All I see is saws.
Punishingly difficult platformers are nothing new, and for every Super Meat Boy or N+ that stays in our memory, there’s a dozen that are picked up, played and immediately forgotten. The next title to try to make its mark is Almost There: The Platformer, available on all three consoles and PC with its press release indicating it’s the first console release ever from Bangladesh. Time to do some platforming…
Visually, there’s nothing new to be found as you control a cube with what appears to be a long bandanna trailing behind you. Simplicity is the name of the game, and you’ll encounter the usual assortment of saws, spikes and lasers as you make your way through the game’s three worlds, each marked by its own colour scheme and soundtrack. At least things flow smoothly and resetting after failed attempts is quick and painless.
Of course, none of the games mentioned above were renowned for their graphics but rather their ultra-tight controls and refined gameplay. On that front, Almost There is, rather fittingly, almost there. Within it are two important decisions made with the controls: your ability to stick to surfaces, making timed jumping off and back to the same wall probably the most heavily used mechanic in the game, and the omission of a turbo button for added distance on jumps.
With the latter, you’ll need to essentially build momentum to trigger increased speed and the extended jump that goes along with it — a brief ghost-like image will flash next to your cube, which serves as the visual cue that you’re ready to leap. It takes some getting used to, and a turbo button might’ve been more convenient, but it was almost certainly a design decision and ends up working out just fine.
Things are a little sketchier with the wall jumping as it always seemed to handle much better for us when springing back and forth on the right side of a wall than the left. There was also tangible improvement as we played more and got accustomed to the feel of it. That being said, it never felt as tight as it should’ve, and the phenomenon of randomly losing touch with the wall or having the return jump fall short still reared its ugly head more than it should’ve.
One other annoyance of note is that a button to instantly restart the level is mapped right next to the jump button. We grazed it a few times, sending us back to the start, though thankfully not deep into a run, but it still begs the question why not assign that function to a button you’d never hit accidentally?
In terms of content, you’re looking at 155 levels spread across three stages with packs of levels grouped into tiers. Each one contains the ubiquitous three stars, one for simply completing it and then two more based on hitting time targets, offering some incentive to retry levels to improve your speed. The question is whether or not you’ll want to.
While Almost There features solid level design, ramping up its difficulty as you progress and doing more than enough to make your palms sweat, nothing really stands out. At the heart of that is a lack of innovation as the game seems content to constantly shuffle the same deck of tricks throughout. Yes, it throws an increasingly challenging mix of obstacles at you, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s the same obstacles.
Minus any new tricks we found ourselves cutting our sessions shorter and shorter, wondering when we were going to be introduced to something new. As it turns out, we weren’t. Even at the very end it’s still spikes, revolving lasers and disintegrating blocks. Compare that to the likes of Super Meat Boy, where world’s kept adding new elements until the very end, and Almost There feels wanting.
There’s nothing wrong with Almost There: The Platformer, and if you like that style of game you’ll probably enjoy it. Just don’t expect to remember much about it a few weeks later.