Life Goes On – Preview
When the body of your friend and predecessor lays sprawled in front of you on a bed of spikes, and your first thought isn’t “Oh, how sad”, or “may his soul rest in peace”, but “fuck me, that’ll make a spiffy bridge”, you know this is a game that takes the word ‘irreverence’ and wears it like a diamond tiara.
Life Goes On is one of those pesky puzzle-platformers whose job it is to tantalise and torture in the name of entertainment, and it does it well. While the story – at least in the preview build – is non-existent, you are simply tasked with getting from A to B, using the unending supply of knights at your disposal in order to traverse the lethal terrain in which you find yourself. Rather than taking the Lemmings-like angle, Life Goes On rather gleefully encourages you to squander lives, as opposed to saving or conserving them – and you’ll need to squander a great many if you want to get anywhere.
In order to prevent your knight from getting his gauntlets on the shiny chalice at the end of the level, the game dumps him before some daunting challenges, from spike walls to flame vents, ice jets, and fluffy creatures called Jeff (not kidding). To get through this inconvenient mess of life-stealing terrain, you’ll have to start sacrificing. Throwing a knight onto a wall of spikes allows his successor, once summoned, to use the impaled corpse as a safe handheld with which to reach higher platforms. Bodies can be used to smother any spiked area, or as weights to activate switches, and knights can be blasted into blocks of ice in order that the resulting cube be shunted and used as a platform.
All sound good? Well, the game gets a little more tricky… you didn’t think they would make it easy on you, did you? You can’t move bodies. Instead, you have to work out where and how you can kill a knight to have his corpse fall where it is required in order for you to proceed.
Of course, the difficulty level creeps upward and it can be easy, as with all games of this nature, to become stuck and frustrated. A break away from the keyboard and remembering that the game has put certain things there for a reason can be all it takes to save your PC from getting up close and personal with the nearest window (at one point, the title of a level actually nudged me into solving it).
The levels themselves are challenging, but if you are especially masochistic, there is an extra level of punishment to be inflicted in the body count at the level’s end-card, when the game brings out your dead and tallies them up. There is an ideal number of bodies to expend per level – the lower the better – although the game (thankfully) won’t prevent you from moving on, should you fail miserably to come in under the magic number. The obsessive and competitive will have their work cut out for them, because pulling through without a sizeable body count can be a damned hard task, even having scoped out the landscape first and done a dry (wet?) run. It is a task made no easier by the game’s often over-sensitive collision detection (for want of a better term), especially as far as the spikes go. You may think that you’ve plugged all the gaps on a spike wall, only for your latest tin-lid to find a miniscule gap somewhere, often in what looks like thin air, in which to meet his maker.
Similarly, using knights as stepping stones to bounce over a bed of spikes can be hit and miss, as it can be fiddly to land squarely on the head of a fallen comrade without somehow falling short or overshooting, even when you look to be on the money. Other than liberally coating every bed of spikes with bodies, care, timing, and learning the game’s (at times) pixel perfect ways seems to be the order of the day.
Life Goes On is simple but tricky, enjoyable but frustrating. Being a story whore, a basic reason or motivation for the whole thing, at the very least, would have been nice, and the dark humour isn’t taken as far as it perhaps could have been (at least not yet), but it’s a game that will please and engross many if it stays on target. Given that the puzzles continued to evolve, right up until the end of the preview, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what else Life Goes On has to offer, because if the lava levels are anything to go by, my knight insurance premiums are about to skyrocket.
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