As the years have gone on, the platforming genre has changed an awful lot, with various developers trying to put their unique stamp on 2D action of this kind. Celeste and Super Meat Boy turned to the hardcore route, while Fez made you rotate the world itself to get to where you needed to be, and now Traxmaster Software is also bringing rotation into the mix with their game Exception, which has released on Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One.
There is a story in Exception, one that sees you battle through a virus that has overtaken a computer system, but really this takes a backseat to the action. We really didn't want to take our foot off the gas in the frantic, fast-paced gameplay just to watch a cinematic every now and then, so we skipped all that just to enjoy our time running and jumping around, and we can imagine a lot of people will also treat this as an arcade title, with a bunch of levels to get high scores in and speedrun. You can watch the cinematics on the home screen anyway if you'd rather take in the story at a later date.
In each level you play as a small figure in a giant level bursting with colour, and you have to get to the various nodes which rotate the world in varied and unexpected ways, doing this repeatedly until you get to a point where you can access the final node, which signifies the end of the level. You can jump, wall jump, and fight your way through, and there are even little extras like skill chips to find, helping you upgrade your special attacks. With time being such a core focus, this sometimes feels like a weird addition, as the bonuses require you to go out of your way and slow you down.
Combat takes the form of a button-mashing slice attack, beating enemies to a pulp if they're in arms' reach, but you also get special attacks like a slide dash and sword throw. These feel like an odd addition too, as you're constantly wanting to go faster, so judging and co-ordinating a charged-up attack isn't always high on your list of priorities. Regardless, they're there for those who want them, and skill chips upgrade these moves in ways such as decreasing the time needed to charge the sword throw or upgrading your dash speed.
The enemies you battle against can mostly be swiped away, but they gradually get tougher and tougher to the point where you'll come across bosses that need a lot more tactical play in order to defeat. As you get the hang of the movement, combat explosions start filling the screen as you pile through the levels, but it's not always necessary to kill all the bad guys, as you can jump right by many of them.
The challenge doesn't just lie in the combat, but the platforming too, which makes up most of the minute-to-minute gameplay. There are precise jumps aplenty to execute, and while it's not quite as punishing as titles like Celeste, there's still a challenge in there for those who want a high score, which should keep you on your toes if nothing else. That's what makes it so perfect for the Switch - as you can happily smash out a few of these levels in your free time before putting it down again.
In terms of options, you can choose assists like the amount of lives you have (which impacts the penalties you receive in terms of points), as well as checking the player stats every now and then, like levels completed with a four-star rating, total deaths, total enemies destroyed, jumps made, and more. It's arcade by nature and embraces that feeling entirely, even handing out awards at the end of each level for things like being a particularly enthusiastic wall hugger, or for killing neutral robots in the level.
A big part of the appeal with the title is the visuals, as you're constantly having the 2D planes shifted around you as the levels rearrange. Actually, it's more 2.5D, as you're only moving in two dimensions, but the models, objects, and angular neon platforms are all technically 3D, and there's a neon futuristic landscape behind you at all times, all of which is accompanied by an electro soundtrack to really hammer the vibe home.
We had a lot of fun bouncing off the walls with Exception while dealing with the many threats and chaotic world-turns Traxmaster Software had to throw at us. There's always something new to see as you blast through the short levels of the campaign, and some high scores to chase as well, and while it might not hit the heights of its competitors in the space, it's definitely worth a try for those who like fast-paced, frantic platforming with a splash of combat thrown in for good measure.