I’m going to start by making a massive, sweeping statement, and that is that the current younger generation of players is hooked on open world adventures, and battle royale first person shooters. Gone are the days where a side scrolling platform game would monopolise your gaming time. I grew up playing some great platform games; Super Mario Bros. and Sonic The Hedgehog are to name but a few, but even I’m now guilty of going with the flow, and playing what my online friends are playing. Unfortunately, I’m more of a sheep than a shepherd when it comes to choosing my evening’s gaming experiences. When I saw my latest review title, it instantly sparked that feeling of nostalgia. A retro 2D platformer that looked simple to play, fun to look at and easy on the gaming concept.
Developers Pixadome has created the perfect mixture of old school gaming, ease of control, and relevant audio. Their latest game Hayfever has you control a young, hardworking postman named Thomas, he uses his trusty delivery van, which is oddly named Carlie to help him with his rounds. Thomas is an unfortunate soul, life has dealt him a poor hand, he suffers with terrible allergies to everything that he comes into contact with. The opening cinematic shows how his affliction causes him to sneeze his whole postal round across the world, I know what you are thinking, this lad must be pretty ill if an allergy can cause explosive sneezing, you’d be absolutely right, Thomas is clearly not a well man.
The game’s main mechanics focus predominantly around two areas. The first it is your task to go from level to level trying to find your letters which unfortunately were blown into the stratosphere. The second is using your superhuman nostril powers to propel yourself around the map, as you delve deeper into a playthrough you will find that you will be flung around with special boosts and gravity defying orbs. Each of these additional elements adds a new level of difficulty.
Growing up in the world of Amigas and then onto the NES, and all sorts of other console delights, I grew up playing some of the most difficult games created. Roll forward nearly 30 years and the nightmarish memories of failure are ever present when trying to play Hayfever. I can only coin this title as the Dark Souls of the platform world. I pride myself in never rage quitting, and I’m yet to smash a controller in anger, but Pixadome has nearly cost me my gaming peace. This endurance challenge precision platformer is brutal, it draws you in with a few gentle stages, the opening one even gives you a tutorial. From this, your patience and sanity will drop rapidly, you will want to scream and shout, maybe even cry a little.
As you learn the fundamentals of the controls, you are left thinking this isn’t too bad, it’s not until you find that you have to be nearly perfect with your button inputs that you realise that the controls are not quite accurate enough. A lot of focus is placed on the direction of the left analogue stick, if this is slightly off, death and failure is going to follow. For the whole it works well, but when a small mistake cost you your progress, then anger and frustration are guaranteed.
All the action is played out over the 4 seasons, and each is broken down into weeks of work. The developers have done a nice job of adding variety to each stage, by adjusting the background colour to match the time of year, they have also ensured that the difficulty curve is always on an upward trend, by using the traps from a previous level and incorporating them alongside something new. A basic voxel graphic art style has been utilised, in this genre, it works fantastically well especially when replicating a retro game. Though the image isn’t exactly crisp, and the lines aren’t perfectly defined, the action is easy to follow, the traps are painfully obvious to identify, and everything flows nicely. A wide view of the world ahead allows you to plan for the most part, but this horrendously difficult game wouldn’t live up to its billing if it didn’t throw in a few curve balls that make you die and scream in rage at your TV.
Pixadome have clearly thought about how long people are going to take to run through each of these potentially short stages, so they kindly implemented a variety of songs to enjoy while sneezing your way through each level. The songs are lighthearted and are quite enjoyable to listen to, however, what isn’t so good is the constant noise of “achoo” it’s understandable at first, but then it just grinds you down, especially as you’ve killed yourself for the 100th time and you have to listen to Thomas expelling nostril air all over the place, again and again. The basic almost 8 bit sound is reminiscent of early NES titles, and enhances the developer’s theme perfectly.
For a game that is so devilishly tough, there is a small light at the end of the tunnel, and that is the numerous checkpoints scattered around each level. Luckily they are placed conveniently, so that when you die, and you will, you will spawn back in having lost very little progress. A life system hasn’t been implemented and all I can say is thank god for small mercies. No number of lives issued would suffice, this really is a small gesture from the developers that was very much appreciated.
On the face of it, the action is pretty repetitive, well over 100 levels of effectively the same challenges, yet it’s strangely addictive. To complete the game is going to be a momentous task, and you really would have to have the patience of a saint. With over 200 letters to collect, and a number of secrets to find you really are going to be testing your resolve trying to get to 100%. Thomas has no attacking ability, so when you face a boss, it’s really just the same gameplay, stay alive and you will defeat the boss. I certainly am not a saint, and I also do not have the desire to smash up a controller in a fit of rage, so I’m allowing the more talented platform gamers to take up the challenge of beating Pixadome’s Hayfever.
If you are a hardcore gamer, or you enjoy a masochistic challenge, then this could well be the game for you! Grab your controller and Epipen, it’s time to fight those allergies and collect all of the mail. Can you succeed where others have failed? If not, don’t worry. You won’t be the first, and you certainly won’t be the last.
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Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
When Dark Souls mingles with an allergy ridden 2D platformer you get Hayfever. Will you be able to beat the difficulty curve and collect all of the mail?
Simple gameplay mechanics.
Retro voxel graphics.
Varied music keeps the audio fresh.
Analogue use is not always accurate.
The sneezing sound effect is annoying.