A Joyous Indie Experience: The Floor is Jelly
It's sometimes easy to forget that there are games that are not about killing. That they can be transcendental, beautiful and joyous. And then in comes a game like Gravity Ghost, my favorite indie from last year, or alternatively The Floor is Jelly.
For starters, the Floor is Jelly asks an important question; "What if everything you touched was made of jelly?"
The Floor is Jelly is the beautiful love child of Super Meat Boy and Knytt Stories. From Meat Boy, Jelly got its fantastic tutorial levels as well as several of its mechanics. The best tutorial levels are the ones that don't stand out, and in Jelly as well as Meat Boy that means that a new level will casually introduce a concept and then the next level will expand on that concept. It's superb level design, and it doesn't come off as patronizing. There are no screens telling you how to jump. You just jump. But the Floor is Jelly got its temperament from Knytt Stories. Whereas a platformer like Meat Boy is effectively punishment porn (entertaining, but incredibly difficult), Jelly doesn't punish you for dying. It's ambient soundscape makes the experience all the more immersive and almost gentle. As in both games, you have no weapons. No defenses. But you're also not really at risk.
That isn't to say that The Floor is Jelly isn't difficult. There are several moments where I would find myself truly wondering if the level was possible, only to find the solution. The difference I find, is how I feel about the difficulty. In Meat Boy I felt determined to succeed, pushing myself to meet each challenge head on and beat it into the ground. With The Floor is Jelly, I laughed. Dying didn't feel like failure. It felt like a casual mistake, one that I would get around in no time.
The levels are beautifully designed, with the riotous constant movement of jelly. As you walk across a barren landscape, it becomes alive. Alongside the sound, made by Disasterpiece, the game feels like a complete world. Character design is simple, your character could be a distant cousin to the PacMan ghost.
No longer need we look to our walls and our floors and sigh, "How solid! How sadly immalleable! How I wish for a world consisting only of Non-Newtonian fluids!" - Ian Snyder
There are some drawbacks to the game overall. This is clearly designer Ian Snyders' first commercial release. The game drags at certain points, puzzle design is occasionally needlessly complex, and the game glitches.
One day out from release it feels almost dirty to complain about glitches, but occasionally the jelly will interact in ways that don't seem quite right, bending in on themselves in peculiar fashions, sometimes throwing you through walls. No bugs are game breaking, but they are distracting. Level design and concept are incredibly strong, strong enough to ignore these problems, but it is a bit of a drawback.
The Floor is Jelly doesn't overstay its welcome, and continues to be a joy throughout. With an innovative concept, consistent mood, and impressive level design it's a must buy for any indie game lover.