hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Platformer Narcissus aims to bring back the arcade experience

6:00 PM on 06.02.2014 // Beccy Caine

Or, how I learned to hate my friends again

Narcissus, or so the myth goes, was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. Renowned for his beauty, but also for being somewhat of an ass, he was lured to a pool of water by goddess of divine retribution Nemesis, where he became fixated with his own reflection. (And then died.) The inspiration for Alex Johansson’s Narcissus is truthfully less dramatic, evoked by watching his little brother jump between stepping stones on a river near his home, reflection in tow.

The game was part of the Leftfield Collection at the EGX Rezzed Expo in March and I happened to run into the developer in the closing minutes of the expo. I was met with a unique take on a runner game complete with beautiful pixel art and an 8-bit soundtrack intent on replicating a lost experience.

The aptly-named platformer sees you playing as two characters simultaneously: inverted sprites taking different paths to the same goal. The controls are simple: the up and down keys control the black and white sprites respectively, resulting in a game that can be played either alone or locally with a friend. This, says Johansson, was a conscious design choice:

"I decided I wanted to build a game that was easier to play with a friend than alone, but still possible either way. Arcade machines provide such fantastic physically social experiences, and I didn't feel that there was enough modern games that catered to this."

The idea is beautiful in its simplicity. Being able to just sit down and play with a friend without the need for an internet connection or a spare controller was remarkably refreshing, even if the resulting banter (insults questioning each other's competence) was the same.

A few days later, having completed all available levels with a partner, I sat down with the game again. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to play it alone, and while it lacked the camaraderie of the co-op experience, the new element added to the gameplay and the resulting challenge was just as satisfying.

Make no mistake: though the controls may be simple, the level design ensures that this is not an easy game. If keeping track of both sprites wasn’t already enough of a challenge, later levels see the implementation of various mechanics designed to ruin your progress and/or friendship, such as ramps to boost your jump, bridges that you’ll phase through if the color doesn’t correspond to your own, switches that change your direction, and spikes that result in instant death. Just one mistake by either character sends you right back to the beginning of the level, which makes for a testing co-op experience. Even the most patient of players will begin to resent their partner for repeated mistakes, as I quickly learnt. (Thanks, "friends.")

The build presented at EGX Rezzed comprised twenty-five levels, which are all available to play as a Flash game, but consequent builds have shown off the full fifty levels that will make up the final release. There are also three difficulty modes, determined by the pace of the sprites, for those in need of an extra challenge. It’s worth noting that the timer is cumulative across all levels rather than being reset each time, making each death a crucial error for those attempting a speedrun. (Johansson states that it will take two people an average of 150 minutes to complete the game.)

No discussion of Narcissus would be complete without at least a brief mention of Afr0turf’s soundtrack (which is already available on Soundcloud), composed of five 8-bit tracks that had me leaving my poor sprites to jump to their doom in an endless cycle of failure just so I could listen to the music uninterrupted. The title track 'Uno,' for example, starts as an slow, ethereal tune that quickly transforms into an upbeat, almost frantic accompaniment that complements the gameplay perfectly, especially in later levels or on the harder difficulties. Any fans of chiptune music should definitely check this out.

In short, I played many fantastic games at EGX Rezzed this year, but it was the game I only got five minutes with as the show was closing that stuck with me the most. Johansson has produced a unique, multi-faceted game offering two different but equally appealing experiences well worth your time. And maybe an upvote on Greenlight, too.

Beccy Caine, European Community Manager
 Follow Blog + disclosure chromatogram Tips
Beccy is the EU Community Manager and has the funny accent to prove it. Her role is to "maintain the European presence on the site", which primarily involves refusing to cater to American spelli... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Jiraya avatarJiraya
Okay internet you done it... Playboy will not get nude girls anymore , too much competition. [img][/img]
Torchman avatarTorchman
A little late, but got the Platinum trophy for Dancing All Night. Was proud of myself, until I saw the medals in the collection menu. Coming for you next... after I master the Adachi dlc tonight.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Huh. Already two blogs posted today that are actually advertisements. Lovely.
Zyk avatarZyk
Gettin drunk and watching the entire Critters series in a Tuesday. Best thing about being unemployed.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
If Undertale isn't your GOTY 2015, then you are sorely mistaken [img][/img]
Deadgar64 avatarDeadgar64
Sleep? Who needs sleep? 12:44 am can eat my shorts.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
[img][/img] [img][/img] [img][/img]
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Anyone else getting massive lag in between games of the Battlefront Beta? I'm running an AMD rig so it might be that but just want to know it's not just me.
Shinta avatarShinta
1 hour stream of Dragon Quest Heroes.
MeanderBot avatarMeanderBot
Plague Knight is pretty rad, even when represented by mediocre artists [img][/img]
Shinta avatarShinta
Initial impressions: Chibi-Robo Zip lash is pretty damn fun so far. It's like Mr. Mosquito + Castlevania + Umihara. Controls are spot on, platforming is actually very solid so far, and the characters are about as charming as they can get. +amiibo.
nanashi avatarnanashi
Question: Is resident evil nemesis supposed to start off with a toolbox that has (unlimited) ink ribbon, 250 handgun ammo, magnum (w/ammo), shotgun (w/ammo) and two assault clips, in the first room of the game?????
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
[img][/img] Much want. Such need. Ow.
Shinta avatarShinta
[img][/img] Can you imagine if greedy aliens stole all YOUR snacks? I don't even know how I'd handle it honestly. I don't even want to think about it.
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
Great. YouTube took down my nude re - enactment of She-Wolf. Again. Fuck you Shakira. Let my art shine.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
BREAKING: Inner city man and "Pokemon Go" enthusiast found dead after entering rival gang's territory. "All he wanted was a Shiny Charizard!" according to an interview with a close friend. "We found him on the street, limp as a Magikarp stuck on a beach."
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
I completely forgot that Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow had an animated opening. Other than the compression, it actually looks really good today, and makes me wonder why Konami didn't commission some sort of Castlevania anime. That would have been sweet.
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Gamestop has Splatoon amiibo up, if that's your thing. Totally didn't order and just cancel mine.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Anyone else having issues with italics in blogs? I went to save a draft, and when it loaded the post-saving creature I was working on, the entire text had been italicized and I now am unable to change it back. I've been possessed!
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -