Thursday, October 5, 2017

Review: Binaries



Binaries is an action puzzler that has an interesting mix of several concepts that have become pretty popular these days. Within only its first few levels where you’ll learn the basic concepts of how things work it is absolutely going to slap you in the face with difficulty. That’s never to say it can’t be beaten, you can persevere and get that sweet taste of satisfaction if you’re willing to dig in and challenge yourself, but this game isn’t for anyone lacking in patience and Zen-like calm. Blending an often punishing level difficulty with heavy left/right brain concentration and humor, Binaries is a game that you’ll either love for the challenge or hate for its cruelty.


While I’ve had several reviews for indies on the Switch where I’ve talked about them featuring left/right brain gameplay in this case it is slightly different. You’ll be in control of both a red and a blue ball, and they’ll each have their own goal area they need to get to. Unlike the games where you need to control them independently with the left and right joysticks, in Binaries you’ll be controlling them both in parallel whether it is movement or jumping. This is the basis for all of the puzzles in the game and very quickly you’ll find that you need to absolutely be on top of what consequences there are for every movement you get wrong. Don’t worry, whenever you make a mistake you’ll just die and start over again, and again, and probably again a number of times.

In many regards there are elements of this gameplay that are reminiscent of another puzzler on the Switch, I and Me, but in this case the game mechanics are put through far more diverse and challenging paces. Just a few levels in there isn’t a great deal of opportunity to feel like you’ve mastered certain concepts and are ready to coast through a few stages. New elements are added with regularity, existing elements are reshuffled, and even new concepts like stages where your balls will be able to move into each others’ areas where they’re unaffected by traps are all brought into play in new and challenging ways. To get through many of these stages you’ll need to channel your calm, have cat-like reflexes, and be able to see the underlying strategy you’ll need to be successful all in parallel, it can be quite daunting! A great feature worth mentioning is that there’s not a set progression through the game’s many stages. If you get aggravated with one specific level you’re able to back out to the map and choose at least one other that you’ll then unlock new paths from. This ability to not go all-or-nothing on particular levels that you may get stuck on is one of the game’s better features.


Another signature element to the experience is the humor… though whether or not you find it funny or mean will depend on how thick your skin is. At the beginning you’ll see some comments pop up on screen as a form of instruction but as you progress through the levels they take the form more of commentary, and you’re often the subject of them. The game consistently seems to find amusement in your struggles and will amplify your frustrations if you’re not capable of taking some pot shots from the peanut gallery the 20th (or often many more) time you’ve tried to get through the same spot. It most definitely adds flavor to the experience and I think it is one of the game’s better qualities but I could see where it could grate on people’s nerves and take it personally.

Putting it all together Binaries is a very well-made and presented action puzzler that, overall, sits pretty high on the challenging scale. If you enjoy some punishment in your games it delivers that handily and throws in some laughs to boot! If you’re not as hardcore about your gaming it would be a tough call as there’s no missing the difficulty of the game, though the humor and ability to choose different paths to avoid specific levels that give you pain do help make it at least a little more friendly to a wider audience.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Challenging action puzzle gameplay
  • Left / right brain coordination challenges aplenty
  • Humor, often at the player’s expense


Cons:
  • Challenging action puzzle gameplay
  • Left / right brain coordination challenges aplenty
  • Humor, often at the player’s expense

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