Releasing nearly two years ago on Steam to rave reviews, Refunct is an ultra-budget platformer with an emphasis on relaxing gameplay. With an asking price of $2.99, €2.99 and £1.99 and an average game time of about 30 minutes, it’s only natural to look at it with some skepticism. I personally have less time to play games as I’m getting older, so I’m all for short and sweet experiences. It turns out that I got more than my money’s worth after playing Refunct a few different ways.
The game begins with you on a small mass of land surrounded by water. It’s connected to other taller land masses that you can climb onto like stairs. Every time you touch the top of a land surface it turns green, like the game de Blob. Your goal is to press a large red button, which will cause new land masses to rise up from the water. It is usually easy to tell where to go next because the red buttons cast a red spotlight straight into the air. You will spend the next 30 minutes or less jumping from land masses, pressing buttons, collecting cubes and sometimes using elevators or springboards. You can’t die no matter how high you fall or how much time you spend underwater.
I took things slow during my first playthrough, making sure to change every land surface green and collect all the cubes, which are the game’s collectables. Pausing Refunct will give you a handy percent of completion, which is based off how many land masses you’ve changed. The final button casts a yellow light into the sky, and as I reached it I was thrust airborne and the game was complete. I was worried because I was still at 98% and feared having to do everything over. Thankfully I was able to continue and keep playing; before long I earned the missing 2% and had visited every surface the game had to offer.
Refunct is a perfect game for speed running, check out YouTube and you will see just how quickly players can finish it. When I learned there was an achievement for beating the game in under 8 minutes, I knew I had to try. After a few missteps, I could easily get a time between 7 and 8 minutes. There is another achievement for beating the game under 4 minutes, which may be the hardest one. My third playthrough was to beat the game with less than 33% of the surfaces touched. This meant diving into the water as much as I could and using shortcuts. After a few tries I did it, hitting 33% right on the nose as I smashed the yellow button.
Refunct has a simple yet beautiful art style that reminds me if Mirrors Edge. There is a bit of a day and night cycle as you play which makes the skies change color. As you play new games, the land will not always turn green, but a variety of different colors. The music is calm and relaxing and the sound effects of jumping, splashing and swimming all hit the mark perfectly. Controlling your character works well, although it took some getting used to because jumping is mapped to the RB button. It didn’t take long before I was running and jumping with precision.
After riding some success from PC to the console space, Refunct could have easily been listed for more money. Instead, developer Dominique Grieshofer stayed true to the original and kept the budget price, a decision I greatly respect. For less than a coffee at Starbucks I could have some brief platforming fun at a variety of paces. I can see the value for people who want to spend a few minutes relaxing and feeling free from our boring world. There is a real sense of freedom through running, jumping and swimming. Just don’t expect to put in dozens of hours into the campaign.