Monday, September 10, 2018
This OLDNERD Climbed A THousand Foot Robot
To The Top is my favorite game of the year and maybe my favorite game of the last five years, because it’s given me something I almost never get: an entirely new gaming experience.
What is To The Top? Structurally, it’d be described as a 3D platformer with both exploration and speedrunning elements. But that really undersells it, because of the VR and because of the traversal and jumping mechanic.
Because at it’s heart, To The Top answers the question “what if a superhero tackled a Ninja Warrior course built for superheroes”? To paraphrase George Michael, there are things that you grab, and things that you don’t. When you grab a thingg with both hands (using the two Move controllers and their triggers) you can launch yourself in whatever direction you’re looking by letting go. Up, down, any direction you want. Just make sure you end up in range of another grabbable surface.
And so it goes, through dozens of inventively designed levels, leaping and climbing and hand-over-handing your way to the finish line, picking up collectibles along the way, trying to beat the three different times for that level, and looking for the alternate path to the hidden collectible. Nailing it feels better in this game than in any game in history. You’re constantly moving your arms reaching for handholds, whipping the camera around, doing things like no-look double-jumps (grabbing the back end of a handhold then vaulting foward and reaching behind you to grab the front of it for a little extra distance before you jump again)
The levels are largely textureless and high contrast and colorful, which is fine - this is a game that rewards a smooth frame rate and clear, uncomplicated visuals. They still manage to cram a lot of variety into the environments and some nifty art design. The levels include lots of platforming staples - moving platforms, crumbling handholds, sliding walls and walkways, etc - and the occasional environmental hazard beyond falling o your death or getting stranded between handholds. I’ve seen about 2/3 of the levels so far. Some customization options exist, giving you new hands (I’m rocking gold skeleton hands right now) and there’s an online mode, although no other human seems to be playing this game ever.
The game’s relatively nonexistent exposure does mean one thing. This is also the first game I’ve played in years where, if I can’t figure out where something is, nobody on the INternet has made a web page or video telling me. Which means I’m finding everything out on my own. The hard way. IT’s very old school.
Obviously, it’s not a game for people with motion sensitivity. You’re constantly whipping your head or the camera around, plunging from r=great heaights, and all those visceral VR things that make people dizzy and pukey. Me, I turned ALL the safety accommodations off and am having the time of my life.