Just Keep Throwing Bodies At It
LOW The challenge maps are much too… challenging.
WTF Oh Jeff, you’re so hungry!
Practicing anything can be boiled down to a simple premise—fail over and over again until you succeed. Whether one wants to play the violin, speak a foreign language, or conquer Dark Souls, it’s just a question of determination and repetition. Life Goes On’s most interesting innovation is the way it takes this truism and turns it into a gameplay element. This puzzle platformer doesn’t just expect the player to fail when attempting its many levels, it flat-out requires failure before success becomes possible.
The story is simple enough. A mad king would like to live forever, so he sends all of his knights after the cup of eternal life hidden at the end of a truly vicious road of trials. The knights are first faced with spiked floors and walls, and a huge jump. The only solution? Impale one knight on the floor, another on the wall, and have a third knight step on one corpse and climb the next—problem solved! Across its dozens of levels, the developers find countless variations of this situation, leading to the deaths of hundreds of virtual knights before the credits roll.
This would an incredibly gruesome process if it weren’t for the way the game’s cartoon style and cheeky sense of humor keep things from feeling too morbid or cruel. Life Goes On is filled with references to Monty Python from the central quest to its comedic writing, and even the furry beast that serves as each level’s bonus collectible. This goes a long way towards letting players know that the game is meant all in fun, no matter how dark things may get. Despite the best efforts of the developers, however, the scale of the carnage can eventually build to the point that it goes from funny to tragic. Towards the end of the game I was beginning to wince at some of the long chains of character suicide I was being asked to commit.
I made it to the end of Life Goes On, though, largely due to some stellar level designs and a constantly-growing list of new abilities to use in overcoming traps. In another clever upending of video game convention, the various techniques the player uses to solve puzzles are all designed to parody classic tropes. Need a block to stand on? Freeze a knight solid! Need to hit a distant switch? Fire a knight out of a cannon and kill them in the process. Players will also need to find fuses and wrangle clones, with the game always finding a way to put a morbid twist on expectations.
Life Goes On isn’t the longest puzzler with just three worlds with around a dozen maps in each, but its unique worldview and mechanics ensure that it stands above the crowd. Whenever the sheer volume of death threatened to bring me down, the developers were always ready with another ingeniously clever puzzle to pull me back in. Life Goes On provides a level of challenge that expertly rides the line between satisfying and frustrating, and its greatest success is how its central metaphorical conceit—’keep throwing bodies at a problem until it’s solved’—is also the literal solution to all of its obstacles.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Infinite Monkeys Entertainment. It is currently available on PS4, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ and contains: fantasy violence. Despite the ever-present violence, the game is relatively safe, for even young players. While enthusiastic serial suicide may not seem like the safest subject matter, all of the deaths are so over-the-top as to be almost completely without the potential for traumatization. Besides which, all of the ‘knights’ are clearly presented as empty suits of armour.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The game has no subtitles, but it also has no audio cues or spoken plot, so it shouldn’t prove troublesome to play.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.