Developed By: Long Neck Games
Published By: Graffiti Games
Category: Platformer, Puzzle, Action, Multiplayer
Release Date: 07.15.20
REZ PLZ for the Nintendo Switch is a cooperative puzzle platformer that features an intriguing character switching gameplay mechanic and wonderful graphics that just can’t get out of its own way. Apprentice mages and brothers Arcan and Zeph return to their school after a night of partying, and one of them promptly blows the other up during a spellcasting accident. They are given a special scroll that allows them to resurrect each other, as long as they have a laz stone. And then their school is attacked by the Dark Arcanum, a consortium of evil wizards. Arcan and Zeph are considered to be kind of useless, so a cool-looking minotaur guy throws them down a well. And so the brothers find themselves having to rescue their schoolmates – or maybe just their own skins? – and stop the Dark Arcanum with only each other as support.
That Resurrection Scroll becomes the focus of the game’s most unique mechanic; the brothers can bring each other back to life. Knowing that you can bring your sibling back to life opens up some interesting, gruesome possibilities for traversing the game’s five areas and each of their six levels. Spike pit too long to jump across? Have one brother jump on the spikes so his body creates a platform for bro #2 to jump on. Need a weight to place on a button that’s in a space too small to walk to and stand on? Take your dead brother’s skull and place that there instead. The game’s platforming solutions are original, grisly, and – thanks to the game’s lighthearted approach to its carnage – kind of amusing, actually.
Unfortunately, the game’s actual platforming mechanics are a little bit more of a problem. I never really discovered where the sprite’s center of gravity was; that means if I was just a pixel in the wrong direction, my character would start sliding of falling off of platforms, which led to a lot of frustrating, unnecessary deaths. I get that this is a game where you’re supposed to die a lot, but godd*mn, guys – I should only die when I make a mistake, not because I can’t even tell with any consistency where the right spot to land is. The good news is, you can avoid a lot of aggravation by setting the game to give you infinite resurrection stones. That way you don’t have to start a particularly hard level all over again when you run out; you just start at the last platform you were on solidly.
In addition to the resurrection stuff and the basic platforming puzzles, you also unlock more special abilities as you progress to each new world as the ghost of the brothers’ teacher appears and grants them new skills. For example, the second world opens with Arcan and Zeph gaining the ability to turn into boulders, which opens up some new possibilities. You can act as a platform, which is cool but not that different than using a dead body for things like traversing spikes – once you transform back, you die anyway. However, it can also block jets of fire and won’t get crushed if something falls on you. So, basically, each new ability opens up new possibilities for moving forward, which does keep the platforming action from getting stale. Constant death can counteract that variety to a certain degree, though.
In single player mode, the cooperative elements are intriguing at first, but they quickly erode into something that feels more like an impediment to progress than a satisfying platformer. Switching between characters isn’t always an exact science; sometimes the game will shift the center of the screen to make sure you see something, and you can’t switch between the brothers during these times, and for an indeterminate time before and after them, as well. So if you think you’ve waited long enough to switch characters but haven’t, you may inadvertently run off of a small platform before you realize who you’re controlling. Or at least I did several times.
I didn’t get a ton of practice in on the multiplayer mode (social distancing is a b*tch), which I assume must work a little better. You don’t need to switch your focus between the characters, which must help somewhat. I tried playing two-player by myself just to see how the camera would move around, since several puzzles require the brothers to be separated by more than a screen. You have to trade the camera focus between you with the switch character button from single player, which allows one brother to go forward while the other sits still. You can switch back once you get to whatever button you need to get to. It seems like a decent enough way of handling things, even if it will see one player or the other sitting still and not really doing anything for portions of the game.
On the plus side, it’s a great game to look at. I absolutely adore pixel art, and REZ PLZ makes full use of the form with a unique, detailed art style that makes having to look at the same segment of a level you keep dying on fifty times a little bit less tedious. For all the small gameplay hiccups I experienced, the sprite animations were really smooth, and gave the characters and enemies that inhabit the game’s world a real sense of life. The game’s music is pleasant enough, but I often found myself so focused on and/or frustrated by whatever puzzle I was facing that the music didn’t really register.
Finishing things up, I have to mention a few small bugs that marred the experience in addition to some sort of finicky platforming mechanics. The game crashed on me twice while playing – well, one was a crash and one was a loading screen freeze – and on one occasion I had to restart a level because an enemy wouldn’t follow its attack patterns. One time I needed the monster to slice me in half so I could drop a piece of a body down a hole, but it wouldn’t attack at all. I sat there for five to ten minutes waiting for it to slice and dice, but nothing. I was unable to jump back to somewhere where I could get cut in half and send the other brother back for it, either. I will mention that earlier reviews I’ve seen have stated more intense bugs like graphical stuttering and other issues, but I played the game after a patch was released and I didn’t encounter anything like that. I wanted to like this game for its originality, grim sense of humor, and lush graphics. While all of those things are genuinely good aspects, the bugs and imprecise gameplay make REZ PLZ just an average experience.
Buy REZ PLZ
Digital – $14.99
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*A game code was provided for review purposes.