Platformer from Hell and Little Acorns Deluxe
January 20, 2013 9 Comments
Platformer from Hell comes from Hoosier Games, a group of academics from Indiana. I know, I know. Academics? In Indiana? I went “Hah!” too, but upon further research, they do have institutes of higher learning there. I’m not sure what is considered higher learning in Indiana. “Cow Tipping 101” or “Why you can’t pork your sister” I would imagine are on the agenda. I’m kidding of course. Actually, I’m quite friendly with project manager Derrick Fuchs (I hope that’s pronounced the way I think it is) and I ranked their previous effort, Warp Shooter, on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. It was flawed but functional and fun. I applauded their efforts and looked forward to their next game. Which is here. And it sucks. A lot.
It’s a punisher, of course. But it’s one of those tedious, excruciating punishers where dying and restarting levels is more of a chore than an acceptable part of the gameplay. This is partially because levels are overly large and pathways to victory are sprawling, convoluted nightmares. A good punisher, if there is such a thing (there is) should be fast paced and frequent deaths need to be handled in a way that doesn’t make them feel like a chore. Well, Platformer from Hell feels like a chore, with me cast in the role of Cinderella and bad jumping physics and boring level design co-starring as the wicked step-sisters.
And then there’s the graphics. The characters and some of the traps in Platformer from Hell are practically microscopic. I have a TV large enough to double as King Kong’s monocle, and yet the star of the game is a teeny-tiny little spec of pixels that vaguely resembles a person. Although this does allow you to see more of the stage and plan out which routes you’ll take faster, the drawback is you’ll suffer eye-strain and end up needing a monocle yourself. Another problem with the graphics is sometimes the background is overly bloomy and it drowns out the ability to properly see the hazards, especially spikes. Ultimately, it’s a game that’s intent is to frustrate and anger players, not entertain. Derrick noted to me that any faults with the game are his fault, not his team of students. Duly noted. That’s why I’m teaching the next lesson, which will be “how to tar and feather a fellow human being.” Alright guys, we’ll need 5 old feather pillows and some tar, or honey if no tar can be found. Trust me, this will be fun.
Actually, a better lesson could probably be learned from Little Acorns Deluxe by Team Pesky. It’s a platformer that does ramp up in challenge, but in a natural way that gives players room to grow instead of throwing them straight into the deep end on their first day of swimming lessons. Here you play as the patriarch of a family of chipmunks. No, not Dave Seville. An actual chipmunk, who must go through stages collecting acorns for winter stock-up. At first, Little Acorns might seem a tad bit on the easy side. Enemies don’t really kill you. They just turn you green and slow you down. The only way to die is to drown in water, but that doesn’t show up too often. The real challenge is the time limit in each stage, but it’s fairly generous. As you go along, you’re given new abilities like a rope to swing on special platforms or crash through bricks with. It’s alright. I guess.
It’s never really too difficult. I never had to repeat a stage more than once. Part of that is Little Acorns got its start as a Windows Phone game. You can’t really ramp up difficulty too much in a phone game, where players have to spend the majority of the time fighting the crappy digital-controls. With a proper controller, the game plays relatively smoothly. I found the rope physics to be somewhat goofy, but not a deal breaker.
Why I’m having a hard time getting excited is Little Acorns is a little on the dull side. Whether you’re gathering acorns or rounding up your children, the game never really feels original or engaging. There’s no real original hook to sink you into the experience, and no storyline or big twists in the gameplay to keep you going once you’ve started. Not that games need such devices, but they go a long way on the indie scene. Little Acorns is not outstanding on the grounds that it does not stand out. It is a decent, solid game that will give you four to six hours of platforming that you’ll be satisfied with once it’s over and forget all about in a day or two. The reason I reviewed it here is because the contrast between it and Platformer from Hell couldn’t be more jarring. One game gathers up all the nuts and isolates them in a cold, hollow place. The other is a game about chipmunks.
80 Microsoft Points each can’t tell their squirrels from their chipmunks in the making of this review.