Review: Spoiler Alert

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Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert! The Chili Pepper Knight has defeated the mighty Mr. Death Bunny to rescue Princess Tomato. Let the credits roll!

Hold up a second. Rewind those credits. I only just started playing and the game is already over? What madness is this? This, fellow gamers, is Spoiler Alert, a charming little 2D platformer that begins at the end and challenges you to uncomplete its story to reach the beginning, which in this case is actually the ending (and a pretty cute one at that).

Everything in Spoiler Alert moves in reverse. Instead of customarily running from left to right across a side-scrolling field of platforms, hazards and enemies, the Chili Pepper Knight runs backwards from right to left and undoes the actions he performed during his quest to reach the Princess. Movement is completely automated, so your only interaction with the game is pressing a button to jump when appropriate. If a floating coin appears translucent, you must touch it to un-collect it. Or if an enemy appears squashed, you must jump at the appropriate time so that the Chili Pepper Knight lands on the enemy, thus un-killing it as the spicy hero continues his backpedal across the screen. Failing to undo such actions causes a time paradox, which sends you back to the beginning of the level to attempt a redo of the redo. Time paradoxes are also caused by taking actions that the Knight did not do during his unseen adventure, such as jump-stomping enemies that were not previously killed or collecting coins that were not previously collected. These things must instead be avoided as if they were a pitfall or spike trap in a traditional platformer.

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So basically, this is a game of pure trial and error, like an on-rails platformer that has you observe the world as it scrolls along and click the jump button with appropriate timing to land on or avoid something. Most of the time the first attempt or two on a level will end in failure, because enemies will appear or move in a way that is next to impossible to predict without a test run. The controls, simple as they may be, are a bit sluggish as well, which sometimes causes a delay in response between hitting the jump button and actually seeing the character animate in the game, a problem that becomes further compounded by an unsteady frame rate. It’s almost like the game has a memory leak or something, because for me the game would run smooth at first, but after maybe 10 to 15 minutes at a time the frame rate would become a bit choppy. It got so bad on one occasion that literally every time I pressed the jump button the game would pause momentarily and then suddenly kick back in to show the animation. After quitting the game and rebooting, everything went back to normal. Eventually the frame rate did begin to drop again, but thankfully never to the point of stopping and starting.

Even with numerous attempts required to complete most levels, the game still somehow manages to be overly easy and shallow. The reverse platforming concept is neat in theory, but the developers at Megafuzz didn’t push the design nearly far enough. Interesting mechanics will suddenly be introduced, like sign posts that change the Knight’s running direction or power-ups that require un-firing fireballs or un-throwing hammers that were used to kill enemies, but after a level or two these elements are gone just as quickly as they appeared, never to be used again. Because of this the game flat lines as it progresses, repurposing slightly more complex level and enemy layouts instead of adding new wrinkles to steadily build upon the core mechanic from beginning to end (or I guess I should say from end to beginning).

It’s rather sad that the game grows stale so quickly, because there’s hardly any game here to begin with. In calculated game time, I finished all four worlds and 100 levels in 17 minutes–on a successful run stages generally last 10 seconds or less. In real time, factoring in dying and retrying, my completion time was more around 30 minutes. Okay, so that’s still short, but I’m not one to harp on game length as long as there is some form of inherent replay value. A rail shooter that’s only a couple hours long is fine, because the draw is replaying stages on the hunt to boost high scores, not just playing through once and stopping. Sadly, this game fails at that as well. Levels can be replayed to bump bronze or silver star ratings up to gold status, and there are a few other achievement-related objectives to meet, but not much effort is required to accomplish any of this. Overall play time will vary based on each player’s skill level, but I was able to earn all gold stars and 100% achievements within an hour. Seriously, I completed everything before the game even had a chance to drop its random set of Steam trading cards. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen.

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A level editor is included to help extend the lifespan, but so far it seems to be just as underdeveloped as the rest of the game. Navigating the interface and setting up levels is fairly intuitive, but it just doesn’t seem like there are enough options to make stages that are vastly more interesting than those in the main game. The five or six user-created levels I’ve downloaded from the Steam Workshop have either been outright broken and unplayable or simple rehash jobs from existing level designs. Megafuzz has posted about the future outlook of the game on the Steam community hub. I applaud the commitment to ongoing support and it’s nice to know that the game will grow with free content updates moving forward, so maybe there is some future potential here if the devs can introduce more complex maps and a dedicated community of level modders ever forms.

I hate to be so negative about Spoiler Alert. I always approach games with a fair mind and attempt to be as constructive as possible, but try as I might I just can’t find any redeeming value to this game that would allow me to recommend it. Although the graphics and humor have a whimsical appeal and the core gameplay gimmick is clever in idea and provides momentary bursts of fun, as currently constructed Spoiler Alert feels like a prototype made during a 24-hour game jam (which is actually how the project originated) or a free Flash game you would expect to find on a site like Newgrounds, not a complete experience ready to be on Steam selling for $7.99. Not yet at least.

SkipIt

Pros:
+ Reverse platforming is a fun idea
+ Level editor has potential

Cons:
– Overly simplistic levels and lack of variety squander game’s potential
– Controls and frame rate don’t feel fully optimized
– Extremely shallow on content, challenge and replay value

Game Info:
Platform: PC/Mac/Linux
Publisher: tinyBuild
Developer: Megafuzz
Release Date: 6/30/2014
Genre: 2D Platformer
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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!