An Honest Discussion.

Review by npc10000 on Monday, March 6th 2017
Click to play M I N D

M I N D is a game created by jigglypuff12345

I’ve often claimed in both reviews and general comments on games that the quality of the graphics should not overshadow or make up for lackluster gameplay, but at what point does that standard get obliterated and then run over again by something radical and incendiary? M I N D by jigglypuff12345 may just propose an answer to that question.

M I N D might be one of the most interesting games I’ve ever played on Sploder. It’s definitely not the BEST game I’ve ever played, but certain aspects about it are definitely worth having a substantial discussion over. Not many games on this site, not even some in the EGL, transcend the line between “Sploder game” and just “game.” It’s an unfortunate truth that Sploder games, despite how revolutionary or engaging they may be, are typecasted and bound by the fact that they were indeed made on Sploder - try all you want to make a game stand out, but there will always be certain tropes or mechanics or aesthetic choices that betray its true identity as a Sploder game. I’ve consistently praised the Physics creator for coming the closest to shattering that long-standing Sploderian glass ceiling, and M I N D is yet another example of its versatile modus operandi. But before we continue on this topic, let’s examine the actual game itself.

Do not let the rather bizarre thumbnail fool you - the graphics and visual style in M I N D are the obvious shining highlight of this game. Not only is every minute detail of nature - from the leaves on a tree, to soil, to the abstract patterns on rock and stone - meticulously and vividly brought to life, but they benefit from jigglypuff12345’s knowledge and command of the game creator. Trees in the background move along with the character to convey motion and travel. Bubbles slowly and sporadically rise up from the bottom of a flooded cavern. The surface of a subterranean lake rhythmically flows as you leap from rock to rock, collecting coins and avoiding hazards. Even clouds in the sky pulsate and shimmer, keeping true to their vaporous nature. I cannot possibly mentally fathom the amount of hand-straining effort that went into designing the graphics for this game; jigglypuff12345 spared no expense in ensuring everything about this game looked absolutely beautiful. With all the layers and objects undoubtedly involved in this game’s immaculate presentation, one would expect the lag to be absolutely atrocious. In truth, the lag isn’t too bad (for the most part, but we’ll get to that), but jigglypuff12345 even includes a little button at the beginning of each level simply labeled “low,” that deletes some of the background scenery, and effectively reduces the lag experienced by the player. It’s this particular game mechanic that reveals a lot about not just the game, but also about jigglypuff12345 - he doesn’t just care for the game, he also cares about the experience presented to the player. I’ve run into countless games on Sploder that sacrifice gameplay integrity for artistic merit, but jigglypuff12345 has found a way to have the best of both worlds, and such an achievement deserves only the highest of compliments. Props to you, dude.

Now, unfortunately, comes the parts I was less enthusiastic about. Much like a good chunk of featured games, no priority was given to any form of narrative in the game. With some games that are solely dedicated to puzzles and specific mechanics, however, story is practically unneeded, and that for the most part is applicable to M I N D. The levels progress more like different situations the character is dropped into, each with a different environment to gawk at and interact with. I would have appreciated a story to make the gameplay more engaging, but I think this game can more or less make an exception to go without one. It didn’t particularly seem like it was designed to support a story along with it, and I can get behind that.

The thing that makes or breaks a game for me is, obviously, the gameplay, but I go about it in a rather different way. Going into a game, I ask myself - “Could I still play and get some enjoyment out of this game if I stripped the objects of their graphics and rendered them as bland shapes and empty space?” This is a question I believe you should ask yourself during and after playing a game, as I feel that people all too often become enraptured in the visual aspect and disregard the experiential aspect, which is ultimately what gives the game objective value. Sure, not every single good game on Sploder needs to be like this, but if it’s going to be on the Featured page, then it needs to deliver wholly and substantially in every single department - both visual and experiential. If a game can be unique and engaging without the use of flashy, impressive graphics, it gets high marks in my book.

Does M I N D do this? Meh...yes and no. Gameplay-wise, M I N D follows a basic platformer formula - jump here, activate a few switches, collect coins or potions to unblock passageways, dodge enemies, achieve the endpoint. This formula isn’t inherently bad as long as the creator can throw in a few gimmicks to keep it interesting, and jigglypuff12345 attempts to do just this: one mechanic involves you ground-pounding on patches of dead wood to reach a new part of the level; in one level, you take control of a submersible to navigate an underwater tunnel and blast away some rocks; in another you’re trying to collect ten coins in a cave as rocks and spiky balls fly at your face. This, however, is pretty much the extent of it. Some levels rely on constant backtracking in order to complete them - get this key which blasts away this cage which allows you to get this potion and also get this other key which opens up a passageway on the section you were just on, and that one opens up another potion down below, and the potion and key opens up another passageway back up there… It got irritating at times, such as in Level 6, where molds of lava, evil seaweed, and sentient urchins attempt to spell your doom, especially if you’re traversing the same area two or three times in order to get a simple key. I hate to say it, but this style of gameplay seems kind of lazy to me, especially considering that some players would be duped into forgetting about the unimpressive gameplay by the amazing visuals. In another instance, Level 7, you’re in a castle setting, and jigglypuff12345 introduces a new mechanic in the form of colored bricks: click on the purple ones to make them disappear, and yellow bricks will be removed after the attainment of a key. Does jigglypuff attempt to anything interesting with this? No. Just because you introduce a concept that may be interesting, or at the very least uncommon, it does not excuse you from avoiding doing something intuitive and clever with it. If jigglypuff12345 had designed a section where you had to click and remove bricks in a specific order to open up the shortest and safest possible pathway for the player, that would have been a perfect instance of using an idea to its potential, not simply having a brick blocking a hallway that you click on to make it go away.

Special criticism is reserved for Level 8, the boss fight. I confess - I could not beat this level. I have not beaten this game, but, humble as I am, I don’t believe I can directly attribute this to fault of the player. Firstly, the lag is a huge problem here, so much so that it becomes practically unplayable unless you hit the “low” button at the bottom of the screen. Secondly, I cannot even tell what’s supposed to be going on. What’s the point of the chain-link fence in the background that constantly moves back and forth? Where is the boss? Is it that white thing in the center? What even IS it? Where are the arrows it’s shooting at me coming from? Why do my projectiles not work half the time? Thirdly, the player’s motions are so haphazard and oversensitive that one wrong motion sends you careening into the walls of death on either side of you or the arrows, all of which kill you in one hit. The game wasn’t too difficult up until this point, and it’s really such a shame because not only was the consistent, manageable difficulty level sacrificed at Level 8, but also the visual style - the aesthetically pleasing sights of nature in the rest of the game are replaced with a confusing set of black and white shapes that only confuse and frustrate the player. To quote President Trump’s early-morning Twitter blurbs, “Sad.”

With all that in mind, I again return to the Big Question: does the game’s visual style and unique presentation make up for the flaws in the experience? I honestly cannot say. What I can admit, however, is that this game has come the closest out of any game I’ve played on Sploder to attaining that gold standard. Once again, I give intense amounts of credits to the graphics, which I’m sure jigglypuff12345 spent loads of time on. I also give credit to the level variety; it wasn’t JUST the same thing over and over again, it offered some scenarios that were creative enough to make me wish that they’d been expanded upon. Perhaps I cannot attribute the below-average gameplay to the creator himself, but rather the limitations of Sploder: the nine-level system, the small amount of available space in the levels, among other things...which, again, reignites the debate on what ultimately achieves the difference between a “Sploder game” and a “game.”

I encourage you all to not only take my thoughts into consideration, but to play the game for yourself and make your own judgments. I believe this wall of text, more of an essay than an actual review, could spark discussion and inspire new exploitations of the game creators. After all, we as humans express ourselves through creativity and discussion; it’s how we grow not only as artists, but as people.

But first, you have to play the game.