by Joe Matar1
Incredibly Inventive Indie
With the popularity of open-world titles, much of modern gaming subscribes to the notion that more is more, losing sight of the fact that a game anchored around one core, refined mechanic can be far more rewarding. Happily, Incredipede recognizes this. Hinged on the idea of controlling a creature that can have any number of limbs protruding from it and any number of muscles to control those limbs, from level to level this physics-based puzzle game introduces new and creative uses of its one fundamental gameplay element.
You control Quozzle, a female incredipede, which is essentially just a circle with an eyeball on it. However, as mentioned, Quozzle can grow legs from any part of her body and legs that branch off from other legs. Muscles can be placed on any leg to make it rotate one way or the other. Control of these muscles (and thereby the legs) is attributed to either two buttons on the bottom-left side of the screen, or two buttons on the bottom-right.
Incredipede does a phenomenal job of gradually introducing new elements that build upon its core concept. For the entire first world of 19 levels, all your muscles are only controlled with the two buttons on the left so that all your legs rotate in unison. Later on, you get a second set of inputs, forcing you to figure out how to get two independently-controlled sets of muscles to work in tandem. Each of the levels can technically be completed by simply making your way to a shaft of light to the right side. However, the only way to progress through the game’s three worlds is by collecting a certain number of items (apples, headdresses, and crystal skulls among other things) and these items are always harder to reach than the exit. Furthermore, while Quozzle can pick up some items by touching them, others must be rolled, flung, or carried to the exit.
In every one of the levels on normal difficulty, Quozzle starts out with a different number and configuration of limbs. In one, she’s against the ground with appendages in an inverted-V shape protruding behind her. In this case, you must rhythmically move the muscles to inch along like a worm. In another, a hook shaped limb suspends Quozzle from the ground. You must swing to grab an item to the left, then swing right to the exit. Some levels contain bodies of water to dive and swim around in. Others contain pools of lava that must be avoided or sometimes used to burn off legs to fit into a smaller space. Others still have wind currents that allow Quozzle to glide around, using her limbs like wings.
The levels are small, but the game is in no way short on content. Hard mode varies things up a lot by changing the focus from controlling developer-crafted creatures to presenting you with your own blank-slate Quozzle and asking you to build her however you see fit to complete the stage. Furthermore, there’s a sandbox mode that allows you to construct your own levels and creatures. It’s really simple to upload your creatures and levels online and connect to a server full of other players’ creations. This makes for endless creature constructions and level layouts.
Obviously the gameplay is the star here, but the graphics are great, too. Though Quozzle happens to be a cyclops (seemingly a trend for indie game characters), nothing else about Incredipede’s appearance is conventional. The graphics emulate the style of a woodcut with thick outlines and vibrant colors. The animation also looks perfect. Watching how the physics affect Quozzle’s various bodies as she scrunches up, spreads out, and flails about is alternatively amusing and creepy. Another lovely little detail is that her eye actually reacts to situations, closing in satisfaction when she grabs an item or peering downward when she’s near a cliff’s edge. The sound effects, which are mostly of limbs thrashing about on the ground, always sound appropriate. The music isn’t bad, but there’s barely more than one track of tribal-esque music that pipes in periodically. It serves its purpose of being pleasant and unobtrusive.
Incredipede’s problems are blissfully minor. The core problem for me was the game’s tendency to attempt to reorient the screen due to minor movements of my phone, making everything sporadically flip upside-down. This gradually happened less frequently, so it’s hardly game-breaking, but can hopefully be patched. Beyond that, the menus aren’t too intuitively designed. It took me a while, for example, to remember that tapping “go back” in the pause menu, took me back to the main menu, while an “X” in the corner resumed the game, and not vice versa.
Seeing Quozzle’s new shape on each level and discovering how to control it each time makes Incredipede fun and surprising from start to finish. That you can make your own creatures and levels to share online only extends the game’s longevity. Aside from some minor technical and interface issues, Incredipede builds upon its singular focus to deliver a solid, creative, fun, and rewarding puzzle experience.
Is it Hardcore?
Summary: Some unclear menu design and minor technical issues aside, Incredipede is a great puzzle title built on a wonderfully inventive mechanic. And with the ability to make your own levels and creatures, you can pretty much play it forever.