Review: Spoiler Alert – Backwards Gameplay That’s Forward Thinking
In Spoiler Alert, the game is already beaten. Princess Tomato has been saved from the evil Mr. Deathbunny and roll credits. Your story doesn’t end there, however. Now you need to figure out how the heroic Chilli Pepper Knight got to the end of his adventure by retracing his steps… literally.
Okay, so the idea is to play a 2D platformer endless runner that’s already been beaten by “unplaying” it, which basically means playing it in reverse. Aside from being a novel idea it also forces you to play a platformer in a way you’re not used to — from right to left. You’d be surprise how one simple design choice presents some very clever challenges.
Think about it, how many platformers have you played in your entire life? Going to right to left instead of left to right is sort of a big deal. You almost have to forget everything you know about your favorite side-scroller in order to really enjoy Spoiler Alert.
So in playing this game backwards, there are a certain set of rules you have to follow in order to avoid a fail state (or Time Paradox as they refer it as). There’s a lot of trial and error involved in trying to complete each level. Enemies who have been defeated by jumping need to be de-jumped (new word?) in order to bring them back to life. Foes defeated with fireballs require you to catch those same fireballs from the charred corpses of the fallen as they revive themselves.
You need to remind yourself that the game has already been beaten and your job is to figure out how as you travel through each stage. You have to uncollect coins that the previous play through acquired. Missing one or grabbing too many will result in a Paradox. This makes you think about every jump, like a backwards bunny hopping to the end…or the beginning in this case.
The coin thing is what really screwed me up as I was playing. Force of habit made me want to pick every coin I saw because that’s what every side-scroller told me to do. Spoiler Alert tells you to do the exact opposite, making you fight every urge you have to grab everything in sight. This unique approach is what makes you keep going, the boss fights in particular will really have you thinking.
What makes this game so much fun is that it contains really short stages (roughly 30 per world and four worlds in total), which avoids the dreaded “stale” label some platformers get. Death isn’t a big deal and you’re quickly inserted back into the action. Combined with the very simple control scheme of just one button and you have the perfect ingredients for a fun mobile experience. The PC experience, on the other hand, feels relatively short. Thankfully the level editor and Speedrunner mode (unlocked once you beat the game) should add some life to your adventure.
My biggest complaint is that the jumping feels incredibly floaty, in a sense that you tend to stay in the air a lot longer than you’d like. The result is that you often prematurely jump and come up short when trying to leap over a gap or bounce on an enemy. This, combined with the lack of overall control that comes with endless runners, ends up with some frustrating results. Thankfully, the stages are short enough (10-15 seconds roughly) which makes up for the uneven jumping mechanics.
Speaking of stages, each world reflects the the tongue-in-cheek sense of humor found, such as locations like the secret Mariachi World. The hand-drawn art style and animation kept giving me an Adventure Time vibe with the overall amount of silly that’s inserted in the background and boss designs.
Spoiler Alert is a game with character that puts a new twist on the standard side-scroller we’ve all grown accustomed to. The idea of undoing and destructing someone else’s work gives you an appreciation on the creativity that Megafuzz put into their title. The trial and error nature platformer will probably make you grimace once or twice but you’ll be won over by its silly charm. It’s a truly backward experience (and I mean that in a good way).