Top Ten Platformers…with a twist – Part 2

Well, here we are again. Part two of our Top Ten with a twist. Here’s five more games for you to absorb. Writers this week include; Scott Munro, Lewis Denby, Me, Sam Morris and Barry White. Enjoy, you lucky people!

Knytt Stories – PC

Scott Munro – Journalist – Kilted Moose


From the subterranean treasure collecting of Manic Miner on the humble ZX Spectrum, to the crayon-daubed beauty of the Super Nintendo’s Yoshi’s Island, I’ve spent the past 25 years indulging my passion for platform games.

However, it’s Nicklas Nygren’s magnificent Knytt Stories on PC which holds a special place in my heart.
Nifflas – as he’s better known – has produced several wonderful games, such as Within A Deep Forest, but it’s Knytt Stories which transcends the others with its simple play mechanics, attention to detail and spellbinding atmosphere.

To merely call the game a platformer would be doing Knytt Stories a great disservice, however. While it is true your character performs standard platform moves and learns new abilities as progress is made, Knytt Stories is there to be savoured, not rushed through.


You see, the real draw of the game is in the remarkable and beautiful atmosphere it evokes. Exploration is part of the fun, and you will want to explore every nook and crannie in the hope of finding a new shiny bauble to enhance your character’s abilities.

Visually, the game is simple, but full of charm. Cheery villages and verdant forests give way to dank passageways and cavernous chambers, while soothing acoustic strings, chilled-out electronic soundscapes and the gentle sound of falling rain wash over the player, bringing to life the stylised visuals.
While the game won’t last long, dozens of new player-created levels are available to download to extend the experience, each one bringing a new take of Nifflas’s vision.

It may not be one of the most recognisable platformers ever made, indeed, many will never have had the joy of experiencing Nifflas’s masterpiece.
However, it’s free to download, so there’s really no excuse not to give it a go. It even manages to eclipse the darling of the indie scene, the mighty Cave Story.

In a console generation where smaller developers are being encouraged to show off their wares via downloadable services, wouldn’t it be nice if either Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo were to take a chance on this wonderful title, thus bringing it to a new, larger market.
We can but dream.

Braid – 360, PC

Lewis Denby – Freelancer – Resolution Magazine (and about a thousand others)


Braid is wonderful.

It’s wonderful for a whole host of reasons. There’s the much-touted – and baited – depth to its story, which is probably one of the most obvious things about it. It’s a game about a man searching for his lost love. It’s a game about the atomic bomb. It’s a game about the videogame itself. But none of it is ever too mysterious. Leaving the big reveal to the end works wonders. It’s like a modern day fable. You don’t learn the moral until the end, and when you do, it has all the more effect for your wait.

It also ties its story so wonderfully into your actions within the game that I almost want it to go even further. I don’t know how that would be possible, but there are a couple of occasions where the link’s… well, not /breaking/, but straining a little. It doesn’t matter, though. It’s a game about regret, and wanting to change the past and shape the future. What better method through which to tell such a story than evolutionary time-shifting mechanics? That’s a slice of genius in itself.

It’s wonderful because of how utterly beautiful it looks and sounds. Its distinctive, hand-painted style always did strike a real chord with me, and the music flows beautifully with the theme of each individual area. When time first reversed, and the music did too, I think I let out a little squee. It’s that sort of attention to aesthetic detail that lifts Braid up even higher.


It’s superlative as a platformer because, well, it’s not /really/ a platformer. I mean, it is – in one sense, it’s totally a platformer, riffing entirely off Mario and assorted others and providing a clever spin. But really, instead of just running and jumping, it’s about careful planning, about lateral thinking and environmental observations. It’s about learning to work within the template provided; about understanding your limits and how to play within them. That in itself is a brave move in a genre so commonly associated with carefree gaming.

Honestly, though? The real reason Braid is so wonderful is just the default on. As in, there’s nothing actually wrong with it.

Oh, a couple of the puzzles grate a bit compared to others. And yeah, it’s quite short. Some might say it’s pretentious, but they’d be being the worst people in the world (“pretentious” is an ugly, cowardly word, in its most common usage). But if you really take the time to think about things that are actually /wrong/ with Braid, as opposed to just things you didn’t like about it… well, I’d be really interested to hear what people would come up with. I don’t think I could name one actual problem.

It’s a masterfully crafted game, one that knows exactly what it’s set about to achieve. It understands the genre it’s evolving. It fully comprehends the effect it’s having. Every single element of Braid is in place for a carefully considered reason, one that contributes towards its ultimate messages – be they about love, regret, obsession, evil or the nature of the medium within which this glorious work has been created.

Braid is wonderful. If I didn’t need some sleep, I’d totally be heading off to play it right now.

Super Mario Bros 2 – NES

Daniel Lipscombe – Editor of Hi-Score and Freelancer – This very site


If anyone said to me, hypothetically of course, that they want me to choose ONE Mario game for them to play it would be a tough choice. In terms of adventure and game mechanics I’d have to side with Mario 3. In terms of breaking barriers and marketing Mario to a wide audience whilst delivering superb platforming, Super Mario World would be the one. So why oh why would I want to say Mario Bros 2 for the NES?

As a child I spent a lot of time playing Mario 2, I’d loved the original side scrolling platformer and Mario was becoming a favourite of mine. However the second game in the series would defy all logic and flip the series on its head. Changing the standard jump on a head to pop the baddie to picking them up and throwing them around. We were given new characters to play with, namely Toad and Princess Toadstool, each of the characters had a graphics overhaul and featured great detail.

It was in these new characters where the game mechanic of jumping on enemies changed, each character had different play styles. Mario was an all rounder, Luigi could jump the highest, Toad was the fastest and Princess would float through the air. Princess was my favourite as a child, mainly because she made the game slightly easier for my little hands. But it wasn’t just the characters that changed the game so to say.


We still had themed levels but now they had plants to pull up and use as projectiles, 1up blocks from the first Mario Bros reappeared to shake the ground of enemies and all drainpipes were removed in favour of tall vases. Of course you also had the shadow world in which you entered via magic potions smashed on the floor, in this world you would collect your coins (gambled in slot machines at the end of each level) and use mushrooms to gain sections on your energy bar.

All of this of course is drastically different to the first NES game. I think this is why it appeals to me so much, it’s the black sheep of the family, the bastard child that should be standing in the corner but instead stands proud. With a radical art style and bosses that seem to have walked in from the end boss reject society, it’s a wonder anybody likes this iteration of Mario. – But there is a reason.

Charm, you have no choice but to smile coyly at the mention of Super Mario Bros 2. It dared to be different; Nintendo slapped your face and pulled the rug from under you. It’s all so pleasant and lovely, a wonderland of bizarre creatures, a true adventure. So if that person ever asks, to hell with convention, I’d say Super Mario Bros 2.

PixelJunk Eden – PSN/PS3

Sam Morris – Writer – Nidzumi


In Modern times the Garden of Eden is looked upon either as a metaphor that symbolises God’s love or an idealistic view of Paradise. This game wasn’t brought to you by Criterion though, rather a smaller bunch of developers known as Q-Games. The didn’t conjure up this masterpiece within seven days but they’ve definitely created something that could be likened to the work of… Actually let’s cut the biblical references and hyperbole. Pixeljunk Eden is just a brilliant experience.

One second within a level though and you’ll realise you aren’t playing a game you are having an experience. Mainly one brought about by Baiyon who designed the visuals and especially the audio for Eden.

Well-sustained calming synths play over a calm menu that mimics the in-level experience its self. Don’t get too comfortable though. The soft appeasing sounds are suddenly broken when you enter a level. It starts with kick drum and then soon the initially simplistic audio builds along with the volume, stage and challenge.
That’s kind of a mantra that the whole game follows, evolution.

The levels start off simple, almost barren, until you sprout the first seed. Soon you are climbing up and growing more platforms until you reach your goal. These aren’t just throwaway rectangular platforms however, as from each seed grows an underwater-plant inspired ladder that realistically sways and moves as it reacts to the wind and your movement.


You would be forgiven for feeling underwhelmed after the first few stages as they strictly stick to these basics. They are simplistic, calming, learning areas, tutorials if you will. They let you feel comfortable with the controls and the swing mechanic without beating you over the head with pop up messages and childishly voiced training exercises. The reason they don’t need to do this because Eden is so instinctive and rewarding for curious minds that it doesn’t have to. Either that or they thought maybe we should actually treat people as an adult playing a platformer for the first time since… well ever.

Once you’ve gotten to grips with the basic premise of collecting pollen to fill seeds, which allow you to collect the seldom seen Spectra, you are ready to evolve. Or at least the game is ready to evolve with you. Moving platforms, transporting holes, switches, wind, gravity and anti-gravity make up just a few of the game changing alterations you’ll encounter. It keeps the game moving and gives each stage it’s own unique premise that you’ll want to rush ahead to experience.

Experience along with evolution must have been the first two words on the white board for this one. The truth is that they’ve nailed both of them to a tee.

You simply won’t play a platformer like Pixeljunk Eden for a long time. One that treats you as an adult, one that let’s you learn in your own time, one that evolves in new and interesting ways. But more importantly, Pixeljunk is one platformer that indulges you with a unique experience built upon instinctive familiarity.

That’s why I love Pixeljunk Eden. And I didn’t say audiovisual once…

Bionic Commando Rearmed – 360, PS3

Barry White – Freelancer – Creeds Blog

(which looks strangely familiar, hehe)


People complain that this game is too hard. Rubbish. It only appears hard to anyone not lucky enough to have played the original Bionic Commando on the NES back in the day. Now there was a hard game – ruthless, unforgiving and at times totally unintelligible. I owned it and I hated it. Compared to Super Mario Bros., which was about the only other game I had, it was a horrible trial and error mess where the slightest mistake would see you dead and your progress reset. It frustrated me for months. The game would kill you without hesitation and it acted like it didn’t ever want to see you to succeed. Rearmed has no truck with than attitude, managing to be one hundred percent less horrible than its predecessor.

As a nostalgia piece, it’s impeccably put together. Your magic extend-o-arm is still your weapon of choice, able to take out enemies and grab power ups as well as fling you about levels. The wonderfully muddled communiques are still present, as are the tactical map progression and (still) slightly pointless ground engagements mid-transit. The new tweaks like puzzle-based hacking slot seamlessly in, giving the whole package a much needed modern twist. It’s still big and bold and unashamedly silly mind, and it’s an excellent blueprint to follow for any modern adaptation of an older game – the important bits are preserved and polish, the rest ripped out and replaced with buckets of HD sheen and a thumping modern soundtrack. It was a joy to play and I still rave about it to anyone who gives me a chance.


But I love it for the co-op. In one fantastic weekend the girlfriend and I sat down and absolutely blitzed through BC:R with callous disregard for anything else that might have been going on. I’d always struggled to find games that we could play together, and had great success with Team Fortress 2, but when it came to games that we could both enjoy while sitting on the couch together there were precious few options at the time. Rearmed was the perfect solution: once you got past the characterful idiosyncracies (no jump button, for a start, which inexplicably infuriates some people), it was extremely easy to pick up and play. And it really let you work co-operatively too, with certain enemies and bosses much easier to take on when you worked together. It could be tremendously funny too, with portraits of boss enemies clutching lollipops and recurring awkward exchanges between an enemy commander and his subordinate, all smothered under a massive chunk of cheesy. Oh, and the final boss is a resurrected Hitler in a fighter jet whose head explodes gruesomely when you finish him. Absolutely lovely.

And that’s it, top ten platformers is over. Let us know what you thought of the feature and whether you’d like to see more top tens with ten writers in the future. xx

  1. August 26th, 2009
    Trackback from : More Work! « Creed’s Blog

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