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There’s a whole genre of games that I don’t know the name of (this happens a lot) but are based around wrestling with controls. Everything from QWOP to Surgeon Simulator fits into this niche of struggling to do something and then giggling at how badly you fuck it up. Sometimes there are more serious takes on it, such as Incredipede, and I’m glad someone is trying to give the genre more substance. As it turns out, though, that’s a really tall order when even walking in a straight line is a challenge.
Some colonial-looking assholes showed up one day and sacked a village full of green eyeball critters, leaving only one to escape. Your job is to guide the wayward thing in its quest to reunite with its lost brethren. Instead of an epic journey across a strange and mysterious land, you’ll be helping it crawl about five feet to the right over and over and over again. This is because whatever this thing is gets a remix of limbs and muscles every level that you’ll have to flail about with until you find a way over the finish line.
Every one of Incredipede’s many levels sticks you with a bizarre amalgamation of limbs and expects you to work them to the goal and perhaps grab a collectible or two along the way. Starting out you only get two buttons to move them but that gets expanded later to four, giving you separate motor control over parts of the creature’s body. Sometimes it’ll look like windmill you have to tumble across the ground, sometimes a coiled spring you have to bounce, sometimes a car with long, spoke-like legs to spin, and sometimes stranger things still.
This is just on normal difficulty, mind you. There’s a hard mode where you actually have to design the critter yourself and then pilot your abomination to an even trickier goal. Normal mode isn’t too challenging on account of the few actual interaction options you have. Starting out with just left and right keys, there’s only so much you can do to get the thing moving. Later on with more keys and more complex levels you’ll be facing Trials-style bouncing and scaling to get to your goals, often flying right off the open sides of the level when you push instead of pull or unclench at the wrong time.
It’s a decent setup for a game, and I enjoyed my first 20 minutes with it, but that’s about all I needed. There’s very little depth to Incredipede, with no secrets to delve into or complex mechanics to explore. Levels rarely span more than a single screen and have incredibly obvious paths through them. What’s going to trip you up isn’t puzzles or level design but just the difficulty of getting a floppy, misshapen creature over simple obstacles. I know that’s the point but there ends up being little to motivate you to put up with the floaty, flailing movement for much more than a few levels.
I love the art style and the presentation, with its thick lines and faded colors and earthy tones. The game looks and sounds like it could be painted on animal hides, a unique aesthetic for the gaming world to be sure. I just wish there was more to do with it than struggle. There must be a deep, engaging game to be made out of these mechanics somewhere but Incredipede is hardly any deeper than its Flash brethren. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t bring enough to the table to make me want to climb over it with stumpy, malformed limbs.