I’m going to get the bad parts out of the way first, because there isn’t much. 140 has a bad name for a commercially available game. Many people don’t know about this game (probably because of the name). Dying is quite a bit more disruptive than it probably should be, considering it’s a game in which you die a lot, but that’s subjective. Frankly, that would be pretty much all I have to complain about this game.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll be gushing a bit. It might be disgusting.
140 is an abstract platformer, where you control a shape. You’re a square when you’re standing still turn into a circle when moving to the side and into a triangle when you jump. It makes sense in the context of the environment you play in, and it’s easily readable. There is no text (except for the 140 shaped things on the title screen). You don’t need any text to learn how to play it. It’s intuitive and assumes you have a brain. As you go through the game, it will assume that you learn rather quickly, and it won’t shy away from killing you.
There’s also the other big thing about the game – the audio design. It even won an award from IGF for it, and it thoroughly deserves it. The audio actually becomes a necessity in order to complete the game, as the environment elements are perfectly timed with the music, allowing you to pick the exact time when you are supposed to do that perfect jump to avoid getting smashed by the staticky squares. As you move through the levels, the music changes and gets added to, giving the game a rather diverse flow and mood. The abstract visuals also add to that, giving the impression of a rather trippy yet precise excursion into the fundamentals of how a game can interact with music or have the music interacted with via gameplay.
There’s another big thing I’ve noticed about the game – it has a deep respect for your time. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, although it may feel a bit short to some people considering the hour it takes to finish. The deaths are distruptive, yes, but you generally get the gist of what you have to do in a small amount of time, and unlike some other puzzle games (I’m looking at you 0rbitalis), it feels satisfying when you figure it out. There is also no trial and error, which is great. It also fits with the fact that once you finish the game, you get to play it again, only backwards and without checkpoints (I’m never ever going to be able to do that).
It’s cheap, it’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s a bite sized experience which made me smile.