Soft Body is a playable kaleidoscope, an ever-changing symphony of motion, color, and sound. It’s a mixture of different genres, combining the best aspects of bullet hell games, puzzle games, and Snake to create a challenging and mesmerizing experience.
You control two snakes that either move in unison or independently, dependent on the given level. The control inputs typically only require the left and right analog sticks. Using them, you guide snakes around a geometric landscape filled with angular enemies that emit waves of projectiles. You have to complete a collection of small objectives in order to beat each level, which usually involves moving a small ball or circular object around a maze, “painting” borders by touching or merely coming close enough to them, and destroying nearby enemies. The objectives remain simple and straightforward throughout, but the layout and challenges vastly differ from puzzle to puzzle. Despite their variance, none of the puzzles stray too far from Soft Body’s established rule set, and each design features the similar visual stylings and effects while also introducing new colors and contrasts.
While minimal, Soft Body’s controls can be disorienting, particularly when you have to control each snake independently. It is a game of trial and error, requiring precision and careful navigation. In its worst moments, some puzzles devolve into a series objectives with no apparent connective tissue, including levels with two maze-like objectives located at opposite corners of the screen and divided by a large barrier that needs to be “painted” in order to complete the level. The void in between each of these objectives was basically a minefield of projectiles and enemies that felt added in for sheer navigational challenge alone and gradually grew more tiresome. These moments are rare, but their design still comes across as haphazard when compared to more organized levels whose puzzles follow a more logical flow.
Tiny visual and aural flourishes breathe life into Soft Body's two-dimensional stages. When the snakes under your control come into contact with objects, particle effects spout onto the screen. When you complete your objectives, decorative background shapes spin and shake in excitement. These elements are enhanced by Soft Body's sound design, which is just as minimalist yet striking as the visuals, adding impact to each interaction between snakes and their environment. Every touch, hit, or movement around borders generates electronic chirps, and both the sights and sounds blend together to create a captivating, Zen-like experience.
Visual and aural flourishes breathe life into Soft Body's two-dimensional stages.
For such a bizarre, abstract game, Soft Body has a consistent visual language that communicates when and how enemies will act. Your foes take the forms of circles, squares, and triangles, each of which has a specific animation telegraphing its upcoming attacks. One circular “turret” latches its aim onto your snake and follows its movement for several seconds before the line representing its aim solidifies and the turret fires a projectile. Squares have a core that slowly swells toward the borders of the full shape, releasing a wave of deadly, circular projectiles once it reaches its edges. These enemies never break from Soft Body’s established rule set and language, making it consistent to solve despite its ever-changing presentation.
Experimentation and identifying the reactions of the environment are essential to solving Soft Body’s puzzles, since new elements are sprinkled in throughout, often without any explanation. In one level, I saw a triangular border surrounding an enemy inside. Despite not having seen triangles in the game prior to that point, I swam up alongside it and discovered I could paint it to be my color. This speaks to the strength of a well-designed puzzle game: when the rules are consistent and the challenge is set up around that core rule set, solving puzzles remains satisfying in the long run. Soft Body embraces that concept while refusing to limit itself to being one predictable string of levels.
Soft Body is captivating. It’s the fish tank to my inner cat, a fascinating display of methodical movement, clever sound, and unusually satisfying puzzle solving. It’s a minimalist, meditative arcade throwback whose simplicity sometimes backfires into chaotic design, but more frequently delivers challenging and beautiful puzzles.