Fare Well, Horizontal: Against The Wall

By Adam Smith on May 29th, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

I reckon vertically inclined first-person adventure Against the Wall is one of the most interesting indie projects in development, not only because even in its alpha state its polished and playable, but simply because I’ve never played anything else quite like it. Tasked with climbing a wall upon the side of which entire settlements and ecosystems cling, the player is able to pull out sections of the wall by waving a sort of staff at them. In this way it’s possible to create steps and platforms. It’s a fascinating world with an immediately understandable path and means of progression. The latest version of the alpha adds a fair bit since I first took a look and future plans include randomly placed biomes.

If you haven’t already tried the alpha I’d strongly recommend that you stop whatever you’re doing now and download it immediately. It’s free and it will probably make you immeasurably more delighted than you were before you played it. As I don’t know how to quantify delight, please note that this means you could smile so completely that your head is bisected or you might be as happy as a pig not in muck.

The final game will tell a story, with a linear ascent the aim, but recent experiments with biomes suggest a wider (taller?) world to explore. They’re not just being added because procedural content seems a neat thing to add though. Over to designer Michael Consoli:

The only real problem that I have with biomes is that players may go out to explore these areas rather than follow the linear path that would take them further up the wall and through the game’s story. I wouldn’t want someone wander off to some random volcano in the distance thinking that they can get a boost there, when really the nearest elevator is a kilometer in the other direction. It’s a linear game set in an open world, so there is a real possibility that players could get hopelessly lost.

My solution may be to have a system that clearly defines waypoints for the player. Mirror’s Edge had a button that would turn the player to face the next waypoint in the sequence. The challenge would be to teach the player to use this function.

A brilliant concept, a compelling journey and, judging by the thought process outlined above, nothing will added unless it pulls its weight and improves the experience.

Preorders are available at $10 and will provide access to the beta once available. The download on the site at present is an alpha which is free to all. Go play and maybe even chatter on the forums. It’s far lonelier than it should be over there.

And remember, there are definitely no monsters.

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39 Comments »

  1. Yar says:

    For all the gamers frustrated by shoulder-high walls that can’t be climbed.

  2. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    Phew! From the headline my first thought was that another maybe too far off the mainstream indie project had perished. But the good thing about indies is maybe that they keep realising their vision no matter what, not dependent on others to have the same vision, or to see where they’re going with it.

    Great stuff, need to check out what they changed in the new alpha build.

    • Shazbut says:

      That was also my first thought from the headline, and I died a little inside

  3. westyfield says:

    Looks just like another PC version of a Consoli game.

  4. Jorum says:

    Not sure about this – the environment and general idea sound very interesting (I am big fan of weird and fantastical games), but the actual mechanics of pulling out all the blocks and clambering about seems kinda laborious and not much fun to actually do.

    • Mistabashi says:

      I think I’m with you on that – I love the setting (a bit reminiscent of Myst), but climbing up blocks gets old fast, and I’m not really sure what can be done about that.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Grappling hook. The jetpack of ninjas.

      • Didero says:

        I don’t know how much of the alpha you played, but further in coloured blocks appear, that function a bit differently from the normal white ones.
        Adding more types of blocks could make the game quite varied.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          That game Catherine was pretty awful and it was basically just climbing blocks. That’s actually why it was awful.

        • Terragot says:

          the new blocks actually stopped me from playing. And no, they don’t add anything new to the game-play, only take away. I’m not a fan off recessive game-play mechanics in games. The process of designing a simple mechanic and then making that mechanic even more frustrating as the player achieves progress isn’t compelling for me, especially when there doesn’t seem to be any reward.

    • misterT0AST says:

      I played the alpha and had a blast.
      Maybe it was because I was racing with a friend to find out who’d reach the top first, but pulling out stones from the wall is actually pretty challenging, and you end up with a creative little path that you made under you at all times. So if you fall, you’ll likely end up on what you made earlier.
      You feel compelled to search for shortcuts, but then you try a jump that you shouldn’t have tried and all is lost. And pulling blocks out feels nice.
      Maybe you need a friend calling you names while you fall, cursing when he falls himself, to appreciate it, but as I said, I really really had fun.

  5. Urthman says:

    I wouldn’t want someone wander off to some random volcano in the distance thinking that they can get a boost there, when really the nearest elevator is a kilometer in the other direction. It’s a linear game set in an open world, so there is a real possibility that players could get hopelessly lost.

    Maybe I’m a tiny minority, but that’s exactly what I want in a game like this. It’s like hardcore mode in Diablo. If you can’t ever get lost, if you can’t wander off in the opposite direction from the next plot point, it’s not really an open-world exploration game. Sure, include an optional hint for people who get frustrated, but don’t prevent people from getting lost at all.

    As a barely-related aside, I love the way Double Fine’s game Stacking has a cool-down timer on hints. They’ll give you a hint, but you have to think about it for a minute before they give you the next one — there’s always Google if you don’t want to fool with any of that.

    • Harlander says:

      it’s not really an open-world exploration game.

      Isn’t that what “it’s a linear game set in an open world” means?

  6. wisnoskij says:

    Not sure about your interpretation of the games procedural content :
    “They’re not just being added because procedural content seems a neat thing to add though.”
    “nothing will added unless it pulls its weight and improves the experience.”

    To me everything said seems to say that they added the procedural content for no reason and then had to come up with a way to prevent random exploring (the only reason to have procedural content ) because it would ruin the experience otherwise.

  7. Flukie says:

    If you want to play it in Unity and don’t want to install just play at this link:
    http://www.againstthewallgame.com/play/webplayer/

  8. iucounu says:

    Concept very reminiscent of the book ON, by Adam Roberts – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_(novel)

    • Mekon says:

      Indeed. :)

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Even more reminiscent of the book… wait for it… Farewell Horizontal, from 1989. The Cylinder has long been one of my favourite settings. It even has everything needed for an MMO – the sponsored Gangs that fight for prestige and money would make excellent player guilds.

  9. McDan says:

    I remember when the original post of this was and still play it occasionally when I see the icon. Can ne’er get very far though, but more biomes and developments sound good.

  10. Defiant Badger says:

    Oh this is really great. It’s just a shame that you can’t play in full screen on the unity web player, because I feel that this game really needs that level of immersion.

  11. Wizlah says:

    Bonus points for best KW Jeter reference in an RPS headline.

  12. Mr. Mister says:

    Is it me, or does the game simulate the Doppler effect? Check out on the sound of passing moving blocks when free-falling

  13. Yar says:

    I made it to the “congratulations, end of alpha” room. And then I went higher. WAY higher. Until there was nothing left but procedurally generated infinity. I didn’t gain anything extra for that, except that for a while there the challenge of going higher actually got interesting (and then really easy). Did anyone figure out the point of that little cape on the coat rack in the beginning?

    • Koshinator says:

      Not sure, but I always take away the block underneath it and watch it fall to oblivion….

      • Yar says:

        You can also then jump off after it, and die when you reach it.

    • povu says:

      Maybe the game has a secret bonus for taking it with you all the way? You can drag it around with the left mouse I think. :P

  14. povu says:

    I jumped down, turned my camera, and pretended I was Kiwi.

  15. RagingLion says:

    I played a version just a week or so ago and really got hooked on it and replayed it a few times. I love just the concept or a civilisation and ecosystem living in this totally alien world set-up and that’s the whole world – nothing outside of it.

    Also, the gameplay really did feel like climbing. Planning out a path in advance by analysing the block strucutre and then executing on it quickly. You can really climb fast once you get into a rhythmn. I’m excited for how the actual world will develop though and you can interact with it. I want it to feel weird and alien adn for you to be able to affect the landscape in meaningful ways by your actions – maybe just as an additional function of pulling out the blocks somehow.

  16. NamelessPFG says:

    “Tasked with climbing a wall upon the side of which entire settlements and ecosystems cling, the player is able to pull out sections of the wall by waving a sort of staff at them. In this way it’s possible to create steps and platforms.”

    Sounds like Pushmo/Pullblox meets Myst. I’m intrigued.

  17. terry says:

    I like the atmosphere in this game but my HL2 bridge vertigo kicks in after a while. I would like to see an adventure game done on the vertical like this, though – it could lead to some wonderfully weird architecture.

    I noticed a Minecraft map that plays with verticality in a clever way too – http://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/857875-advpuz-the-dropper/ . It’s really something.

  18. BluElement says:

    I tried the alpha quite a few months ago and it was fun for about half an hour, but I quickly got bored. With the addition of a story, it might get better, but I would in no way even pay $10 for it. A linear game where all you do is repetitively climb a neverending wall and occationally explore predetermined areas? Eh…