Regardless of how much cursing I do, and how many times I am tempted to snap my controller in two, I genuinely love challenging games. They remind me of my gaming youth when you would play games with no save states, no checkpoints and a depressingly few number of lives. There are many games I venerate from the pre 16 bit era, firmly aware that quite a lot of that appreciation is rose tinted.
Electronic Super Joy reminds me considerably of those joystick-breaking, rage-inducing, expletive-arousing games that only the brave, foolhardy or hard-core would dare try to master.
At its core Electronic Super Joy is an abnormally challenging Platformer, in the vein of Super Meat Boy, which breaks the conventional mould of modern platformers. This is not only down to the simple yet refined platforming mechanics, but also due to its impressive scope. In the standard game you have multiple worlds with 15 variably sized stages. You then have the Micro-Hell mode with a further 10 extremely difficult stages and the bonus stages unique to the Xbox One.
Add to this, the fact that each of these stages track your fastest time and death totals and you have all the makings of an addiction for any serious hard-core platformer, that will have most of the gaming community screaming at their televisions if they weren’t sobbing uncontrollably in their chairs.
The challenge is brought about through clever design and implementation of unique criteria in each level; the screen auto progresses at various speeds, (typically extremely fast when difficult jumps are ahead and extremely slow when enemies swarm the screen), gravity is tweaked and quashed to change the dynamics of your abilities, the screen shakes and tilts at strange angles to throw off your perception and it even throws in a little bit of bullet hell for good measure. Majority of the stages feel perfectly scaled, with more difficult levels being extremely short allowing you to see the goal slip frustratingly from your grasp time and time again, and more straightforward levels being quite expansive between checkpoints.
The storylines for both the main campaign and the Micro-Hell levels are puerile, adolescent nonsense; chasing down the Wizard who stole your Butt or exacting revenge on Satan for farting on your dog is hardly going to win you the Booker prize but in the end this doesn’t matter. It’s the gameplay at its core that is the central theme of this game.
Your character, enemies and platforms are typically delineated against a vibrant animated background while the cacophonic dance/dub step track and explicit moans that occur every time you reset or hit a checkpoint combine to simultaneously distract and overwhelm your senses and notches up the difficulty just that one step further. Although the genre of music is not my particular favourites, it’s perfectly suited to this manic, fast paced game.
Although the game style is not my particular first choice I cannot fault its design. Throughout the anger and frustration it inspired I never once encountered a bug. The difficulty curve on this game is immense and some levels seemed to have far too great a distance between checkpoints to make it appealing to casual players. That said, I did not once encounter any bugs or imperfection in the game itself and as such this is not going to be a game that everyone will play.
It is however one that will appeal to that large section of the audience who can really get their teeth into a platformer that provides digital self-flagellation, an increased frequency of the need to swear thunderously, and instil a distinct urge to destroy console accessories within range. You have been warned.
Thanks to Xbox and Michael Todd Games for supporting TiX