Indie Quickie: Standpoint

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? A first-person puzzler that takes you twisting and twirling on an emotional, brain-bending journey through the stages of grief.

Who made it and where can you get it? Made by Unruly Attractions and published by Bulkypix and Plug in Digital, Standpoint is available on Steam (Windows, Mac, and Linux) for $12.99.

How much did we play? It took me around three hours to beat 10 levels and overcome Denial and Anger, the first two stages in the grieving process, with 10 more levels across Bargaining and Depression still to deal with. I also dabbled with some of the other stages from the level select menu for a few minutes just to get a feel for the different themes of grief. Also FYI, playing from the level select allows you to post speedrun times to per-level time trial leaderboards. The menu is marked off by a line of question marks as if it’s something that needs to be unlocked, but it is very much accessible and has every level available to play whether you’ve completed the story or not.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? At one point I got stuck in a shifting wall and the game sort of glitched out on me, forcing a restart. I haven’t encountered any other bugs or performance issues, though that is to be expected as the game is hardly cutting edge. One thing worth noting, however, is that the in-level checkpoints are not saved if you quit out, even if you pause the game and manually save. Most of the early stages are fairly short so it’s not a big thing, but as the game has progressed and the difficulty has mounted, time spent beating a level has increased. In fact, half of my three hours were spent clearing the last two stages of Anger alone, and it would have been nice if I was allowed to save progress at checkpoints and be able to come back later without having to restart from the beginning of a level.

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Why should you play it?

    • All About Perspective: Standpoint‘s puzzles take place entirely within a labyrinthine series of tunnels that is only navigable by thinking spatially and understanding and harnessing the natural laws of gravity. As the puzzle tunnels are shaped like a square and have four flat sides, any surface is a potential floor to walk on. By looking at the ceiling or a wall and clicking on it, your perspective changes, and the gravitational pull shifts accordingly as that surface becomes recognized as the new floor. Some traditional block and switch puzzle solving is called upon, but much of the time you are contending with gravity-based obstacles such as barriers that only disappear when the world is rotated to a specific orientation, glass walls that can only be broken by flipping a horizontal corridor into a vertical pit for you to fall down, or green gravity fields that automatically shift the point of view as you pass through. Given that a jump button does not exist, the game also is surprisingly heavy on acrobatic elements which require quick reflexes and environment recognition to, say, run down a corridor of moving lasers while changing orientation so that you are lined up with openings to pass through without dying, or navigate a tunnel lined with walls of fire by riding a series of moving platforms while switching from right-side up to upside down. The experience feels kind of like playing Super Meat Boy while tumbling around inside a giant Rubik’s Cube. It’s brainy yet full of twitchy, platformer-style traversal challenges that will put your hand-eye coordination and patience to the test, especially during the Anger stages. Good thing checkpoints are well paced, because there are certain sections where the difficulty spikes and you will likely die and retry at an alarming rate. I must have died around 100 times in my efforts to beat the final two stages of Anger, they were that tough.

    • I’m in a Glass Maze of Emotion: All feelings of disorientation, despair, rage, confusion, and isolation felt while playing through Standpoint are intentional, as the game world is essentially an allegory for being lost inside the locked room that is your head while dealing with a tragic family loss. As you work through the maze that is the player character’s frazzled brain, a disembodied female narrator subtly hints at what has transpired to cause such mental anguish. The story is very cryptic, to the point that its most profound plot revelations are actually locked away behind secret collectibles hidden throughout each stage. You’ll have to work pretty hard to get a clear understanding of what is going on, but the gut punch of emotion felt when obtaining these secret revelations is a worthwhile payoff for the extra effort. The way these emotions are conveyed extends beyond the narration to how the world is presented. For example, the levels contained within each phase of grief are thematically different. In the Anger phase, a fiery orange and red color palette is matched with audio that is tonally aggressive and hard-edged. Conversely, Depression levels are dark and drab affairs set off by the steady thump of drumbeats and unpleasant sharp notes. The music even changes tempo and distorts as gravity shifts, completing the effect of being held captive by jumbled thoughts and crippling grief.

Parting Thoughts: If you have experience with other first-person puzzle games like Q.U.B.E., The Talos Principle, or, of course, Portal, Standpoint should be right in your wheelhouse. After the beginning levels ease you in, the mix of perspective manipulation puzzles and twitch-reflex platforming will challenge you, both mentally and physically, at an extreme level, to the point where you may even consider throwing in the towel. But like overcoming an emotional hurdle, finally besting a particularly difficult puzzle is as relieving as it is empowering. The cryptic storytelling and allegorical gameplay setup may go right over some players’ heads, but if you’re able to “get it” you should find Standpoint to be an emotionally powerful and thought provoking experience.

Disclosure: A free Steam code for Standpoint was provided to VGBlogger.com for coverage purposes.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!