2 is a brightly colored, endlessly creative game with influence from 2D Metroid, but it’s also much more than that. It seems unassuming in its opening moments; you walk across a couple of rooms, use some keys to unlock doors, and get some health. And then slowly, things start to open up, and you see what kind of game you’re really in for.
Stuff like last month’s Mibili’s Quest and this game are the perfect cases for why I enjoy browsing new indie games so much. So many people don’t realize how much great stuff is coming out of that scene, and it happens more often than you think. Most of the stuff I stumble into is smaller or experimental, leaving an impression but not doing much as a whole package. But with Mibibli and 2, I felt like I had stumbled into a gold mine. When I was first starting 2, it kept hitting me how huge the world I was exploring was, and how many paths I was going to be able to branch down through over the course of the next few hours. I was absorbed, and it clicked with me in a way my favorite games do, showing me things I wasn’t expecting, and continuously holding my interest with the whatever was happening onscreen.
It would be a disservice to just call 2 and Metroid game, because even early on, it does plenty to distinguish itself from any one genre. Sure, you collect powerups that give you access to new areas to progress through, but that’s just scratching the surface. You’ll solve plenty of puzzles, you’ll have to take a wikipedia lesson on math problems if you’re as numerically challenged as I am, you’ll listen to some genuinely sweet music, and see several things that you’ve definitely never seen in a game like this before.
One of the first things you’ll notice is how the art intentionally disorients you, forcing you to do more than just hold the right arrow to progress. Once it has your attention, that’s when the importance of the environments actually sets in. The bright colors combined with the surprising darkness of the themes really meshes in a way I can get behind. One of the first sets of enemies you face scream “KILL ME PLEASE.” 2 is almost always teetering over the edge of being disturbing. Each screen seems so lively just with how much work has been put into painting a background, and there are usually hidden messages drawn into the environment. I had walked through a screen three times before I noticed the word “VIOLENCE” scrawled onto the scenery.
It really pays to scout each area before moving on, finding the messages hiding around a screen is just as rewarding as progressing through it. Playing 2 feels like reading a very personal journal entry, complete with ramblings of joy, depression, and love. Its intimate nature lends the game to having more personality in a couple screens than many games have in their entirety.
The game is best when rapidly tossing in gameplay ideas, and never using them again. After you find the screen where you end up playing a remade version of another game, you’ll realize how much there is to find. Several screens are hiding puzzles as you walk through them, and you might not realize you were inside a puzzle until hours later. Nearly every single room and boss fight are an entertaining spectacle. Like the best games, everything feels like it was designed for a reason, and there isn’t much filler to speak of. There is one boss fight that I felt broke the pacing a tiny bit, but it was also rewarding when I finally brought him down, since it was the most challenging thing I was asked to do in the game. Not happy with just having a fantastic pace of gameplay, 2’s use of music is similarly excellent and deserves a mention. Aside from the main theme still being stuck in my head, several licensed tracks are used to create a mood for one or two screens, and are never used again.
If you’re into platformers where exploration and discovery is key, this is for you. There are more hidden passageways and secret areas than I can count, and it’s so fun to stumble through a false wall in a room you’ve been in a dozen times. 2 highlights the fun of discovery over the challenge of tough level design. Difficulty isn’t the draw, so keyboard controls are actually quite sufficient, despite how I feel about most platformer controls on PC. I still used a gamepad for the majority of the time, but I never felt that I was at a disadvantage when I wasn’t.
2 is also totally free, and can be downloaded from Hubol’s website. Hubol worked for two years on the game, so feel free to make use of the donation link on that page. In a year with several excellent platformers already, 2 is another standout in the bunch.
(Also take note of the NSFW mark on the game’s page, because there is some reeeaaaaaallll NSFW stuff in there. Like, more than you’re expecting. You’ll see.)