by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
The world’s a stage
Another day, action platformer popping up on Steam. This time, Talent Not Included has taken the stage, and while it’s doing nothing new in terms of gameplay, tone or story, there’s certainly something here when it all comes together. The game plays out as if it were a play, with an ever-changing stage, over-the-top performances and crowd reactions to everything going on.
In fact, you’ll probably finish Talent Not Included in the same amount of time it takes to go and watch a production at a theater. As long as you get to grips with the controls, you’ll likely complete the three acts and the final boss in under three hours. There’s not a great deal of replayability here either, although there is a co-op mode where you can go back and play through the entire game again with a friend. It’s not a particularly long or difficult game, but it’s one that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Plus, the developers have really nailed the theme here. This isn’t your standard side scrolling 2D action platformer. Instead, the entire level plays out on the same screen without the camera ever moving. Rather than running to the right and seeing what’s ahead, the stage you’re on will change around you, creating new obstacles and pickups which will increase your score. New enemies will spawn in as well, and flying enemies will come down on visible ropes, which is a nice touch. The number of pickups you grab, combined with how quickly you finish a level, will determine your overall score, however there’s no real reason to get the highest score possible.
The three acts each have their own playable character associated with it, as well as a big bad boss. There are 15 levels in each act, which include three boss levels which are staggered throughout, which increase in difficulty as you go. They usually involve learning the boss’ attack patterns, and it’s often tough to beat them in one go. However, it doesn’t take long to understand what’s going on. The bosses change tactics in later fights, but only really by increasing the speed with which they attack, rather than introducing new perils.
In between the bosses are standard levels, which are filled with a combination of traps, obstacles, and enemies. Luckily, each of the characters has their own way of dealing with them. The warrior is good at bashing things with his sword and has a spin attack which will clear a path through enemies, as well as taking him over gaps. The rogue also has a dashing move, but it makes her invulnerable for a short time, meaning she can pass over spikes and through blades. The wizard can teleport short distances, which is also used for passing through obstacles, and his staff also means he can shoot enemies from range with magic.
Break a leg
The best levels are those which combine these abilities together, as they create more interesting and challenging platforming sections. The majority of levels simply have you jumping from platform to platform, avoiding obstacles as they come, but the occasional gem has you double jumping, using your dash ability and landing on a small platform where you quickly have to jump away and dash again. Some sections are timed, with platforms disappearing leaving only pain below. Some are more forgiving and will give you health back if you’ve lost any up to that point. The main problem with the level design is that platforms will spawn in before enemies and obstacles do. If you know you’re on a tight schedule, you might jump to a new platform in order to preempt your current one disappearing beneath you. Several times I did this and a row of spikes, or an angry guard appeared beneath me, causing me to take unnecessary damage.
Still, for the short few hours Talent Not Included lasts, I was entertained. You can easily finish it in an evening and the price tag might be a little steep for its length, but perhaps if you share it with a friend it will become worth it. It’s a solid platformer with a strong aesthetic, but even though the level design is different from most other games in the genre, it’s still using the same old mechanics. Talent Not Included is worth a round of applause, but perhaps not a standing ovation.
Cool twist on platforming level design
Over in a few hours, some occasional frustrations