The platformer is one of video gaming’s most enduring genres, covering a wide range of themes, visual styles, and difficulty levels. In general, the best games this genre has to offer tend to be extremely challenging, leading to many deaths on the part of the player. With modern platformers, the real challenge developers face is preserving that sense of brutal difficulty while preventing the player from simply giving up in frustration. Developer Infinite Monkeys has devised a clever solution to this conundrum: What if instead of being a necessary evil, player death were ESSENTIAL to the player’s success? Out of that premise comes Life Goes On, and it is one of the smartest and most fun platformers I’ve played in recent memory.
At first glance, Life Goes On doesn’t look a whole lot different from your typical indie puzzle-platformer. The mechanic that sets it apart from the pack is how you don’t play as a single character. Each time you die, that character stays where he lays, and another hero takes up the cause. What is particularly ingenious is that you actually need to place those dead knights in order to get to the Cup of Life. There’s no limit to the number of characters you can throw in the meat grinder until you figure it out.
Through dozens of levels, you must navigate traps, switches, and physics in order to succeed. Beyond figuring out each puzzle (and some of them can be a real doozy), you’re racing against both the clock and trying to minimize the casualties. Additionally, a fuzzy creature named Jeff is present in each level, and getting to him presents its own challenges. It’s hardly the most complex or lofty premise, but it takes its angle and executes it to perfection.
The developer gives a sense of weight to jumping and moving, but also gives a sense of tactile awareness to character deaths. Through motion capture and sound design, the feeling of being frozen, incinerated, electrocuted, or impaled really comes through. To be sure, the tone is consistently funny — particularly on more difficult levels when you’re mindlessly throwing lives away to hit a specific spot, but that attention to detail gives each death just that little bit of edge.
Infinite Monkeys is a small developer, and they are to be commended for creating a truly stunning world. Along with the aforementioned sound design, Life Goes On looks absolutely beautiful. There is a persistent design theme that runs throughout the game, but with sight variations to signal the different sections. It is pretty but uncluttered, and perfectly compliments the stripped down aesthetics of the gameplay. The soundtrack is limited in terms of variety, but as brief as it is, the score is rousing and charming.
Life Goes On is not a terribly huge game with multiple modes aside from challenging one’s self. Rather, it instead focuses in on its deceptively simple mechanic and masterfully iterates on it. Throughout the game, I found myself shaking my head at the new ways Infinite Monkeys was able to turn dying — the default fail state of a video game — into possibility. It’s not every day you play a video game that changes how you look at the format itself. Infinite Monkeys, with its never-ending team of sacrificial knights, not only pulls it off but does so with style in Life Goes On.
You can pick up Life Goes On for the paltry sum of $12.99 on Steam, and I implore you to check out this indie delight.
[+Ingenious mechanic] [+Beautifully realized world] [+Varied, challenging puzzles] [+Simple mechanic executed perfectly] [-Controls can be finicky]