When the makers of Tinertia tell you to expect hardcore platforming, they’re really not lying.
In Tinertia you play as a tiny, kind of janky robot named Weldon, who is having some troubles. He’s crash-landed on a very dangerous planet, and he needs to rocket-boost his way to the surface and get home. Notice I say rocket-boost, not jump, because this is a platforming game without jumping.
Instead, you shoot rockets that propel you in the chosen direction. There’s also a boost that lets you shoot a little farther in the air and helps control your fall. The controls are simple in theory. The left joystick controls movement, and the right joystick controls rockets. You shoot rockets by flicking the joystick in the direction you want to shoot.
I had to wrap my brain around this way of moving, which allowed me to jump long or short distances, to bounce from wall to wall, and to bust through breakable obstacles. It’s all about getting the right speed and momentum.
It was seriously hard, but here’s the thing. The game itself responded consistently and accurately to my input, which is a very good thing for such a fast-paced game. I place responsibility for my many, many deaths solely on myself. By the end of my demo I was nearing a place that I wouldn’t call mastery… more like minimum competence.
Tinertia is designed to be played and replayed. The levels are divided up into short segments, and all of them are connected. When I reached the end of one section, the camera would swing around and I would be faced with the next set of obstacles. After a death I could quickly respawn at that checkpoint and tackle it again. Infinite lives, baby!
Vilas Tewari, a programmer and 3D artist at Candescent Games, told me that they had considered adding a tally of how many lives you lost, but feared that players might get too completionist about it. In fact, Tinertia is perfect for the competitive player. Each level has a recommended time to beat and a “par” for the number of rockets you use. Clever boosting can bring you in under par.
Fortunately, there’s also no limit to the rockets you can use, and I used a lot. When I watched Tewari play some later levels, I noticed he was able to boost his way through the levels and bypass completely a ton of the platforms where players like me would take a moment to catch their breath. A novice and an expert could play these levels in totally different ways.
At the end of each level is a boss fight, in which Weldon flees a horrible robotic boss that wants to destroy him because it hates cute things and happiness. Tewari told me that in most cases you don’t use Weldon’s rockets for combat. In the first boss fight I saw, Weldon could shoot a rocket at the boss to create a temporary delay and get farther ahead in the obstacle course. The boss levels end when Weldon safely escapes to the next level.
So was it fun? Absolutely! It was hard, but it’s meant to be. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to someone who wants a gentle sort of hop-and-skip platformer. But if platforming games are your jam, and you want one where you can markedly improve your skills, Tinertia is great. It already has a competitive leadboard culture on Steam Early Access, with players clocking in at ridiculously fast speeds. And the level design is very clever. In the menu, you can see how each level’s sections are connected, winding upwards towards your goal. It gives the game a real sense of progression.
Tinertia can be played with keyboard and mouse or a traditional controller. I definitely found the controller to be the easier option of the two. With keyboard and mouse, you click in the direction that you want the rocket to shoot. This was a little too difficult for me to adjust to; the actions of controlling Weldon and firing rockets felt too divorced from each other.
Tinertia is in Early Access on Steam for $14.99. It’s playable on PC and Mac, and the final version will be released this fall. A PlayStation 4 release is slated for late 2015.