Do you enjoy platformers? Do you believe that the best way to get from point A to point B is by firing a rocket at your feet and using the explosion to propel you towards your destination? Do you like mastering difficult mechanics and showing off your prowess with high scores and speedruns? If so, Tinertia is the game for you! If not, well … Tinertia may just feel like another level based platformer with a gimmick.
That gimmick of course is rocket jumping. Tracing its origins back to the original Doom, and later popularized by the Quake series, rocket jumping has gone from an often unintended mechanic to one that developers embrace and design for. Tinertia is a love-letter to rocket jumping, embracing the mechanic fully. So while it may be tempting to dismiss Tinertia as another platformer with a gimmick, the fact is that the developers managed to take an esoteric mechanic from one genre and faithfully recreate it in a different one. The bulk of my rocket jumping experience comeS from Team Fortress 2, and I instantly felt comfortable with the rocket jumping physics in Tinertia—although doing it with an analog stick took some getting used to.
Even more impressive is that the developers of Tinertia used rocket jumping to fully replace one of the defining features of platforming games: jumping. You read that right, Tinertia has no standard jump—although you can use a jetpack to boost one of your jumps slightly. If you want to jump, you’re using a rocket to do it. Consistently time your jumps well and you can reach dazzling speeds that would put Sonic to shame, as there is no limit to how fast you can go in Tinertia.
The game doesn’t abandon its commitment to rocket jumping during the boss stages either. You can use your rockets to buy yourself some time as you run from the bosses, but the stages are still about using rocketS to outrun the bosses rather than destroying them.
As a level-based platformer, Tinertia comes with the standard features you’d expect from the genre: Multiple distinct worlds? Check. Each of those worlds broken up into smaller levels, laid out in increasing difficulty? Check. Boss stage at the end of each world? Check. Fortunately the developers didn’t stop there and also added speed runs and a replay camera, both perfect additions for a game dedicated to mastering a technique like rocket jumping.
Additionally, while the standard levels don’t have a time limit, nor will you ever run out of rockets, each level does have par values for time and number of rockets used. While you may be able to stay under rocket par in the early levels by walking wherever possible, you’ll need the practice if you want to stay under both pars in later levels.
Levels in different worlds do feel unique in Tinertia, but not drastically so. One nice touch is that each level connects directly to the previous one. It’s not something that has an effect on gameplay, but having the levels connect directly does make the world feel more complete, rather than just a series of random levels.
Tinertia is not a game for casual fans of platformers as it is quite difficult. Think Super Meat Boy rather than Sonic the Hedgehog. Unlike the former though, the difficulty curve is a bit more harsh, and you can’t skip levels if you get stuck. One nice touch is that you can instantly restart a run with a single button press. That may seem minor, but it goes a long way towards easing frustration as you try to perfectly nail a run.
A rather surprising missed opportunity is the lack of a practice or sandbox mode. Devotees of rocket jumping in other games create custom maps and host their own servers to hone their skills, so while a sandbox to practice jumping would be pointless in most platformers, it feels strangely absent in Tinertia. A long flat surface to practice building speed and 2 tall columns to practice climbing would allow players to acquire the skills necessary for the most difficult parts of levels without having to play through the rest of the level to get there.
Outside of beating par on the levels, a Boss Rush, and doing speed runs, Tinertia doesn’t have much else. If there are unlockable characters, different rocket launchers, etc., I didn’t see any—I haven’t beaten it yet either though. The story isn’t compelling either. Tinertia isn’t a bad game for lacking any of these things, but if you play platformers for those things, you may find what Tinertia offers wanting. Tinertia does what it does extremely well, and if you aren’t driven to master that, you’ll get bored quickly.
Tinertia is available on Steam
Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of Tinertia for the purpose of this review.
Tinertia is a love-letter to rocket jumping. If you're into that, it's a blast! If you aren't, Tinertia doesn't have much to offer you.