Sunday, August 22, 2010

Four Quarter (Late) Friday - Platformance: Castle Pain

Ever look at a game's instruction manual and think to yourself, "THERE'S TOO MUCH HERE!" Ever long for the days of left, right, and jump while still having a game that remains fun? Well, as long as you're alright with a short game that makes you cuss like a sailor, XBLIG Platformance: Castle Pain from Magiko Gaming just might be the profanity-inducing game for your simple needs.

Platformance is, as the name implies, a platformer where you guide a knight on a short-but-sweet quest to save a lovely pixelated princess. All of this takes place inside and around a castle that, like all 2D castles, throws conventional logic and design out the window. Instead, you're greeted by a sea of traps, spikes, lava, and other things known to cause slight cases of death. Which you'll catch a lot, either until you reach the end of the castle and rescue the princess or until a giant ghost catches up to you and kills you permanently.

My favorite thing about this game, aside from the play-on-words title, is its presentation. First off, I lied about the buttons. There's one more button, which cycles through three degrees of zoom. Zoom all the way out and you can see the entire castle which happens to be glorious pixel art. In a frame. On a wall. Somehow, this made me giddy to no end. Up close, the game looks a little blocky but in such a charming and intentional way that it adds to the experience instead of detracting from it. The music switches back and forth between a calm ren-faire tune and an energetic 8-bit track that sounds like it's ripped from every exciting moment in Wizards and Warriors combined. Since, however, these are the only two things you'll hear the entire game outside of your character dying a lot, you can turn the music off if you get annoyed.

As stated, the controls are pretty simple. Left and right do the obvious while A jumps, swims, and climbs when relevant. There's only one jump height (my worst platforming pet peeve), but considering the game is designed to be more of a test than a two-hour journey it makes sense here. The only part I had some issues with was the one time in the level you had to climb. The vine (of sorts) you climb is incredibly wide looking but I was never sure if I was actually going to hit it to get to the cloud I needed to jump into and many times this would cost me a little bit of time. Luckily, it won't really cost you any lives as there's nothing there to immediately kill you. Speaking of which, even if you do die (which you will), you have infinite lives and very frequent respawn points.

The one fault you can find with this game is that there's only one level, and it'll probably take you about eight minutes to beat the level your very first time on Easy mode. Once you finish, however, you'll want to dive right back in and try it again, either on Easy to see if you can die less or on Normal (or Hardcore) to try and pass the same castle with more difficult traps and a faster moving ghost. I beat Easy about four times trying to not die at all (down to 3 deaths), Normal a couple times, and I still haven't finished Hardcore mode on the count of a very mean ghost. In short, the game stresses its replayability, and that's something we all know I value highly. The downside is that there's a lack of leaderboards, so you're stuck with "pics or it didn't happen" as far as your bragging rights.

If you're the type of gamer that likes to one-and-done all of your games, you might not appreciate Platformance: Castle Pain. If, however, you like going back through your old-school games and perfecting what you've done time and time again (cough like me cough), then this is a game made for you and hopefully the start of a great series of sadistic platformers from Magiko.

Platformance: Castle Pain from Magiko Gaming is available on XBox Live for 80 MSP. Played through Easy and Normal modes half a dozen times, failed Hardcore mode three times, is looking forward to dying about 500 more times to try and pass it, and yes, mom, I probably taught the neighbor kids some very foul language in the process.

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