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The Impossible Game (PSP) artwork

The Impossible Game (PSP) review

"The Impossible Game almost feels like a social experiment. How far will you go? "

The Impossible Game. Is it impossible? The answer is no. It quickly becomes apparent that the game is humanly possible to beat. And that's what makes it so intriguing.

The Impossible Game is a runner game along the lines of Canabalt and Bit.Trip Runner. It's not an infinite runner like Canabalt, but features beatable levels like Bit.Trip Runner. You play as a square navigating levels made up of a solid color background and square and triangle shaped obstacles. Very simple yet sharp and functional graphics. You press X to jump over obstacles as you constantly move forward at a steady pace. The player never controls the square's movement, only it's jumping. Holding X makes the square jump again instantly as soon as it hits the ground. You can hold X down in this way to continually jump.

There are only 5 levels, and there are two modes in which to play them. You always start in normal mode. In this mode, if you die, you instantly restart the whole level no matter how far into it you were. Pressing R1 while in this mode drops a checkpoint flag and switches you over to practice mode. In practice mode, you will always re-spawn at the last flag you dropped, and you can drop another flag anytime you want anywhere in the level. Using practice mode to checkpoint your way through the game is a good way to get a lay of the land for your run in normal mode. Beating the game in practice mode only takes an hour or two.

If you venture into serious normal mode play, you'll find a lot of interesting differences from practice mode. First off, practice mode has it's own low-key music that isn't anything special. But each level in normal mode features an absolutely wonderful, high-energy electronic track that is synced up to the onscreen action in some wonderful ways. The soundtrack is really special. Most of the tracks start off simple and build up to a bursting point of sound somewhere in the first half of the level. Form there the songs go up and down in energy until reaching an almost unbearable level of heart pounding intensity by the end. The music adds so much to the gameplay here. It's pretty remarkable. I'm a fan of electronic music, and what I hear here isn't the style of electronic music I usually go for. It's a little more “dancey” than I usually like. But while it's dancey, it's not dance club music, which I really don't like. It's much better than that and works perfectly here. Great stuff.

You'll also find that normal mode requires some real skill and subtlety in the way you make that square jump around. In practice mode, you can hammer your way through tough spots without really understanding what you need to do. But in normal mode, you'll see that the game is not at all as rigid as it looks. It's a bit hard to explain. Because many of the obstacles (and the player avatar) are squares, it at first feels as if you can either be jumping or not jumping in any given square sized chunk of the level. On or off, like binary. In reality, the game's levels are totally analog. You can jump in the middle of the square, or even in the last quarter of a square, as if it was any normal platformer. And many of the obstacles require you to purposely execute that type of granularity. For example, the game trains you in early levels to always jump at the very last second to get over a group of 3 triangles. But then it will throw a set of 3 triangles at you that requires you to jump a few milliseconds before that. If you jump at the very last second like you've been doing, you will hit the next obstacle when you land. You'll also find that there is a big difference between manually pressing X every time you need to jump and holding down X to jump continually, and you'll have to figure out which parts of the level require which types of jumping. And since you will be doing the whole 2 minute long level at once, you'll have to memorize every square inch of the entire thing. Anything less than doing exactly what you need to do means an instant death and re-spawn as the number of attempts the game counts for you steadily creeps up to disturbing heights.

Levels in The Impossible Game typically each have their own gimmick. There are only a few, so I won't spoil them for you, but they drastically alter the way you view and play the game and help to mix things up quite a bit. You'll need to master when and how to jump and not jump in the same general way in each level, but visually and perceptionally you'll be doing some different things to make that happen. It's quite brain-bending in some cases.

So how far did I get The Impossible Game? I beat it in practice mode and then had a lot of fun with normal mode. Several hours, 1-2 thousand attempts, and 50,000 + jumps later, I called it quits at 91% into the third level. The first level took me a couple hundred attempts to beat and was a blast to work through. The second level is pretty easy. The third level ups the difficulty drastically. I played it about a half-hour at a time for weeks. Finally, I decided to use practice mode to see how much further I had to go. It wasn't far, but it included several horribly specific jumps. I calculated that I was looking at several more hours of practicing left before beating it, and I decided to call it a day.

The Impossible Game almost feels like a social experiment. How far will you go? How long will you keep playing? Are you dedicated enough to beat the whole game? I am something of a gaming completionist, and I'd love to say that I beat the whole game. But the game's title almost gives you permission to quit after you've had your fun, and as someone who's stuck it out with some other really hard games, I found it quite relieving to quit this one. And because of the tight gameplay, great visual style, and stellar music, I had a blast along the way.

If you're a fan of runner games like I am you owe it to yourself to try The Impossible Game. Not only is it a fun runner, it's also a bit of a psych test, and a test of your gaming mettle. How far will you go until you quit? Let me know how far you got in comments/forum section. The Impossible Game is a 4 out of 5.


Robotic_Attack's avatar
Community review by Robotic_Attack (September 12, 2015)

Robotic Attack reviews every game he plays... almost.

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