Blake Strongflank is a platform precision jumper game developed by Almost Games for PC and Mac. The controls are simple, using the arrow buttons as left, right, up and down. You play as a boy wearing a pink shirt and you traverse your way through the levels to escape the dungeon.
The chiptune soundtrack and pixelated graphics work together to make the game have a truly retro feel. The puzzles and nature of the platformer makes you want to complete all the levels on offer. As this is the Beta version of the game I can forgive some of the problems I encountered whilst playing. For example, the death animations could be a lot faster and some puzzles slightly easier to complete because I noticed that I could see how I was supposed to complete a level but failed when I didn’t hit a button at the exact place I needed to, finding myself relying on luck more than actual skill. However, that being said, I appreciate the challenge and there not always being an “obvious path” and being made to think.
A small point that I disliked about the game was that at some points the control of the character was easier when using a game pad rather than a keyboard as the game seemed to respond better when playing with a game pad whereas, sometimes while using my keyboard the controls almost worked against you. This could just be down to the game not being completely finished but it is something I personally found a little annoying but not a huge issue over all.
I have to say this game is one of the most frustrating games I have ever played in my life due to the difficulty of some of the levels, one minute you can be cruising through the levels as if they are nothing and the next minute you will be stuck for ages trying to get over just one obstacle. Once completed such obstacle you are then thwarted by another and getting stuck behind the first obstacle. Many people who play Blake Strongflank describe the game as being a “rage game” being difficult for the sake of being difficult, other games such as Super Meat Boy, the same sort of platformer but much faster does induce much anger and frustration within players. Personally, I don’t necessarily place these two games in the same calibre purely because Blake is slow enough to be able to solve but does take skill to do it completely right.
The most frustrating aspect to Blake Strongflank is the difficulty level and the simple ways that the puzzle is solved. While playing, I did find myself spending days stuck on one level and then suddenly realising I was completely wrong and there was another way to go. I will admit I did not complete the demo as it was just too tough for me but when the game is completely finished I will certainly pick this up again.
So, if you like fun puzzle games, with an injection of intrigue (secret rooms to find galore!) this game is definitely for you. You have the genius of the puzzle game and the skill level of a platformer, you have to have quite fast fingers because some of the levels do require precision timing (when I say some what I actually mean is all levels, just some of the early levels are easier than the later levels. The death animations, albeit a little too long, are strangely adorable for the first few times you see them. Little Blake Strongflank, drowns in acid and his hair falls off as he bobs on the surface (fantastic detail!), he burn’s to death with steam shooting from his ears or finally he gets chopped into a million pieces (complete with pixelated blood!) which is one of my favourites because it is surprisingly gory!
There is a surprising lack of a story, however, this did not take anything away from the game as much as it could have done due to the frustrating nature of Blake Strongflank I simply did not have time to get annoyed by something that usually makes me dislike a game. saying this, there is of course a story, it is just an extremely simple one, I just wish that the answer of why you are in the dungeon in the first place and why we need to escape was explored in any way. Also, the little snippets of information you get, the billboards telling the player “I am error” and “I wasn’t supposed to be in today” for example is almost as frustrating as the actual game play.
If you don’t mind dying more than actually playing you will certainly enjoy this game!