Platformdungseffekt: The Fourth Wall

By John Walker on January 25th, 2012 at 3:35 pm.

Ow my brain again.

“Ohhhh. That’s really clever,” were the words uttered by my mouth as I realised The Fourth Wall‘s conceit. And then I realised I was going to have to try to explain it with words.

It’s a 2D sometimes-side-scrolling platformer from DigiPen student group Pig Trigger, in which you can control the character and the scrolling of the screen. So, run left or right and the screen scrolls with you. However, hold down Ctrl and it becomes static, and running from one edge has you appear on the other side. So you might drop down a hole and appear from the corresponding point on the top edge, or run from the left and appear on the right – it’s a notion familiar to anyone who’s played enough 80s/90s platform games. But here you’re in control of where the screen stops and starts, and it’s manipulating this which allows you to progress.

Which is such a brilliant idea. So, for instance, there’s a fiery deathtrap in front of you, and you want to reach a platform on the other side, too high to jump to. So, jump upward, until the fire is off the bottom of the screen, hit Ctrl, and then drop down the bottom. You fall through the top of the screen, and as you fall steer to the platform. Reached.

A typical puzzle may look like this:

What can you do here? You can retreat back to the left, but that’s where we came from, and why do we game if not to progress? It’s that door we’re after, but clearly it’s unreachable – this isn’t Dustforce. It’s way more simple than it looks.

Jump up, and that pit’s gone. But the top of the screen is solid so there’s nowhere to fall. So run along the now-safe bottom of the screen unto the gap in the heatwaves, and let go of Ctrl.

It rapidly gets far more complicated, as you’re having to hold the screen mid-fall to allow yourself to climb upward (yup, it’s that much of a brain-hurt), or jumping out of the left of the screen, turning, and falling back in the same side again in a different area. Soon you won’t be troubled for long by a moment like this (oh, the solution is so elegant):

And the music, which you also can’t hear, is utterly sublime.

Oh, look, you just have to play it to understand. It’s free, and it’s utterly brilliant.

__________________

« | »

, , , , , .

41 Comments »

  1. frame says:

    Platformdungseffekt?

    • Bluerps says:

      It sounds like butchered german, but I can’t make sense of it either…

    • duckinabox says:

      It’s a reference to Bertolt Brecht’s “verfremdungseffekt”, or “distancing” effect, which involved the breaking of the so-called “fourth wall” in theatre.

    • Thirith says:

      It’s a play on Verfremdungseffekt, a usually theatrical device favoured by Berthold Brecht which often works by breaking the fourth wall. It’s all a bit laboured, really… What is it with you Brits and your bad puns? Is it that you’re all subjected to conditioning along the lines of A Clockwerk Orange, just with Christmas pantos instead of Beethoven?

    • Grey Ganado says:

      Lose the D and it’d be a valid German word.

    • Thirith says:

      @Grey Ganado: It’d still need a second ‘t’ in its first syllable, at the very least.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      If you like our laboured puns then you’ll love this guy Thirith:

    • frame says:

      “Platform Game” is called “Jump and Run” in German. So.. the whole wordplay would need to be: “Jump and Rundungseffekt”

    • Makariel says:

      platform -> platform
      dung -> manure
      effekt -> effect

      -> farming simulator 2012

    • Bluerps says:

      “Manure Effect” sounds like a lowbrow parody of a Bioware game.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      @Eddy9000: I still say Milton Jones is the master of the area. (Listen to his show on BBC radio!)

    • Eddy9000 says:

      You’re preaching to the choir Rickard! Already love it.

  2. Stuart Walton says:

    I do hope the programmer named the function for the Ctrl key, “ToroidalTopologyToggle”.

    • Pianosaurus says:

      Hahahahahaohdearohdear, my professors humour is rubbing of.

  3. Berzee says:

    Oh good, spikes.

  4. LTK says:

    Be careful with this game. Before you know it, you’ll have a beard and a wizard hat.

    • Mr_Initials says:

      That could never happen…. OH GOD it happened!… Wait I already had this.

  5. randomnine says:

    If you think you’ve got stuck, don’t press ‘R’. R is for ‘Restart Game’. Restart level is, of course, ‘K’.

    If you want to run it fullscreen, hit Alt-F4.

    • LTK says:

      Would have been nice to know this BEFORE I got stuck and pressed R.

    • MondSemmel says:

      Happened to me, too. Then I quit in frustration. I wish the game had had autosave at the beginning of a level, or a prompt asking me whether I really, really wished to restart from the beginning _of the game_…

    • Annexed says:

      Likewise. The other annoyance I came up against was the words “Please remove controller and restart game” hovering over the character’s head. Plugging/unplugging the Xbox controller made no difference, so I played the whole game through with that. Thankfully it wasn’t all that long!

      Enjoyable nonetheless. Just the right level of challenge to keep you interested without being frustrated.

    • Josh W says:

      Weirdly, my copy is the exact opposite way round, hit esc to check which is true.

  6. Coccyx says:

    This is brilliant. I just played to completion (only took around 20 minutes) and the solution to that last puzzle is in deed wonderful, I picked up on it myself, actually.

    • Captchist says:

      Completed it. No achievement points. Would not play again.

      :) Just kidding, very much enjoyed it. Puzzles were momentary “hmmmms” with reasonably quick solutions. Pitched them at just the right level I think.
      Well designed, and a cute design. Nice work.

  7. Eddy9000 says:

    Oh that is a nice idea, would love to see it built on a bit more. I really got that ‘That’s brilliant, how come no-one’s thought of this before” feeling.

  8. onodera says:

    That’s a brilliant little game, just long enough to finish in one sitting and not so reflex-obsessed as SMB.

  9. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Very good game. Nice music too.

  10. Shih Tzu says:

    Neat!

    Also, people who like this should check out “Scrolly Polly”, a puzzle-level made for Knytt Stories. It’s not the exact same mechanic, but it’s similar in the sense that it involves manipulation of the wraparound platforming concept.

  11. Tei says:

    Very clever game, congrats :D

    It lack somewhat of polish, trought (like a label with the name of the level, so I can say where I am stuck!)

  12. Medo says:

    I see some parallels to Braid here, and I don’t just mean superficial things like the monster cannon. Not saying that’s a bad thing. One negative point to this clever puzzler, there are some sections where I don’t feel like I’m doing anything new.

  13. Doomsayer says:

    My antivirus software ate it.
    Now it’s hidden somewhere I can’t find it. WTF!?!?!?!1

  14. benkc says:

    Is anyone else unable to jump up-and-right? I can jump up-and-left or straight up but not up-and-right.

    Actually… I can jump up-and-right but not if I am holding Ctrl. I’m guessing the game doesn’t like something about my keyboard. :-/

  15. Bluerps says:

    Played it yesterday – really nice little game.

  16. Hodge says:

    That was wonderful. I especially liked the bouncy pigs.

    • Josh W says:

      I agree, I wished there was some way to take the pigs with me, as an additional challenge.

  17. CptRed says:

    “Controllers are not supported
    Exiting in 5 seconds…”
    Well that was fun…

    EDIT: Remembered that I had a joystick connected… Weird that they decided the game should shut down when that happens…

  18. sethhuber says:

    That was seriously awesome. There’s a million of these indie puzzle platformers but the ones that get it right really get it right. Great music too, I unironically liked the accordion serenade at the end.

  19. Jupiah says:

    Good aesthetics, great music, interesting concept. Couldn’t finish the game because there’s one puzzle that apparently requires you to make a running jump off the left side of the screen while holding the screen, and my game seems to be bugged such that the guy won’t jump while holding left and ctrl. I can jump to the right while holding ctrl, but not left. Shame, it was a fun game.

    [edit] Turns out I can jump left while holding the right ctrl button, but not while holding left ctrl. Weird.

  20. MD says:

    Just got around to playing this. I enjoyed it! One of those great little ideas you sort of wish you’d had yourself. Obviously a lot of the value is in the execution, and I thought they pulled it off well. There’s probably more that could be done with the concept, all sorts of devious puzzles and skill-dependent maneuvers, but I was honestly kind of relieved that they kept it short and simple.