You guys, I feel like I’ve really made it. I got a review key of a game, which almost sort of means that I got paid for blogging. (Well, I got a thing for free, which means that I didn’t have to pay money, so it’s… still an achievement, in my mind.) I mean, obviously I’m not as much of a success as the people who actually made the game, but I still feel pretty happy about this situation.
The game in question is Suicide Guy by Chubby Pixel; NekoJonez has already done a review of the game (you can read his thoughts here) and was kind enough to put me in touch with Fabio Ferrara at the studio, and now I’m here with a review copy of the game to take a look at. I should say at this point that the game’s content is far less disturbing than the title makes it sound; when I first heard the name, my first thought was that this might be hella triggering for a lot of people, but it turns out that the heart of the thing is actually quirky and fun. I think, if it were me designing the game, I’d probably not have given it a title that a lot of people are going to instantly associate with terrible experiences or feelings; it feels like there’s a disconnect between the spirit evoked by the name of the game and the feelings that the actual game itself is going for (and, I think, is largely successful in eliciting). That’s probably all I need to say about the name; let’s take a look at the thing with the name!
Suicide Guy is a game about a guy with a beer. He’s kinda cute. The story can be summed up in pretty sharp fashion: the guy’s pretty sleepy, and his beer starts falling over just as he’s nodding off, so he needs to… well, become dead within his dreams so that he can wake up quickety-split and save the beer.
Unfortunately, The Guy’s dreams are more complex than his slobbish exterior might suggest, so finding a way to die becomes a matter of puzzle-solving and platforming in order to trigger some improbable, deadly event. During my short playing time, I went through probably eight or nine stages including one themed after Mario, one that must have been inspired by Indiana Jones and one that was apparently some sort of Star Trek – Portal hybrid. Fortunately, even for someone who’s never really seen Indiana Jones or Star Trek, the problems were possible to solve through the application of the same sort of logic that serves in other puzzlers; I was concerned that I might not be able to solve the Indy one without a working knowledge of the movies, for example, but it turned out that simply using objects to hold buttons down and open doors was all I really needed to do – then it was just a matter of removing the glowing idol and being crushed to death by a spike trap.
I don’t think I ever got too stumped by a puzzle, though I haven’t yet made it to the later ones and so I expect it’ll become more difficult; sometimes, however, knowing what I had to do seemed like much less than half the battle. The physics of it all is a little bit clunky; one particular section that required me to put a box on top of another box, then jump/ climb on top of the little tower I’d made, was particularly difficult to execute because the box on top kept sliding around and falling off. There are also a few bits which require climbing on top of a small platform, and climbing in this game is of the Half-Life ladder variety: you just sort of approach the climbable thing and then rise up it, with nothing locking you on and your hands seemingly free-floating. It’s a bit disconcerting, and it’s very easy to either a) surmount the platform before walking straight off the other edge because you didn’t realise you were already on top of it and so didn’t stop holding forward or b) repeatedly fail to get all the way up because you’re letting go of forward too early for fear of causing a). There’s also a puzzle to which the solution is to direct a spaceship so it crashes, but I’d already fiddled around with the controls before unlocking the ability to actually make it go forward, which meant that the thing I was supposed to be crashing into was so far out of sight that I had to just restart the stage.
That said, I don’t think any of this prevented me from having fun with Suicide Guy. Sure, it was a bit fiddly, but I could recognise what I was supposed to be doing most of the time, and if I couldn’t work it out, it was because I wasn’t being smart enough to solve the puzzle rather than because the puzzle was unfair or the engine simply wouldn’t allow me to construct a reasonable solution. I think, therefore, that while the physics engine might not be perfect, the level design’s welcoming enough that this doesn’t present an insurmountable barrier.
As far as how the levels look and sound – well, the soundtrack’s kind of minimalist, but I like what there is of it and it’s presented in a pretty cool way; there are radios in each stage which can be turned off, thus muting the OST, and sometimes the radios can even be used for stuff. It’s all pretty good-looking for an indie title, too; everything’s well-modelled, with a bright colour palette. I’m a fan of bright colours. The only thing I noticed is that The Guy’s feet don’t seem to be animated; you can see them sometimes when you’re jumping (they’re hidden if you look down while stationary, though, as his belly’s in the way) and they just seem to be doing a sort of double-hop rather than running or stretching out as you might expect. As for gameplay, I already mentioned that it’s a bit clunky from time to time, but it does the job; I was playing with a DualShock 4 controller, and although I might have liked to be able to map my own inputs, I never found myself unable to proceed because of difficulty with the controls. (I did rather like that the controller setup has buttons mapped to ‘punch’ and ‘burp’, two actions which seem to serve no legitimate purpose whatsoever.) Thinking about it, actually, the Guy is dreaming and quite possibly drunk, two states of being which make it hard to move with much precision, so maybe the finickiness of movement actually adds to the verisimilitude a bit.
Coming full circle for a moment… I do quite like the premise, even if I’m not sold on the title – it reminds me of an old Flash game series called Karoshi: Suicide Salaryman or something like that, which was a 2D platformer about a Japanese salaryman topping himself (mostly by jumping onto spikes), presumably because he just couldn’t take being a salaryman anymore. In that game, I think the guy was legit just dying each level (so maybe it was a different person each level, or the hero was being reincarnated to suffer endlessly), so it’s a bit darker, but it was still a humorous little thing at heart. All this brings up a question I don’t know whether I’m qualified to answer, and I sort of don’t want to attempt to answer it, about whether suicide is something that should be turned into a quirky, cartoony, jokey thing; I can see both sides of the argument, and I think all I’m going to say on it for now is that Suicide Guy, whatever its subject matter, is a colourful, fun experience that might be a bit rough around the edges but has a lot of heart.
As we know, this is only a first impression from an hour or so of play, so I’m not going to give a full judgement – the best a game can do in that time is sell me on itself enough that I want to come back for more. Did Suicide Guy do that? I’d say yes, it probably did; I can see myself coming back soon for some more drink-dreaming platformy fun!
(Oh, and by the way, go and check out this blog by the developers on how they created the game. It’s an interesting read, and one that makes me feel more attached to the game they’ve come up with.)