Wouldn't it be awesome if the floor was made of wibbly, wobbly, oh so sweet jelly? Disregarding the obvious stickiness it sounds like a rather ridiculous and amazing idea to me, but luckily video games exist so we no longer have to wonder and can see for ourselves what a world made of gelatin might be like. As it turns out, Ian Snyder's The Floor is Jelly is almost entirely as delightful and playful as you could hope for, with so much raw joy and charm oozing out of it that I found it nigh impossible to restrain the enormous smile plastered across my place as I played.
As the extremely literal title lets you know, the floor (and pretty much everything else) is made of bouncy, jiggling jelly that sways and molds as you platform your way through levels. More than just an enjoyable gimmick, Synder constantly finds incredible simple but ingenious ways to use it as a mechanic, from the obvious trampoline effect propelling you higher, to bouncing into the ground to momentarily cause it to sag as you scurry under obstacles. The game never dwells on any one jelly application for more than a few levels, driven by an erratic "need" for variety that keeps every level feeling completely unique from the last, but held together by the constant wobble of the world. The nonlinear structure is incredibly relaxed, never wanting to punish the player and allowing you to explore at your own pace, which is a very welcome change from so many hyper demanding platformers we've seen released as of late.
The one instance where the continual reworking of mechanics works against the game is in the final few levels, which take on a faux-glitch design that involves changing the properties for the jelly you bounce on. The idea is good in theory, but in practice it causes the world more often than not to spazz entirely out of control, leaving it largely up to luck if you can make it to the exit before things go insane. It's really a shame that it ends on a pretty sour note, because up until that point I was absolutely in love with the game and its laid back atmosphere, which the later levels go entirely against. Some unexplainable slowdown and technical issues add to the list of annoyances that should have no place in such a beautiful game.
Take one look at any of the other moments in the game, and it's hard to stay upset about a lackluster ending. The art design is absurdly charming and endearing, with the way the jelly moves being particularly delightful in ways I can't put into words. The color pallet changes with each new level you enter, all of which align with a chill design philosophy akin to laying in a hammock on a lazy summer day; it's impossible to keep from wanting to stay in this world forever. A gorgeous soundtrack by Disasterpeace (who my admiration for seems to grow on a daily basis) perfectly blends into the background, with spurts of sound accompanying your actions, creating a dynamic musical score that feels like a living organism playing along with you.
It's not quite perfect, but The Floor is Jelly enchanted me in ways I haven't felt from a game in a long time. The level of love poured into the game by its developer is palpable, to where you really want to overlook the bad bits because there's so much more to enjoy about the experience. It probably won't charm everyone like it did me, and anyone looking for a challenging or lengthy (you'll likely finish it in about 2 hours) will come away disappointed, but if you can take it for what it is The Floor is Jelly is the sort of game that's more than willing to curl up under a blanket with you and hug you to death with its cuteness.
Maybe that's a little weird to say about a game, but The Floor is Jelly inspires unusual praise and deserves all it receives.