Review: Do Not Fall

DoNotFall

The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” is something I try to keep in mind whenever I begin to play a new game. I try not to judge anything by first impression alone, but when I look at the list of games I have to play versus the list of games I want to play, first impressions often form a lasting impression that sometimes can be hard to change. But dismissing a game within the first few minutes or levels is often a huge mistake and a missed opportunity.

XPEC Entertainment’s new PSN game put my willpower to the test, but fortunately I can say that against all my initial instincts, Do Not Fall is a weird, addictive, challenging game.

Pipi is a dog (or a squirrel–maybe a squirreldog?) that lives in a drink vending machine. Or at least that’s what the game description tells me, but I can’t be totally sure based on how bizarrely random the overall presentation can be. Suffice it to say, Pipi wants to collect 10 pieces of a specific ingredient to fill a bottle to sell via the vending machine. In order to collect the ingredient pieces, Pipi must traverse an increasingly diverse and flat out head scratching set of levels all the while avoiding falling to her doom. Every step Pipi makes means the ground beneath her is likely to crumble and fall, leaving an empty spot where previously there was a surface to stand on.

In some sections, the ground will disappear but re-appear shortly thereafter, allowing back travel to occur. Pipi can also jump to clear wide spaces left by disappearing ground tiles. The ingredients necessary to fill a bottle are always found at the end point in a level. Getting to that end point requires jumping gaps and avoiding animals typically found in whichever theme is somehow tied to the drink that is the point of reference for a particular section.

I know this sounds convoluted and weird. And I don’t blame you for thinking that. Do Not Fall is in fact very convoluted and weird, but once the rhythm and patterns are mastered, the game can be incredibly fun. To further illustrate my point of how completely random this game is, there are screw bolts and nuts littered throughout each level. Collecting these unlock perks which can be used to make the game much easier to play. Sadly the game’s menu system does a very poor job of explaining where to find these perks. Many perks are also poorly described and offer very little incentive to struggle through the steep initial learning curve.

Think of Do Not Fall as a sort of top down platformer. Jumping and maneuvering is accurate and precise, and timing every jump is imperative for success. Pipi can also dash through certain objects in the world, but timing a jumping dash means learning how long the cool down takes before being able to dash again–or else face certain doom by falling through the game board.

Do Not Fall is not an easy game. Well, that is to say it is not easy until you learn the levels and have unlocked several additional lives. Death happens often. Fortunately the reload times are fast enough that Pipi is back in the action without any delay. This is a good thing because not only are there items to collect and ingredients to be had at the end of each level, the whole thing is timed. Take a wrong turn and jump left when you should have jumped right, and watch the time tick away while waiting for ground tiles to regenerate so that Pipi can get to the end successfully. At the end of each level a score card appears, grading how quickly the level was completed as well as listing how many (if any) times Pipi fell to her doom. Each level also has challenges which can add a level of fun, while equally providing just as much frustration.

I don’t know what it is about Do Not Fall that kept me coming back for more. The game is made for old school masochists that absolutely love to be punished by making lighting quick choices a fraction of a second too late. Because levels respawn so quickly it is easy to grasp which path to take and at what pace, in order to finish a level as quickly as possible. By the middle of the third stage (there are 7) I suddenly found the groove, and even though I probably replayed each level two, three, seven times before I finished, I felt compelled to complete each new level.

Collecting the nuts and bolts allows for purchasing addition lives as well as different character skins (which are unlocked for multiplayer). So how does a game about collecting ingredients for different drinks translate into a multiplayer game? It doesn’t. Instead Do Not Fall approaches multiplayer more along the lines of Bomberman. Free for all deathmatch variations in which points accrue by having opponents fall to their death in the wake of running around and making the ground fall away is immensely satisfying. Multiplayer is available for local couch play as well as online and both are fun diversions from the single player levels.

Part of me hates the fact that I enjoyed Do Not Fall. There is a lot of refinement that the game could use to really make it more accessible. But once the mechanics are mastered, Do Not Fall is a devilishly fun exercise in old school platforming. If you’re up for the challenge, there are plenty of collectibles and items to buy offering a deep replay value as well.

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Pros:
+ Quick respawns and level reloads
+ Most levels can be completed in under two minutes
+ Fun multiplayer (both couch and online)
+ Plenty of replay value

Cons:
– Many levels can be frustrating to master
– Menu system is not the most intuitive
– Steep learning curve limits accessibility
– Disturbingly odd character models

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 via PSN (a version for PC is seeking Steam Greenlight votes)
Publisher: XPEC Entertainment
Developer: XPEC Entertainment
Release Date: 7/23/2013
Genre: Action-Platform
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-4 (local and online)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.