I was originally going to review the winner of the Game Jolt Minimal competition for this overly-late review (sorry, been a tad busy lately), but then a Construct-built game went and won it. So I decided on reviewing the second place game, Saut. Except… had to skip it as well – it’s a one-button game, the only button of which is the spacebar. Couldn’t find any way of using a different button, and the spacebar on my keyboard isn’t particularly responsive. So I’ve settled with the game that took a highly respectable third place in the competition – Fetus, by Ted Lauterbach (creator of games such as Visit, Wave Shock and Visit 2).
Fetus (I keep wanting to type “Foetus” but I’ll go with Lauterbach’s American spelling) is an atmospheric puzzle platformer. What initially seems like an artsy, challenge-free, spooky game quickly turns into a fairly difficult brain-bender… that’s still spooky. In the game, you can’t jump, and you can’t move while falling. You can, however, loop round the room by falling or walking out of it. The challenge in earlier levels comes from ensuring you never fall into a “column” with no blocks, since you’ll be incapable of escaping it and end up having to restart the level. The game then introduces gravity flippers, pushable crates, and deadly lazers that can be blocked by crates. A little bit of confusion comes from crates – some of which have their gravity pointed down, some up, but they’re unmarked – but most of the challenge is completely fair.
I’ve said about the game’s atmosphere and spookiness – I’ll go into that now. Fetus is both aesthetically and aurally haunting. You begin levels with the level name being tapped out as if by a typewriter, and a strong static sound/graphic. Ghostly sounds play throughout the level. In some levels, there will actually be ghosts swaying around the level – they’re physically harmless but they’re still pretty good at sending chills down your spine. To cap off the spookiness, there are a few levels dotted throughout the game which aren’t really levels – they’re straightforward “walk to the exit”s as a graphic shows some kind of bizarre happening – for example, a foetus which breaks apart bloodily as you approach the finish.
In terms of the other graphics, Fetus (understandably) is fairly minimalist – retro sprites and font – the game as a whole fits together very well. The use of colour helps out the atmosphere while also keeping to the retro style. The only sprites I thought stood out a bit unpleasantly were the gravity flippers – although they certainly weren’t ugly, they flashed a little obnoxiously and detracted from the well-sprited standard of the other sprites.
Sound-wise, the game (as previously noted) makes good use of sound for an atmospheric experience. Other sound effects fit with the game’s retro style by being simplistic and very 8-bit. The game has no music, though rightly so – I couldn’t think of a style of music that would enhance the general style Fetus has going for it.
Overall, Fetus is a great game, deserving of a top-three placement in the 50-entry-strong contest in which it was entered. It challenges one part of your brain while haunting another part, both simultaneously and equally successfully. It’s already been featured on high-profile indie sites such as Indie Games Blog and Bytejacker. Fetus is definitely worth a try, even if you’re easily scared (like me!).