There was a moment in the early ’90s when polygonal rendering was just starting to eke out into the world and the games that experimented with it looked oddly angular and sharp. Slowly, Max Headroom’s multitudinous bastard children showed up in games like “Virtua Fighter” and “Tobal No. 1.” Hair, noses, feet… all of those body parts looked so pointy that they could’ve punctured through the screen.
“Fotonica” lives in that moment. Developed by the Milan-based Santa Ragione studio, the indie game uses vector-based graphics that recall everything from “Asteroids” to the “Star Wars” arcade as one ingredient in its retro recipe. But, “Fotonica” mixes them with the 3D polygons that laid the foundations for the graphical pseudo-realism that many of today’s games chase as their holy grail. Its appeal isn’t just wrapped up in looks, though. “Fotonica” sports a simple, one-button control scheme where you can use press down any key to run and let it go to accelerate. With that, you’re propelled through a hallucinatory cyberscape where you’re tasked with running through five levels as fast as you can. Each timed level has tiers, which makes the jumping tricky but enjoyable when you nail it. You’re taking a leap of faith with each jump and might find yourself holding your breath as you soar through the digital ether.
Santa Ragione‘s just made up of two people–Pietro Righi Riva and Nicolò Tedeschi–but they’ve already managed to crank out a handful of games in the last year or so. Riva and Tedeschi also founded the Lunarcade indie collective, which holds two annual events that showcase up-and-coming designers’ work to the masses and each other. You can see the pair’s passion for game design, especially as regards aesthetics and feel, in “Fotonica.” It’s a great game and, with a pay-what-you-will donation model, one that you should certainly pay for and download as soon as possible.