140 is a short, trippy rhythm-based platformer developed in late 2013 by Jeppe Carlsen, the Danish developer at Playdead who was the lead gameplay designer for Limbo. Limbo's darkness is gone from 140, but its stark minimalism remains. 140 drops you into a dark world of solid geometric shapes and soothing ambient sound. You roll and jump through its stages as a shifting shape, solving its rhythmic platforming puzzles and filling the world around you with more and more layers of sound and color. Overall, 140 is a treat for the senses.
You begin each level surrounded by a still, silent landscape. You soon come to a lone sign of motion - a floating key orb, pulsing with music, floating out of your grasp. When you catch the key and take it to a nearby locked door, you are rewarded with chills down your spine - a wave of color and sound expands outward and engulfs the level. Now the world pulses with a new melody ・even the skylines behind you bounce like sound waves - and the way forward is unlocked, so you proceed in search of the next key and the music it reveals.
The platforming puzzles are fun and intuitive, drawing inspiration from the one-level mechanics of the Mega Man series, but always suited to the rhythm at the game's core. Snowy TV static is the main way the game hurts you, lining bottomless pits and leaping across corridors, and it's represented musically with a fuzzy, distorted synth. The first level features bridges of alternating blocks that pop in and out of existence on every measure's third beat, with a satisfying clap. A rapid, staccato melody in the second level warns of an approaching "snake" of blocks. Elements like this are introduced gently, then combined diabolically towards each level's end. The outstanding music and sound design was provided by Jakob Schmid, also of Playdead.
140's bosses can be frustrating, not only for their difficulty but also for their deviation from the rest of the gameplay. Facing the first boss, which splits and fires a rain of TV-static projectiles, you're armed with a laser which fires at the top of every measure. You're free to jump and dodge its projectiles. But the later bosses restrict your movement. The final boss, in particular, traps you at the center of the screen, attacked on one of four sides by static triangles, where you can only defend yourself by aiming your laser at whatever triangle points toward you, threatening to fly toward you at the end of the measure. It begins innocently enough, but the laser begins to rotate by itself in a certain rhythmic pattern, and in one more layer of difficulty, the screen itself begins to pivot around you. It's a mind-bending boss, but by listening to the tonal cues in the rising synths, you can begin to feel your way through it.
That's where 140's success is most evident. It just feels great to play. What else are you looking for in a game?