and flying from platform to platform, avoiding the desert sand as if your life depended on it. Which, of course, it does.
The main thing that separates Glyph from SMB and others is the gravity: it’s very similar to Halo’s in that you’re hoofing around like Buzz and Neil on the surface of the Moon. The play areas can be pretty large to account for this, and there are a few clever additions that help with precision.
Firstly, you can power yourself up with a dash move to make sure your inertia is there-or-thereabouts. A standard jump might not get you where you need to be so, if you want it, a rechargeable glide ability is deployable. Add to this a vertical dash move, to make sure you land bang on where you want to be, and you soon find yourself mastering this hostile environment.
Control is often hard to convey in text, but it’s safe to say you’ll rarely feel cheated. The view can be zoomed in or out enough to let you judge either tight corners or long obstacle courses. Your small insect pal projects a shadow, meaning landings are easier to judge. Well, a little. Glyph relies on you getting a feel for the momentum; developing an instinctive judgement on take-off and touchdown.
The levels are generally either point-to-point courses – where timing and constant smooth motion against the clock are key – or arenas where you can take your time but puzzles must be solved and secrets uncovered. There’s a currency system for unlocking new environments, so going out of your way to grab coins, gems or other shiny objects dotted about soon transforms from fun distraction to serious business.
Glyph only really has one drawback, at least on Switch, which is that distance detail can be hard to spot (making route planning a bit harder than it could be), which is down to everything being in your main field of view. A bigger screen where detail’s higher and you can use your peripheral vision would be better, for sure. Cramming so much onto a (comparatively) teeny screen can add some awkwardness.
Although the portable form factor of the Switch might introduce a minor drawback, Glyph is a polished, fun platformer that is a delight for fans of physic-based puzzlers. Essentially it’s Metroid’s morph ball mode fleshed out into a full game so, if that sounds appealing, you should jump in right away. And scratch that Monkey Ball itch at the same time.