I’m in a dark cave. I know that there’s some antimatter somewhere down here, I need it to unlock the next world. Problem is, I need to go to the level beneath the antimatter and release it using the gravity beam, then I can retrace my steps and go to pick it up. There’s loads of obstacles in the way, and my robot doesn’t exactly have much health. Lighting the way with my torch, I cautiously jump over each sawblade and kill each robot. The antimatter’s been released. I make my way back, but get heavily damaged by the chainsaws, leaving me one hit away from death. As such, I buckle under the pressure of the jump before the last blade and lose that last bit of health. Now I have to start again.
This time, I’ve stupidly lost most of my health to the initial sawblades. With no way to recover health, I die on the way back, after releasing the antimatter once again.
Sigh. This time we’ll get it. I navigate the obstacles on the way to the antimatter perfectly. ‘I’ve got the hang of this now’ is what my mind tells me as I make my way back from the antimatter, still without a scratch on my healthbar. I approach the last obstacle, a moving chainsaw blade, knowing that once I clear it I can finally progress to the next world. I time my jump to perfection, clearing the chainsaw without losing any health and falling straight into the hole next to it. Wait, what?
“You have lost a BEEP :(”
If I’d died three times under these circumstances in any other game I’d have given up. Alt + F4ed the game, thumped my mousemat and squeezed my stress pig within an inch of its life. With BEEP, this wasn’t the case. Yes, I was frustrated, but I wasn’t angry.
It was easy for me to figure out why. I’m not a parent, but I imagine that for most parents it’s impossible to stay mad at a child for long. They drive you crazy, they can be annoying, they make a few stupid mistakes every now and then but you still love them. BEEP is, in so many ways, a small child. It’s presented like an art project from a six year old boy; bright and colourful with lots of robots that have lasers in space. It’s simple, too. You only need five buttons (not counting the mouse buttons) to move BEEP, the kind of simplicity that makes indie platformers so endearing.
I was worried while playing through BEEP’s initial stages that it might turn out to be a bit too easy, that I might just be playing a kid’s game. There was nothing beyond, ‘jump here, shoot this robot, jump across these platforms, win.’ Having endured the harrowing experience outlined in the first few paragraphs, I’m now convinced that’s not the case. There are some tricky puzzles in BEEP, mostly because of the gravity beam mechanic. You can pick up and move or rotate almost anything that isn’t nailed down. There’s one particularly clever puzzle which involves using the gravity beam to rotate a maze. You have to carefully turn the maze so that the piece of antimatter (you need specific numbers of these to unlock worlds in BEEP) falls through the correct paths for you to eventually pick up.
As much as I enjoy these clever physics-based sequences, they rarely work perfectly. The gravity beam does need some fine tuning, particularly when you have to turn objects in mid-air. The aforementioned maze sequence took a long time for me to complete, mostly because I had trouble turning the maze slowly and then quickly straight afterwards. It felt like I was struggling against the system, rather than the obstacle itself. Similarly, during combat situations, reloading is a pain. Instead of assigning a button to reloading, you have to mouse over BEEP and right click. Why not just have it assigned to ‘R’ like most games? It’s not like you’ve not got enough buttons to work with.
These are very minor and forgivable failings, though. I can’t stay mad at BEEP. It takes me back to a happy childhood spent playing classic platformers such as Super Mario World and the Donkey Kong Country series. It combines the simple, standard mechanics of the genre with some gravitational cleverness and adds the sort of charm that we love from indie developers. Plus, I’m pretty sure that when you ‘kill’ enemy robots, BEEP says ‘See ya!’ and ‘Cheerio!’ in a high-pitched, robotic tone. The ‘awww’ factor of these moments are worth your £6 by themselves.