101 Ways to Die (Xbox One Review)
Not a lot of people out there will remember a fantastic little game called Lemmings. Lemming’s objective was to simply help negotiate the little lemmings from the entrance of the level to the exit without bringing any of them harm or dying, but the majority of the fun came from watching them fail. Watching them fall off cliff edges or have them erupt in a huge explosion was more satisfying and funny than saving them ever was. Along comes 101 Ways to Die developed by Four Door Lemon which takes the formula of the old Lemmings games and flips it around; rather than saving the characters that are under your care you have to find varied and unique ways of killing them off one by one in this physics based puzzler. It’s a sadist’s dreamscape.
The plot follows the machinations of a mad scientist and his lifelong work of uncovering the different ways that people can die by producing experiments full of deathtraps to murder and maim his test subjects. Unfortunately due to his own clumsiness all the scientists notes were destroyed in an explosion, resulting in his life’s work vanishing before his eyes. Recruiting an eager assistant, you and the mad scientist start from scratch, the team tries to rediscover all the horrible 101 ways to die.
Four Door Lemon have been generous enough to provide over 50 levels for you to experiment in. Staging areas for each set of experiments range from dank basements to high tech testing facilities, all divided across four chapters. Each testing area presents you with a new conundrum for you to solve using a myriad of devices in the form of explosives, triggers, turrets, and electrified boulders. These experiments are usually presented in a particular manner so that there’s only one possible solution for each stage, negating any sort of complexity that the player may be hoping for in a puzzle game. That’s not to say that 101 Ways to Die is an easy game, just one that is very meticulous about how you solve each puzzle; by this I mean the varying degrees of angles you have to precisely work out and some of the random hiccups each character has when they get snagged on objects.
Granted that you have mastered the ability to accurately place objects and found that clear-cut route to killing all the Splatts (your experimental lemmings), you’ll still have to adhere to each levels graduate and bonus objectives. Graduate objectives are exactly what you think; objectives to complete in order to proceed. And bonus objectives are additional goals that you can try accomplish that will help you earn that elusive three star rating for that level. These can range anywhere in difficulty from simply killing all Splatts in that current experiment to more challenging ones like create a combo using all the available destructive tools at your disposal – resulting in a murderous Rube Goldberg machine. It’s also important to note that completing all your objectives doesn’t necessarily mean you will reach the high score/three star rating, timing is also key. Knowing when to remotely detonate a mine or when to start that boulder rolling will net you those extra points needed to cap the score limit for that level, or if you’re extremely lucky a Splatt will get caught on scenery and take an infinite amount of damage, resulting in ludicrous scores for the leaderboards.
Should you master each stage, accomplishing three stars in all 50+ levels, there may still be a tad more gameplay for you to enjoy. Present in the game’s main menu is The Vault, an area that tracks your overall progress such as stats, achievements, and more notably the Ways to Die logbook. The logbook tracks all your deathly accomplishments in the form of stamps and provides a neat little illustration depicting the combo being performed. I know it’s not a terribly enticing motive to revisit old levels just for the means of filling a virtual catalogue of stamps, but with 101 Ways to Die’s addictive qualities you’d wish there were more to the game that its current scope of stages, so for some this may be enough to keep them entertained for a short while longer.
101 Ways to Die has its own unique charm and as with a majority of indies games they can either be a hit or a miss, luckily Four Door Lemon knew what they were doing when creating this addictive title. With its trial and error gameplay approach and meticulous puzzles needing pinpoint accuracy to solve, 101 Ways to Die may not be everybody’s cup of tea. However, if your are a fan of the Lemmings from years gone by then 101 Ways to Die is definitely a game you want to be experimenting with.