There are many ways you could die. This game features 101 of those ways, and here’s hoping you never experience them in real life. As for the game, however, it’s quite good. It’s a physics-based puzzle game that plays like a cross between Lemmings and Deception. If that interests you, read on for our full 101 Ways to Die Review.
Look and Feel
In presentation, the game has a clean look. It has a certain cartoon polish to it that I appreciated. The main focus is on the Franken-splatts you’ll be leading to their death, which is why it’s a shame that the death animations and blood effects aren’t a more detailed. Most deaths involve the critters just falling to pieces, and the majority get obscured by the blood that splats across the screen. Less blood and more detail in the deaths themselves would have worked wonders.
That said, it’s fine to look at and the music is okay too. Nothing too special, but I did warm to the little dudes that I was sending off to their graves.
The backdrops are themed based on what area your current level is in. I can’t say it mattered too much to me, as the gameplay is what it is regardless.
As for the feel, the controls are finely tuned on console. A click of the left thumbstick will quickly reset the level, so it’s easy to pick right up after you make a mistake with your trap placement and don’t want to wait for the Frankensplats to achieve glorious victory over you.
There’s an option to fast forward to process of the killing these little dudes, but it’s a tiny boost of speed at best. A toggle for increased speed might have been useful as when the levels get bigger, it can take some time for the perfect set up to be achieved. A minor nit-pick though, as it functions fairly well throughout with no real complaints to be had in my experience.
The highlight visually is seeing the minion-like creatures emerge from their Bioshock-esque Vita Chambers and plod along right in to a perfectly placed trap.
The gist of the game is that you’re hired help to assist a mad Professor reconstruct his life’s work: the book of 101 Ways to Die. You’ll be using his own special creations as fodder for your experiments because apparently the dude’s got a whole heap of flesh just lying around for the squishing.
Each level plays out the same: you’re given access to set traps, you must place them and plan out the death of the Frankensplatts to graduate from the level. There are 3 stars to be earned in each level (bar the training scenarios): one for graduating and two for achieving certain goals, like “Kill two Splatts with a Boulder”. This does a lot for replay value as I’d find myself running back to levels to try and earn that extra star. I’ll admit, I failed miserably for the most part, but I did start the game on a hot streak.
The levels will often be filled with hazards of their own. You can’t change the placement of these traps but you can manipulate your own to lead the Splatts straight in to them. More often than not, they’re tied to star ratings, so it’s always worth experimenting.
From cannons, springboards, mines, bombs, boulders, lava pits and spike traps, there’s many-a-combination to be had that’ll result in the death of our little buddies. I guarantee I haven’t seen them all, but what I have seen is enough to make me question who I am as a person in the use of them. Seriously though, it’s fun to plan out the work and watch it come to fruition when you’re ready.
Loading screens are short but frequent given the brief nature of the levels. This is fine, but it becomes more apparent the more you fail, and it gets especially frustrating when you can’t quite get that last objective cleared for the star you need to unlock further levels in the game.
Some of these puzzles are mind-boggling, too. Not long in you’ll find challenging courses and I’ve been trying for hours to progress right now to no avail. Perhaps this is due to my own incompetence, as I don’t feel it’s unfair, but it’s certainly a hard game to say the least. It eases you in and then brings you right on down to pound town.
The only issue I have with the additional objectives is that they’re often asked of you via text followed by a picture of the trap needed, but you don’t always know what that icon means. Surely it would have made more sense to just say “Kill two Splatts with a boulder” rather than “Kill two Splatts with (insert picture of boulder like object and hope the player deciphers it)”. It just feels like an unnecessary complication.
My favourite moment was using a stun bomb explosion to knock a boulder in to a springboard, shooting it through an air-conditioner / fan that then propelled it through a curved portion of the map, followed by yet another springboard to launch it over a gap to then use a final springboard planting the boulder firmly in to the faces of three Splatts. You can create some awesome moments of skill with the tools at your disposal.
There are a fair amount of levels for you to bash your head against a brick wall with, but skill is rewarded here, so I appreciate the approach. It’s a shame that I can’t see many making it that far through it, but what you can play from the beginning is fun enough to capture your attention.
There are points to be made on either end of 101 Ways to Die, but if you’re up for a serious challenge in a puzzle-based environments in a Lemmings-like game with a twist, I can’t think of a more appropriate experience for you. If you have an aversion to blood or violence, give it a miss. It’s unapologetic from the get-go. In fact, that’s the aim of the game. That’d be a shame though, because it’s a rewarding puzzler despite the occasional bout of frustration trying to obtain stars to go on to the later levels.
Game: 101 Ways to Die
Review Format: Playstation 4