The “frustration game” genre has developed a cult following over the last 5 years or so. Born out of the democratisation of game development tools these games are typically the spawn of newer developers looking to try their hand at making games. Not knowing how or not wanting to adhere to conventions they stumble about and end up creating experiences that are defined by their awkward, frustrating nature rather than being derided for it. There are, of course, those who set out to deliberately craft them and none are more infamous than Bennett Foddy who brought us flash games like QWOP, GIRP and CLOP. Getting Over It is his first ever full release and, in staying true to his previous accomplishments, is a brutal mishmash of awkward controls and punishing gameplay.
The game is an homage to a flash game called Sexy Hiking which was released some 16 years ago. You are a man in a cauldron called Diogenes and, armed with a rock climbing hammer you make your way up a mountain covered in various detritus. At any point in the game however you can make a wrong move and plummet all the way back down to the start. There are no checkpoints, no way to solidify your progress so you can continue from there. You will fail, sometimes spectacularly, and you’ll have to do what you did once again…and again…and again.
Getting Over It has all the trappings of what Foddy describes as “b games” which are akin to their b grade brethren from the silver screen. The game appears to be made almost entirely out of assets taken from the Unity store, all of them loosely cobbled together to form the level you’ll play through. There’s a surprising amount of attention to detail put into it however like the use of various different sound effects for different surfaces, your character’s utterances which are dependent on your actions and the inclusion of numerous physics enabled objects, typically done to throw you off your game. If I had to put it in one sentence I’d describe it as a beautifully put together trash pile.
The objective of the game is simple: make your way to the top of the mountain. To do this you have to wrangle your hammer in various ways to overcome the objects in front of you. The mechanics are pretty simple, the hammer will grip most surfaces and your character is strong enough to rotate themselves around an attachment point, but the controls don’t respond how you’d expect them to. The character’s arms are somewhat bound by realistic physics however things change dramatically with momentum and, depending on where his arms are positioned vs where your cursor is things might not go how you expect them. Honestly it’s hard to describe just how unintuitive the controls are as you’re better off just playing it yourself to see what I’m getting at.
Getting Over It does a good job of slowly introducing harder and harder puzzles to you although the difficulty curve takes a sharp spike up the further you progress. Quite often you’ll find yourself progressing without really understanding how you got there and, when you inevitably fall back down, will struggle to redo the section you just did. You’ll start to work out what strategies work for you however and eventually you’ll have a good idea of how to keep on moving forward.
That is until you reach here.
This corridor seems to have broken me and many others attempting this game. Whilst there are numerous strategies for getting through it I couldn’t get any of them to work reliably for me. Sure, I did make it past that point once, however I instantly catapulted myself off the top, sailing gracefully back down to the bottom. It was honestly so soul destroying that I couldn’t do anything but laugh for the next 5 minutes, my anguish best expressed in tears of laughter rather than sadness. I did make it back up there eventually but fell back down again not too shortly afterwards. It was then I decided to put the game down and watch a speed run on YouTube.
Indeed the stats show that this is pretty much typical for anyone playing this game. Half of people playing this game give up before they’ve played 1.3 hours and the average total play time is a meagre 3. Beyond that the minority who’ve managed to complete this game once average a total of 11.7 hours, or some 10x the amount of time I’ve spent in the game. Honestly I’d had my fill by then and am quite happy to say the game has beaten me. I’ve got much more interesting things to do with my life than continue to slam my head against this wall.
Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy is exactly what you’d expect from a game like this. It’s a horrifyingly awkward, frustrating game to play and it delights in tormenting you whenever you should fail. It is rewarding when you manage to complete a section but if you’re like me that doesn’t happen often enough to justify the continued time investment. There are some who will delight in this kind of no-holds-barred challenge and to them I commend you. For me though whilst it was a hilarious distraction it’s not something I’d recommend unless you knew what you’re getting into and even then I’d urge caution.
Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy is available on PC and iOS right now for $7.99. Game was played on the PC with 1.6 hours of total play time and 0% of the achievements unlocked.
There’s little doubt that the majority of the games industry is skewed towards the male gender. Primarily this is because it was a male dominated industry in both production and consumption for much of its nascent life. Depending on your platform of choice this is still very much the case (although strangely 40% of PC gamers are women, compared to 25% on consoles) but overall the balance is much closer to the actual gender split than it ever has been before. With that in mind you’d think that the choice to use a female protagonist, something that isn’t exactly a new idea, wouldn’t be exactly controversial.
News came last week however that Dontnod Entertainment, an independent developer based out of Paris, struggled to convince publishers to accept their game which features a female lead character:
“We had some [publishers] that said, ‘Well, we don’t want to publish it because that’s not going to succeed. You can’t have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that,'” he told Penny Arcade. “We wanted to be able to tease on Nilin’s private life, and that means for instance, at one point, we wanted a scene where she was kissing a guy. We had people tell us, ‘You can’t make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that’s going to feel awkward.’
I’ll admit that given a choice between playing a male or a female character in a game I’ll choose the male one. For me the reasoning is simple, if given the choice I feel like I’m projecting myself into the game and thus want my avatar to represent me (and, given the choice, will recreate myself in the ultimate form of narcissism). However my experience doesn’t really differ that much should that choice be made for me one way or another as then I’m playing as that character in the story, not as a direct representation of myself. Thus the idea of having my character kiss another guy (or girl) in the game won’t make me feel awkward unless that what was intended.
What gets me though is the idea that the publisher thought that a game wouldn’t sell due to the female lead. Sure if you’re targeting consoles there’s an argument to be made that you want to target your largest available audience. However with titles like Tomb Raider breaking its own sales records, even on consoles, that kind of logic doesn’t really hold up. It’s not just the success of that particular franchise either as things like the Dreamfall Chapters Kickstarter showed that there’s lots of demand for these types of games and not just from the female gamer crowd.
Honestly when I first read this my anger was directed at the general gaming populace as I felt that that’s where the publishers would be drawing these conclusions from. Digging deeper into it however I feel that it’s more the publisher making those decisions for us as there are many examples of great selling games that have female protagonists or even just strong female characters. Personally I feel that us gamers are far more comfortable with the idea than the publishers give us credit for, especially with all the recent success stories. Hopefully it’s just one naive publisher executive making an incorrect call as I and all my gamer friends certainly have no issues with strong female leads.