Even if online play gets added, like the developer have pledged, Biped is best enjoyed by local partners. Those seeking a solitary experience can find a myriad of better puzzle-based platformers.
Platform: Switch, previously on PC, PlayStation 4
Developer: NEXT Studios
Publisher: Postmeta Games
Release date: July 2nd, 2020
Price: $14.99 via digital download
Availability: Nintendo eShop
After flailing through Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Human Fall Flat, and Totally Reliable Delivery Service I’ve found I’m generally not a fan of the ‘drunken physics’ genre. Deliberately uncooperative control schemes might make for humorous situations, whether with friends or a Twitch stream, but they’re rather frustrating as solitary experiences.
Venture into the recent Switch port of Biped independently and you’ll probably have a similar feeling. Sure, lead characters Aku and Sila are undeniably adorable. Two diminutive little droids that resemble a pair of Spheros with oversized feet, they totter about the game’s ice, desert, and forest-themed environments. Walking involves controlling each leg with the left and right analog sticks.
Walking in Someone Else’s Robo-shoes
In execution, Biped feels like re-learning to walk. Repeatedly putting one foot in front of the other is awkward at first, and you can expect your little robot to stagger around for at least the first half-hour. But wisely, the game doesn’t require you to use this method continuously. On smooth surfaces, Aku and Sila guide about with the finesse of at least an amateur ice skater. Just watch your momentum around edges and you’ll won’t suffer humiliation.
Other times, you’ll be riding rails like Ratchet & Clank or sliding through giant tubes. Both are exhilarating. But more often, you’ll be solving puzzles to advance, grabbing on to switches to open doors and navigating your way across a multitude of obstacles that test both brain power and hand-eye coordination. For those seeking an elevated test of skills, try guiding both Aku and Sila simultaneously, with two Pro Controllers laid out before you. I discovered I lost most of the skill developed from playing FromSoftware’s The Adventures of Cookie & Cream.
Individualists, You’re Been Warned
Unless you’re eager to undertake this extreme challenge, Biped can’t be recommended to soloists. There’s mild enjoyment to be found, but play never quite reaches the level of enjoyment found in games like Super Mario Odyssey, Yoshi’s Crafted World, or Super Lucky’s Tale. Certainly, there’s similarly. Between time-based collection challenges, and gold stars that dangle in precarious areas, there’s some 3D platforming rudiments to be found. But lumbering navigation and a dearth of adversaries means individuals accustomed to more traditional platforming won’t be enamored with Biped.
But add another local participant (Online will purported be added post-launch) and the title comes alive. Here, progress habitually means replying on your partner. You’ll encounter moments where you’re connected, requiring careful coordination to move past the procession of hurdles tossed at you. This is where developer NEXT Studios shows off its proficiency at collaborative level design. There are elements like floating platforms that require players to step on a certain color, requiring the precision of an elaborate dance routine. Other moments, you’ll have to team up to maintain balance atop of enormous objects. But it’s almost always entertaining, with the game rarely throwing anything too demanding at pairs. Given the need for constant communication (“move your left leg on the square!”), if online play does arrive, voice chat will be indispensable.
Physics-Based Disagreement Simulator?
If players aren’t on the same skill level, there’s the potential for quarrel across the three-hour campaign. Smartly, Biped tries to offset this. Fall into the void and you’ll frequently respawn nearby. Progress is also preserved through frequent save points. As such, you’ll fail often, but challenges rarely feel insurmountable. Often, Biped wants you to experiment, a design decision reflected in the scarcity of exposition or explanation. The one thing that’s missing is any kind of spirited player vs. player combat. With the ability to pick-up and swing items and well as issue short-ranged kicks, a bit of friendly sparring might have been welcome.
Replay is stimulated by a few different features. An end of level harmony percentage measures how closely you worked together. But it’s an ambiguous scoring with little insight on how to improve the assessment. All those coins you collected can be used to purchase accessories for you little robot. Think they were cute already? You should see Aku and Sila clad in stylish specs or a trapper’s hat.
PC ports often must make sacrifices when they arrive on Switch. Save for a framerate that’s been dropped to thirty-frames per second, this version captures many of the merits of the PlayStation 4 and Windows-based released. The game’s biomes exhibit cartoonish whimsy. Craggy canyons are filled with flat traversable surfaces and prickly cacti while icy tundras are dotted with frozen mushrooms and perpetually burning campfires. Nicely, Biped’s draw distance is uncompromised, making for impressive stage introductions. The game’s soundtrack is filled with upbeat tracks that tend to incorporate natural instrumentations. They contribute to the playful sense of exploration and experiment but aren’t all that memorable.
Make sure you have a compatible partner before journeying through Biped. While the game can accommodate single players, it’s clearly designed for duos. With a companion, the game’s puzzles morph into tests of coordination, often requiring pairs to move as a single unit. Trek through Biped to completion, and there’s a change you’ll emerge closer. Of course, there’s also the possible of good-humored disagreement, too.
Biped was played on Switch with review code provided by the publisher.