Finished Space Tail: Every Journey Leads Home
(Enjoy Studio / Longterm Games, 2022)
I learned about this game in some thread on this forum, but for the life of me I cannot find the actual post (or my reply to it)
It is a 2D puzzle platformer
with a couple of features that makes it stand out in the sea of indie puzzle platformers out there:
- The player character is an actual dog, walking on four legs
- You communicate with NPCs using dog body-language
- You navigate the levels using visual approximations of senses: Smell (colored lines) guides you towards near objectives and extras, hearing (colored blips on the edge of the screen) alerts you of enemies and distant objectives, and sight lets you see through walls and detect electrical connections between switches and objects such as enemy turrets, doors, traps, etc.
All of this comes with a story that quickly reveals a universe with a surprisingly deep lore, lush visuals
that combine inspirations from European visual novels as well as other games with colorful and rich level designs such as the Ori games and a grandiose cinematic soundtrack
There's a couple of flaws
however that keep this game from truly shining:
The player character controls in a very old-school fashion
- there's almost no inertia to its movement at all, and you can (and are expected to) change direction mid-jump in mid-air a lot. It's fine once you get used to it, but it feels out of step with the rest of the game - enemy projectiles and objects all have pretty convincing physics properties, against which the player character's movements just seem jarring. This unnatural movement also clashes with the great and detailed character animation
which works great as long as you move in a realistic way and then completely doesn't as soon as you're required to do any actual platforming.
The feature of communicating with NPCs
in order to change their mood so they will become neutral or even allies to you seems like a stroke of genius at first, but it turns out it is really only a very simple mini-game
where you have to push a dot into one of eight directions and you have to figure out which way the axes along which it responds to your inputs (on the dog-body language selection wheel) are flipped. The story or level context of the NPC does not matter at all. So the most intriguing feature on paper turns into the most videogamey one in practice.
Then there's the very clunky English translation
of this game, which the game's narrator voice actor tries to deliver as best as he can, but ultimately could not save from taking me out of the story every time.
And finally, the difficulty curve of the game turns into a veritable staircase with a bunch of steps missing towards the end
, leading to the one thing that probably nobody who initially falls in love with this very cute and quite wholesome doggo-based platformer was waiting for or expecting: Seeing the cute doggo die over and over and over with a pitiful "yelp".
So it's unfortunately not the best indie platformer out there that nobody's heard about or played (at the time of writing this post, it has all of 34 reviews on Steam after more than six months since its release) - it's a diamond in the rough.
But it's still probably the best four-legged dog platformer out there by a large margin. There's a free playable demo
called Space Tail: Lost in the Sands on Steam, in case you want to give this good girl some test walkies.