Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
Long before Mark Essen aka Messhof commercially released Nidhogg, he made a dozen fascinating, bizarre, infuriating, joyous free games. Punishment 2: The Punishing was all of those things.An ultra-hard 2D platformer, you needed to leap between platforms and tiny posts to climb up and up between different levels. What made it truly punishing was that after reaching each new level, you’d need to travel backwards, down through each previously completed level in order to re-flick a switch on the very first screen.
By the time I completed it, I was absurdly good at those first few levels. I could literally complete them forwards and backwards.
What’s interesting now is to view the game as part of the development of Essen’s personal aesthetic. Where Punishment 1 had grey, checkered background art, Punishment 2 places its well-animated silhouette man against a shifting palette of bright, single-colour backgrounds, just as Nidhogg does.
Unfortunately it looks like Punishment 2 – and 1, and Cowboyana, and all Essen’s free games – are no longer available via his official site. A real shame.