Polara is a game that transfixes you with its sheer visual beauty, a dimly lit and foreboding sci-fi runner that brings to mind the best of Tron: Legacy. You play Lara, a tough minded agent who, in the year 2140, is working for the Bertram Defense Institute. Entrusted with testing a bio-defense suit that is able to override a defense grid which keeps civilians at bay, Lara joins a rebel organization after discovering her father may have died under suspicious circumstances. With the suit in tow, Lara embarks on a dangerous quest for the truth.
Excelling in Polara requires spot-on coordination and timing. The suit can change to blue or red, and depending which obstacle is before you, switching to the appropriate color while jumping, sliding, or simply avoiding your enemy is a must. Although it’s a runner which increases in difficulty with each level, the frustration level should be at a minimum, since you can die an endless amount of times without restarting the level. Although you are given the option of replaying your completed level to obtain new objectives, moving forward just gets you closer to the gorgeously rendered cut scenes. A little eye candy after all that running and jumping is pretty much chicken soup for the soul.
Controlling the game is a piece of cake, as you tap on the left side of the screen to switch colors, with the right side used for jumping. The frustrating aspect of Polara lies unfortunately in the gameplay. While the color switching dynamic in a runner is an intriguing concept that’s supported with beautiful visuals, the actual playing can get monotonous. Timing your blue and red color scheme to pass through lasers is fun the first few levels, but when it’s the almost the same enchilada for the next several levels, you may be just playing to get to the next cut scene. But just when I was ready to give up and move on to another game, I was able to run and jump upside down which, after all the previous frustration, was a much needed change of pace.
Although I dig the dark, urban, cityscape feel to the story, other gamers may feel the levels are a bit too dark for their eyes, and it’s easy to mistime a jump when the structures seem to fade into the nearly pitch black background. What began as beautiful blue and red neon could end up becoming weary for players who need just a bit more light and color to their experience. Fans of The Dark Knight or Blade Runner should be fine with Polara’s lack of sunshine, and it’s the game’s gritty and film noirish feel that keeps me interested.
With fifty levels of story mode, I don’t mind dying countless times just to get to the next level. It’s one of the few titles in which the cut scenes and the overall storyline are the main attraction, and if it means switching my suit colors a million times to unlock every sequence of the narrative, then so be it. Visuals really shouldn’t be the entire story, but Polara is just too seductive to put down. Who knew runners could be so sexy?