Justice Playthrough #165: stop

I swear, sometimes you can just FEEL the good game trying to claw its way out from inside an iffy one.

Page 51, Game 13: stop by daichifob

(Note: This is an in-browser game, so if you wanna give it a try, all you have to do is click the link.)

This is a puzzle platformer of the “brutal precision” variety, where you are a square who would like to hop your little geometric ass through a lethal obstacle field and over to the circle. What’s the circle? Drugs, maybe. Or maybe it’s the latest Brandon Sanderson novel. There’s an excellent chance he wrote one since you started reading this, you know.

I MUST see what Shallan has gotten up to this time….

There are plenty of things trying to kill you here, but luckily, you have to power to stop time! Sometimes this helps, sometimes it doesn’t. For instance, in the level below, you can hop on a button that will cause three blocks to drop from the ceiling. Freeze them in place, then hop over to that other platform. Unfreeze time, push the button on your balcony, freeze the blocks when they’re higher in the air, and jump across them to your precious reward.

Is Maya coming back to life? I must know!

Also, don’t touch the little spiky boys at the bottom, as you’ll totally fuckin’ die.

This is one of those games where you die a LOT. Like I said, brutal precision platformer; it’s kind of a staple of the genre that you’re perpetually one split-second oopsie away from pixelsplatter.

I came into this trawl thinking that this just Isn’t My Genre, but I’ve found that skillfully executed examples (like Tamashii) can appeal to me just the same. Stop, however, was more a source of frustration than enjoyment. What’s the difference?

For one, the difficulty “curve” to this one is more like a buzzsaw blade. Some levels are easy, others are brutal, and it flips back and forth like crazy between the two. Take this little bastard:

KALADIN WHENEVER WILL YOU LEARN TO FORGIVE YOURSELF?

This is level 27 (out of 30). Pushing that button will drop a block, which will block the killer laser beam as it shoots left to right. (You, the stuff you can interact with, and everything that can kill you are all read. I appreciate minimalism, but that might be leaning in a bit much.) You want to freeze time, and get your square butt down below to the trampolines and the button. The trampolines, unfortunately, do not execute when time is stopped. So, you push the button to deploy a Companion Cube (really — nice touch, game), and toss it over on the left trampoline. Then, you must time your jump on the right trampoline such that you pass the laser just as your companion cube blocks it, and get to your precious Stormlight Archive sequel.

Why is this level ass? Oh, let me count the ways.

  • That jump is EXACTING, and is at the absolute limit of your vertical jumping abilities. You have to absofuckinglutely NAIL the timing on that trampoline, or you come up just short. Even without the laser there to kill you, this would take a few tries to execute — and with that laser present, you have no way to practice.
  • Putting the button between the two trampolines was an absolute dick move by the dev. See, only one companion cube can exist at a time, and pushing the button again will explode any you’ve already created. New cubes drop over onto that right trampoline; you have to catch the cube, then get it over to the left trampoline WITHOUT touching the button. This isn’t a challenge, this is a nuisance.
  • You have to be PERFECTLY synchronized with the bouncing companion cube. Otherwise, you get zapped.

This is an awful level. It puts me in a position where I can SEE the solution, but I can’t EXECUTE the solution. Why lard it up with needless difficulty like this? Why not give me a little margin for error on that vertical jump? Nailing the timing on laser-block is hard enough as it is. Why stick the cube-shattering button between the two trampolines? Avoiding it isn’t fun, it’s just annoying.

That’s where the game lets me down; it’s often hard for no good reason, it’s too frequently demanding past the point of being “challenging” and just becomes “fussy.” To my way of thinking, the game would flow better and be vastly more satisfying if it weren’t so eager to kill you for the slightest transgression.

But having said that, I DID make it all the way to level 27 out of 30 before it finally lost me. There’s a lot to like here. It’s a bit TOO minimalist for my liking, I feel like the dev should have set aside a designated Shit That Will Kill You color, but I do like the chill visual aesthetic. Riding bullets was honestly pretty cool. When I settled into a groove, when I felt like I was trying to use the tools at my disposal and not struggling to nail microsecond timing, I did indeed feel like a very clever boy when I made my way through to the end of the game.

The page indicates this came out of a game jam, and I can see that. It feels raw. It feels like it wants some more refinement. With another coat or two of polish, this could be something really special.

As it is, it’s fine. Maybe more than fine if you dig puzzle platformers more than I do. But for something that got cranked out in a jam, it’s honestly pretty cool. It winds up being one of those games I appreciate more than I actually enjoy, and I respect that.

Will this next game present me with murderwalls that cause me to explode on contact?

Page 56, Game 23: mMcFabs’s Texture to SkyBox Converter by mMcFab

“Convert flat horizontal tiling textures to convincing skyboxes with relative ease!”

Sounds like if I want entire landscapes filled with murder, this tool will help me get there.