I’ve played many puzzle games lately. The Sun and Moon. 101 Ways to Die. More that I literally don’t recall at the moment, I just know that they exist in a twisting, torturous tower inside of my brain, forcing me to use my intellect beyond that which I’m prepared to do. You’ll find no different in our Life Goes On Done to Death review. That’s actually “Life Goes On: Done to Death”, but, you know. SEO. In any case, I have enjoyed my time with the game but it wears thin after a while and the difficulty spike for certain levels is quite high. Or I’m stupid. Or both. Nevertheless, read on for our full coverage.
Look and Feel
There’s a charming, chibi-like presentation to Life Goes On. It’s not an extraordinary feat, but the tiny cartoon knights shine through it all, even the blood they will inevitably spill. The levels themselves are filled with a neon tint through the power tubes attached to switches, or some decent fire design. Not the best I’ve seen, but it passes for a smouldering burst of death well enough. Having only made the transition to the second major area, I can’t say much to the variety of the backdrops, but I can say that it all looks fairly pleasant.
Performance-wise, it’s stable. No crashes or glitches, but it’s also not a very demanding game in any sense, so that’s fine. My one issue, in a particular level, is that the character name bar at the bottom of the screen covered up one of the switches I needed to use in order to solve the puzzle. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but it felt like an oversight. No big deal, but that name bar can obscure important areas of the screen.
Time to break it down to the basics, eh? Ok. Life Goes On is a puzzle game with the goal of reaching the golden chalice in each stage. To do that, you sacrifice loyal knights as the King (behind the screen, I guess) by directing their movements to create makeshift bridges over lethal traps or to use their corpses to activate switches.
You can only control one knight at a time. It’s your job to figure out how best to sacrifice the knight to serve your next one. This can be jumping half way over a spike bed so that the next knight can take two jumps across, or it can be careful timing with conveyor belts that grip fallen corpses with switch-activated spikes so you can drop the corpse elsewhere. Ultimately, your goal is to kill your subordinates so that one can reach the grail.
The puzzles themselves range from breezy to WHAT IS HAPPENING!? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO GET UP THERE!? WHAT THE GOD DAMN HELL. YOU’RE LUCKY THERE’S AN INFINITE AMOUNT OF MONKEYS AT YOUR STUDIO, BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO BE– and breathe. In all seriousness though, the puzzles are well-designed for the most part. I’d have liked more control over the way to position a sacrificial knight, for instance, if I were going to lay one on a spike bed, I’d like to be able to belly flop forward for a wider safety net as some of the jumps can be knife-edge to the point that I’ve lost two knights instead of one for being slightly off. That aside, it’s a fine bit of design work with an interesting mechanic of killing your characters to succeed.
As mentioned in the opening. I felt that the difficulty was a little all over the place. It’s hard to tell if I was just better at certain puzzles than others, but the optional boss level in the Mines (first area) was brutal in comparison to the regular levels, even in the next major area for as far as I went. I tried for an hour. Got nothing.
That said, the game isn’t complicated by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just about figuring out the rule. The switch patterns. The best way to sacrifice your knights. Doing well can net you collectible character items that just add a bit of personality. It’s a shame in a way, as at first I thought there might be a proper progression system when the first item popped, but it was just a hat. Once my expectations faded, I became okay with this.
Judging by the trophies, there seems to be a great deal of content to contend with if you fancy yourself a cruel King, but truthfully, the game couldn’t hold my attention. I don’t even think I stopped out of frustration, I just felt as if I’d seen all the game has to offer for the average consumer. I played, I had a good time, I laughed at some of the flavour text and then I was done. If you’re a puzzle-lover, maybe it’ll be more up your alley.
Personality is a section I’ve decided to include for games without much of a “story” but still in need of fair judgement under the same paradigm as the rest of our reviews. In this sense, personality covers the little touches and how unique the approach is. Perhaps good writing even though there’s no true plot.
Life Goes On walks a line. It has a “story” but it doesn’t demand your attention, instead opting for background text on the stage select world map. Essentially, this King is after the Holy Grail because “dying would be a drag”. It’s all very tongue in cheek. The King has sent his servants in search of the grail, seemingly brainless knights of the kingdom, and they’re perfectly willing to Lemming themselves for the cause.
Where the game tickled me was in its level names and collectible references. Pictured above, a purely cosmetic lumber axe has a great description, and there are plenty in the game that were fun to read, if only for a moment, as a reward for masterful completion of a stage. The level names are name of the golden chalice found at the end. Chalices such as “Cup of Better Naps”. Not quite immortality, but close.
So yes, I’d say this game has a decent amount of personality. When it comes to comedy, I’m easy to please, so take that with a pinch of salt.
Life Goes On Done to Death lives up to its name. What you have to do in the game gets done to death, but life does indeed go on. That said, the levels are cleverly designed and it has a charming, silly infusion of humour to it that resonates with me. Nevertheless, at best, I’d say this game is good. Blanket statement: good. Fine. Worth a play. Would I direct you to this over some of the other puzzle games I’ve dabbled with lately? Maybe not, but at a fair price, it’s worth a moment of your time.
Thanks for reading! I’m @SpitfireDG on Twitter and you can come read about me being conflicted on video game opinions, as well as informing voice actors about how much I enjoyed their trips to Paris and London.
Life Goes On: Done to Death
Review Format: PS4