Prepare to die. A lot. On purpose.
Infinite Monkeys Entertainment initially released Life Goes On in April of 2014 on Steam after developing the game’s concept at a 2012 Global Game Jam. Now, Life Goes On: Done to Death has come to PS4 and PC with improved and expanded features. Unless you’re brand new to the magical world of video games, you’ve probably come across a game similar to Life Goes On: Done to Death – A small-level puzzle platformer with some sort of hook or novelty factor. Start at one point of the level and figure out how to get to the door or the flag or the big green tube at the end. Straightforward enough.
But here’s the potential problem with the puzzle platformer: In 2016, the indie game development scene is booming. Engines such as Unity, Game Maker, and even Unreal Engine 4 have made video game development an exponentially more accessible venture than ever before, and this is evident in the sheer number of indie games released each month. Steam is a veritable black hole of short, cheap, and often shallow indie games. The consoles continue to limit the number of indie games that make it to their players’ digital stores, though the numbers are increasing.
So how does a game like Life Goes On: Done to Death differentiate itself from the steady stream of indie games, many of which are designed with a similar puzzle platformer heritage in mind? The hook. Life Goes On is built around one puzzle-solving concept: kill your own player characters to get to the cup.
Allow me to explain, though there’s not much of a story here. A king has decided that death sounds pretty crappy, so he enlists an endless supply of knights to help him find the Cup of Life. The player takes control of one knight at a time, moving across small platforming levels to reach the cup at the end of the level, though none of these are THE cup. If something blocks your way and can only be moved by holding down a switch, why not sacrifice yourself by jumping into a large bladesaw so that the dead body falls on the switch? Then you can take control of another faceless knight and make your way to your prize.
And that’s the game in a nutshell. Need to cross a bed of spikes? Just throw a bunch of knights on it and cross over their dead bodies. Need to cross a seesaw-like bridge? Attach a dead body to the body of it to weigh it down. Can’t quite reach a ledge? Climb on top of a pile of dead bodies to get that extra height! It’s a creepy, almost sadistic concept, and it’s only made worse by the tiny cries of pain and suffering that come out of your PS4 controller.
The game goes a long way in making sure the experience is a jovial one, however. The art design is cute and accessible, if a bit underwhelming. The sound design and music are light-hearted, though they lack some variation. The highlight of the game is the sweet and silly sense of humor and attitude that the game exudes. All of the faceless knights are given funny names before they’re crossed off of a scroll upon their deaths, and each “victory” screen features some funny, self-aware text, such as “Victory! Like a participation trophy, but shinier!”. Each level even plays host to a tiny gray blob with a face named Jeff who wants to eat you.
So it’s a cute game with a sadistic core concept, but how’s the actual gameplay/level design? The answer is…it’s alright. Many of these small-level puzzle platformers start off with poor, repetitive level design and end up even worse. Life Goes On: Done to Death manages to keep things fresh longer than its contemporaries, varying up levels with novelties such as cannons, ice cubes, lava, and even turning your dead knights into zombies to solve puzzles. None of the puzzles are particularly challenging, though the game will probably succeed at scratching a puzzle itch, if you need a fix.
Completing certain challenges (such as finishing levels within a time limit or killing a limited number of knights) will allow you to unlock various weapons and brightly colored hats for your knights. These are cute and come with comical descriptions, but they’re virtually worthless in regards to gameplay. At most, they add a flash of color to the level, though the character will rarely last long enough to appreciate it.
This game may not reinvent the wheel when it comes to the puzzle platformer genre, but Life Goes On: Done to Death is better than a majority of the genre’s indie releases. The sadistic concept still bothers me on some level, but the developers have worked to make the game comical and endearing all the same, and the game mixes things up to keep gameplay somewhat fresh. It’s not a must-own, but if you’re looking for a puzzle and a laugh, you can definitely do worse than spending your time dying for the king.
A PS4 review code was provided by Infinite Monkeys Entertainment Ltd. for the purpose of this review