Do Not Fall Review
The title says it all. The entire purpose of the game is summed up nicely in those three little words: Do Not Fall. It has a cutesy, attractive charm but at the same time, it demands quick thinking, fast reflexes, and a calm, cool approach that has no trace of panic. A bunch of colorful, themed platforms are hanging in the sky, and you must carefully traverse them if you wish to obtain a variety of rare, tasty liquids. It’s a little bizarre but as you might expect, the focus of this PSN exclusive is squarely on the gameplay.
Graphically, it’s difficult not to smile when checking out Do Not Fall. There’s a certain whimsy; it projects a singular childlike exuberance, and that translates to enthusiasm on the part of the player. The main character is a pink rabbit of some kind, with long ears and – unsurprisingly – a penchant for jumping. The backdrops aren’t particularly detailed, but the amount of creativity that’s on display is appreciated. I loved the theme-based levels because it kept the admittedly repetitive gameplay fresh, and offered a bit more in the way of eye candy. It’s one of those visual presentations that works but doesn’t necessarily impress.
The sound design isn’t much different, in that it fits the style but doesn’t excel in any particular area. There isn’t much in the way of voice acting, as the performances are mostly limited to a few cutesy gasps and cries. The soundtrack matches the game’s obvious charm step for step, and you won’t be hearing the exact same pieces over and over. More could’ve been done with the soundtrack, though, and the effects leave a little something to be desired. It’s clear that the majority of development effort went toward the borderline ingenious level design, which makes sense, even if the technical elements are somewhat lacking.
A bunch of tiles that look suspiciously like Lego bricks, a character that looks like a slimmer version of the bunny dude in Jumpin’ Jack Flash, and a series of 80 stages that feature multiple themes and increasingly difficult challenges; this is Do Not Fall. The goal is to find the necessary keys, gather up money and collectibles, and reach the exit without falling to your imminent – though still oddly cute – demise. The levels in question must be traversed with a cool head and a steady hand, but you must also move quickly. There are only a few solid pieces that you can stand on forever; most crumble away quickly after stepping on them.
This results in a strategic form of fast-paced gameplay that constantly requires a roving eye. In other words, you always have to look ahead (and around) to see where you can go next. And as you must also collect what you need to complete the level, you’re basically looking for multiple things at once: You need to ascertain the nature of the level layout, you need to find necessary items, and you must do it all without backtracking too much. Backtracking means returning to tiles that are no longer there and yeah, that’s sort of an issue. Move fast, but move smartly.
You can jump and dash; the latter is used to smash through various obstacles and the occasional enemy, while the jump is obvious. However, while you can jump whenever you like, the dash uses up energy. This is denoted by a meter above the character’s head; if the bar is depleted you won’t be able to dash. I’m not entirely sure why this mechanic exists, though… Thing is, it would make sense if there was any benefit to dashing all over the place, but the dash is only beneficial at certain times. So what if I can use it whenever I want? I just think limiting that move is an odd and unnecessary design choice, that’s all.
Still, I understand the principle behind it. Clearly, the developers wanted to make the game plenty challenging, and not having the dash available at all times does force you to think twice. Plus, they do a good job of throwing other things at you. These are not designed to be frustrating or irritating; they exist to push you, to knock you out of your comfort zone. There’s a bull that might rush you out of nowhere, or you will encounter one of many enemies in each of the themed worlds. There are deadly ladybugs and crazed snowmen, for instance, and they all add flavor to a game where, for all intents and purposes, you’re just moving and jumping.
Oh, and let’s not forget that, for extra fun, there’s a timer that forces you to keep moving. This is so you won’t get too comfortable on those rare solid tiles. Personally, I despise being timed in any game so this was a sticking point for me; however, I understand the reason for its inclusion, and it makes sense. Then again, returning to my previous point about hazards that aren’t necessarily irritating, I have to admit that this game gets a tad too insane for my tastes. They start throwing too many things at you at once in the later levels, and they never let you off the hook.
Those who adore a challenge will embrace this, but not everyone is a fan of always being forced down the most difficult path imaginable. The good news is that if you persevere, you’ll get that old-fashioned sense of rewarding fulfillment that old-school gamers once cherished. On top of which, there are many reasons to repeat certain levels, as special challenges often beckon. You may have to face every adversary on a level, or destroy every breakable object. Features like this are essential, because they keep our mind from returning to the fact that yes, it’s basically just…moving and jumping, as I said before.
There are some upgrades to purchase that will let you increase your movement speed, for example, and you can also purchase alternate characters that you will find during your travels. You can also play with up to three friends in a variety of multiplayer modes, some of which feature original objectives you won’t find in the single-player campaign. You can also work cooperatively to tackle certain challenges and complete levels, so this isn’t merely a tacked-on feature. It really helps to broaden the experience and adds a lot more content. After you factor in those 80 levels and the inherent challenge, you’re bound to get some bang for your buck.
Do Not Fall can be frustrating, especially during later levels, and I did have a few small issues with the somewhat floaty control. Despite the nice additions, it also feels repetitive, which may be unavoidable. However, there’s lots to like: There’s plenty of content, the strategic, fast-paced platforming is compelling and addictive, many of the obstacles and hazards are imaginative and nicely balanced, and the multiplayer is a really solid enhancement. You also have to love that vibrant, charismatic exterior. It’s not the best downloadable game you will ever play, but it’s great for passing the time on a rainy day.
The Good: Great level design and very creative themes. Special challenges and upgrades/unlockables add variety and replay value. Multiplayer offers a fresh perspective. Can be very rewarding. Plenty of content.
The Bad: Technicals aren’t especially impressive. Control can feel a little drifty. Gameplay gets repetitive and frustrating over time.
The Ugly: “All right, now they’re just throwing everything but the kitchen sink at me and I’m sick of fu*&^)$ falling all the time.”
8/20/2013 Ben Dutka