You Have No Legs
You Have No Legs. Well, presumably you do, but Jack, the protagonist of this unusual little sorta-platformer inspired by Super Metroid, does not. Which means that when he finds himself trapped after a cave-in, the lone survivor of an expedition, finding his way out is going to be a lot harder than it might otherwise be. The game was created by Nagnazul in a month for Something Awful's Game Development Challenge 5 and took home first prize. The question is, is the game's creativity and challenge enough to make up for some potentially frustrating gameplay and physics issues?
Since Jack can only use his hands, you have to find other ways around obstacles; click and hold on something, then push or pull the mouse to move Jack around. Throughout the caverns, Jack will find artifacts that grant him special abilities to make his progress easier, such as bracers that increase his strength, or an enchanted necklace that removes the wearer's fear. As you play, keep an eye out for pools of water, since each one saves your game and is where you'll respawn if you die. While things like stone spikes or hot ground only damage Jack a little, other obstacles can be instantly fatal, so you'll want to rush into a watery embrace whenever you have the chance.
Analysis: You Have No Legs was an odd game to play, and one that had me genuinely surprised when I glanced at the clock to see how much time had passed. Although it doesn't quite recapture that sense of bigness that was a feature of Super Metroid and drove players to obsessively search every nook and cranny, exploring the caverns is still fun and interesting, and unlocking new areas by acquiring the various powerups is satisfying. The visuals actually have a weird appeal to them, due in part to the choice in setting, but you might end up wishing there was a bit more variation in scenery after you've hauled yourself through Generic Corridor #54. Of course, for a game created in a month, it's still remarkably well put together.
The problem is not all of the challenge comes from our hero's physical capabilities. The physics at work are, as we here at JiG scientifically call them, rather floaty. Maneuvering Jack into position to grab overhead ledges can be tedious, especially since Jack doesn't really move through the air like any normal being, unless the air happens to be made of heavy molasses, and this can be both blessing and curse. On the one hand, it makes climbing a bit easier when you have an extra second to grab on to something. On the other hand, it can be frustratingly difficult to figure out how the game is going to react when you're trying to throw yourself over gaps or hazards. It's hard to develop any sort of finesse with the controls when it feels like they're fighting you every step of the way. The game is pretty generous with its save points, but that doesn't necessarily take the sting out of that umpteenth spa bath in searing lava you just took.
Making a differently-abled hero is a challenge, to say the least; just because gameplay is accurate doesn't mean it'll necessarily be fun, and this one definitely has its trying moments. Still, just because it's hard doesn't mean it shouldn't be done, and just because You Have No Legs is occasionally frustrating enough to make you want to chew your fingers off doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try. (They're only fingers... how many do you really need anyway?) With more time and polish outside the contest time constraints it might have been even better, but as it is it's still pretty good, and easily one of the more inventive platformers out there, and is practically begging for a more in-depth followup.