The Impossible Game // XBL Indie Games

April 4, 2010

I must be feeling masochistic. After subjecting myself to Brian O’Keefe’s brutal gate-’em-up FlipSide last weekend, this week I cranked up the difficulty gauge by yet another notch by downloading the ominously-titled ‘The Impossible Game’ from the Xbox Live Indie Games platform. Although its name suggests it offers an insurmountable challenge, the inclusion of a ‘Beat The Game’ medal on the game’s menu screen offers a glimmer of hope. Regardless, this is still the gaming’s Mount Everest.

As with all instantly addictive experiences, the game’s central mechanic is immediately obvious. The player takes control of a small orange square with a single defining trait – the ability to jump. The gameworld zips across the screen from right to left, rapidly and unstoppably, and is flecked with the game’s two different object types – a spike and a cube. The cube must be jumped on, the spike must be jumped over. And that’s it; if there are any further mechanics to The Impossible Game, then I haven’t yet reached them.

Timing is everything. Spikes are often found in groups of two and occassionally in groups of three – a trio of spiky bastards that will defeat you over and over again. The Impossible Game is the very definition of ‘pixel-perfect-precision’; its laws are immutable; the platforms always move at the same speed, your square’s jump always travels the same distance. But such consistency rarely offers comfort – even the simplest of The Impossible Game’s challenges will punish a lack of concentration, and its more taxing sections require a gamepad mastery so rarely required in this gaming era.

Persistence is key. Time and time again I exclaimed to the room at large, or my long-suffering girlfriend, that this was, literally, impossible. But thirty, forty, fifty attempts later (the game handily keeps track of this rising count at the top of the screen) and you might just beat what’s defeating you, only to be presented with another devilish stretch. Such exacting standards are cruel by anybody’s definition, but developer FlukeDude twists the knife by the inclusion of flags/practice mode. Conquer a particularly taxing section and you’ll be tempted to stab at the Y button to drop a flag – a device which allows you to start from this marker the next time you fail. Dropping a flag instantly enters you into Practice Mode, however, a mode which will not allow you to reach the end of the game. It took me awhile to grasp this concept, as I dropped flags willy-nilly as I struggled through, attempts reaching close to 500, sure that I was beating the game inch by agonising inch. Then the screen went black and I was returned to the starting point. In layman’s terms, The Impossible Game must be beaten in one life, in one flawless playthrough.

Impossible? No. Soul-crushingly, pad-smashingly, tear-inducingly difficult? You betcha. But with such restrained, pure gameplay mechanics, The Impossible Game is still worth your time. Only those with the patience of saints and the skills of a god, however, will reach its conclusion.

87/100

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