“Stockholm syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.” This phrase is what best describes Electronic Super Joy as a whole, and the metaphor applies equally to the latest DLC instalment Hot Sticky Mess.
If you haven’t played the original or read our review for it here on Brashgames, then here’s a quick overview: you play as a small dark figure traversing a world that looks like an acid-induced hallucination to an upbeat electronic soundtrack. Here’s the catch, though – you die every 10 seconds (yes, really) and will spend a significant portion of your playthrough seriously contemplating hurling your controller through your television screen. You will suffer a number of existential breakdowns and feel as though you are being subjected to some kind of new form of torture.
The weird thing is that, if you can get past this stage, the game becomes strangely addictive. It’s certainly not the first title to play on the sadistic nature of players who find satisfaction in finally hitting that checkpoint they’ve just missed for the past 30 minutes, but Electronic Super Joy does manage to strike the balance between being satisfying and infuriating. It’s hard to think of it as fun, and it’s certainly not relaxing, but there is a morbid kind of appeal to it.
Hot Sticky Mess has been described as the hardest part of the game to date by the creators, and it shows almost immediately. The “story” involves you going after one of the Boogie Bros, who has stolen the only food; a giant pudding. If this doesn’t sound interesting then don’t worry, the game is about as story-driven as a multiplayer game of Call of Duty. The point is that you’ll be thrown upside-down and inside-out through the course of your experience until you lose all sense of self and purpose and want to go crying home to your mummy.
It’s hard to say that the DLC ‘adds’ anything to the game, since the whole package is fairly barebones anyway what with movement, jumping and stomping being the only abilities. Every stage in the main game is equally wacky, and the best praise that can be given to the DLC is that it carries exactly the same description. Hot Sticky Mess simply adds more levels for you to hate with every fibre of your being; so much so that you can’t put it down.
The game’s visuals are arguably an important part of its charm. The retro-style low-res graphics and simplistic models harken back to an earlier day, when games were generally hard as nails and were supposed to take forever to complete. You’d finish it and be able to actually boast about it to your friends rather than just move onto the next one. The rugged edges and blocky textures imitate the games predecessors’, while the crazy explosions of colour both make the urgent movements you’re trying to do on-screen even harder, and bring the game into the 21st century.
One thing which characterises the game best is its soundtrack. The constant electronic dance music in the background to every level increases the sense of urgency already created by the moving screen that’s present on most stages, and helps to alleviate the inevitable stress you’ll feel. However, this does lead to one of the most irritating and obvious flaws felt by particularly bad players such as myself.
If you take too long to finish the level you’re on and allow the current music track to finish, it will simply end and you’ll be forced to play in silence. This makes every death all the more audible and sucks a lot of enjoyment out of the game, which literally defines itself through the music in its own title. It’s possible that this was a bug or only occurs on certain stages, however it did happen to me more than once and I consequently saw it as a bad part of the game.
Another thing that bugged me (although it’s a personal flaw rather than a design one) is the stars you’re encouraged to collect on some stages. They are the game’s collectibles, and I for one am a sucker for collectibles. I wanted to nab them all, but since I lacked the skill to actually reach them I was forced to watch them disappear off my screen in despair. For many, these collectibles will add replayability, along with dangling a gold time limit for each level. However it’s hard to imagine that many will possess the will to go through each stage a second time, after having barely dragged themselves through the first time round.
If you’ve already played through and enjoyed Electronic Super Joy’s main game then the chances are that you probably consider yourself something of a hardcore so-and-so. In that case, I urge you to download and play Hot Sticky Mess as well, since it is essentially just more of the same but even tougher. If you haven’t played either and are quite happy with your relaxing and fun games thank-you-very-much, then I suggest closing this tab and going back to your happy life where you knew nothing of this game or its potentially life-threatening power.
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