Life. Death. Everything in-between. All constant concerns for we poor mortals - but what if we could transcend all three, in a sense, and cross between the boundaries with ease? And solve puzzles in the process?
Yeah, that's more or less Verge for you.
Verge doesn't have an easily-identifiable plot, but the snippets you get to start give you a good idea of what's going on: you're dead. Or you are, at least, not quite alive - and following on the tracks of an angel who's always just out of reach, you need to proceed through various levels and find your way... somewhere.
You quickly discover, however, that in order to proceed you need to kill yourself. Repeatedly. In doing so you're whisked to a strange underworld - literally, it's UNDER the level you're currently in - where gravity is reversed and turtle-like beasts look to drain your vitality. You can move between these worlds of life and death by jumping through water, and indeed doing so is necessary to complete almost every level in the game. Using death as a game mechanic isn't totally original, but I don't think I've quite seen it used in this manner before, which is a definite plus.
Besides that? Switches. Timers. Baddies every now and then. It's a standard platform puzzler, albeit one with a deeper story than average. (You need to collect EVERYTHING to get the true story.)
The controls in Verge constitute my biggest gripe by far. They aren't TERRIBLE, but they're far from spot-on. I had a lot of trouble sticking landings that would have been easy in other games, and my little guy wasn't nearly as responsive as I would have liked. The game is beatable, yes, but it's a lot more frustrating than necessary. (I hate those stupid boxes.)
Verge is another of those 16-bit era games that I love playing so much. It boasts some rather neat sprites, even if they do lean towards simplicity, and the environment is placidly foreboding - perfect for the subject matter. I especially liked the sudden conversions between the two worlds, especially near the end of the game when such changes get even creepier than usual.
Another game with a rather sparse soundtrack, Verge, but I don't mind. The primary song that plays during the levels is a haunting piano-and-woodwind melody that's neither intrusive nor repetitive; it just becomes a normal part of the scenery. I don't think I'd ever mute the game. Beyond that, the last song you come across, right near the end of Verge - if you can CALL it a song, it's more like mad ramblings of some unknown man - is downright bizarre. Well done.
Verge isn't a long game. It took me about twenty minutes to beat my first play through, even with the problematic controls, and shouldn't take anyone else much longer. There are few levels, which is good - I think piling too much on top would have detracted from the experience.
What I appreciate most about Verge's difficulty is that it slowly rises without getting too tough, too fast. You have more than enough time to practice the game's mechanics before you reach the end, and then once you get there you need to use some strong deductive skills, along with your knowledge, to ascend to victory. I'll emphasize here that you really REALLY need to work on your jumping to get through Verge, though I won't say why. You'll understand. (Really.)
My gripes about the controls aside, Verge is an excellent game. It carries a strong artistic message backed by a great set of play mechanics, and is just long enough to appreciate without dragging out the plot. Highly recommended.