Monday, May 4, 2009
Got this one off Steam. This game is about three years old so I'm breaking exactly zero ground by writing about it. I told you timeliness was not going to be my strong suit. All I know is I'm so sad that I showed up late to this party.
I feel it's still worth writing about now, however, because it was just released to Xbox Live Arcade. Also, I feel like this was 2006's World of Goo - (Which I will be reviewing eventually) - a weird, beautiful, unique puzzle game that makes your brain work in ways it hasn't before.
Eets is touted as "Lemmings meets the Incredible Machine" and as high-concept sales pitches go, this one hits the mark dead on.
It's a puzzle game, like I said, and a completely bizarre one at that. In fact, perhaps the greatest criticism one can levy against this game is that it might be a little too weird. Strangeness can have mechanical implications in gaming: In this case the pieces you play with can be counterintuitive. It's not a big problem, mind you, but I can't say I wasn't a little baffled when I stepped away from this game and came back to it weeks later.
The game is like Lemmings in that you are guiding a hapless creature, (named Eets, if you can believe it), to an exit point. Unlike Lemmings you are given only one hapless creature to save, so there is no exploding him or turning him into a wall or shrugging your shoulders when an acceptable percentage of him falls into lava. Unless of course you like failure. Or comedy.
The game is like Incredible Machine in that you place objects all over the level in an attempt to construct the Rube Goldberg Device of Hilarious Victory. In other words you alter the environment so that a series of objects will bonk your stupid Eets over to where he stupid needs to stupid go.
Of course, a la Incredible Machine, you are free to solve puzzles wrongly in the name of playing Hilarious God of Physics. I spent a chunk of 7th and 8th grade seeing exactly how many bumpers I could make those little men hit before they died, laughing maniacally the entire time I did. (Admit it! You did it too!)
The game's formula is enhanced by Eets' emotions, which range from scared to happy to angry. Depending on his mood he will interact with the environment differently. Things can be done to change his mood, the most basic of which is to feed him different foods. Part of the puzzle becomes knowing when and where to change his mood so that he will behave in the way you need him to, (Hence the game's subtitle: Hunger. It's Emotional). This emotion mechanic is simple at first, but has increasingly dramatic effects as you progress through the game.
The game develops nicely as more and more contraptions and challenges get thrown your way. I will say the early worlds are a little repetitive and maybe too easy, but once the game ramps up the stakes it gets to be quite fun.
Where this game really succeeds is in its art-style and goofy items. This goofiness lends the game much of its appeal, but I must say that mechanically speaking, this game isn't quite as odd as it first appears. Allow me to explain.
In a "normal" puzzle game you might have a catapult that propels your character in an arc. Here instead it is a cranky looking whale that swallows you up and ejects you out his blowhole.
Elsewhere you might have a cannon that fires explosives when touched. Here it is a pig that, um, farts out a smaller pig-with-a-cape that soars through the sky until it hits something and explodes. Mechanically these things are normal, it's the crazy art concept placed on top of them that makes the game feels so strange and wonderful. Bear in mind this isn't exactly a complaint.
The music fits the game's art style very well, but could be better - and more varied. I keep wishing there were more songs in rotation as the ones I keep hearing are getting bland. The music is still a major strong point here, but if I am to draw more comparisons to World of Goo, Eets loses the music competition.
Finally I come to the demo. Considering that I bought this game the demo clearly does what it is supposed to. You are given the game's first "world" which does an admirable job showcasing the game's many weird concepts. I will stress like I always do that more might be gained by making the demo even bigger. Two worlds? So maybe I can see the game's puzzles outside of a "tutorial" setting? Am I so hard to please?