Day #8: Being

Posted: 2010/11/17 in Indie Games
Tags: , ,

Being - a classic non-violent platformer

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #8, and today’s game is “Being”.

First an admission. My first game console was the Mattel Intellivision, and it wasn’t exactly platform game heaven (beyond Burgertime, there really wasn’t much at all representing this genre). Perhaps as a consequence of that, I’ve never been the world’s biggest platform game fan. Like most of us, I played a bit of Super Mario Bros. in the ’80s, Sonic in the ’90s, and Rayman and Sonic Adventure around the turn of the century. Somewhere in there I played McDonald Land for the Amiga. But most of the time in-between was action, puzzle, and strategy, not platforming. I was more likely to play Risk on my Commodore 64 than I was Ice Climbers on the NES. However, I nonetheless have a pretty broad view of how platformers have evolved over the years.

Being is definitely a throwback to the days when platformers were strictly 2D. The levels don’t even have parallax scroll in the background. But for those of us who played 8-bit platformers growing up, seeing it again is actually kind of refreshing. Another way that Being is retro in that the game is a pure platformer, with the obligatory exploration and puzzle solving elements for those who want to find all the collectibles hidden in the game. In a throwback to classics like Pitfall!, there are no weapons or special attacks, not even the ability to jump on enemies ala Super Mario Bros. In that way it’s a completely violence free game, save for the violence you have to avert by avoiding enemies. That’s not a bad thing, Pitfall!’s popularity wasn’t hurt by the fact that you couldn’t shoot or jump on the crocodiles and other creatures. The total lack of violence in Being is a refreshing reminder of a nearly bygone age before Mario threw fireballs and Sonic attacked enemies with a spindash. If anything, your lack of special moves and attacks makes you feel all the more vulnerable, and makes nailing the next jump all the more important.

The controls are very tight, and the platforming doesn’t have that repetitive gameplay feeling that can be so frustrating. Yes, some of the collectibles are difficult to get (especially if there is more than one way to get to an item and you don’t happen to suss out the easiest way), but most of the collectibles are optional which has meant I’ve been able progress past any point that annoyed me sufficiently.

The level design is smart, as the game cleverly avoids the necessity of a save system by giving you a warp world right near the beginning of the game that lets you jump ahead to whatever level you were working on. This is not a hidden warp zone, it’s very much front and centre. Many platformers to this day offer little in the way of game saves, and those that offer areas where you can warp to higher levels often make you slog through a big chunk of the game to get to them, so Being’s design seems to be innovative to me (if you know of a game that did this previously, feel free to post below in the comments).

All in all, if you have a platform itch that you want to scratch, Being is a great choice for only 80 Microsoft Points. This is one game where the trial probably does tell you all you need to know about the game, and any platform game fan should definitely get their 80 MSP worth.

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