Indie games come in all shapes and sizes. With a far more limited budget and development team, many indie titles focus on one particular aspect of a game and accentuate that as much as possible, while shedding the negatives. For games like To The Moon
and Gone Home
, it’s the narrative that shines through. For games such as Braid, Fez
and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
, it’s the unique underlying game mechanic that drives the game home. Then, there are games that rely on humour and/or unique gimmick to build intrigue, including games such as DLC Quest
. This final group is by far the least interesting of the bunch, and is typically the least successful. Sadly, Spoiler Alert
falls into this group.
For reasons that I can’t describe to you, you play as a walking chilli pepper. Very early in the game, you face the final boss and voila, the credits roll. Have you completed the game? Of course not – this is merely the beginning. The game then forces you to go through the entirety of the game in reverse.
The game is split into three main worlds, each with 30 mini-levels which are approximately 10 seconds long. Your goal is to walk from the right hand side of the screen to the left. Each level has a number of enemies and/or obstacles for you to un-tackle. For example, if there’s a flattened enemy in your path (i.e. you jumped on it earlier) then you have to jump on it again whilst backtracking to un-flatten it. Similarly, some of the coins in the level may be slightly faded out, indicating that these coins were retrieved. Whilst playing the game in reverse, you have to grab these faded coins (to “un-collect” them), whilst avoiding the non-faded out coins which are coins that you apparently never collected in the non-reversed playthrough. It’s an incredible simple concept that’s difficult to put into words.
Aside from jumping, the game also occasionally gives you various other abilities to work with. The dinosaur/dragon powerup, for example, allows you to shoot fireballs. However, because you’re playing in reverse, the fireballs come out from your enemies and you’re tasked with “catching” the fireball. The hammerhead shark power-up works similarly, except you’re catching a hammer (which travels in a parabolic arc) rather than a fireball (which travels in a straight line).
There are two ways to fail each level. The first is death, which can occur when you touch an enemy/projectile/spikes. The second is by causing a time paradox by doing something you supposedly didn’t do the first time around. For example, if you encounter an enemy that’s alive, jumping on it and killing it will create a time paradox and you’ll have to start the level over. A similar thing occurs when you collect a coin that wasn’t collected the first time. After you complete each level, you’ll be given a grade, which lies somewhere between “Perfect”, if you don’t die or create any time paradoxes, to “Good”, if you die/create paradoxes more than once. You read that right – the worst you can do in this game is “good”. This is the kind of condescending ♥♥♥♥ that would put primary school teachers to shame.
And that’s it. No, really. The game is the textbook definition of a one-trick pony, and it’s not a particularly mind-blowing trick by any means. When the novelty of traveling backwards wears off (and this will occur very early on), all you’ll be left with is a very empty shell of a mediocre-at-best platformer. The enemies are bland and uninspired, the power-ups are dull and none of the platforming elements are particularly challenging. Furthermore, your characters on rails – he constantly walks backwards at the same speed and there’s nothing you can do to change his velocity. What the whole game boils down to is a simple game where you have to press “jump” when appropriate. If you fail, you try again until you time it correctly. Often, you’ll find that the game plays more like a rhythm game than a platformer, and a very shallow one at that.
With that in mind, it’s both a blessing and a curse that the game is incredibly short. After completing the game, you unlock a “speedrun mode” which connects each of the levels back-to-back from the end to the beginning. Even with my frail-old-man-reflexes (which required me to attempt some levels multiple times), my final time was a tiny bit over 20 minutes. I would wager that the majority of the more competent platformer players could do it in 15 minutes or so. The fact that the game and its gimmick gets tiresome well before the end of its short lifespan speaks volumes.
The aesthetic is made up of the same old flash style found ubiquitously through indie titles, perhaps most famously in Castle Crashers
and Battleblock Theatre
. It’s colourful and eye-pleasing and suits the cartoony tone of the game. The upbeat and Mexican-influenced soundtrack complements this further, although each track is short and loops repeatedly, which may bother some of you. The only sound effect that I remember from the game is the weird “HRGUGH” sound that your chilli bean produces upon death.
It saddens me to hear that this game was in development for two years. The developers certainly had a goal in mind, and for the most part they did capitalise on their one idea and did successfully build a game around it. Unfortunately, the final product feels lacklustre. It tries to exploit one little gimmick that can’t stand on its own two feet, and there’s just not enough quality content surrounding the gimmick to solidify the game. It’s something you’d expect to find as an averagely-rated flash game on Newgrounds rather than a fully-released Steam title. For that reason, I can’t really recommend this to anyone.