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There are a lot of factors that go into make a good challenge platformer. The difficulty curve has to be smooth, the controls have to be tight, and the mastery has to be gratifying. Classics of the genre like Super Meat Boy nail all three of these elements, to the point that it is incredibly obvious when other games can’t measure up. I can see where STANDBY means to fall within the genre, but in all three of these areas it falls short. If the design was anywhere as good as the aesthetic it could stand as a new classic, but sadly it doesn’t even come close.
Your little (and I do mean little) dude wants to escape from a land of glitches and hazards, and intends to do so as stylishly as possible. Armed with a barrier-breaking gun and lightning-fast reflexes, he’ll need to slide, dash, shoot, and jump through levels of improbable architecture and deadly traps. Along the way are plenty of keys to collect and records to break, though you’re sure to have your hands full just reaching the finish line. Every few levels the game will introduce new features to come to grips with, including traps like lasers and assistance like double-jump zones.
The controls will probably be the first thing you take note of, though. Movement in STANDBY is absurdly slippery, with your fellow picking up speed in an instant and launching nigh-uncontrollably off of inclines and walls. His jump has virtually no height to it but he can go flying off ramps with enough momentum. It’s fun at first but once the levels get tight and the threats get fierce you’re bound to have trouble keeping him out of trouble. That’s where you’ll run into the second issue, how intensely unforgiving the levels can be. Games like Super Meat Boy and Dustforce have margins of error that tighten over the course of the game, but even then still have direct paths that most players should be able to take. STANDBY will begin demanding pin-point reflexes and judgment right out from the tutorial levels, expecting you to transition slides into jumps into dashes into jumps or face death over and over and over.
That’s really my biggest problem with STANDBY, is that right out the gate it will kill you dead for making mistakes. You won’t miss the par time or any collectibles, you’ll just die. Basic competence at the game requires a level of mastery you don’t normally achieve until at least a few hours into other challenge platformers, and there’s nothing here that makes it worth it. There are no secret levels or alternate paths or anything to look forward to, really. You have to master the game just to play it, and all you get for playing it is speedrun records. That might be enough for some but it’s nowhere near enough for me, especially considering the irritation it took to even break into the game. As much as I like the slick presentation and pumping soundtrack, it’s not worth putting up with the frustrating controls and poor difficulty curve here.