Death and the Fly – A Review

death and the fly screenshot 2
Death and the Fly – A Review

Platforms: PC

Game Name: Death and the Fly

Publisher: Interplay

Developer: Independent Programist Group

Release Date: May 20, 2011

Developer Summary:

Players will control two very different characters, Death and the Fly. Each character has special skills that must be used to navigate the many traps and puzzles contained in each level. With many interesting ways to die and numerous opponents to face, the player will be challenged and entertained for hours.

What We Think:

Reviewing games isn’t all fun and…games. It’s a professional hazard that sometimes you’ll have to play a game that is, well, not very good. Being a reviewer means that sometimes you’ll have to say things about someone’s creation, someone who might be a perfectly nice person, and hope that you don’t cause too much offense, while still being honest.

Which brings us to Death and the Fly. It’s not a good game. Sorry, guys.

death and the fly screenshot 1

Where to begin? The concept is sound, and I believe has some promise. It’s a puzzle-oriented platformer, in which the player switches between two characters–Death and the Fly, naturally–with complimentary abilities in order to move both characters to the exit of the level.

As might be expected from the title, there is a decidedly grim theme throughout the game, but more Tim Burton than Wes Craven. In fact, some of the level backgrounds and the map menu look fantastic. If you like The Nightmare Before Christmas, or Beetlejuice, it’ll be right up your alley.

…and that concludes the “if-you-can’t-find-something-nice-to-say” portion of the review.

The game lacks any graphics options at all, beyond playing in fullscreen or in a window. The resolution of the game is such that playing it fullscreen on anything above, say, 1024 x 768, will make the game look atrocious. The windowed option looks better, but the experience is then very similar to watching a movie on a smartphone: possible, but too small to enjoy.

The graphics were outdated five years ago. As much as I like the theme, there seems to have been some decision to make things look as blended and fuzzy as possible. The result is that it’s easy to confuse coins (used to buy one-off spells from the Shop on the map) with fortune cookies (seemingly used only for displaying dull jokes in a text box). It’s not readily apparent where switches are until you realize that some look like Christmas wreaths. Maybe it’s a design choice, but it gets in the way of the game.

death and the fly screenshot 2

There is a segment of the indie gaming community that sees graphical detail and gameplay as inversely related. Ignoring the fact that the premise is flawed, it nevertheless depends on gameplay compensating for the lack of eye candy.

Death and the Fly’s gameplay doesn’t keep up its end of the bargain. Movement feels sluggish and awkward. Moving the Fly feels like parallel parking a moving van on a sheet of ice. Maneuvering Death, who can walk and jump, is an exercise in frustration or boredom depending on where you are in the level. Most levels are spent clearing out enemies and throwing switches with the Fly, dragging Death forward, then repeating the cycle until the level ends.

Annoyingly, it’s possible to get Death stuck, either by pushing a block in the wrong place, or by getting stuck in the environment. This problem was “solved” by the inclusion of a “Retry Level” option, which restarts the level, but without restoring any of the items or abilities you might have used the first time around. It wouldn’t be such a problem if the levels weren’t so tedious. Most of your time is spent moving up, across, or down straight corridors until you find a switch or an enemy.

There’s little action, but there’s also little in the way of puzzles. A puzzle-based game can be excused for having a slow pace so long as the puzzles are challenging enough to be entertaining. Death and the Fly’s maps are straightforward, and the challenge becomes staying invested enough in the game to keep playing, not figuring out how to progress or fighting off hordes of enemies.

No doubt some people will enjoy this game. Post-purchase rationalization spurred by Death and the Fly’s $20 price will inspire at least two weeks of devotion from some of the people who buy it. On its own merits, however, Death and the Fly is amateurish at best. As a personal project, it’s shortcomings might be glossed over, but if the game is considered as a professional effort, it stretches the bounds of imagination to envision how it could be much worse. Poor graphics may not break a game, but they certainly don’t excuse its flaws

Get Death and the Fly on Steam

[xrr rating=”1/5″]

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