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Leo's Fortune / 20th of September 2015

Leo’s Fortune, from 1337 and Senri, is oft described as a being a “handcrafted” puzzle-platformer, but what does that really mean? Well, not a lot really, but what is important is that we have here a beautiful looking game that’s able to hold its own against the bulk of its contemporaries, which is a particularly remarkable feat given that Leo’s Fortune began life as an iOS endeavour. But whilst it’s certainly pretty enough, can it really stack up favourably against the likes of console favourites Limbo and The Bridge?

Well, Leo’s Fortune, despite some rather tricky sections never once feels as challenging as the titles that I mentioned above, but that’s not to say that it isn’t still hard as nails, but across the expanse of its twenty main levels, there’s never a moment that’s so soul destroying that it’ll prompt any player to give up on the game. These levels are spread out across five chapters that weave a tale about the titular character and the loss of his massive stores of gold, along the way, he points his non-existent finger at several family members, paranoid as he is, corrupted by his own wealth and driven mad by its sudden disappearance. The point of the tale becomes fairly clear not too far into it, but without spoiling anything, I shall merely say that it is a moralistic narrative, driven by some solid voice acting and simple, yet effective cut-scenes.

The acting isn’t the only strong point in the game’s audio it must be said, the score throughout is very strong, and at times recalls the symphonic work of minimalist maestro, Philip Glass. This perfectly matches the excellent visuals, which never fail to impress with their, well, “handcrafted” feel; everything looks grounded in reality, almost to the point that objects appear to have been scanned, much like how Turn 10 now use physically based materials for the Forza series. The shortcomings of the graphics here, however, can be clearly seen at some points, particularly the brief train ride section whereupon the team are quite evidently using high resolution photographs for both the background and foreground textures, yet this doesn’t detract too much from the overall look of the game. The mind blowing aspect of it is that it was originally a mobile release, so if the developers can do so much with so little, it’ll be interesting to see what they go on to achieve with (hopefully) higher budgets and more powerful development platforms at their disposal.

As I said, Leo’s Fortune doesn’t quite escalate to the point of being pad smashingly difficult, but that’s really just for those progressing through the story, as it is fairly simple to traverse from one section to the next, as long as you’re not attempting to do so perfectly. Completed levels reward you with stars, these are earned by collecting every gold coin in the area, passing through without a single fatality and completing the run in under a certain time. These stars are used to unlock the four bonus stages that can be found, these present very different challenges from the main levels, yet they are each brutally hard to complete well enough to earn the coveted achievements that are attached to them. Likewise, returning to each of the twenty story based levels to earn those last remaining stars severely ups the ante, taking what was originally a casual stroll and turning it into a nightmare run through a spike laden course buried within the bowels of hell. I always like a game that allows the user to determine exactly how difficult they wish it to be, and Leo’s Fortune does this exceptionally well.

As if the bonus levels and star collection wasn’t enough reason to return though, Leo’s Fortune also packs in some hidden collectibles and a hard core mode that can only be unlocked after besting the game. This ups the difficulty rather extensively by limiting the player to just one life per level, so it’s likely to appeal only to the most extreme of masochists out there, but it’s certainly nice to see it in place here, and considering that the game costs a mere £5.59, it really does help to make Leo’s Fortune an absolute steal of a game.

As our engineering magnate, Leopold, traverses the world, avoiding traps, spikes and an inevitable array of bottomless pits, he uses his abilities to inflate and deflate to float upon air streams, dive into and out of water and tip precariously balanced platforms one way of the other to give himself a ramp to leap high into the air. For a character that really appears to be little more than a moustachioed blue ball, Leo is remarkably nimble, which comes in incredibly handy as the levels whizz past and the difficulty begins to increase steadily. He also happens to be a rather likeable creation, helped immeasurably by the quality acting, his journey of self-discovery is a bit a heart-warming one, so personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing the little chap return for another outing, so long as the teams at 1337 and Senri manage to concoct another tale worthy of their charming little mascot.

There’s not a heck of a lot of negatives that I could raise against this release, though I did find the controls to be a little bid fiddly, Leopold has a tendency to slide about a bit too much at times, and there were numerous occasions where his inflate ability somehow managed to send me careering downwards, typically onto a row of spikes where I would inexorably meet my demise. I also found that, unlike other story driven efforts in the genre, I couldn’t quite keep my interest intact to play for extended periods, breaking the game down into smaller bite sized chunks, it simply didn’t enthral me as much as I would have liked, but it was unquestionably good enough for me to continue returning to time and time again. If I wanted to be especially picky, I’d also say that I dislike the overly minimalist title screen, which seems to harken back to the game’s mobile origins, but honestly, that’s it.

If you hadn’t guessed it already, I rather enjoyed Leo’s Fortune, it surprised me with its depth, characterisation and even its visual quality, making it yet another top notch platform-puzzle game. Did it have me as enthralled as Limbo did? No, it didn’t, but that’s not really the point is it? At just £5.59, Leo’s Fortune looks good, plays well and has plenty to return to, so quite frankly, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

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