SYM Review



There is always a state in our lives where we suffer depression, anxiety, or lack in self-esteem. Maybe from dealing with a death in the family, finding out that the you were the reason to cause the falling out of a relationship, or realizing that the society we live today is going to hell. Mostly, these can be best portrayed in an artistic form of writing or art style but in this case: video games. Some have done it with such titles as Limbo or Dark Souls by adding meaning behind frustration and grief. As for a game such as Sym, it takes the depression to whole new level by adding depth into what a person might feel when dealing with these problems – through puzzles and dialogue.


God is not human nor am I.

Even with help of various cut scenes and depressing dialogue explaining the lack of advancement the player has, the game – vaguely – goes into detail on how the tale is described. The only way to understand the plot is by glancing at the Steam description given at the store page. Sym shows the depressing views of a teenage boy wallowing through the shadows of his deepest, darkest fears. Advancing through each level in hopes for answers toward his ultimate redemption the unnamed boy will travel a series of puzzles through a variety of perceptions.

The gameplay is very bizarre and, judging by the pictures, very confusing and overwhelming but fret not! The gameplay mechanic is incredibly easy for the novice player. Essentially, the main protagonist is a tall, lanky, shadowy being and his alter ego is a white entity. The white entity enables the player to morph under the landscape and proceed through each obstacle upside down. Not only will this change the aspect and critical thinking of moving through each puzzle but challenge the platform jumping abilities with the help of timing. In the background there is a series line next to or separate from each other. This represents a connection to one of these actions by jumping on switches altering the colors of black to white or vise-versa. The black character can only move on black platforms whereas the white ghost can only jump on white platforms. If a switch is triggered then it will be up to the player to figure out how that affects the landscape in order to get to the goal – which is a door leading to the next level. Sym may seem very liner but offers far more as the player delves in the depths of darkness. This is shown by adding new enemies to the levels and many more of them to boot. Enemies range from gigantic Venus flytrap’s disguise as tiny buds in the ground or dark blobs with tiny legs walking left and right. The blobs could assist the player by activating switches or by performing a kamikaze that destroys other enemies or obstacles. As the player travels through each level, there is dialogue placed in the background as sarcastic moral support – think of GLADOS from the portal series. It could be as motivational support or just to be a complete jerk or morally put down all efforts of the player surpassing a puzzle. The levels will make you frustrated and angry unless you are not familiar with how classic platformer puzzles are presented, it may make Sym cause you quite a bit of grief.


Very motivating quotes.

Although the gameplay may be tough on players with lesser experience of the platformer genre, there are minor problems towards how the character(s) maneuver. Minor glitches such as jumping on a cascade of blocks will cause the character to glitch either through or push him off into a pit or onto a blade. Not only that, but jumping onto a platform only a few centimeters from the character will automatically register as landing on the nearest platform – like conjoining two things together – causing an instant death. One final glitch I encountered was by slightly positioning the character toward the edge of a platform to jump farther will cause him to get stuck having to wiggle out of a certain platform or block. This creates a certain frustration when having to force the black figure to jump with spinning, death-blades above his head. Apart from the tedious glitches Sym offers 44 levels to navigate through and – not to mention – a level editor allowing the adventure of this ill-fated boy to continue. Any novice level designer could easily dive in and start creating by using a simple point and paste feature. Explorer mode helps with the community maps by granting players a chance to either be given a randomly selected map or choose one through the selection menu.

Graphically, Sym isn’t immaculate but don’t let the bland colors of black and white change the perspective of how the game is portrayed. Light and dark is what makes Sym stand out from most indie games. This encourages the story and overall experience of what Sym has to offer. By adding the black and white color scheme, Sym throws the player into a bleak, morbid atmosphere allowing the dishearten emotion and pity for the character.

Audio is all right by sounding like electro-techno dubstep with crashing of cymbals. In cut scenes the audio is fine but upon hearing it through gameplay, it can be quite repetitive. Sym uses one or two audio tracks throughout each puzzle and it eventually leads to muting the music entirely and playing your own. Upon death or proceeding to the next level the game’s sound splices out and either starts over again or changes – abruptly – to the next track. When travelling through the underworld – forming the white entity – the sound and music changes to a muffle, allowing the sense of death and loneliness.

Overall, Sym is a morbid and self-satisfying experience using the art style and written dialogue in order to grant the interesting, proceeding struggles of a teenage boy. Apart from the minor glitches, ineffective story and constant soundtrack loops the unique puzzles and critical challenges from the accommodations of two beings sets the tone and gameplay of the Sym’s atmosphere.