By Phill Cameron on July 5th, 2010 at 6:08 pm.
Honestly, I could handle being the plaything of some unseen, sadist creator. I mean, that’s what we do every day. Now, however, I hate everybody. Everybody Edits is a browser-based platformer where the levels you play in are created by anyone who wants to create a level. That could be you, but it’s probably not. Once it’s finished, you (or more likely, they) open it up to everyone, and you get up to about 50 people all piling on in a single server, to try and beat it. Or, in some cases, you are just along for the ride.
Maybe the creator has created a diorama out of blocks in crude pixel art, and you start the level just to get dragged along, witnessing this huge work before getting dumped at the start again. A welcome diversion from the horrors of the rest, with their increasingly hard jumping puzzles. But, then again, that’s what we’re here for, right?
You can’t win. All you can do is get past every little jumping puzzle and then you get set back to the start. You get a passing satisfaction when you reach the end, because you’ve beaten it, but there’s always more levels, popping up all the time, so you’ll never complete the game. No, the main pull comes from the fact that this is multiplayer platforming.
You can’t help each other. You just share space, clipping in and out of one another as you hop from ledge to ledge, trying to figure out the right combo of arrow presses and jumps to get you from A to B. Of course, trying these puzzles at the same times as other people is a benefit in and of itself; you can watch them go ahead of you, observing how they jump and when, to try and inform you when you try for yourself.
The game has no concept of death, making each restart just a matter of hitting the bottom of that particular stage and being forced back to the beginning by a series of arrows that push you in whatever direction they’re facing. Depending on the level of sadism present in the creator, they can put you a little ways back, or right back to the beginning. Good levels have good checkpointing. Hard levels have none.
Inevitably, you are going to fail. When a stage is kicking your arse, each jump landing either too far or too short and you’re in a constant cycle of retrying, it gets pretty embarrassing. People bound through the stage, their little emoticon faces leering at you before they hop out of your view, leaving you with your Sisyphean Task.
Yeah, your character in the game is a smiley face. Or one with a tongue out, or maybe an ecstatic one with ^^ for eyes. Or, as is often the case with myself, a face made out of pure frustration and anger. The further you get in the level, the less likely you are to see the cheery ones. It’s not a huge opportunity for expression, but people make good use.
There’s something inherently mocking and irreverent about a smiley face. It’s they way they’re unchangeable, constantly bouncing happily along like a they’ve just run away from Karaoke Lettering just to try their hands at a few jumping puzzles before the next song comes on. It doesn’t matter that you’re one of them; even your own avatar mocks you with that cheery smile, enough that you’re quick to change it.
Of course, if a level is too difficult, there are many others to try. Ones to steer clear of have names like ‘The Rage Machine’ or ‘Bet You Can’t Beat This’. These are engineered by sadists who like to hover on a single block above the whole thing, watching players sink into dwindling spirals of rage until they decide the level has beaten them and they quit.
With the latest released version (0.7.0), though, the game has turned into a different beast. Now, certain coloured blocks are tied to keys, which will make them either real or non-existent. So you can have an entire level suddenly disappear beneath your feet suddenly and without warning, making you fall right back to the start of the level only to start over again.
Again, that’s down to the level creator. Either they can use this new ability to create interesting, challenging puzzles, or they can use it to fuck with just about everyone who turns up to have a go with the level. And really, they’re not the ones to blame; it’s every other bloody person who decides to switch out a colour. Or the utter, unreconcilable bastards who figure ‘Hey, why not?’ and turn off every colour. Special place in hell, guys.
Despite this, I keep coming back to Everybody Edits. I think it’s because I’m never alone. Just having other people share in your victories, and more importantly, to lessen your defeats, makes for a compelling experience. You’re in this together, for better or for worse, and that forces a level of camaraderie. Occasionally you’ll stick with one person for a while, each of you helping each other with the jumps, and maybe you’ll wait for them when you finish the level, or they’ll wait for you, and that feels pretty great.
Regardless, you’ve got one thing in common; you hate whoever created this meticulously designed Rage Machine.