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The Chopping Block – ‘Eryi’s Action’

Disclaimer: These are not full reviews, and shouldn’t be treated as such. No final scores will be given, as these are extended opinions of a few hours of play at most, and may not give every aspect of the game a fair shake. Feel free to disagree, heckle, kvetch or even just discuss things reasonably in the handy comments section below.

The past few months have been amazing. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a golden age for gamers, if not developers. Between bundles, sales and new releases, I now have a backlog of indie games so massive, my brain struggles to comprehend just how long it would take to get through them all. Welcome to The Chopping Block, where I dive in and cut the pile to size. At least one game enters every single day, and none leave without judgement being passed from above.

Today’s Target: Eryi’s Action for Windows PCs. Developed by Xtal Sword & localized by Nyu Media. RRP: $5. Available Direct, via Gamersgate & Desura.

Well, clearly someone’s a fan of Kaizo Mario and I Wanna Be The Guy. The opening screen of the game tries to lull you into a false sense of security by showing you some easy, casual platforming, only to yank the rug away the moment you step into the game. Any attempt to walk off the very first screen – a short introduction, telling you that Eryi is off on an adventure to recover her stolen dessert melon – is greeted by an instantly lethal falling basin; a staple of Japanese slapstick comedy. There’s a lot of potential for frustration here, and that’s how the game bills itself – as a platformer for masochists.

That said, I think it manages to sidestep the worst of cruel and unusual behaviour that you’d expect to see in games like this. There’s still the occasional invisible platform hidden just where the apex of your jump would be, but those seem few and far between, with the focus of the game being on some rather clever puzzle-oriented gameplay with fairly regular checkpoints. It’ll take a few deaths to understand the rules of each puzzle, of course – an experience perhaps comparable with sweeping for mines by rolling your face along the ground – but you can learn over time, if you don’t mind some pain. At least you have infinite lives, right?

A good example is the end of the first level – there’s a Mario-esque level completion flagpole, and if you touch it, the game takes over and walks you off the right edge of the screen, right into a falling spike-ball trap. As the game is in control at this point, you can’t evade, avoid or otherwise do anything to escape death. The only way to survive is to somehow break the game. What you need to do, then, is pick up and carry a sprinkler (effectively acting as a jump-pad) from a screen or two back, and use it to vault over the level completion pole. You can now dodge the spike-ball, and exit the level, right? Well, no. You’ve not touched the pole, so you just walked off the level to your death. Go back to touch the pole, and you auto-walk into the (now stationary) spikes.

So, after a little experimentation, I found that in addition to bringing over the sprinkler, I needed to (carefully) pick up an explosive bomb-type enemy, jump over the flagpole with it, evade the spikes, throw the bomb and clear the path. THEN touch the flagpole, and let the level ending sequence play out properly. Bypassing videogame logic in order to get it working again – it’s kinda clever, in a weirdly dumb sorta way. This seems to be the general thrust of the gameplay – puzzles that bend or abuse the logic of the game and require some actual thought to get through, with the platforming itself being not too hard to get through.

Every few levels the game throws a boss battle your way, and these are genuinely tough platforming/reflex challenges that are probably the most frustrating element of all, although there’s nothing that can’t be conquered with a little patience. It’s nowhere near the sadistic difficulty of I Wanna Be The Guy. At least, not yet. The game itself actually looks quite nice, and the music feels appropriate for a Mario-inspired platformer. I’m still some way from the end of the game, but I’m actually having fun with this, which I honestly didn’t expect.

The Verdict: Maybe the difficulty spikes hideously later on, but in spite of frequent deaths, I’m actually having enjoying puzzling my way through Eryi’s Action. It feels almost like a puzzle game disguised as a sadistic platformer, and there’s a strong vein of humour running through it all, even if the player is the butt of all the jokes. I may well go back to this one once my backlog is a little shorter, so consider this a guarded recommendation. Now, on to the next – check back tomorrow for another indie game on The Chopping Block.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – The Chopping Block – ‘Eryi’s Action’