Irritum has its heart in the right place but not a good game.

By PostMesmrc, Posted 07 Nov 2013

What if you had another chance? What if after giving up on life, you had a chance to redeem yourself and reconstruct your existence, piece by piece? Understanding death has been something video game developers have been trying to do for decades, but very few games have found a purposeful interpretation for the motion toward that famous (or infamous) light. Irritum is a new indie platformer that shows a being attempting to reconstruct his memories and potentially get another chance at living. It’s a cryptic and ephemeral look into a post-death stasis, but once you get your hands on the keyboard, you’ll find many more problems in Irritum than you want.

Irritum, Game Review, 3D, Platformer, PC

Irritum, at its core, is a platformer. Jump from platform to platform until you reach the ending. While there are a few collectibles in each stage that you can collect, they are optional; your main goal is to reach the end of the level. A big issue is that this linear design doesn’t match up well for a 3D platformer. These are extremely straightforward stages that offer very few reasons to go off the beaten path. The few external memory collectibles feel like they’re scattered about randomly, instead of offering a good auxiliary challenge to distract you. The levels also reuse a lot of elements in intrusive ways. The brief moments of invention are overshadowed by a reliance on simplicity instead of a contribution from it. We’ve all seen so many 3D platformers offer a sense of freedom and exploration. From Super Mario 64 to Ratchet and Clank to Rayman 2: The Great Escape, these all demonstrated a feeling of expansive worlds. Irritum feels confined and limited; it simply doesn’t take the mantra of 3D exploration to heart.

Irritum’s biggest problem is its controls: they just don’t feel intuitive. You control your character with the keyboard keys and the camera with the mouse. This takes a while to get used to, but it becomes extremely problematic when the next major gameplay feature appears. You can control which platforms are solid and usable by pressing one of the three buttons on your mouse. By clicking one button, platforms of a specific color become solid, with all other colors being transparent. It’s an interesting idea, but one that is unfulfilled due to the controls. Firstly, switching colored platforms is a pain. Sometimes you will need to click multiple mouse buttons simply to jump to the right platform. Sometimes you will need to click different mouse buttons in ridiculously quick succession to close one platform color while another appears. Failure means starting the portion over and trust me: repeated failures will occur.

Irritum, Game Review, 3D, Platformer, PC

But the control problems don’t end there. Unlike other platformers, you don’t so much control the character himself, but more the camera. For example, there are two ways to move diagonally: pressing the A and W keys or pressing the W key and turning the camera diagonally with the mouse. Simply using the keys is slower than using the mouse, so you’ll constantly be changing the trajectory of your jump by using the mouse to look in the direction you want. Timing jumps is problematic; since the controls are so messy, it takes much longer to complete a level than it should. You need to line up jumps perfectly, time mouse clicks without flaw and just invest far more time on moving about than it should require. It’s clunky and extremely frustrating, making this simple game into something unnecessarily convoluted.

Irritum tries to solidify its meaning through the use of minimalist graphic design. The dark abyss you explore is contrasted by bright, neon platform colors, with your character as a surreal blend of a blank computer avatar program and a clay doll. While this idea of minimalist presentation is nothing new to the gaming world (especially in the independent game development crowd), Irritum takes it a bit too far. Platforms look more like the Mystify screensaver from early Microsoft Windows operating systems and the textures that cover them are murky and difficult to identify, especially when the color of the platform determines how you will activate it. The other character models like the specters that follow you throughout Irritum are bizarre characters that look as if they’re left an early 3D cyberpunk RPG. Their twisted designs capture the urgency and ambiguity of the game, adding a sense of otherworldly disorder. But environmental hazards like lasers or jump spheres are difficult to see. Very frequently, you’ll die without any feedback as to why, that is until you realize that those very thin lines across the platform were lasers. Irritum tries to create this geometric representation of the human mind, but only manages to create this world in a convoluted and agonizingly unorthodox way.

Irritum, Game Review, 3D, Platformer, PC

Irritum is not a good game. It really pains me to say that considering how thoughtful and meaningful the concept is. Trying to overcome these obstacles in effort to make sense of a post-death existence is an idea with so much potential. It’s grim and it’s so interesting, but the game itself is not. The controls are horrifically imprecise, especially for a platformer and the idea of being able to control certain things in the environment to progress is wasted on a design that rarely evolves and branches out from its simplicity. Though the aesthetic is appealing, so much of its appeal comes from contextual storyline instead of a free and enticing exploration element.

Irritum has its heart in the right place, but while you’re struggling to make even the simplest jump only to fall to your death for the tenth time, you’ll realize that making sense of your death is the least of your worries.

Alex Carlson, NoobFeed (@Twitter)

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General Information



Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Irritum Game
Developer(s): Nicholas Padgett
Genres: 3D Platformer
Themes: Puzzle
Release Date: 2013-09-06

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