As I was growing up, platform jumping titles were so common for me and my friends that they were the only type of game to not have a separate designation. Excite bike was a "racing game", baseball was a "sports game", but all the Mario titles were just "games". In fact, the first time someone explained the concept of a platformer to me, I was shocked that this was it's own, separately named, game type. Sometimes, it's hard to classify one of the game modes that was once the normal go-to for years.
While the platform title has dropped a bit in popularity, there are still plenty of standout titles that come out year after year, mostly on the indie scene. The last few years have, for example, given us Braid and Super Meat Boy among others, proving that one of the older institutes in gaming can still reinvent itself in order to entertain us. Now, Spoiler Alert attempts to take classic platforming convention and turn it upside down. Or at least, backwards.
Spoiler Alert was made by a 2 man team from Denmark with a simple premise; "unbeat" the game. It's literally played through backwards, with the protagonist running from right to left while facing right. Imagine if NES-era Mario was moonwalking, and you get the idea. In the opening moments, you as the hero (who's basically just a spicy pepper) defeat a final boss and find the princess, but then you immediately begin the process of undoing the work you completed. Don't worry, Movement is handled automatically, removing a possible issue of being a bit too overwhelmed by the premise.
This leads to some interesting game-play moments that are a twist on expectations. You have to put back certain coins (but not ones you didn't originally collect) and catch the fireballs as they're shot back towards you. It’s a cute gimmick, but as fun as the game’s three hours are (yes, its really that short), this is just a gimmick, and it only works because its a twist on such a well known convention.
On the negative side, the artwork is a bit bland. Sure, it's tough to make a full game as a small team, but the main character is literally a walking chili pepper; they could have gotten a tad more creative. Even the bonus level recycles enemy sprites with mustaches added, which is cute but the joke wears out after the second bad guy. The platforming also gets a bit repetitive; it is one thing to be forced though a specific sequence, and on rails titles (particularly shooters) can be fun. But this ends up being a bit of “on rails platforming”, and that doesn't hold up well over the long term. The game is also really short, as I mentioned the 3 hour playtime earlier. There is more content being promised, but it hasn't materialized as of yet.
I think Spoiler Alert was a fun little distraction, but until more content gets added, I’d have a hard time recommending it except to the right sort of person. I certainly enjoyed it, but this is a game that's an of odd homage to those of us that grew up playing the platforming games of old; it works because we know the way these games are supposed to work. It's only three dollars on Steam and just $1 on iOS; for that price, it's a great, if short, game. If you are one of those types that enjoy messing around, there's a collector's edition on Steam for $8 because it comes with a level editor, something that could be very interesting to play with given the style of the game.
Of course there's mushrooms. Of course!
In the end, Spoiler Alert is a fun game, sure,but one of its great strengths is leaving me thinking about what other developers could do with a starting concept of altered platforming. It proves that not only is the platforming genre not dead, but that the genre still has much to offer: the well of creativity still available is deeper than it first looks.