This is brilliant. Is a short review, but it does the job.
Oh alright then. This is what I believe the kids these days call “a precision platformer”, except without being a complete git about it. Precision platformers are, in the main, gits. They’re all about going, “Ner ner you’re not good enough at me!”, except for that smug few other gits who are, who devote their lives to posting on forums and comments threads explaining that actually it’s too easy. Even the most ardent atheists agree, those people are going to hell. They are the people who, via quantum entanglement, inspired Hitler.
Super Cable Boy, meanwhile, isn’t a git. In fact, it’s positively good-natured, which induces quite the double-take. Because here you have a platform game, broken into short levels, in which you can just blitz your way through it with moderate challenge, or choose to have a far, far harder time.
Controlling a little Game Boy-like creature, complete with charging cable and dangling plug, you need only reach a level’s electrical outlet. However, along the way you can also opt to try to pick up level’s bonus… rice ball, which will demand not only a far trickier set of moves to reach, but also then make you far more paranoid about all the ensuing jumps and bounces while you’re ‘carrying’ it. I say “rice ball” because I’m proud I even figured out they were those, but the game does eventually name them as onigiri. And I say “paranoid” because it turns out I can complete the path to the goal quickly and confidently when I just run straight at it, but if I’ve procured the onigiri along the way, I’m suddenly cack-handed, ham-fisted and other common terms that look rude now I type them out.
This is mostly about jumping. Your little handheld can leap high into the air, and also wall jump as often as he pleases. That’s your lot at the start, and while the levels don’t do anything stunningly original (there are bouncy clouds, glitchy blocks that kill you if you touch them, areas that glitch out as you pass through them), it does it all incredibly well. It’s enormously well put together, and bears the essential mark of a platformer like this: When I go wrong it’s the stupid game’s fault, when I succeed it’s because I’m a bloody ninja.
The choice of whether to make a level harder becomes really interesting as you progress. By the time my electric cord was a grapple to swing on, I was getting pretty good at the moves, deftly leaping between tiny gaps, zipping past moving obstacles, and feeling all proud. But then I’d reach a level, see where the onigiri was, and say, “Nooooooooope.” Of course, skip it and often the levels can feel too easy. Because they are! Because I skipped the bit that made it difficult!
I love the internal argument this creates in me. Do I devote a ridiculous number of retries to reach that bonus, then try to do the level with it? Or do I do the level, know I’m progressing, but feel a sense of dissatisfaction about it all? And of course any time I complete things with the onigiri in hand, I feel like a GOD. It’s worth noting that rather mischievously, the game mixes up that difficulty, occasionally letting a onigiri run be a simple affair, even with short-cuts.
And it’s pretty important to add that restarts are incredibly fast. About a second between death and trying again. Certainly faster than it takes for me to take my head out of my hands at my latest failure, suck it up, and try again.
Oh, and goodness me it looks amazing. The screenshots obviously show off the lovely modern interpretation of Game Boy-ish graphics, but a lack of motion doesn’t do it justice. Even the level picking screen is a thing of beauty. Add in some of the best music I’ve heard in a very long while, and the completely brilliant sound effects, and this is a fine package.
I do hope there’s a Switch port in the works, as this would be amazing to play handheld. And I’m really looking forward when it seems so damned strange that this was ever featured on BT, because it’s so well known and respected. The farther you get, the more elaborate this huge game gets, as you start switching out cartridges (skills) on the fly (quite literally). It is, as a wise man once said, brilliant.
Only an hour in, but the sheer charm of this game and your said devotion to not bashing its difficulty over your head is really selling me. Far too many games suffer from the ‘git gud’ and either frustrate or remove a huge chunk of their audience. Great recommendation!
I will proviso that the later levels made me want to throw my controller in the bin, so it does get a LOT more difficult just to complete the levels