I hate reviewing beta games because there is a belief here that the game will be better at some point in the future. There is a hope and a sort of promise to consumers that this will be a better product. Beast Games has stated that Avalanche 2 “features lots of content, but more is being added all the time. Gameplay subject to change.” What that means is subject to what Beast Games is capable of, but at the very least I can tell you whether or not they are taking a good first step.
Avalanche 2: Super Avalanche is a vertical platformer in the same vein that Doodle Jump is. The idea is to climb as high as you can, and that’s what you’ll be attempting to do over and over again. To help you reach the top, cubes rain down from the heavens opening new avenues for you to jump and climb as you dodge being crushed under an avalanche of blocks.
I tested out the original before starting this, just to see how it would live up and I was surprised at how easy it was to get trapped. If you have a mass of unbreakable bricks raining down on you, obviously there is potential for unfair deaths. This is where the mindset of the developers really seems to come out. By adding “Super” in the oddly long title, they are referencing perhaps the greatest sequel ever made in Super Mario Bros. So with that pedigree to live up to, they started thinking around what makes great platformers great.
That little brick problem I had with the first Avalanche? Fixed. Blocks are breakable if you whack on them enough times with bigger blocks needing more hits. Because you have rising lava bubbling underneath your sack-like protagonist, or maybe it is a piece of paper, which would be a clever homage to paper beating rock, you have to be constantly moving upward. This one little mechanic makes the gameplay more interesting and allows the developers to really start messing around better with the mechanics.
The game plays drastically different from its predecessor. Our paper man has a much more fluid jump arc with an ability to wall jump. The blocks don’t drop down like bricks anymore, allowing the user to actually see what’s coming to hit them before it does so. Overall, the game is simply better mechanically and it feels about as fluid as any real platformer out there. With 30 years of platforming to draw inspiration from, the mechanics should be there.
To increase the difficulty of the game, which has been made easier by those added gameplay mechanics and tweaks, the developers have brought in enemies. Standard enemies still shuffle around to muck around with your character, but Boss battles have also been thrown in to the mix at every 250 foot interval. These bosses add a bit of difficulty as they essentially reset the lava after defeated. They aren’t overly difficult, but your character essentially has one life to make it to the top. Each boss fight signals an increase in difficulty.
I say essentially because this game still subscribes to the Super Mario Bros. formula. Power ups sporadically land with these bricks which offer you various abilities, but most importantly, they allow you a hit (unless of course you are smushed or land in lava). As you go higher and higher you may find power up slots that offer to add an extra item to your inventory, thus adding to your chances.
There is one addition to Super Avalanche 2 that really tries to do something interesting. They’ve instilled little shopping areas to the game which I have mixed feelings about. The shops I could absolutely do without. I simply don’t enjoy stopping my climb to peruse the local shopkeep. Is it a bad mechanic though? No. What this idea sets up however, is much grander.
There is now a banking system inside the game for your coins. Collecting coins allows you to spend the coins on upgrading your own paper man. You can purchase cosmetic upgrades which will change the color or even add a mouth for the flat protagonist. More interesting however is the ability to purchase badges. Badges allow you to equip yourself with a variety of things like a certain power up from the beginning or even a free ride past the first 250 feet all together to give yourself a bit more challenge at the start.
The issue is that you can only bank coins at sporadic locations when they drop. So to counter this, the developers have implemented a mission system. Mission items drop down randomly and when you pick one up and equip it after your run, the game rewards you with both experience and coins. Experience unlocks new things at new levels and the whole system is set up to get you to keep coming back over and over again for more.
Avalanche 2 should be applauded for putting together a competent beta to give to people. If they stopped developing this game today, I’d only have one big irritating gripe about it. I hate the user interface because it commits the ultimate sin in a platformer. It covers platforms. Let’s explain really quickly what’s wrong here. See all that red on screen? I know it makes it flashy, I know it can be helpful to inform people what power up they have, but seriously. You block the right side of the screen, 1/5th of the top 1/10th of the screen where blocks come down from, and you have giant bars in the center pop up when you get a power up. This should not be happening.
There’s a reason that Super Mario Bros. 3 hid the stars and power meter under the player’s screen. It cluttered things. This is a platformer that doesn’t get the luxury of only going in one direction. You should be looking all over the screen and unfortunately (even with the slight opacity) this adds the potential of unnecessary deaths.
It isn’t a big gripe, simply because this game does a lot of things so very well that this stands out too much to be overlooked. Since they are in “Early Beta,” they should have time to look at it to fix it. I just find no reason 1/5th of the screen should be cluttered by a powerup pop up when you are trying to run around.
What you get with Avalanche 2 is a sequel that looks better, sounds better, plays better, plays more interestingly, and just overall is a more fun experience. I don’t know why I kept coming back to it over and over again, but I legitimately was having a good time challenging the mountain just one more time. Hopefully we’ll see this grow in to something fabulous with the proposed online leaderboards and future gameplay additions.
[+Solid Vertical Platformer] [+Interesting Shop Mechanic] [+Diverse Powerups] [-Cluttered UI Messages]