Review: Squishy the Suicidal Pig
The importance of consistency, not just in games but all throughout life, cannot be overstated. Consistency is the foundation on which plans are made, hopes are found, and the simplest pleasures are derived. A consistent game will afford you the enjoyment you crave from start to finish, which is why inconsistency can be such a killer. Ironically it ends up being the killer of Squishy the Suicidal Pig, a game with an uncommon hook and a promising start that fails to stick to its guns. What you do in the opening minutes of the game will not be what you get stuck on an hour or so in, and the experience is all the poorer for it.
Why is Squishy suicidal, anyway? Well, he lived with a loving and stable family until they were carted off to the meat packing plant to be ground into Spam. Poor Squishy just couldn’t take it, and Marie Antoinette’s himself right there in the opening cutscene. Suicide is a sin, though, so while his parents get to frolic in the heavens ol’ Squishy gets to spend eternity with ol’ Slick Nick. Luckily the devil’s found to be in a sporting mood and gives Squishy a few dozen lives, with the challenge that if he can burn through them all he can be reunited with his family. Offing himself was easy enough the first time, so doing it thirty more times can’t be THAT hard, right?
Much like the classic Flash platformer Karoshi, Squishy is a puzzle game about finding ways to kill yourself. Most levels aren’t kind enough to just leave spikes or lava pits around for you, so you’ve got to engineer a situation that ends in your demise. Early on the challenge is finding a way to a remote pit of spikes or crushing boulder, but later levels require you to set up your own falling crates or exploding chain reactions to find the sweet release of death. These levels are filled with switches to flip and platforms to ride and fans to blow and other common puzzle gimmicks to contend with, though most of your time will be spent pushing crates and exploding crates to move other crates.
It’s a solid premise, and the opening stages get you nice and acclimated to your blood-soaked task. But there are signs of trouble right away if you’re looking. An early stage presents you with a giant boulder to crush yourself, but seemingly no way at all to reach it. Unlike previous levels this one wraps around the screen boundaries, something not explained or proposed in any way. Soon after that is the first boss level, where instead of dying you need to survive a gauntlet of traps to catch a bird and recover a key to progress. It’s the first of many such stages, and once you break that seal you’re sure to be spending more time trying to live than trying to die as you progress.
Getting away from what makes Squishy at all unique is an impressive self-own for the game. Since the whole thing is tuned around reaching sources of mortal danger, the traps tend to be frustratingly lethal and hard to avoid in stages where you want to stay alive. It’s also a flatly unpleasant shift away from the goals and themes of the game, precisely the opposite of what anyone coming into it is expecting. These levels get long in a hurry, and even have the gall to only offer one-time-use checkpoints if you die before you’re actually supposed to. The stage I checked out of would have been a dealbreaker in a normal platformer, but to force precision jumping and failure states in a game about killing yourself is a new level of aggravating.
When it does what it should, Squishy is a perfectly average indie puzzle platformer. The hook helps it rise a bit above the pack, and some solid pixel art and crunchy sound design gives it a little extra kick. But when it stumbles it stumbles hard, and for no other reason than failing its premise. There’s an infinite number of levels and situations you can derive from “pig needs to kill himself” and for some reason they left that pond to drink from the stagnant hole of traditional platforming. You can add this to the list of things I never thought I’d say in a review, but if they’d just let me kill the pig like they promised I would be a lot happier with the game.