Wot I Think: Incredipede

By Nathan Grayson on October 31st, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Incredipede‘s not like other physics-based puzzle games. Well, OK, it’s kind of like one – namely, developer Colin Northway’s own Fantastic Contraption. This time around, though, he’s used sinewy strands of muscle to bind QWOP-ish controls and heaps of charm to Contraption’s impressively freeform puzzle-solving. But do the added ingredients take the formula to new heights, or does the whole thing come tumbling down in a gruesome whir of blood, bone, and eyeball? Here’s wot I think.

Incredipede makes me smile. It makes me smile when one of my insane gyrating leg spider contraptions miraculously works as I intended. It makes me smile when Quozzle (the eyeball’s name; for reference, my eyes are named Tim and Thundertron) leaps into a level-completing beam of light and shuts tight in pure ethereal contentment. It makes me smile when one of my insane gyrating leg spider contraptions doesn’t work, and Quozzle flies into some sort of suicidal “And that’s our show, folks” tap dance right off a cliff. It makes me smile when I watch other people’s solutions and discover that they’re completely different from mine – not to mention far more inventive. It makes me smile when I realize that turning Quozzle into a hideous Cthulhu creature that’s prone to falling over backward in slow motion is an entirely viable strategy.

But Incredipede makes me frown, too – far more often than I’d like. And I think that’s in large part due to the aforementioned moments of brilliance, which are hardly few, but do tend to come fairly far between. Unfortunately, that’s Incredipede’s core problem: its central mechanic – overcoming rapid-fire (think World of Goo in terms of length) challenges by adding legs and push/pull muscles to Quozzle in any orientation you please – is positively excellent, but so much of its potential gets squandered on levels that are inconsistent, repetitive, or flat-out bad. To be sure, there are some amazing ones in the bunch, but they rarely exhibit the same spirit of exploration and wonderment that underlies Quozzle’s hilariously haphazard steps up the evolutionary ladder. New elements – for instance, lava, water, and wind – eventually come along to spice things up, but this certainly isn’t the gradual yet masterful build up of, say, something like Portal.

That said, I can totally understand why. On one hand, it can sometimes feel like Incredipede’s levels aren’t keeping things fresh at a steady enough clip, but on the other, there’s already so much to account for even when you’re simply trying to move across a slightly hilly landscape or save an essential item from plunging into an infinite abyss. The Portal comparison, then, isn’t exactly apt, seeing as that sort of puzzle is generally set up to be solved a certain way. Sure, it feels like you just took home the gold medal in braining at the Brainlympics in Brainsylvania, but here’s the dirty little secret: everyone else on Earth felt precisely the same rush when the game designer’s invisible hand guided them to the exact same conclusion.

Incredipede, meanwhile, demands that you earn that satisfaction. You sit. You think. You tweak. You fail – countless times, in fact. There’s a reason the level reset option is, by default, mapped to space bar – aka, the biggest key on the keyboard. Depending on the type of person you are, this aspect of Incredipede will either make you fall in love or have you tearing out your own eyes in frustration. For me, it ended up being a little of column A and a little of column B. (That is why I now wear a snazzy eyepatch.) On one hand, it was a fantastic relief to finally play a game in which the designer clearly assumed I was a human being with an IQ higher than “functionally dead and also some kind of sea urchin.” But on the other, that led to plenty of instances where I could only sit there and bang my/Quozzle’s head against a wall in vain hope that a solution would eventually fall out.

Fortunately, when worse came to absolute worst, I always had the option of simply watching other players’ solutions – many of which were so clever that I nearly felt like returning my Brainlympics medal. But I also couldn’t help but feel like some of the ensuing frustration could’ve been avoided if early levels were more intuitively designed. I mean, yes, they were fairly simple compared to what I eventually encountered, but they didn’t really do a terrific job of teaching. Heck, I emerged from the first world still unclear on how exactly muscles functioned (note: the arrow indicates the direction the joint will pull – not how the leg itself will move).

Meanwhile, Incredipede could’ve taken a cue from Fantastic Contraption in at least emphasizing me some of the basic structures that’d ultimately form the backbone of Quozzle’s adventures. Makeshift wheels, for instance, ended up being my (and based on a number of solution videos, everyone else’s) best friend. No, they were never a be-all, end-all problem-solver, but they often sparked all manner of far more elaborate ideas. It would’ve, I think, been a useful tool to have in my mental arsenal from the get-go.

But then, Incredipede – quite fittingly – really is what you make of it. Many puzzles can be solved with only a few muscles and bones, but why go straight for the destination when the scenic route’s so much more fun? Promisingly, there’s also a level editor that offers players access to every obstacle in the designers’ (admittedly limited) arsenal, and people have already dreamed up some admirably devious stuff. It’s in these moments of sublime absurdity – when you’ve constructed some monstrosity presumably born of a torrid affair between a frog and a jet plane to cross an obstacle course Evil Knievel wouldn’t have touched in his heyday – that Incredipede truly shines.

Between that and Quozzle’s subtly shifting not-quite-facial expressions, magical moments abound. I mean, once a game’s well and truly pissed me off, that’s usually the signal for my smile to quietly inch its way out of the house and keep a safe distance for a few hours. But Incredipede had this uncanny ability to turn my sour mood – whether it was born of a confusing puzzle or frustrating physics glitch – right back around in an instant. In that way, it was like an overly enthusiastic puppy. Sure, it tripped over its own four/37.5 legs and shattered the vase/my good time, but I can’t say “no” to that face.

So yes, Incredipede makes me smile. It just, you know, takes a while sometimes.

Incredipede is available now on its official website and GOG.

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25 Comments »

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  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    Loving this game – the eyeball always looks so happy when she succeeds. Also, Colin Northway leads an interesting life.

  2. mongpong says:

    Incredipede…Jimmy Saville?

    • DickSocrates says:

      Only 1 L in Savile. It’s easy to remember because it’s vile.

  3. kadeton says:

    But did you tear out Tim or Thundertron? Enquiring minds want to know.

  4. zbmott says:

    “…it feels like you just took home the gold medal in braining at the Brainlympics in Brainsylvania”

    Can we please make this a thing?

  5. pupsikaso says:

    I, for one, am glad this game is NOT available on Steam. The more games I can buy elsewhere, the better, and the quicker I’ll cure my Steam addiction.
    I’m just a little weary about how such games will be patched/updated. I don’t want to go back to the days of manually downloading patches…

    • InternetBatman says:

      I like having my games on Steam. Achievements are nice for some games. Autopatching is similarly nice (although I had to disable it on some, because I never played them and they were always downloading huge patches). I love their multiplayer architecture (I have found very, very few multiplayer solutions as easy). I like their policy of having one purchase for both operating systems. I like their sales. Their integrated voice works pretty well, and I don’t have to pay for a vent server. Workshop takes a lot of the pain out of playing with mods.

      I think there are many valid reasons to complain about Steam, but they also provide a pretty good service. I voted for Incredipede on greenlight too.

      • Randomer says:

        My main complaint with Steam patching is that very few patches seem to come with patch notes. And even when they do, Steam makes it a big pain to find them. Sometimes you find them through the game news, and sometimes from “Download Notes” or whatever the second link is on the update page. But often there is no indication of what the new update entails.

    • Jenks says:

      I don’t think I’m addicted to steam as much as I’ve made a conscious decision that it fits my pc gaming needs best. I like having my library easily accessed in one place,I like having games auto updated, and I like cross game chat/invites that overlay on games I’m playing. I don’t pirate games and I’m always online, so most of the complaints about steam don’t apply to me.

      I also like where big picture mode is headed. I haven’t used it too much yet, but it’s only a matter of time. By my count, 44 of my 183 games on steam are best played with a gamepad, and my pc is already hooked up to my plasma TV as a secondary display.

      tl;dr I <3 steam

    • Mad Hamish says:

      I only get games on Steam if I absolutely have to. DRMless games for the win and all that. Steam is just another lair of bullshit that I don’t want to deal with. I can access my games quicker than Steam. There’s a folder on my desktop called games and in that there is an icon for each of the games I own. When you double click on an icon it loads the game. Nice and simple. The only annoyance I find is when it’s a game that’s only playable through steam. Then it has to load steam up and log me in, which will probably trigger a fuckin 2gig update for Left 4 Dead 2 and generally be a pain in the ass. It does this for absolutely no discernible reason what so ever.

      If I was the kind of person that buys games compulsively on sale and never plays 2/3rds of my 200+ library, well it might be nice for looking at my collection all in one place and deciding what I’m not going to play today. I don’t use any of it’s features, friends list, chat, achievements , overlay all that stuff is of no use to me and I don’t want anyone knowing that I’ve spent 99 hours playing Terraria. But I think I am in the minority unfortunately.

      Having to download patches with a few mouse clicks is such a small and inconsequential thing, i don’t see auto updates as such an advantage. There is also downsides to updates installing without your express permission.

      The more ways to buy the better, but the first port of call should always be the dev.

      end steam rant

  6. hjd_uk says:

    The artist has snuck naughy parts into the backgrounds… see if you can spot them.

    • Carbonated Dan says:

      In the second I spy a ripe breast replete with nipple
      In the third a hill bore an uncanny resemblance to a pert bottom
      what do I win?

      • hjd_uk says:

        You win 1 Free Guilty Fap.

        Also in the 1st pic you missed the large horizontal boob replete with detailed areola and erect nipple) with a flower growing out the top of it [ slightly disturbing ].
        ( bottom left-of-centre of image)

        And the recling boob in the waves – above right of the prone bum – abstract tho.

        • pupsikaso says:

          Wow, you all need to step back from the pron and get a girlfriend.
          With real boobs.

          • hjd_uk says:

            Wait, what, im showing you how the quite obvious images are hidden in the games backgrounds, just look.

          • pupsikaso says:

            It’s okay, bud. I’ve been there. We’ve all been. It’ll pass, don’t worry.

          • hjd_uk says:

            You can think that passive aggressive BS is clever but its not. Also : Pointing out hidden tits is funny and a constructive use of everyones time :D.
            Here:
            Imgur Hilights Pic A
            Imgur Hilights Pic B

            I challenge you to find those images statistically insignificant and a result of random noise.

  7. noethis says:

    It’s a bit reassuring to hear that I’m not the only one with issues with the game. Don’t get me wrong, the concept is brilliant and parts of it make me smile (plus I <3 Colin Northway). But on the whole it doesn't feel tightly *designed* like Portal and World of Good do–it feels more like I've just been thrown a bunch of levels. For every instance where I feel brilliant for solving a puzzle, there's 5 more instances of me bashing my head against a local minima physics wall, eventually solving the puzzle by brute force or by QWOPing my way to the finish line.

  8. Jenks says:

    Can someone help me shake loose a memory here, thinking of an indie game, not sure if it’s released yet. Somewhat reminiscent of Incredipede/World of Goo/Fantastic Contraption, I believe you build a vehicle and let it go, and it runs into an enemy vehicle and they have a physics battle. I’m pretty sure it was covered here on RPS.

    Anyone?

    edit: found it – Rigonauts
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/08/09/wot-i-think-rigonauts/

  9. sinister agent says:

    I just can’t buy more games this year, but this caught my eye when it popped up on gog last week. I do love the art style – is it even possible to take a bad screenshot of that?

  10. Muzman says:

    World of Eww

  11. Carbonated Dan says:

    I really want this, if only to try and build working models of actual anatomies – is this possible? and if not why not?

    • pupsikaso says:

      From the screenshots and videos, I think you’re limited to only 1 muscle pulling on a bone, so no actual anatomies will ever work, unfortunately.

  12. Servizio says:

    I think the real question here is if wheels are so handy, why haven’t more critters evolved them? And don’t just say because they’re not two dimensional.