A core element of platform games is that most of the platforms tend to stay put. Sure, you get the odd one that will unsportingly vanish or refuse to remain still, but most afford you firm footing as you leap about, grabbing gold coins that inexplicably hang in the air. Not so in Linn: Path of Orchards, which comes across like someone smashed a platform game into a fairground ride.
The game’s very first level – where you don’t need to do anything at all – provides a glimpse of what’s to come. You’re told to head for a gate, and are already running in that direction. You watch as protagonist Aban sprints along; but just before she reaches her goal, the platform she’s on starts to tip.
Odd, but nothing compared to what follows.
You spin me right round
Apparently, Aban is on a mission to rejuvenate the ancient tree of light, which requires a perilous journey through an equally ancient sky temple. Said sky temple was designed by sociopaths who want to make your journey as tough as possible rather than, say, providing a convenient on/off light switch at the foot of said temple.
Before long, you’re faced with whirling, jerking clockwork platform contraptions. Linn becomes part parkour, part puzzler, as you through trial and error figure out the sequence of swipes required to get you to your goal. And even when you succeed, you quickly discover there are three additional challenges per level.
Reaching the exit merely unlocks the next test – the game also invites you to grab enough levitating bling (‘shards’), a really big chunk of floating bling (the usually insanely hard-to-reach ‘elder shard’), get to the exit within a moves limit, or clock up several seconds of air time.
At its best, Linn is thoughtful and smartly designed. Blunder to the exit in a complex level of shifting floors and whirling blocks, only to find you could have won in just two moves, and you’ll be determined to nail that particular choreography.
Unfortunately, Linn occasionally disrupts its flights of grace with all the subtlety of lobbing a massive brick into a tranquil pond. The biggest problem is the controls aren’t always responsive enough. Post-death level restarts are automatic and occur within seconds, but it’s frustrating when you know the game rather than your swiping digit let you down. Also, the lack of a level skip is deeply irritating when you get stuck.
Fortunately, in this game of precariousness, balance, and leaps into the unknown, good outweighs the bad. The minimal visuals suggest a side-on Monument Valley; the ethereal soundtrack is beguiling; and Linn’s interesting spin on platforming action will ensure you persevere – even if it sometimes yanks the ground from under your feet.