When baking a platformer, there are certain ingredients an enterprising game chef has to include, or else the dough just isn't gonna rise. A world in upheaval is a good place to start, promptly followed by one cup of levels. But make sure to sprinkle in a dash of collectibles into those stages, and you simply must add at least a quart of puzzles for flavor. Now any game chef worth their salt knows that stashed away in every kitchen, in the darkest corner of the darkest cabinet, lies a green bottle, marked by a label that reads "XXX: Yoose At Yur Own Rizzk" with a picture of a freakish smiley face, flashing a lunatic grin of pointed teeth. It's daring you to uncork it, to pour in even the slightest dollop, just to see what happens. Of course, most gourmets aren't going to ever take it out of the cupboard, because it's got X's on the label and they told you not to use it in culinary school, and let's be honest, the thing's kind of scary.
Now imagine that one team of chefs went right for that bottle the minute they walked into the kitchen, sniffed it gingerly as they popped it open, and then proceeded to pour in every last drop. What came out of the oven was Seven, the latest offering from Makibishi Inc.
You're dropped unceremoniously into a world gone absolutely loony. As it turns out, stars are the cogs by which time ticks in this universe, and as fate would have it (as it often does), those stars have been scattered to the ends of the earth. Your avatar, a fearless yellow blockhead, must gather up the missing stars in hopes of setting things right in the world again, or at least as right as things get in that place. Which isn't very right at all.
The arrow keys will navigate your plucky little hero, including the up arrow for jumps. [C] changes the camera perspective by some degrees, and the [H] key provides help via pictorial clues that look like they were scrawled on a bathroom wall. Even those controls are subject to change from level to level, as gravity is reversed, or removed, or taken to Kalamazoo. Your quest will send you careening into the strangest delusions you can imagine, including a couple that you actually can't.
Describing the in-stage objectives is like reading a seven-year-old's bucket list. "And I wanna ride in a hot-air balloon, and slay a dragon, and... and... and I wanna go into space, because space is awesome! Yeah!" The goal in every level is the same, however: procure the star, and you come one step closer to... something. Occasionally, what exactly you're supposed to do to get that star is a little murky, but remember, there's always the [H] key to help you out. If you're truly in a pickle, the levels can be played in any order (with a single exception), so take a break from the dragon to go spelunking, or spacefaring, or wherever else the green bottle takes you.
Analysis: The first thing anyone will notice about this game is the absolute insanity of it all. It's not a malevolent madness, and it's not very frightening either; more of a trickster spirit's irreverence, where you can almost hear the game's tittering laughter every time you misinterpret a puzzle or lose a level yet again. Fortunately, there's no real penalty for death, which is good, because that's something you're going to be doing a lot of.
There's a bit of clumsiness to the platforming, which doesn't seem to be that much of an issue until you arrive at the levels that hinge so sharply on the acrobatics. Your character doesn't always jump when he's supposed to, resulting in that infamous "I SWEAR I hit jump before I walked off that ledge" phenomenon. Also, jumping into a wall will sometimes result in a brief stickiness that half the time can yield a second jump, and half the time won't. Again, these complaints are for the most part insignificant until you hit the platforming-heavy levels, so they shouldn't haunt you for most of the game.
The game wears the trappings of a bigger platformer than it is, like the hooligan trying to get into the R-rated move with a glasses-and-mustache combo. While there's a lengthy intro cutscene and a lively stage select screen, the game feels a bit short once you're done with it. Some of the stages may take you less than a minute to navigate, while others (I'm looking at you, Stage 6) might keep you busy for a while. It all depends on how soon things click, how adroit your fingers are, and how often you make use of the [H] key.
With all that said, the game is wildly entertaining, in the same sort of way that you play with your action figures every once in a while when no one's in the room. (Or is that just me? Man, this is awkward...) It appeals to the inner child in all of us, and not just ANY inner child, I'm talking about the off-the-walls critter who dreamed of becoming either a superhero or a movie star, depending on when the radioactive spider bite happened.
Where does the appeal come from? For one, the art is fantastic, and refined palates will detect aftertastes of the green bottle in more than one place (the moon in Stage 2, for instance). The music and sound might be irritating to some, but I found them just as amusing as the rest of the package. And when it's all said and done, no matter how many times you fall in battle, that indomitable gamer zeal of "Okay, I'm gonna get it this time" spurs you on. Is it because we want to see the end cutscene? (And there IS one.) Do we need to get all the stars to prove something to ourselves, after we didn't get all 120 in Super Mario 64?
If I had to guess, it's the green bottle at work again. It's the whirlwind of delirium that, once it swirls about you, doesn't deposit you back on the ground until you close your browser window. There's something random, and hilarious, and just downright fun about it, and you'll constantly want to see what oddity awaits you around the next corner. Which, in a sense, is really another ingredient that all platformers are supposed to have, but don't always.
So here's hoping that Seven inspires other designers to add just a little bit of the green stuff. I mean, I wouldn't want them to throw the entire bottle in. I hear that's dangerous.