Sleepwalkin’ Guy: Braindead

By Alec Meer on October 18th, 2011 at 6:27 pm.

Just you wait

The internet has been full of happy things to say about Braindead lately, and having just played it, I can see why it caused so many whoops and coos. This free micro-download is a retro-esque indie platformer, but wait, come back! This is not yet more tiresome retromancy of the kind that regularly floods indiedom, but instead a smart, one-button inversion of the genre. Rather than control the character, you control his world.

The character is, as the title rather more bluntly puts it, no longer in control of his actions. All he can do is walk forwards, slumped, unhappy, barely there. So you, with just the Z key, your wits and no HUD to guide you, must activate platforms, jump-pads, air vents and all sorts to ensure he can continue without meeting disaster on drops or spikes.

It is, in some ways, a familiar concept – the ancient Sleepwalker, and more recently the well-intentioned but oddly clinical Lucidity – but pairing it with what nods towards VVVVVV levels of sadism and an eventually magnificent but also headache-inducing visual style makes it a singular entity indeed.

Braindead was created for a ‘Piratekart‘ compilation intended for this year’s IGF by Mark Johns, aka Doomlaser. DOOMLASER. There’s a name for an indie developer.

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29 Comments »

  1. caddyB says:

    Looks interesting. A different take on your usual indie platformer which my computer at this point is so full of that I don’t have any space left for anything else.

  2. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Cute concept, works pretty well. Those backgrounds are actually hurting my eyes, though. Couldn’t play for more than a couple minutes.

  3. Cerebrium says:

    Another artsy indie platformer.

    Excuse me if I seem less than exuberant.

    • rayne117 says:

      Another game with guns.

      Another game with swords.

      Another game with dragons.

      Another game with rats.

      Another game with spiders.

      Another game with bad guys.

      Another game with good guys.

      In Diablo II all you do is hold down the left mouse and kill monsters. In Zelda you just run around and unlock doors. In Battlefield 3 you just shoot people.

      Anything can be made to seem repetitive and boring if you make it sound repetitive and boring.

      Yeah but this one is pretty meh.

    • Srethron says:

      Pfft, another website with words.

    • Wubbles says:

      To be fair, there is a difference between generalizing games by genre and generalizing games by a single element. “Has guns” encapsulates considerably less about a game than “is artsy”.

    • Wisq says:

      Another invalid comparison of a complaint about a specific game formula to complaints about broad gaming categories.

      Seriously, “another game with guns” or “another artsy game” is not the same as “another artsy indie platformer”. I don’t necessarily agree we’ve hit the overload point for “artsy indie platformers” yet, but I also don’t think it’s an invalid complaint that deserves ridicule.

      I do think that making that complaint and declaring your general lack of interest on a thread about the game is a little silly, mind.

  4. Xocrates says:

    Cute diversion in need of some fleshing out, but I feel like I should bash the devs head in just for the bloody seizure inducing visuals.

  5. Dervish says:

    Limbo was my first thought here. Any other recent games with silhouette graphics? I’ve no idea if that style is becoming a “thing;” maybe there are tons that look the same.

  6. LTK says:

    Meh. Stopped playing at the diagonal spike-covered tunnel. I didn’t see much interesting along the way either.

    • Wilson says:

      Do you mean the bit where you have to jump up a vertical tunnel via some platforms and then go through the diagonal tunnel? I stopped playing there.

  7. PodX140 says:

    I actually stopped reading at “…but wait, come back!”, read some older posts, then came back because I was just so perplexed what could be it’s saving grace :P

  8. mazzratazz says:

    Is the title a reference to the condition of whoever came up with the visual design?

    Seriously though, I’ve very rarely wanted to instantly stop playing a game because of the visuals, but this certainly did it. I kept playing for a while longer because the concept was interesting, but not well-executed enough to be FUN (for now, it has potential though!).

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I thought they were vaguely pretty, but physically painful to look at because of all the flashing and crap. Don’t think I’ve ever had that in a game before. Not without a hangover, anyway.

  9. PhoR says:

    “Rather than control the character, you control his world.”
    Soooo… Gyromite?

  10. noethis says:

    Can someone explain to me what a “pirate kart” is?

  11. Gabryl Kaine says:

    Sounds similar to this little browser gem called One Click. A little less eye-gougy though.

    Edited for “Oh right those little dot-things…”

  12. Sheng-ji says:

    Oh my, I loved sleepwalker! Happy hours spent playing that game!

  13. NathaI3 says:

    Tried it. Stopped just prior to suffering a seizure. That’s what it felt like anyway. Either that or a stress-induced aneurysm from the frustrating gameplay. Interesting concept/art style, just not easy on the brain.

  14. Sagan says:

    Good thing that the game is so short. I can’t say that I like the “same button that helps you also kills you” gameplay. In a way it’s a game that gives you bad controls and then laughs at you and says “haha look at how confused you are by these bad controls.”

    That being said the game is well made otherwise and since it’s so short I did enjoy and finish it.

  15. jymkata says:

    I went for a wee-wee and when I came back the game had reset itself. I therefore give this game my lowest score of 9.8/10

    • Consumatopia says:

      It does the same to me if I hit the windows key. Yep, the key right under Z. Good job, Doomlaser.

      Even today I still kind of like these little atmospheric indie platformers, but I see them more as experiences than games. Which makes them a bit like modern art museums in which I have to go through an obstacle course to see the next exhibit.

      Given that, I wish they were a bit less trying of my patience. They should give me some idea how much further I have to go in the game. Imagine a film with a secret run time–it might be five minutes, it might be ten hours, you have no idea. Not very many people would have patience with that.

      Also, if a game gives you infinite continues, like this one, there is not very much excuse for not saving your progress.

      Judging by responses in this thread, most people who tried this game bailed out. Even those who found it kind of interesting (like me). It’s clearly not that game is incredibly hard (it’s no Super Meat Boy) but it really tries your patience, even ignoring the eye bleed issues. “How much longer am I gonna have to watch this guy slowly walk up to a spring?”

  16. PleasingFungus says:

    This was made for the Piratekart, so it’d have been made in two days, max. Give the poor guy a break.

    Also, wow, a lot of spam around here.

    EDIT: And won. 62 deaths. Sometimes frustrating but pretty fun! (The diagonal tunnel bit isn’t the hardest, but it’s the least fun; I still don’t know exactly what I did to beat it.)

  17. Eric says:

    Wow, I genuinely disliked this. A lot. I don’t have anything against challenging platformers, VVVVVV and Super Meat Boy are two of my favorites of the last few years, but this was the worst kind of “die to learn the trick to die again to eventually succeed” combined with the most finicky controls (especially for being a one-button game!) I’ve seen in ages.

    Kudos for it causing a visceral reaction, I guess? Won’t be recommending it to anyone, though.

  18. pupsikaso says:

    I don’t like this game. It’s not like it’s the first to do the whole uncontrollable protagonist that you must get through the world by controlling the environment thing. So besides that, there’s very little going for it. The music is alright, but the visuals give me a headache and is painful to my eyes. And not to mention how terrible the actual gameplay is. Nevermind that you have to first kill yourself a few times before you figure out exactly what and how you control the environment on a particular screen, but many times this control is neither accurate nor consistent. This makes for a very frustrating game, with visuals that hurt your head and an alright music… meh.

  19. jamesgecko says:

    @Sagan: The controls are funky because it was originally developed for a one button game competition.

  20. StevenM1988 says:

    So it’s another escort-themed platformer? I dunno, when I read “Rather than control the character, you control his world” I thought they’d actually tried something like literally having you maneuver the whole level around with the mouse or the arrow keys, while the character limps forward like a single-minded rag-doll.

    OK, at first glance that idea wouldn’t really change the overall goal of the game. Maybe I’m biased because I’m not fond of escort missions or general ‘solve the conundrum on-the-fly while the idiot avatar saunters around’ games. You could still shunt the avatar around with the power of physics (quickly drag the level up to force the character upward with it, then quickly pull down again to suddenly provide several hundred videogame feet for him to fall down), or rotate the level around, or maybe change the size of the level while you’re at it. Or if you’re not sold on the entire of moving the entire level itself around, maybe chunks of the level operate independently of each other. So you’d have a broken pipe sticking out of the ceiling and a broken pipe sticking out the ground; then you just shift one tessellation of tiles forward or back and presto, two halves make a whole, climb through the whole and you’re out (or just trap the sleepwalking shithead in one corner of the playing field while you sort out the Goldberg contraption ahead). Fleet of robots patrolling the floor? Push the ground into the ceiling and crush the tin cans. Fleet of robots with cigarette-lighter heads patrolling the floor? Push a loose piece of wall into the gas pipes hanging overhead to break the pipes open and cause a chain reaction that, while not actually providing a way for the main character to pass by at all, would be immensely cathartic for the player who had been stuck at that one other puzzle for a good half hour.

    Just suggesting ideas and all, depending on whether the developer wants to expand on their idea whilst free of a 48-hour time limit. I think a good brainstorm would be really beneficial for inspiring game theory.