Some of you may remember a time when I commented that a good game can be ruined by a broken control system. Well, it turns out that a good control system can’t save a game from being frustrating, not even when helped along by nice graphics and a sinister atmosphere.
This game doesn’t want for production values. Opening with a creepy little story of genetic engineering, the game sees you controlling a betentacled micro-organism, squirming your way through a mad doctor’s internals in the attempt to survive. This world is well realised, with body parts contracting and pulsating in a suitably grotesque manner, and inhabited by unpleasant little creatures and hazards for you to avoid.
The control system is also perfectly designed for a touch screen: your character has three tentacles with which to move, and a single grabbing claw for attacking enemies. Tapping on the environment launches a tentacle in that direction, with each consecutive tap moving a different limb in sequence. Using this control system you latch one tentacle after another to parts of the environment in order to pull yourself along, a wonderfully tactile and satisfying experience. Tapping on enemies, meanwhile, launches your claw at them, wrenching out their eyes in a disgusting manner.
Thanks to your tentacle-based movement, and the fact that you’re passing through a person’s internals, there is no gravity to speak of: if attached to nothing, you will simply float. The world is constantly twisting around, so ideas of up and down become irrelevant: this is a platformer unlike any other.
As mentioned already, there are other organisms floating around that you have to deal with, but they aren’t the only threat. The good doctor’s body is littered with danger: some of the walls of his internal systems have spikes and teeth, others explosive sacs and biting parasites. While there is no gravity, many areas have strong currents passing through them, making manoeuvring hazardous at best. And then there are dangers that the doctor inflicts on you purposefully, such as onrushing tides of green chemicals designed to flush you out of his system.
Being an Xbox Live title there are achievements, and most of them are exactly that, offering a real challenge. As do the levels: each has three goals: collect all the pickups, complete the level without dying, and complete the challenge – an area each level has with a single goal, such as passing through it without taking damage, or before a timer runs out.
All in all, the makings of a good platformer, or so you might think.
The problem is that this game is just too fiddly, just too frustrating. Some people will get a kick out of this, I’m sure – and more power to them. If you’re a big fan of uncompromising, punishing finesse-based games then this is likely to be right up your street. Unfortunately, I am not that sort of player. I can cope with games that demand pixel-perfect platforming tied in to precise control systems – games like VVVVVV, and Super Meat Boy. Tentacles is not a game like this.
Tentacles’s control system is wonderful, but not geared towards precision, not in this manner. The stretchy, floppy tentacles that give the title its name handle as you might expect: in a loose, difficult to control way. Currents will buffet your character, pushing them around even when anchored – combine this with narrow corridors and dangerous obstacles, and you have a frustrating piece of core gameplay on your hands. Still, this isn’t too bad – with a bit of care and attention these sections are completely navigable.
What proved too much for me, however, are the frequent sections against some sort of clock, where you have to navigate through narrow corridors at speed. These sections wouldn’t be too bad but for the overactive camera, which likes to change its focus and rotate around the map with glee, leaving you disoriented. Combined with the rapid-fire tapping needed to keep your speed up, and you have a recipe for frustration and thumb-pain. After a certain point in the game I just had to stop playing – it had just become to annoying, too stressful for me to continue.
I am clearly in a minority here, however. The game has received rave reviews from a variety of sources, so I can only assume that many people will enjoy this game. If you can cope with fast-paced, imprecise platforming, and like to be punished for your mistakes, then this is a game for you. However, know that this is not a game for the easily frustrated. If in doubt, give the demo a go: £3.99 is a lot to throw away on a game that could drive you crazy.
Tentacles xBox Live Achievements
- Play it Safe (10 points): Complete a level without taking any damage.
- Shell Out (10 points): Kill Mama Amygdala.
- Slice N’ Dice (15 points): Defeat Papa Cerebellum.
- Artful Dodger (5 points): Complete a “No Damage” challenge.
- Eye for an Eye (10 points): Kill the King of the spleen.
- Slay Away (10 points): Eat 5 eyes super fast!.
- Eye Candy (15 points): Take over the prefrontal cortex.
- Pickup Truck (10 points): Collect all pickups in the game.
- Jack the Ripper (5 points): Rip out an eye.
- Napoleon (20 points): Get 3 stars on all levels.
- Worm Eater (5 points): Defeat the Queen of the Colon.
- Soupe a’la Turtle (5 points): Kill a Turtlepooule.
- Speed Devil (5 points): Complete a time challenge.
- The Small Escape (10 points): Escape Dr. Phluff’s acid attack.
- In a Nut Shell (15 points): Take over the duodenum.
- Tentaculous (20 points): Complete the game.
- When I Say Jump (10 points): Complete all challenges.
- Mr. Immortal (10 points): Complete all levels without dying.
- Perfection (5 points): Make a perfect run.
- Limbo (5 points): Complete a level without collecting any pickups at all.
Tentacles Gameplay Video
Version Under Review : 188.8.131.52
There is a trial version available and the full version is available for $4.99, we are not sure what are the limitations of the trial version.
Our Rating for Tentacles