Up Against The Wall: Vertigo

This is an accurate representation of me climbing.

I’m a simple man, driven by simple pleasures. Such as when playing a climbing simulator, deliberately placing one foot on the rock, and then with arms by my side, placing a second foot on the rock. And watching the character fall stupidly on his back. But then I’m a twit. Vertigo is actually a rather serious climbing game, very impressively recreating the necessary actions and thought that goes into scaling a vertical surface. Using ragdoll physics, you control each of the guy’s four limbs to find grips on a rockface, seeing how high you can get him. Which is more interesting than it sounds.

Not much more interesting, admittedly, but it had me gripped. GRIPPED! Oh, me. Because as someone who has done a fair amount of climbing (admittedly top-roped and usually indoors) (unless you count scaling my way around my own house without touching the floor), it makes a great deal of sense. The same instincts work here as in real life, with the mantra that you climb with your legs, not your arms, right at the core.

Each limb has an energy meter, and arms naturally get tired a lot more quickly than legs. Don’t give an arm a rest in time and it’ll lose its grip and flop from the wall. Do that with two arms and you’ll fall, as far as your last carabiner.

So in some ways, as with real climbing, it’s partly a puzzle game. Planning a route, then executing it, requires not getting your limbs tangled or ending up dangling upside down on the wall. Then you’ve the added level of difficulty of doing this before the lactic acid in your arms starts to burn red hot. And it works.

What doesn’t work is a lot of the game at this point, but then this is a 0.8 work-in-progress build. At the moment there’s only one rock to climb, although with four routes of varying difficulty to take up it. Unfortunately, when you do drop, there doesn’t appear to be a way to recover. And then there’s apparently no way for the game to recover either, locking up when you try to start a new game. It’s not a big deal – closing the window and loading it again takes about two seconds, and it can save. Clearly there are plans for much more, as you can see in the video below. In which you’ll also see that this is an extremely ugly game, which is a shame. But ultimately not that important.

You can download the 0.8 version, for free, from here.


  1. Baboonanza says:

    To be honest it looks absolutely nothing like rock climbing. The technique of the climbing dude is horrendous, always pulling himself into the wall with a bent arm and trying to stand upright – a mistake usually made by absolute beginners.

    It might be fun anyway but this is to climbing what QWOP is to running.

    • TonyB says:

      I thought GIRP was to climbing what QWOP is to running.

    • Baboonanza says:

      Ah, I forgot about that one (and I even played it).

    • celozzip says:

      thanks for introducing me to girp. i’ll try the other one in a bit.

    • dragonfliet says:

      While it looks nothing like climbing, and it doesn’t do anything, really, to account for the balance necessary on a crappy hold, or for dynos, among other things, it gets the basic premise down surprisingly well and puts a strong emphasis on proper technique and planning ahead.

    • Synesthesia says:

      yeah, girp is much, much better, imo.

  2. Llewyn says:

    Didn’t Mr Stone post last week that this had now been abandoned by the developer in favour of new projects, and that it was on hold pending someone else coming in and picking it up?

  3. BooleanBob says:

    “(unless you count scaling my way around my own house without touching the floor)”

    Forget the Game of Twenty Squares. The Floor Is Lava is the original ur-game.

  4. Avenger says:

    Assassin’s Creed should have a hardcore mode like this…

  5. Ryn Taylor says:

    Enjoyable, but I had a lot of trouble clicking on hold that were partially blocked by my body, trouble with my guy wanted to twist his legs around in odd ways to reach a hold he’d been able to do normally before, and I felt the timing on limbs being tired was very short. I’m a girl with no upper arm strength, and I’ve been rock climbing before, and though I failed miserably at it I was still able to hold on longer than the guy was.

  6. kulik says:

    I think that the rock and the grips should be randomly generated.

  7. JuJuCam says:

    Pressing spacebar resets the level for me.