Developer: Chasing Rats Games
Genre: Platformer, Puzzle
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI12
Release Date: 27/8/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Like Wading Through Treacle
Never has a game title been more fitting. Struggling is, well, a bit of a struggle. Imagine the abstract movement and control system of Octodad paired with some platforming feats that require a modicum of precision. It’s a recipe for frustration and turmoil. There were a few things though, when I looked past the struggle, that I quite liked.
Struggling tells the tale of two beings that were supposed to return to free society from the pain and strain of the lives they had forced to live. Unfortunately, they arrived far too late, in a state of horrid mutation and had conjoined into one suffering being. Troy is one very hard to control, frustrating, gruesome being who wails in constant pain throughout your playthrough.
Similar to the aforementioned Octodad, you use analog sticks to control each of your character’s arms separately. You use a trigger button to grab things and even simple tasks like moving have an added layer of intricacy not normally found in 2D platformers. It will infuriate most people. I read a few comments online about how frustrating it was and I think it all depends on the player. I can deal with it but I am a glutton for punishment sometimes.
My Poor, Poor Analog Sticks
I could actually hear my analog sticks crying in pain as I tried my hardest to get this hunk of wailing flesh to pivot over a pit of acid. Eventually, I did get the hang of the control scheme but even then, it always felt like an artificial difficulty enhancer put there to deliberately hinder your progress. I also found Troy’s arms got stuck on the environment too often but luckily you are able to respawn them at will.
A bit down the line, if you get that far, you will start to unlock new abilities to add further complication to this already taxing title. The first ability is remote arms, which did add some complexity to some puzzles. This ability allows you to detach your appendages but it also adds a little to the frustration caused by the game’s control scheme. Luckily, I think by this point if you have got this far, you should be quite acclimatized to it and should take it in your stride. Or whatever a stride is called if you are using your arms? Take it in your span? I don’t know.
You can grab your significant other and play two-player if you wish but anyone who has played multiplayer Octodad knows what that leads to. It starts out being hilarious but over time the frustration, unfortunately, erodes the fun elements of the gameplay. It’s easier alone, not by much but it’s certainly more manageable. I just feel most players will not get past the initial learning curve to see some of the things the game does well.
My favourite part of Struggle is the art style, its simply beautiful. It reminds me of the old Garbage Pail Kids cards from my youth or a weird Rick and Morty episode. There are gungy eyeballs all over the place, you get melted limbs, horrid deaths and the whole thing is quite gruesome. Even more so at the beginning of the game as you make your complex escape. It may be a bit much for some but I adored it. The sound work was also enjoyable, the music and sound effects both added to the overall gruesome and ghastly presentation.
The other part I really adored was Struggling’s first boss. The game gets turned into a giant pinball table of sorts and you have to defeat a massive, mutated, singing entity and the whole experience is brilliant. I just wish more of the game was like this. The frustrating controls were nowhere to be seen, it had a finesse puzzle-like quality and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am afraid though the game rarely reached this level of enjoyment again after that. Which is really unfortunate.
There Are Small Joys Hidden Within The Struggle If You Persevere
So, while I found the control scheme frustrating, especially early on, Struggling does have a few things that I really enjoyed. If you can get over the initial rage and wanting to throw your controller out a window, there are small joys to be had. I just feel most players will have moved on or given up by then. Most people are not like me; I saw the control scheme as a challenge I needed to overcome, even if it was irksome.
Struggling just follows in the footsteps of other games where a challenging control scheme ‘is’ the game and for better or worse, that is what it is. If you took away the control scheme you would take away part of the game’s DNA and I feel it would be worse off for it. It’s a strange one; on one hand, it’s annoying but I cannot see the game without it. I suppose you will have to make your own mind up, if you are easily frustrated though, perhaps stay clear.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Struggling for the Nintendo Switch at the following link: Nintendo eShop