Becoming a human cannonball in sandbox platformer Meanders

I disagree with the Steam description for Meanders not because it's strictly wrong, but because it's underselling the game. Developer Atomic Breath calls it "a sparkling theme park full of platform and environmental puzzles." And fair enough, there are doors to unlock and boxes to put on pressure plates—things which would normally indicate a puzzle game—but I don't consider its levels to be puzzles. They're more like obstacle courses for one thing, and I never once stopped to think about how to solve any of them because I was too busy having fun firing myself out of cannons.

Meanders is an unabashedly simple first-person platformer whose 40-odd levels are filled with stuff to interact with. There are little red balls to throw at larger balls and through hoops, platforms and bounce pads to jump across, lasers to dodge, and conveyor belts powerful enough to send you careening into the skybox. Most importantly, there are massive platinum cannons mounted freakin' everywhere, and chaining these tools together is more fun than it has any right to be. 

The levels in this game would make Wile E. Coyote proud. Let me walk you through an average run: grab a red ball, climb into a cannon, shoot yourself and the ball through a hoop to raise a bounce pad, land inside another cannon and fire yourself into that bounce pad, then double-jump backwards mid-air (because we don't need physics where we're going), lob your ball in an arc to hit a crystal to unlock the exit, and finally fall through a rotating web of lasers onto a huge slide leading to the way out. 

Meanders is one of the most videogame-y videogames I've ever played. It's bite-sized and bare-bones, but it works because it's centrally about the simple, satisfying thrill of motion. There's a wonderful sense of speed and freedom to it, and as levels escalate into increasingly ridiculous and oversized sets, they deliver authentic adrenaline-pumping heights. Thank god there's no virtual reality version; it would probably kill you. And that's without the unlockable bonuses which add absurd physics guns and wonky visual settings.

My favorite thing is how little the game tells you (provided you pick the 'no hints' option at the start, which you totally should). It might tell you how to throw a ball or use a cannon, but you'll never know what the big red button does until you press it. Will that laser kill me if I touch it? Will that platform disappear? What happens if I break this ball? Can this cannon reach the exit? There's only one way to find out, so pull your socks up and press the button. 

Every level is a new box of questions and experiments, and failing never gets frustrating because Meanders has absolutely no loading times. None. Once you start the game, nothing stands between you and trying your stupid ideas. You cannot overestimate the value of being able to restart instantly in a game where your principle method of transportation is cannon fire. 

Meanders only costs a few bucks on Steam, and it certainly looks like it. Every level takes place in the same minimalistic waterscape, and altogether the art takes the idea of low-poly to new extremes. But that just serves to highlight the elements that matter. Some may find the sterile aesthetic repetitive, but its pearlescent textures and detailed reflections are genuinely pretty. Besides, I value clarity over anything in a game like this. I'm also a fan of its soothing electronic soundtrack, but your mileage may vary. In any case, even if it's only two hours, I defy you not to have fun with it. 

Austin Wood
Staff writer, GamesRadar

Austin freelanced for PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and has been a full-time writer at PC Gamer's sister publication GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover-up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news, the occasional feature, and as much Genshin Impact as he can get away with.