Ynglet is a game about jumping between bubbles like you’re a space-dolphin. You don’t need me to go on, do you? Full disclosure: I pinched that description from the Steam page, but I needed it! I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in the game. I’m a shape that swims along and jumps between what I now know are bubbles. What I’m doing there, I don’t really know. Some meteor crashed into a scene you’re likely to see in a microscope, and here we are. But the whys don’t really matter. What matters is: it’s fabulous.
PS3 game by thatgamecompany, which you probably know for making Journey. Remember it? FlOw was a kind of meditative Petri dish of a game. You were a microscopic organism and had to steadily eat your way bigger, without getting eaten yourself. There’s no eating here in Ynglet, but you do look a bit like a tiny organism, and that tone, that meditative calm: Ynglet is all about that.
Ynglet is a kind of platformer. You swim, but you only ever really control your movement when inside a bubble of some kind. Outside of a bubble, gravity pulls you down, meaning you can fall to your sort-of death. The idea, then, is to swim to the edge of a bubble, leap out, and land in another bubble. Incidentally, if you do fall, you go back quickly to the last bubble you activated by waiting on it for a moment or two.
There are many modifiers. The most important of these is a dash you acquire early on. It allows you to slow time and then point yourself in a certain direction and dash a short distance that way. It’s a lifesaver. It’s also a crucial part of many challenges the game thinks up for you. For instance: dashing at one kind of bounce pad will make you travel through it, while dashing at another kind of bounce pad will activate it, ricocheting you back off. And you can only use your dash again after you bounce or land in a bubble.
On top of this there are kinds of trains you can hop on, bubbles that cycle between appearing and disappearing when you dash, and presumably other things I haven’t seen yet. And all of these overlap and intermingle, creating levels like carnivals full of rides to play on.
But it’s how it’s put together that really makes Ynglet dazzle. It’s a gorgeously clean-looking game, made up of strong but somehow cuddly black lines on a plain cream background, as if someone were doodling on parchment paper, and this provides the game with the perfect backdrop for well-placed flourishes of colour. Suddenly, bubbles will sprout colourful rainbows or bloom flowers, or collectibles will explode like multi-coloured fireworks, temporarily painting the screen. And best of all: this is done to music. Ynglet bops along in accordance with what you do. It’s entrancing.