This decade old mobile game gets a modern refresh, adding new levels, a new look, and new music.
Before the success of the much-loved platform adventure game Owlboy, Simon Stafsnes Andersen of D-Pad Studio worked on a small mobile game featuring music from the experimental electronic artist known as Savant.
First released over a decade ago in 2013, 'Savant Ascent' was a tough-as-nails, fast-paced vertical shooter complete with pumping music, gothic stylings, and intense bullet hell action.
Now, ten years on, the studio is returning to the project with an upgraded 'Remix' version — adding in a handful of new levels, upgraded visuals, and of course more new music from Aleksander Vinter, the Norwegian EDM artist behind Savant.
As something of a fan of Vinter's first gaming-inspired album Vario, I was keen to check this updated version out recently at Gamescom — where we tried a hands-on demo, and had the opportunity to ask developer Simon some questions about this revamped take on his rather musical, fast-paced, and sometimes punishing game.
The premise of Savant Ascent Remix is straightforward enough — you find yourself traversing up a collection of vertical levels, shooting at wave after wave of enemies, all in an effort to collect CDs and build out your in-game Savant music collection.
Sporting an almost Castlevania-esque aesthetic, you'll quickly find that Savant Ascent Remix presents an immediate, almost Ghosts + Goblins style challenge if playing in hardcore mode.
This hardcore mode matches the exact, gruelling difficulty found in the mobile original — but Simon noted how this time around an easier 'normal' mode has been introduced in an effort to make the game somewhat more accessible to a wider audience.
The addition of this new, base normal difficulty was something I was pretty grateful for during our playtest. The game can be gruelling. Simon shared how the original mobile version was a brutal but rewarding experience, and although it found an audience of avid, committed players, the difficulty was such that it made sense to offer a new way to play for this updated take on things.
Gameplay typically sees your character quickly jumping from a number of constantly moving platforms. It's here where the mobile lineage of this game is clear — all of the levels are about moving up the screen, climbing vertically to the top of whichever structure you find yourself jumping up — just like you would have done in the first version of this handheld challenge.
Your character can shoot waves of incoming enemies from just a couple of fixed positions — your job is to navigate between these two spots, jumping from one to the other quickly to fire off a round into the next wave of incoming robots.
It's almost acrobatic in places — you dive from one moving platform, swiftly deal with a round of enemies, and then jump to the next, all whilst racking up a combo. I'll say this — it was impressive watching developer Simon effortlessly work his way through a level, combos and stylish double jumps a plenty.
The first, 2013 version of Savant Ascent was created in just five weeks — as such, it was a small by-design experience — this new 2023 take on the game, has had a slightly longer development time, coming in at around four months. That extra development time has resulted in three additional levels, new big bosses, updated visuals and of course — new music.
Racking up combos and blasting away enemies to a pumping soundtrack is what's ultimately on offer here. From our brief time with the game, Savant Ascent Remix seems to present a decent challenge, with satisfying, tight controls, all in a small package that doesn't seem to outstay its welcome.
Savant Ascent Remix takes what came before, builds on it in a small but meaningful way, adding a couple of nice quality-of-life touches along the way.
There's something novel and kinda refreshing about a project that's small in scope and nails the one thing it sets out to do — this appears to be that. The fact it's also a really cool way to release new music is a sweet bonus.
A testing, gruelling 'adrenaline-filled' elevator ride through a robot-infested tower — the updated take on Savant Ascent launches on Steam later this month — September 29.