Deep down inside ourselves, how often do we want to kill our video game protagonists? I don’t just mean metaphorically, I mean straight up murder. Probably a lot more than we want to admit. “But Heazie,” you may say, “if we did that we’d never be able to beat the game!!” Well, gentle reader, what if I were to tell you we could do exactly that and beat the game? What if I were to tell you that in order to beat the game we have to kill our heroes? Welcome to Life Goes On: Done to Death.
Born from the minds of Infinite Monkeys Entertainment, this unique puzzle-platformer game sees the King of the land wanting to live forever, and to do that, he needs to obtain the one relic that will grant him that: the Cup of Life. Well, obviously he can’t go searching for himself, he might get hurt, or worse, die, and that would defeat the purpose of his quest. So it’s a good thing he has an infinite amount of knights he can call on to do his dirty work for him. And once he shoves them through that portal? Their fate is sealed. 99% of them are going to die. Do they know that? Unlikely. Does this make the King a murderer? That’s for a jury to decide.
As explained above, this is a weird little premise for a game. Weird in a good way, of course. Right from the get go, the main menu gives us all we need to know before we start, about the King and his bravado with this whole thing, in a funny and cute way, naturally. Once we jump in properly, you’ll notice the knights have some pretty distinct and odd/funny names. Every time one dies, a new one joins the battle at the designated checkpoint, and every one has a new name. I never noticed any repeats, either. Now, I’m not saying there weren’t any, I just never noticed, and as someone who killed way more than I care to admit, that’s pretty impressive. Also impressive, albeit in a different fashion, is every death scream, squelch, or whatever you want to classify it as, comes through the DualShock 4’s speaker (if you want it to). It’s a neat little feature that I always enjoy when used by developers. We don’t see it enough in my estimation. Keep an eye out for any writing in the game, too, because the funny will be present there as well.
Moving throughout the levels takes some time to get used to. The knights move a bit loosely, but over time, you’ll learn to compensate for that and, even though you’ll still screw up because of it, you’ll probably just shrug it off. At least initially. Unless you’re going for the level goals (how many knights used and how long it takes you to beat it), it really doesn’t hurt you to die 100 times in a level (in fact, it may even be a reward…). And as you progress, you unlock cool/funny little outfits and weapons for your knights. Too bad for them they’re just window dressing, because they never get any use out of them. Perhaps a pseudo-sequel where we use these guys in a beat ’em up and get to see just how fighting with a giant fork or a fish really looks? (EDITOR’S NOTE: You guys can have that idea for free. No compensation needed.)
The level designs start out relatively small for each of the areas, and relatively simple, but that gets ramped up as you progress. This is typically to introduce new mechanics and to ease the player into the new setting. And as you progress the level designs keep getting more and more clever. Each of the 4 settings are pretty varied cosmetically and culminate with a very different (but also very much in the style of what you’ve been trained on) final level to move on to the next area. The final level in The Mountains being my personal favorite. The levels are clever. And once you move on to the next area, the lessons learned and mechanics used from the previous stages can creep up on you, so keep your wits sharp, because you’ll need them to be.
You do have a wit sharpener, right? If not, you might want to find one, because these kinds of games can make people with full heads of hair suddenly look like Mr. Clean. It’s weird how you get the white eyebrows and earring, right? It happens. I saw it. Well, my friend’s uncle who works with a guy who dated a girl who once waited tables at a restaurant that Shaq ate at saw it. BUT I BELIEVE IT. Back to the original point here – puzzle games can get tough. This is no exception. Now, this game is a bit different in the way it gets tough than say, my last puzzle game review (cheap plug), but it still offers a challenge, for sure. And since I say it often, I would be remiss if I didn’t repeat it here: if you get stuck, take a break. Your mind needs to refresh. It will help. And it helped me with this game numerous times. Things I completely ignored ended up being the things I needed to pay more attention to, but because I was so deep in the jungle, I couldn’t see the trees.
So I’ve said how the game has clever levels and things of that nature, but I didn’t really describe them much. There are numerous contraptions and puzzle pieces to help (hurt?) you to the end, including, but not limited to, flame throwers, spiked conveyor belts, floor switches, and saw blades. Oh, and Jeff. He’s a cute, lazy, gluttonous, little fur ball. Hi, Jeff!!
The various ways the levels make you interact all connect well together and really make you think about what needs to be done. This will not be a cake walk, not only because there is no cake (I’m not lying), but also because if it were, anyone would have grabbed the Cup of Life by now. It almost feels like the levels themselves are out to get you in their own way. The clever bastards…
Graphically, the game is actually really nice looking. The backgrounds and accompanying non-essential assets have nice depth and form to them, and what you do interact with all look and feel really worthy. The settings and tone of everything around works really well and gel nicely. The art direction and style of the knights is satisfying, too. The neat little hats and weapons you earn throughout pop and make each knight look just different enough to be pleasing. Sure, you won’t get attached because you won’t know them for too long, but it is a nice little touch for some graphical flair in a game that could have a million and one exact same main characters.
Musically, the soundtrack is everything you’d expect. Tense when it needs to be tense, cute when it needs to be cute, and grand when it needs to be grand. It mixes tones at just the right clip, and even after spending sad amounts of time on a single level (often), I didn’t get bored with them. You can even buy the soundtrack should you enjoy it enough (here). As a big fan of music in gaming, this is something more companies (indie or otherwise) should offer players and fans. If others are doing it, I can’t find it as easily as I did this. Kudos, and thanks!!
There’s definite replay value here,too. The dozens of levels include time and death trials, as I mentioned. Some are much harder than they look, and honestly, this can get pretty involved. You’ll really work for these and will probably take a bunch of tries each level to do it. And of course, with achieving the accolade of unlocking all the Trophies in this game (I’m not worthy enough), we’re treated with a PLATINUM TROPHY. Something all games should carry, but for some reason, not all games do. I don’t blame developers, that’s a Sony issue.
This game isn’t all gravy, though. There are some frustrating things. For instance, you can’t move the dead bodies. Now, look, I get that it would completely ruin the way the game is played were you allowed to pick up a body and move it wherever you want. But to not even be able to nudge them a tiny bit can get annoying quite often. Again, I know that’s probably a huge nit-pick, but the amount of times a body didn’t roll the .0001 of an inch and I couldn’t tap it to get it where I needed it is laughable. Kind of like the Uncle Fester haircut I used to get as a kid. Another sour note is that there were plenty of times where I’d jump up and for some reason not grab a ledge or body that I was so clearly where I needed to be to do so. Not a big deal a few times, but when it happens on a regular basis, it’s really noticeable. And finally, in the same vein as not grabbing ledges, when it came time to jump into something and it didn’t activate, even though you clearly see your knight touching the area it needs was a bummer, too. As I said earlier, you learn to cope with these issues, but a better tactic would have been to not have to cope at all.
At the end of the game, we play through a final boss battle that actually feels right on par with everything we’ve seen so far in the adventure, even though it’s the only boss battle in the game. As in another previous review (Cheap Plug: The Sequel), I wish the Organic Panic! team would have partnered up with the lads from Life Goes On: Done to Death for their final boss battle. Same general premise, but the execution is vastly different. It really works here and is a pretty fun level as well. Great job, guys. Oh, and the same with your credits sequence. It was fun to go through. Even if there was “no secret message” to be found…
While Life Goes On: Done to Death has already seen a release on PC simply as Life Goes On, the remastering/adding-on/whatever you want to call it has done a fantastic job of giving us more of what worked. This is the first time the console market has seen any incarnation, and I’m really glad we got it. Any puzzle game fan will find a game to enjoy here, especially if you have any affinity for puzzle-platformers. And if you already owned this on Steam, well, you get the upgrade for free. How could you not like that?
Oh, and Jeff. He’s cute.
Life Goes On: Done to Death is available now on Steam and PlayStation 4 for $12.99, but with a 25% off discount until May 24, 2016. A code was provided by Infinite Monkeys Entertainment for the purpose of this review.