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The Impossible Game

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Grip Games
Developer: FlukeDude
Release Date: May 9, 2014

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PC Review - 'The Impossible Game'

by Brian Dumlao on Aug. 21, 2014 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

The Impossible Game is a rhythm-based platformer game where a single mistake puts you back at the beginning of the level. Key features include original gameplay, a great soundtrack and retro graphics.

While the Xbox Live Indie Games store is more popular for housing countless simple Avatar games and heaps of clones based on Flappy Birds and Minecraft, it's also the birthplace of some rather good titles: ArcadeCraft, Breath of Death VII, Cthulu Saves the World, and the trio of Arkedo titles. The Impossible Game was a title that started on the service before moving to the mobile platforms and then became a PlayStation Mini title. After so many years, the game has finally landed on the PC via the Steam service in roughly the same shape as when it premiered.

The Impossible Game is structured as an endless runner in the same vein as Canabalt and Gravity Guy, the kind of game that has gained popularity on mobile phones. You'll scroll from left to right, trying to time your jumps to avoid smacking into blocks, falling into pits, or landing on spikes. No other obstacles exist, and there's nothing to pick up, so the experience is solely based on knowing when to jump. Failing means death, but you also need to restart from the beginning of the stage. Each stage is quite lengthy, and precise timing is needed to conquer even the smallest of challenges. The title quickly lives up to its name, but it has that special quality where death is encouraging rather than discouraging, since you always feel that you can go just a little further the next time. There is also an ever-present counter that displays how many attempts you've made, and that can drive the player to reach the end or shame them into quitting. For those who want to make things a little easier, the player can drop a flag to act as a checkpoint at any time during the level, though that changes the real run into a practice one.

Those who have played the game on other platforms will notice that despite the resolution changes, the PC version is mostly the same. There are five levels, and all of them retain the same layout, so PC players who are trying to re-create runs from YouTube videos won't find any surprises here. All of the levels are unlocked from the beginning, so you can tackle them in any order without being stuck in one stage forever. There are leaderboards for the game, and that's a shame considering it would provide worthwhile bragging rights. Oddly enough, the PC version contains a bug where level progress isn't being recorded. You either have no progress recorded in a level, or you've completed it 100%, so those wondering how far they can go before giving up are out of luck.

The PC iteration is the most expensive version of the game at $5, so players are wondering about the reason behind the price hike. The answer comes in the form of a level editor. Built entirely in Java and requiring the latest version to run, the level editor enables players to generate their own levels for the title. The tool is rather easy to use, and one can quickly get a level up and running as long as they have the patience to plan it out. It also allows players to tailor the level around any song and package it together for others to try. The potential copyright issues are one reason for the game not providing Steam Workshop support, and while that means the team will never run into legal trouble, it also means that level discovery is completely up to fans scouring the web. Steam Workshop has taken away some of the difficulties in finding game mods, so its omission can be jarring for those who aren't used to finding mods the old-fashioned way.

With the game being so simple to control, it's good to see that the title supports a multitude of control types, from mouse to keyboard to controller. Each of the three actions (jump, flag placement and flag removal) can be reconfigured to your liking. While choice is good, most players will stick with a control pad or keyboard because using the mouse doesn't feel as comfortable in this type of game.

The simplicity of the mechanics is heavily reflected in its graphics. Backgrounds are presented in one color, with a gradient to keep it from being too flat. Blocks are presented plainly, triangles represent spikes, and pits are represented by thick black lines. It is minimalist in nature and allows you to concentrate on gameplay rather than determining just what's coming toward you. Even though the simple architecture means a solid frame rate, the game suffers from some issues in this department. First, if you progress far in a level, your restart is plagued with a few glitches where the your cube phases out before becoming solid again or floats in the air before resting in the correct location. Second, the simplicity means that a blur effect is always present on-screen. Even if your monitor has never shown blur before, it's apparent here, and it's a decent distraction for a game that demands precision.

Simplicity also bleeds into the sound department, since it only goes for the essentials. In fact, there's only one sound effect that can be heard in the game, and that's the deep and low pop sound that's made when you die. The only other sound you'll hear is the game soundtrack, which goes for a high-energy electronic vibe after a slow start. It matches very well with the actions on-screen, making it all feel like a rhythm game. That illusion is broken when you switch to practice mode. Since the tracks are so calming, practice mode feels very separate from the on-screen action.

The Impossible Game is still as fun as it used to be, and most of that is due to some solid, infuriating platforming. Does the PC version merit the highest price tag of all the platforms? That's up to you. The levels are the same, and the game still lacks an online leaderboard system to facilitate global competition. The addition of a level editor means that people can find plenty of new stages to play, but the lack of Steam Workshop integration means that it's a chore to publish — and find — the user-created levels. Those looking for an insanely difficult, barebones, endless runner will be fine with this game as long as they know what they're getting into.

Score: 7.0/10

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