By Mento 1 Comments
- Game: Mechanic Escape
- Source: Groupees's Be Mine 13 bundle
- Start: 14/12
Mechanic Escape's one of your classic masocore platformer types, of a specific sub-sub-genre I'm thinking of dubbing "perfect run" masocores. More a timed obstacle course than an open-ended platformer where you have time to explore the surroundings, the player must dash through a gauntlet of ropes, pits, lasers and all manner of terrors to reach the end, preferably while grabbing a bunch of collectibles along the way. The collectibles occasionally act as detours, especially the larger ones that unlock new costumes for the protagonist, but for the most part sit directly on the optimal path, in a sense guiding players hoping to earn the quickest times.
The timed aspect is generally optional, as you aren't actually compelled to beat each stage as quickly as possible beyond potential bragging rights with whomever else might actually own this game, but maintaining a momentum is built into the level design at a core level, so you tend to find yourself sprinting along the linear path regardless. However, a certain nemesis who makes itself known on every stage (occasionally twice or more) will pursue you through stretches of the level, and it behooves the player to move as fast as possible during these sections to avoid a premature demise. The collectibles, too, are entirely optional, but again this is a game where they've been built into the level design and it feels like missing the point if you end the stage with some absent.
The unfortunate mistake made by many (if not all) masocore Indie platformers that followed in the wake of Super Meat Boy's success, is that the mechanics involved with the platforming have to be perfect. If not perfect, then at least consistent. Mechanic Escape is fairly fluid and precise, fortunately enough, but there are certain obstacles that make the game very unforgiving when it doesn't need to be. The arc of the jump when leaving a rope can vary too much, and there are gravity switching fields that are too hard to parse when moving quickly; if you jump in the wrong place while in these fields, you end up flying in the wrong direction. Often the game switches to a sort of "automatic mode" for a few seconds, similar to certain sequences in Sonic the Hedgehog, but it never deigns to tell you this, and any interactions you make tend to upset the delicate balance of these "put the controller down a second" occurrences. Minor stuff, but when you're building a game that depends so much on sustaining a perfect speedrun, they add up far quicker than they might in the more common Super Mario derivatives. The other issue is that, because lap times are everything, the game never checkpoints. Super Meat Boy could get away with that because its levels were all so short, usually around 20-30 seconds when you knew what to do (with the exception of its later worlds, where it began to lose me a little), but most of Mechanic Escape's stages are close to a minute long. Again, only a little ways off the optimal design and entirely exonerable were this not a game where every second counts and you're dying frequently. The last and perhaps most problematic issue is that the game appears to have introduced all its mechanics in the first world, leaving nothing for the future worlds besides harder variations and the occasional new look. I've only gotten a little into World 2, but the achievements (which are of the unimaginative "do this x number of times" type) would seem to corroborate this fear.
On the whole, though, Mechanic Escape isn't too bad. It's a slick little Indie platformer with tolerable controls that feels a bit more like the new Rayman games than most others of its Indie ilk, given the emphasis on following lines of collectibles to speedily clear levels. Masocores aren't my thing, largely because they're just so hard to get right, but this one seems fine enough in spite of its aforementioned issues.
- Game: Spate
- Source: Groupees's Be Mine 13 bundle
- Start: 14/12
If Mechanic Escape is an Indie platformer that builds from Super Meat Boy, then Spate is one that builds from Limbo. I'm not sure what you'd call this; a cinematic 2D platformer? Spate is similarly atmospheric as Limbo, but instead of a stark monochrome world it's murky and viridian. The player is a private eye and inveterate drunk, who seems to see the world through a filter of absinthe, which explains the world's green and hazy appearance. He also happens to be exploring a toxic wasteland for a missing person's case, an area designated "X Zone" after some mysterious industrial calamity irrevocably destroyed the natural beauty of the place. You're never quite sure if the environment is the result of the hero's drinking or the chemicals running ramshod over the natural order of things, and this opaque perspective becomes obfuscated further when enormous creatures and visions of your deceased daughter fill the screen.
Gameplay-wise, we're firmly in the realm of rudimentary physics puzzles and basic platforming, with the emphasis instead on the narration with the oddly Walken-esque delivery coming from the protagonist as he continues to delve into the deepening mystery behind the case he's working on. Hitting a button to drop a boulder on a seesaw to fling you upwards, that's generally the sort of thing we're talking about. It works fine enough as a foundation, but it's not quite as endlessly clever as Limbo became. The game's lousy with typos too, so it might've used a bit more proofreading.
In the end though, the greatest flaw of the game is that it's currently impossible to finish. This might be endemic to my particular computer, since it has enough trouble loading all the weather effects, vignetting and other atmospheric filters. I found myself attempting to ride a giant floating platform on a pivot: Clearly, the goal is to stand on one side of the lever to create a diagonal bridge to the next part of the level, but each time I jumped on it I simply fell through after a split second and into the bottomless pit below. Didn't seem to matter where I stood either, and simply jumping on the spot over and over only worked for so long. It's a shame, as I was already invested in the mystery, but I suppose that's the way the cookie crumbles. Absinthe makes the floor go yonder, or something.
Still, if you're looking for a game like Limbo and you're somehow fortunate enough to not have the above snafu happen to you when you play it, it might be worth checking out if you find it cheap or in a bundle. There's a certain Burroughs quality to the game's noir script and surrealism, though I'm certainly not the ideal judge for that sort of literary comparison. My knowledge of Burroughs starts and ends with that Naked Lunch movie where RoboCop's typewriter is a cockroach.
That's it for Go! Go! GOTY! this year. I think a nice round two weeks is better than artificially extending it out with whatever dregs I have left over, and it gives me some time to put a proper GOTY awards blog together. Thanks for reading this series, and if you're seeking some closure then look no further than this GOTY 2014 list of mine to see what I ended up choosing. Peace.