Do you find platformers too easy? Do you have the ultimate patience in terms of gaming? Are you ready for a real test in navigation between two platformers at the same time? If the answer is yes to all three questions, developers Ground Shatter Ltd have produced a highly challenging puzzle platformer available on Xbox One and Playstation 4 in the form of Binaries.
At its heart, Binaries is a simple game: the only objective is to get two balls from start to finish. What makes it unique is that your actions affect both balls at the same time. You jump, both balls jump. You move right, they both move right. You have to have an eye on both balls at all times throughout each and every 100+ levels.
The game does a good job of easing you into the premise of its gameplay with some of the earlier levels. To begin with there are a few obstacles in your way and simply a case of moving both balls to the finish line with a few jumps, until you are introduced to spikes – these spikes will haunt your dreams. Touching a spike results in having to start the level over. Spikes are placed on the floor, ceiling, in the most inconvenient places. The most infuriating moments are when you have tip-toed through a level until accidently touching a spike right at the last hurdle as you were focused on the other ball. Combine this with turrets firing projectiles at you in some of the later levels, and controllers are likely to get broken.
The orange and blue balls under your control are easy to manoeuvre. There are no overly complicated buttons to press; you just move left or right or jump. Although it sounds easy, the simplistic gameplay will almost leave you in a mistaken sense of confidence. Imagine if you will, a platformer containing the most difficult jumping section possible, then combine it with another completely different platformer containing a different, but similarly difficult section. Now imagine controlling both characters across both aforementioned levels at the same time and it will give you some idea as to how difficult Binaries can be.
As if you didn’t have enough to concentrate on, to add a twist to the gameplay, the balls are able to touch their opposite colour spike without wiping i.e. the blue ball can safely touch an orange spike and vice versa. Some of the later levels will provide you with the ultimate test of planning, patience and execution. To ease the pain, the game appreciates how difficult it is by poking fun at itself. Every level I played contained a message from the developers, one message in particular stated ‘We apologise for this level, we fired the designer’ which is thoroughly deserved for producing such a painstaking map. Of course I’m only joking, but for a game with such high difficulty, it’s worth progressing just to see more of these witty messages to keep your morale up. A nice touch, integrated well.
As you progress, more levels unlock and, with each completed level a few more open up. That’s fortunate, as I otherwise may have given up much sooner. If you stumble upon a particularly difficult level you feel unable to progress past, you can opt to come back another time and select another level to try your hand at whilst regathering your thoughts. These options keep the momentum moving forward.
I bow down to any soul that has managed to complete every level on offer. I had to stop before I lost my sanity. There is some longevity to be had with Binaries, whether for players who enjoy the simple challenge of completion, or even more testing challenges offered by speed runs or attempting to S rank every level (there is an achievement with god like status on offer). For players like me, it’ll be a struggle that will likely take weeks or months to complete every level.
The presentation fits the overall feel of the game. It’s relatively simple looking, there are no flash graphics, but the levels are vibrant, smooth and although there are only two main colours they stand out in what could be considered a classy look. Even the comments from the developers play out nicely in the background; they are not distracting, nor are they particularly prominent but you know they are there to refer to when times are tough. To compliment the sharp visuals are the sounds of passive audio designed to help you relax on the difficult journey ahead. The audio isn’t memorable, nor is it particularly noticeable, but the background music does the job to keep you from losing your mind (at least not as quickly as you otherwise would).
The problem with Binaries – but also the selling point – is its difficulty. There are no sources of help; no hints or tips will pop up on screen when you need them most. It’s just you and your controller. More often than not patience is a virtue. Someone who takes their time should be able to conquer most levels, if not all, without breaking any speed records, but not everyone has that level of perseverance. Sometimes you feel completely out of your depth, and that the patience of a saint is required to progress, yet you try and try again to experience that pure relief and satisfaction when both coloured balls pass the finish line. Binaries is challenging to say the least. Those of you that enjoy a challenge will find this game more than satisfying. For the rest, you may wish to attempt Binaries in a padded room with an indestructible controller, but there is enjoyment to be had when everything seems to come together.
Binaries was provided to us by Microsoft via a download code for Xbox One.