The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
How many times do you have to die before you feel like
you've given a game a fair shot? That's the quandary I faced while trying to
review Tuffy the Corgi and the Tower of Bones. Unlike other indie darlings that
celebrate the challenge and skill of yesteryear's classics, Tuffy is a
different breed of platformer – a punishing homage that demands a level of
perfectionism and patience only speedrunners possess, leaving most gamers stuck on
the ground floor.
Tuffy's goal is to make it to the top of the titular tower
while collecting 108 bones along the way, and you control the cutesy canine
with a two-button control scheme that mixes traditional platforming with the endless
runner genre. Tuffy ceaselessly bounds forward with the happy-go-lucky
stubbornness you might expect from a corgi pup; pressing the left shoulder
button causes him to switch directions, while pressing the right shoulder button
causes him to jump. The initial jankiness of the atypical control scheme slowly
gives way to a satisfying platforming rhythm and subtle nuances like
walljumping emerge, but not before driving countless corgis off the cliff of an
old-school learning curve.
Once you realize that everything kills Tuffy with one hit and
that dying always resets your progress and starts you back at the beginning of
the tower, you give up on the foolish completionist goal of collecting all 108
bones. Instead, you focus on just trying to make it to the top. After hours of
further dying fully conveys the massive scope of the singular and increasingly
difficult level, you give up your dream of making it to the top, and your sole
goal becomes playing the game for as long as you can stand it.
Which brings me back to the initial question: How many times
do you have to die before you decide a game isn't for you?
I continued thinking about that question as I slowly eked
out progress with each soon-to-be-dead corgi. The further I got in the tower of
bones, the longer each run took, as I tried desperately to recall and avoid every
deadly trap. Reaching new sections of the tower became rarer as I remade old,
frustrating mistakes and slowly learned how to navigate new traps. After hours
of play, 161 deaths, and hundreds of bones collected and lost, I was ready to call it quits.
Tuffy encapsulates everything I loved and hated about video
games as a kid. The endearing, pixelated art style is as charming as your
favorite SNES classic, and the platforming controls perform admirably (even if
I'd still give Tuffy's right paw for direct control over his movement). At the
same time, Tuffy's unforgiving design and reliance on rote memorization harken back
to a time when I had nothing better to do than memorize tricky platforming
sections. There's a reason I've moved on from those types of games, and why
most developers have too.
Despite my unabashed love of punishing retro platformers
Meat Boy (not to mention an equal fondness for adorable corgis), I never
warmed to Tuffy. Unless you're obsessed with speedrunning (and are just obsessive
in general), this is one stray dog you shouldn't play with.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.