Growing Pains – What We Think:
Growing Pains is the latest platforming speed-run fest from Smudged Cat Games (creators of The Adventures of Shuggy and Gateways). The game’s creator cites his wife’s pregnancy as the inspiration behind Growing Pains: As the trimesters plodded along, and her size increased, she would complain about not being able to fit into spaces the way she had only a few weeks ago.
Jump forward to today, and experience a game in which the protagonist is constantly enlarging, making a speedy trip through the trying stages a must, lest the player get trapped in a space he is too large to escape. For those who love nothing better than to top a leaderboard in an N+ type setting, Growing Pains may quickly grow to be a favorite.
To the Pain
Meet the Vessel: This minute little hairball is constantly growing, and quickly. It makes the confines of each level all the more…well, confining. Each room within a stage has a door that only opens after all the nearby glowsticks are collected. If you are too big to fit through the open door, the point is moot, so chop chop!
While she is able to speed up her growth process (a tactic that ensures a marked boost in speed) she can’t ever shrink. There is a limited ability to stop growing, and this depletes a bar at the top of the screen, but there is nothing to permanently stopping the room from getting steadily smaller.
With the completion of each jump, a small blast wave emanates from the Vessel. Time a second jump at the full extent of this wave, and you’ll gain additional height. You can also wall jump, triangle jump and wall slide to help plot the perfect speed run course through each stage.
Wait…Did You Say Groin Pain?
Traveling each stage requires precise movements. Contact with any of the deadly elements found in each stage results in a death. Technically, you have as many lives as you like, but in order to make the leaderboard and open up the next stage, you must complete the level within a set amount of deaths.
Fortunately, the controls are finely tuned. Even with the tiniest of platforms, you will have excellent power over the Vessel in midair. You’ll still have to work out when to land the jump, so as to not be in the path of swinging wrecking balls, migrating lasers and heat-seeking grenades, but at least your own movements won’t be working against you.
The visuals are simple, looking like they’d be right at home on the Xbox Live Indie, and are jazzed up with eclectic light effects and trippy patterns. The down-and-dirty soundtrack is functional if not spectacular; it packs enough beats to at least give you something to hop to.
I enjoyed the ability to play the level through to completion even after having depleted my supply of lives. Even a fresh run-through of a new stage is only going to take most players a few minutes, but it was great to get a taste of what I could expect with my next leaderboard attempt.
Nine levels might not seem like a lot, but the experience is well padded via the 3 difficulty stages (which adds to the amount of glow sticks you must collect in a stage). The tight controls ensure that anyone who has a spot in the top ten slip from his fingers has only himself to blame.
Openly declaring a loved one’s pregnancy as the driving force behind the game was a bold choice. When my wife was discovering the physical distortions that accompany life’s greatest miracle, I chose to NOT develop a video game, and took the extra steps of keeping my head down, and not cracking wise. Be sure to watch for Growing Pains’ spiritual sequel, Sleeping On The Couch.