Where are my Friends? is a curious game. If I told you that I’ve spent the last few weeks controlling an eyeball on a unicycle who lives in space and has had his friends stolen by birds then you would probably suggest that I stop eating those mushrooms that grow in the woods behind my house. Of course, I wouldn’t do that because they are tasty and I really like spaghetti carbonara. Nonetheless, it’s exactly what I have been doing in this unusual indie title from the excellently-named Beard Games.
It’s about this point in a review where I would tell you what genre the game is. Where are my Friends? isn’t as simple as that though, as it’s a multi-genre game. There’s an initial puzzle section which is kind of like an old fashioned budget game from the ‘80s, something you might have picked up in a newsagents from Mastertronic or Firebird. Once that’s complete, you get four levels to play through; one for each missing friend. The levels aren’t sequential, and instead you can choose to tackle them in any order you wish. What makes this game a bit different is the fact that each level is a different genre, essentially making this like four smaller games for the price of one.
The idea of each level being a totally different genre and art style seems like quite a novel one, unfortunately it’s also the game’s undoing. The chances of enjoying all of the levels equally is diminished, and this is what happened to me. To give you an idea of how this panned out for me, I’ll go through each level separately.
The first level that I played was a puzzle/platform type affair which saw our uniocular hero traversing through a series of maze-like screens, avoiding lasers and baddies along the way. With moving platforms, colour-coded portals and pixel-perfect jumps to hinder your progress, it’s very tricky, but also a lot of fun. I finished this level in one sitting and then moved on to the next one.
The next level that I tried was also a platformer, but this time it was something a bit more like Spelunky. This time I was in one giant maze with the lights out, trying to find switches that opened up other sections. I actually never even finished this level, it just didn’t appeal to me at all. The backgrounds were very samey, there was very little change in the action, and I hate games that use darkness and a weak torch as a mechanic. I skipped to another level.
Level three (in the order I played them anyway) was a point-and-click adventure. This was fun but not in the league of Monkey Island or Broken Sword. There wasn’t any kind of text or vocal descriptions of any items, meaning that I had to guess what I was doing through trial and error and that old staple of poor point-and-clicks: rubbing items against each other and hoping for the best. It feels like with a bit more work and polish it would be a really good game, but because it’s just one level in a game and has very little in the way of plot devices, it’s quite limited.
Finally, there was an endless runner. This took the form of a sideways runner, that became a top-down affair at points. These sections viewed from above were a bit like the old 8-bit title Bounder, but unlike that game, they were absolutely no fun at all. The problem is that this section had a 2D hand-drawn art-style. 2D from a bird’s eye view perspective with floating platforms was a very poor choice and it’s incredibly difficult to work out how high the platforms you need to land on are. In addition to this, the platforms move in a fixed pattern, and this pattern carries on from where you leave off at the point of death, meaning that sometimes, moving platforms are too far away from each other for our one-eyed-wonder to actually reach. As a result, the top-down sections are incredibly frustrating and I had to really force myself to play them. It’s a shame too, because in the main, the side-on runner sections were very enjoyable. That is until they get towards the end and add in water sections, which are basically just Flappy Bird.
After completing three of the four levels, I had another go at the cave maze level. It was still absolutely no fun at all so I gave up and decided I’m not going to be getting a completion trophy for this game. Instead, I decided to work out just how exactly to review this mish-mash of a videogame. The mix of graphical and game styles makes it difficult to rate everything. For example, the graphics in the endless runner are really stylish, but the point-and-click is averagely pretty, and the cave section is quite uninspired and dull. The background music is really nice for the puzzle-platform level, but I wasn’t keen on how it sounded in the point-and-click.
Essentially, what we have with Where are my Friends? is one really good game stapled to two average games and one that’s rather poor. The idea of mixing genres seems like a good one, but the reality is that some things don’t mix well. Beard Games had some great ideas, but they chose to put them all in the same game and the result isn’t as good as the sum of its parts. Put it this way: I like gravy and I like fizzy pop, but there’s a reason I don’t combine the two any more since that unfortunate experiment with a Soda Stream and a jug of Bisto.
Where Are My Friends? (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Playing this game is like playing four different games of varying quality. If they’d just stuck to one idea and executed it well, this could have been a winner. As it is, sadly this is a game which is a jack of all trades but master of none.