I’m not much of a platformer, I dabbled a little in Sonic in college, got on ok with Little Big Planet, but just occasionally I’ll spot one that appeals to my sensibilities. Stick It To The Man somehow wormed its way from Steam’s front page, onto my wishlist, onto my library…
Ray suffers head trauma on a professional level, standing in the path of falling objects in order to get some practical data on hard-hat effectiveness. It’s a noble and pointless profession that calls into doubt everything you experience. His world is flat and cardboard, and filled with bizarre characters and broken physics: cars that drive vertically, triplets who are fused together beyond merely being conjoined, and actual ghosts who attempt to lobotomise the living. Things get weird when an alien crash-lands onto Ray’s head, and gives him strange psychic powers.
With his strange, pink, spaghetti arm stretching from his forehead, he reads the minds of nearby people, tears away walls of paper, hop from platform to platform, and gathers stickers that are oddly representative of physical or psychological objects and concepts that are the basis of your inventory. You have to run and jump through a cardboard world, a city infested with agents hunting for you and the alien in your brain, and the inside of your own head to confront the hijacking alien and your fairly boring past.
Characters are pretty one dimensional, but they’re literally two dimensional, and there’s nothing here to take seriously in the slightest. The comedy is a little on the nose in places, in fact it may be a little over the top on the self-reference and fourth wall breaking, but it’s more than enjoyable enough to keep dragging me along for another chapter because I feel like this game has surprises for me before it’s over.
The off-colour and distorted characters running through a world of roughly cut cardboard, crayon drawings, and stickers that are falling off at the edges give a toy-like feel that brings to mind Little Big Planet. Psychonauts has its fingerprints solidly on Stick It, the art style is strongly reminiscent, as are the outlandish characters, and a comparison is inevitable when dealing with a puzzle-solving platformer with a telepathy theme. If you’re looking for further proof, just keep your eyes peeled for a taxidermied Double-Fine easter egg.
The animation is fairly clean, it gets a little ropy as objects bend and twist, but there’s no realism to uphold that would break immersion. Ray hangs a lampshade on the outlandishness of the world straight away by commenting on how he forgets how much jumping he has to do to get from home to work and back. It leaves you feeling immediately at home in a world that shouldn’t function, and you can forgive a lot of the bizarre logic, like passing objects to and from thought bubbles and charging a battery in the mind of a patient undergoing electroshock therapy.
Death is resolved by having a replacement of yourself printed at your most recent checkpoint.
I like a decent puzzle solver, one that rewards observation and deduction. Failing that I’ll take something relaxing that requires a moderate amount of thought, even if you’re working towards a punchline. For a game that spends so much time in brains it’s not very intellectually taxing, and most of the puzzles can be resolved with a “blunt object” approach of simply charging onward, thoroughly exploring, and trying everything you collect with everything you can interact with until something… well, sticks.
Between the mind reading, barrelling around the inside of your own head, and helping people with their lives, you spend intervening moments evading the goons of the vague-yet-menacing government agency who are out to arrest, detain, electrocute, and otherwise inconvenience you in an effort to retrieve the alien parasitically piggybacking in your cerebellum. They ramp up the tension, and give you a few moments of earnest platforming, making you jump and run through the cardboard city. You can use their own thoughts against them as a weapon to confuse or disable them temporarily, but for the most part you’ve just got to get out the way, and quickly.
There are a few moments where cut scenes occur too frequently. They’re short enough, but when you’ve walked no more than three steps from one to another you might as well wonder why they bothered, and more infuriatingly it’s for comical moments that serve no purpose whatsoever, and not even for the best jokes, which are rather well hidden and worth doing some extra exploring to find.
In short there’s nothing groundbreaking to be found here, but as a casual game that’s enjoyable without being overly demanding. It’s also worth the odd chuckle in between the more frustrating moments. I just broke out of a mental asylum, and things are starting to get very good! Worth picking up for sure, especially if you’re looking for something to tide you over while the tortuously long wait for Psychonauts 2 drags on.
“You’re back in Wonderland, Alice.” – But this time, things aren’t the same. Things have gone quite mad. You could say that all of the time Alice has been stuck in an orphanage, has only made her more derranged, or at least more cynical. Now we must return to Wonderland, where a train has been seen destroying the imaginative world. Why has this train taken off? What has happened to the laws of Wonderland and more importantly, can we see that amazing Vorpal Dagger once again?
The first person view is the easiest way to instil fear in the viewer, the forced perspective makes the experience a lot more personal. The found footage subgenre is great at forcing us into the eyes of the victims and helping us share the experience side-by-side with them, and video games are starting to borrow a few tricks from found footage, such as camera tilting and jolting. Amnesia started those tricks early, having the camera drop to the floor in panic and crawl through a short and boring corridor.
There’s a growing amount of games that bring horror into new perspectives, Limbo, Little Nightmares, and Deadlight are all prime examples of platform horrors that shift the view of the player so that they act as witnesses, rather than active participants, but they employ some rather different methods to inspire dread: (more…)
Sackboy, a name that’s associated with cute platforming fun, is back once again with another installment in the hugely adorable and massively popular LittleBigPlanet franchise. But with big names such as Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie involved with voice acting, can the game live up to it’s predecessors, or does it fall just flat of knitted character goodness? Read on for our full LittleBigPlanet 3 review!
Platformer cuteness galore in this weeks’ video game review, as we look at the awfully sweet world of Ginger: Beyond the Crystal. Whether you’re a fan of cute games, or if you want to find a perfect title for the children in your life, this multi-platformed platformer could be the one for you. But how does Ginger hold up to the scrutiny of being a good game? Having played the title to get some hands on experience, I found there to be many positives which I’m going to share with all of you.
So here we are again catching up with PlayExpo. This time we are talking Sumo Digital who are mostly a UK based development team with an office in Nottingham and Sheffield. I managed to get some time to chat to Seb Liese the designer of their new game who originally was a biology teacher in Holland. He was first noticed by Sumo Digital because he was one of the top rated level designers for Little Big Planet, he has now been working there for four years. At the end of 2015 Seb won a 24 hour internal Game Jam with his ‘snake physics’ based tech demo and was given a team to work with to translate this into a fully fledged game. The game itself is physics based action puzzle platformer called Snake Pass and is due for release around the first quarter of 2017. So let’s go through my chat with the designer.
Last week we went to the realms of RUSH, a game where you have to tell some cubes where to go. This week, we’re back for more cube-like goodness with EDGE, where this time we’re controlling just one cube. Timlah’s back from one puzzling game to another, as we look at the second in a three-part series of Two Tribes fun puzzle titles.
In a game that features a character who is similar to the temple-exploring legend that is Indiana Jones, going through the Temple of the Dead with a little pistol, we can be sure to see many surprises. But in this indie action-platformer, is it 1001 reasons to celebrate, or 1001 reasons to cry? Timlah investigates this tough indie title.
I suck at computer games, that’s a fact. Actually I’m not incredible at games in general with a few important exceptions. Weirdly there’s no consistency, I’m pretty good at chess and yet my strategic skills seem to fly out of the window as soon as I sit down to play any other game that needs them; luck does not favour me, my dice have shown me this, and only the presence of someone with considerably less luck than me can fix my dice.
So why, in the face of such constant defeat do I persevere? I’m certainly no glutton for punishment, and success is always preferable, that’s universal. Yet time and time again I will revel in my failures, and often they’re far more memorable than my victories… but in a good way.
For those of you unfamiliar, Besiege is a game still under development that was opened for early access about a year ago (January 2015) in which the player is presented with a simple task, something along the lines of “destroy that building” or “get past all those things and sit there”. The challenge then becomes building the vehicle that moves and destroys.
You never really know exactly how much effort goes into making something steer until you’ve actually tried to build something that does. It’s also a fascinating process incorporating fire into a structure made almost entirely of wood. Time and time again I have scrapped the lot and gone back to the drawing board amidst a heap of burning rubble, defeated by a stationary windmill positioned infuriatingly on a ridge that I can’t quite climb, and yet still I will try again.
Now failure itself is an enjoyable experience in Besiege, watching the vehicle you spent better part of half an hour on shake itself to pieces the first time you attempt a turn, or gods forbid anything so radical as a trebuchet arm. Yet going back to the beginning repeatedly becomes a pleasure too, revisiting simple problems from the ground up leads to a process of trial, error, failure, tweaks, adjustments, failures, and eventual, accidental success.
I daren’t even attempt flying machines.
There’s a recurring issue I have with platformers, and that is every time I fall to my death it seems to take me a long time to return to where I failed last. I’ve been playing Alice: Madness Returns, and I got increasingly frustrated with one very simple point. It wasn’t a puzzle to be solved, something hidden to be found, or a fight I found beyond my abilities, it was a couple of jumps that I was struggling to judge, and the walk back to the point where I could attempt it again took a while to get back to.
Extra Credits did an entire video on the subject [skip to around 4:10], but the moral of this story is very simple: the faster you get to try again the more fun you’ll have. Platforming games in general tend to leave you with a long walk back to where you fell and you’ve usually managed to get through a few tricky obstacles in-between times.
Moreover, defeat in a platformer is rarely that fun. Instead of the wildly disastrous explosions of Besiege, we have disappointing falls as a result of bad timing. It’s a genre that finds a lot of love amongst people for whom skill is a pursuit and success is its own reward, but so help me I love a spectacle and a good story because I play to be entertained, and I prefer to tax my mind more than my reactions. A failure can be – and so far as I’m concerned, should be – as entertaining as a victory.
We fail so that we can learn, that’s a fairly simple fact. If we succeed at everything then we will be no wiser for it, although paradoxically our lives would be perfect.
Every failure is an opportunity to learn, trial and error, to see what brings you closer to your end-goal, and what takes you further away. This is true of everything in life, so each and every time your defeats become smaller it comes with the slight twinge of success, something that you carry forward to your next attempt and an opportunity for a new discovery.
These rules apply to gameplay, design, practically any skill you can name except for base jumping. It’s a learning process that is both enjoyable and highly effective.
Rescuing princesses from the clutches of evil witches who are jealous of a happy couples relationship, along with pummelling baddies with a sidekick that makes an ‘oink’ like noise, whilst simultaneously going splat? Wearing the dandiest of all capes, whilst gliding gracefully through the skies and being unyieldingly slimy? This can only be an older game and it is: Superfrog HD. But is this game as super as its title makes it out to be?