Hardware: PC (WINDOWS)
Also On: MAC
Released: JANUARY 11, 2010

By Alex Kierkegaard / July 20, 2011

I was initially blindsided by this game. Within minutes of starting it I was thinking I might have to give an "indie" game a four-star review after all, and OH NOES WHERE WOULD MY THEORY BE THEN, EH? After all, as every retarded little fagot knows, an exception refutes the rule, right? (Wrong.) In the event, however, V's truly charming first impression wore off within minutes, and then all I was left with was an "indie" game alright.

Here's how I rationalize that initial effect. The game's visual style is reminiscent of early-home computer titles (particularly early-PC and C64 ones, an unusual era for retro-styled efforts, and one which holds extra nostalgia value for me, since the first system of any kind that I owned was an Apple IIc), and with one exception is pulled off flawlessly. (This exception, however, is a major one: the freakishly ugly giant-headed protagonist. This seems to be a running theme for the fags: Braid, Limbo, Meat Boy et al. all feature stunted, hunchbacked, deformed and otherwise repulsive protagonists. Hint to "indie" bums: THESE ARE VIDEOGAMES, FOR CHRISTSAKE. YOUR AVATAR DOES NOT HAVE TO LOOK LIKE YOU!) What's more, the action is fast, the controls perfect, the music catchy, and the main mechanic, which substitutes gravity reversal for the usual side-scroller jump move, feels very fresh and intriguing. As I charged my way through the first few screens I was filled with anticipation for the more bizarre rooms and stricter challenges that would surely lie ahead.

... if I was playing a game made by real designers, that is. Which brings us to the yadda, yadda, yadda part of the review. You know what's coming now: whining about infinite lives, save-states every screen, complete and utter lack of challenge, etc. The first bunch of rooms, then, are not merely meant to ease you into the game's mechanics and controls (as I had subconsciously assumed while running through them in a nostalgia-induced euphoria; which explains why I failed to spot the red flags earlier); they are pretty much all there is to it. In fact the difficulty curve, if one could call it that, seems to sort of peak about ten or fifteen minutes in, at a cool little room where reflexes must be combined with a little thinking to get past a situational puzzle based on the gravity reversal move (which, however only managed to hold me back for about five or so minutes...), and then sort of flatlines for the rest of the game (if it does not in fact get even easier!), or at least the half an hour or so of it I ended up playing. I mean why play more? Once I realized I'd spent the last few minutes blazing through one series of rooms after another in a sort of mental coma while my mind was off ruminating about real-life stuff completely unrelated to what was happening on-screen, I didn't see the point. What makes things even worse is that, after the initial linear stage, the game opens up, gives you a map, and more or less allows you to go wherever you want inside its empty, lifeless and dull little environment. Add to that the fact that it gives you a checklist of all its stages (which acts like a progress indicator), something which the bums will never realize fucking kills the sense of adventure that should be part of practically every game (see also, for example, World of Goo), and my enthusiasm level for this game completely tanked.

What has slowly begun to dawn on me through my engagement in this archaeology of the "indie" scene project, by playing and examining each of the bums' key titles carefully, instead of simply skimming YouTube videos (as I'd been previously doing) and rofling at the drivel they spew and try to pass off as their "design philosophy", is precisely this design philosophy of theirs! The real one that is, the one which they follow unconsciously while their mouths vomit all the absurd, meaningless and self-contradictory bullshit they can dream up that they think will make them appear cool. What the bums are basically doing, then, is taking and clumsily remaking old-style games, all the while grafting on to them all the worst deficiencies of modern ones, with the end result being that their games end up with the WORST of BOTH worlds: primitive graphics and mechanics made EVEN WORSE with the addition of infinite lives, quicksaving, progress indicators, lengthy exposition and the elimination of all challenge. Which reminds me of something Nietzsche had said about what happens when barbarians come into contact with higher cultures:

What happens when barbarians come into contact with a higher culture — the lower culture always accepts first of all the vices, weaknesses, and excesses [...] of the higher one...

A fact which can also be seen in the way, for example, that my stupider readers react to my writings, ignoring for the most part the substance of my arguments (the higher of which they do not even perceive, let alone properly comprehend), and simply copying my sometimes vulgar, and perhaps in extreme cases even somewhat shrill manner of expression — whilst the cleverest ones retain their own style (or at any rate are only moderately influenced by mine), while carefully examining and absorbing, if not all my arguments, then certainly the greater part of them.

So, to get back to the case in point, the bums are in no way attracted by the short length, unforgiving nature, tight pacing and steadily increasing challenge of older games — by their genuinely valuable aspects, that is; these do not appeal to them at all — and only mimic (and badly mimic) their simplistic mechanical and audiovisual design. In a similar fashion, they do not find the expansive and lively environments and lush audiovisual presentation of modern games attractive (since, after all, they cannot even begin to hope to achieve them), and only ape (and badly ape) their aforementioned infinite lives, quicksaving, progress indicators, lengthy exposition and lack of challenge. And when I say that they badly ape these ALREADY BAD features, I am by no means exaggerating: no modern game abuses checkpoints, for example, ANYWHERE NEAR as much as stuff like Seiklus, Knytt and this tripe I am now reviewing, let alone achieving, say, Halo's elegant combination of health regeneration and checkpoint system (which, by the way, is also expertly justified in the game's narrative, something which never occurs in the bums' games). So while the bums pretend to rail against the deficiencies of modern game design, they turn around and commit the same mistakes, and a hundred times as bad, just as they denigrate modern games as being "shallow", all the while their own games keep setting new superficiality records.

So, to wrap up this litany of negativity with something positive so as not to leave too much of a bad taste on our palates, let's get back to Nietzsche and quote him in full this time:

What happens when barbarians come into contact with a higher culture — the lower culture always accepts first of all the vices, weaknesses, and excesses and only then, on that basis, finds a certain attraction in the higher culture and eventually, by way of the vices and weaknesses that it has acquired, also accepts some of the overflow of what really has value...

The only question left then is when, if ever, will any of the bums finally reach that point.


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