What is love? (Baby don't hurt me.) Love is many things to many people. To some, love is a physical thing, while to others it's an emotional response. Teale Fristoe believes that love is expressed through devotion and makes this point quite succinctly in his new platform adventure, As I Lay Dying, created for Dig Your Own Grave.
Teale and his significant other Christie are on a hiking trip when Teale decides to stop and check out a flower on the edge of a cliff. Teale is a clumsy doofus, so of course he falls off the cliff and dies a horrible death. You, as Christie, must go on an epic quest to return Teale's corpse to his family by using it to solve various puzzles.
Yes, that's seriously what this game is about.
Control Christie with the [W], [A] and [D] keys. Use [S] to pick up and drop objects, including the aforementioned corpse, and use the [Mouse] to throw them around. Both Christie and Teale's corpse have health meters; Christie can take three hits including fall damage, while the corpse is destroyed after it's dealt a certain amount of abuse, including being picked at by pesky ravens and being thrown around by Christie. If either Christie or the corpse runs out of health, you have to restart from your most recent checkpoint or from the beginning of the level.
Thankfully, the remarkably morbid subject matter is handled with as much dark comedy as Fristoe could muster. Christie's response to Teale's death is essentially "aw crap" and there's no heavy-handed drama anywhere to be found. It goes without saying, though, that this is still fairly disturbing for Flash platformer fare and might not be good for the kids.
Anyway, it's up to Christie to get Teale's corpse home because his mother might be upset if it was ruined, so you've got to lug his corpse through ten levels of platform adventure. There are a variety of puzzles to solve, mostly involving managing the integrity of your boyfriend's rotting corpse, but the game never becomes too complex or difficult.
Analysis: As I Lay Dying has one of the genre's more bizarre premises, but what really makes it stand out is how well the premise is integrated with the gameplay. Your worst enemies throughout the game are the ravens that are trying to make a meal out of your pet cadaver and you'll spend a lot of your time fighting them off by throwing rocks at them.
Along with dealing with the black, winged menace, you'll also use a variety of mechanisms to help you play hearse with Teale. The most common are moving platforms that are activated by hitting a switch or by throwing a rock at a nearby electrical box. There are also scales that activate only when weighed down; your erstwhile companion doesn't have any complaints if you use him for this. Again, the game doesn't become too complex, but it's engaging enough to keep the player going.
Things get a little bit repetitive; Christie is slowed considerably while carrying around the corpse, which in turn makes the game feel fairly slow. Checkpoints are available, but dying or losing the corpse still means a fair amount of backtracking. Slightly more checkpoints might have been appreciated, or at least speeding everything up in general.
There are also achievements to earn for a variety of unusual tasks, including following Teale on his faithful cliff dive. This is a fairly short game so there's only five achievements, but the attention to detail is appreciated.
All in all, this is a solid platformer with an unusual enough premise that it's worth a look. Try not to get too bogged down with the morbidity of the proceedings and just enjoy being a cadaver caravan. After all, isn't love unconditional?