Every now and then we come across games that escape convention, and Struggling (the first development from independent studio Chasing Rats) goes off the scale. It’s a 2D platformer full of puzzles, but that description doesn’t do it justice. It is also a repulsive, ingenious, exciting and frustrating game in equal parts … Struggling is a unique game.
Struggling was released on August 18, as part of the “Nindies” for Switch, and it throws you by surprise today, to celebrate Gamescom. It’s one of those games that you have to try.
And there is nothing that speaks better of this approach than introducing you to its protagonist. Forget about generic heroes, because in this game we control a deformed being, Troy. It does not have legs, but instead, it has two heads attached (Hector and Achilles) and a pair of arms with which to move, activate switches, swing and put on hats.
The key to the game is in its control system, an evolution of what we have seen in other games such as Totally Reliable Delivery Service or Human Fall Flat. That is, we control the two arms independently (and a bit erratically); the right stick for Hector’s arm and the left stick for Achilles … or the other way around, because when we start to move, chaos (and fun) begins. To hold on, we press the triggers; that simple and that complicated.
In Struggling we move through 2D scenarios with a very simple design (the graphics look like a flash game) full of obstacles and dangers. And the way forward depends on our ability. We can cling to any surface and crawl, or alternate using both arms to “roll.” We can also hang from the ceiling, swing and let go … as the name suggests, progress in the game is a “fight”.
As if life with two heads wasn’t tough enough, the scenarios are fraught with dangers: rats willing to devour us, bathtubs of acid, gears that only work to make us mush, or huge bugs with sharp teeth. Overcoming each one of them is quite an achievement. In fact, beneath the surface of a platformer, each area is a puzzle, forcing us to think carefully about each step.
Some are difficult, some are frustrating … but they are very balanced. Struggling is the type of game where we would almost throw the controller out the window, but it makes us try again and again, and we are left with enormous satisfaction if we have succeeded.
This difficulty we are talking about is not only about finding the right path; It’s also about manipulating machinery (moving your arms to activate levers and buttons), driving vehicles, or detaching yourself from your arms and dragging them across the screen independently to reach distant points. Luckily the checkpoints are quite numerous.
Fun, anger and satisfaction are multiplied by two in the multiplayer mode, local or online, in which each of the players controls an arm and requires much more coordination. Passing the game cooperatively may be an impossible feat, but in short games, the laughs are guaranteed.
But at this point you still wonder, why do we say that it is a disgusting game? Where to start, its protagonist has a rather disgusting design, in keeping with the monsters we meet along the way. The stages have organic, sticky and dark parts. Also, Troy keeps screaming when we “mistreat” him, and his deaths are quite creative. But everything is treated with a sense of humor and with a “cartoon” style, so it is very bearable. In a way, Troy ends up becoming a character we look upon with fondness.
Of course, we have loved Struggling’s proposal, for its originality and also for the constant “pulse” of our patience. But it is far from being a round game; We like the artistic direction, but much more detail could have been taken care of, and added more variety to the scenarios. When it comes to control, sometimes we don’t understand why our arms get stuck, or lose strength, but that’s part of the “fight.”
In addition, we have the feeling that some areas are overcome more by “fluke” than by having played with mastery, and certain sections (such as that final fight turned into a kind of pinball) take forever. They are very forgivable mistakes, but it is a pity that these aspects have not been adjusted, because they would have raised the final result considerably. If you are looking for something different and fun, surely you will not be disappointed.
Struggling is a unique game; as funny as frustrating at times. A platform and puzzle development that has us hooked, and that promises laughter and anger alike in the cooperative mode for two players.