Platformers have always been a weird genre for me. On one hand, I really enjoy good platforming with interesting mechanics including things like combat, secrets, and enemies. On the other hand, a lot of platformers suffer from stale gameplay, boring levels/enemies, or silly concepts that keep the game from being fun. Luckily, Talent Not Included has everything a good platformer can have and more. Sporting interesting levels, tight gameplay, funny writing, bosses that require thought and attention alongside heroes that are fun to play. All of this is wrapped up in an interesting and fairly funny story that is told through a unique method.
Talent Not Included started with three rather bored demons. These demons, being fans of video games and Shakespeare, decided to write a play about video games (which players will experience through playing a video game about a play about a video game, keeping up?). This play gets the attention of a very famous demon critic that chooses to review the game. In the game, this critic provides the end of level rating for all the levels (and might show up sometime in the game). After hiring three unlikely heroes, the demons go on with their play and subject their heroes to some rather harrowing trials.
Our heroes are a warrior (looking for a sick new helmet), a rogue (looking for muscles of her own), and a mage (just looking to meme the best). Let’s go over each one of these individual in order to understand what players can expect. The first 15 levels of Talent Not Included will be taken on by the warrior named Cecile. Our warrior has five hearts and can double jump, stick to walls, wall jump attack with his sword, or perform a dashing attack that moves him quickly to one side. These moves can be used in various combinations that allow players to do awesome stunts such as jump, wall stick, wall jump, dash, second jump, attack. Mastery of these moves (and their interchangeability) is required in order to best all of Cecile’s levels. Up next we have Bonnie, the rogue with her very own special ability taking the place of the warrior’s dash attack, the dodge roll. Bonnie has four hearts and all the same abilities Cecile does except her dodge roll that negates all damage for a short time. This ability can be used on the ground or in the air and is absolutely required if players wish to get any high scores on her levels.
Finally, we have Gundelf, the self-proclaimed memegician (Best. Title. Ever.). Gundelf may only have three hearts, but his attacks are projectiles (that can be aimed), he can glide after he jumps, and his extra ability is a short-range teleport that can be used to get around dangerous obstacles. All of our hero’s abilities will be put to the test in their 15 unique levels, which include 12 normal levels and 3 boss fights. The normal levels have players collecting candies and hearts in order to rack up points while avoiding/defeating enemies and not getting hurt by any traps or dangerous environments. The faster these levels are completed, the bigger the time bonus. Once four of these levels has been completed, a boss battle becomes available and our hero will face off against their unique boss. These encounters become tougher each time and require near perfect play in order to get the best rating. While the game’s levels don’t push many boundaries in new concepts or anything, they do take on the older and more established concepts with a level of precision and care that I did not expect. The levels remain fun throughout the entire game, continuing to introduce different or updated challenges just as soon as the player has gotten comfortable. All of this can even be experienced in Coop if you’ve a friend you’d like to play with. Of course, one huge element of Talent Not Included that makes it feel so wonderful to play is the actual gameplay itself.
All of the game’s well-made levels would be useless if the game didn’t control as tight as it does. Talent Not Included isn’t looking to be the next Super Meat Boy where frustration and consistent failure either ends in one successful run or rage-quitting. In fact, it seems Frima Studio is far more interested in creating a challenging experience that players can learn to conquer without pushing them too hard. It is very clear Talent Not Included was cared for throughout development. You can see it in how the characters move exactly the way you expect, running just as far as you want and jumping exactly the way they’re needed to jump. Everything is so tight and precise that I felt like I was to blame nearly every time I would eventually get damaged (not counting the times the ground changed beneath my feet while I was falling). I didn’t even mention how the levels change before the player’s eyes becoming something entirely new in a matter of seconds and with little warning. This effect is not only visually appealing but also allows for some truly interesting level layouts. With some platforms staying and some changing or just new platforms being added slowly or any other mixture of things, the levels can be very surprising at times.
To put it plainly, I cannot praise this game enough. As a game, Talent Not Included does exactly what a game should do: entertain. On a more zoomed in look, Talent Not Included shows just what a talented team can do with the right tools and resources. On an even more zoomed in look, as a platformer, Talent Not Included is challenging enough to keep players engaged while being fun enough to keep their time with the game enjoyable. This game is a wonderful platformer and is one of my favorite games I’ve reviewed so far. The controls are smooth yet tight, the writing is funny and non-intrusive, the heroes are diverse enough to keep the game fresh, the bosses are challenging without being impossible, and the levels are always fun. To any platformer fans out there, I implore you, play this game it is worth it. Phenomenal work, Frima Studio.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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