by Tom Mackey
reviewed on PC
Kill to succeed
Despite its perhaps slightly overlong title, Life Goes On: Done to Death is a puzzle platformer with a surprisingly simple concept. A concept which essentially boils down to killing medieval knights in order to solve puzzles. It takes the irritating norm of regular side scrolling platformer games, regular failure and ultimately death, and turns that into the very thing you need to do to succeed, repeatedly, over and over again. Which, rather than being completely unintuitive, actually works pretty well, and is pleasantly silly at the same time.
So what is the premise for chucking hundreds of valiant knights to their grisly deaths? It is, unsurprisingly, a simple one. A mighty king has decided he wants to live forever, and for this he needs the Cup of Life. But is he going to go and fetch it himself? Of course not, he has an unending supply of blissfully loyal and suicidal knights to go and get it for him. That’s pretty much where the premise ends and the relentless death begins. Oh, by the way, that doesn't mean you can forget about the poor knights sacrificing themselves for a supposed greater good, especially not when they all have names. Yup, either someone had a fun time coming up with hundreds upon hundreds of different knight names, or the developers created a fantastic random knight name generator. But, they’re all not long for this world, and before long you will have worked your way through a good chunk of the population.
Light on the meat
So how does it play? You might be thinking that a game with the main mechanic involving killing yourself again and again might end up being a tad simple. You’d be right. This isn't the most challenging of puzzle platformers and without stopping to look for secrets or jumping back to replay sections you will probably find yourself breezing through the game pretty quickly. That’s not to say the gameplay and various mechanics you are introduced to along the way aren't inventive or interesting. It’s just that the puzzle design is quite straightforward and the solution is never too far away through the ever growing body count. Your general aim is to collect the golden trophy at the end of each level. This can sometimes be a fair distance away, and occasionally turn up right next to you, though more than likely behind some form of incredibly deadly barrier.
The game does throw in some interesting and novel mechanics that arise from the main concept. Using frozen bodies as platforms and rafts and creating morbid human ladders on spikes are a couple of examples of these mechanics. It’s pretty much always amusing to creatively and casually dispose of your men, but it’s just never too challenging. As such, a reasonable gamer will probably find themselves at the end after about 3-4 hours. There are the obligatory challenges and unlockables to tempt the repeat player into diving back into the fray. There’s also Jeff, whom you may come across in your travels. All of these added extras would prolong your gameplay time somewhat, but probably not for too long.
For such a short game, the developers do squeeze in a decent amount of variety in the game world. The sixty plus levels take place across four different colourful worlds. The visual vibrancy and bold colourful presentation definitely keeps the eyes entertained. Along with the expected levels of violence and hilarious medieval tomfoolery, the game really does jump out at you in a wonderfully cartoony manner. The soundtrack can become a little grating after hearing the same melodies for the hundredth time and I feel like more could have been done here to match the visuals and the quality of the game’s humour.
Humour is definitely an area where the game shines a great deal. The idea of mercilessly killing hundreds of knights seems like something inspired by Monty Python, and it definitely shows in the game’s focus on the silly. This doesn't just spring from the inherent comedy that comes from creating bloody bridges from your comrades or electrocuting a man dressed in head to toe steel. It is also spread throughout the game’s worlds all the way through to the end credits.
So Life Goes On: Done to Death may not be the hardcore puzzle platformer players’ Holy Grail, it’s not offering the best package in terms of length and tempting replayability. But there is an inherent joy in any game that comes up with a ridiculous concept and goes for it one hundred percent. It’s that combination of insane idea and vibrantly humorous, if not wholly challenging, presentation that make this a game that was a pleasure to die through.
Great concept, good humour and vibrant presentation
Short, low level of challenge