“…enjoy a promise of entertainment, disgust, awe, hilarity and calamity from the word go…”
Are you mildly twisted? Do you have a friend who is also mildly twisted? If you answered “yes” to these simple question, then boy do I have the review for you! Allow me to introduce you to Troy; a fleshy mess of a protagonist that simply wants to drag itself out of the scientific hell-hole in which it was born and through a literal hell-hole in the hope of escaping to… well, that part isn’t exactly clear when you first set out on this grand adventure, but we are getting ahead of ourselves! I mean, for starters, Troy isn’t just one protagonist, but two…
Struggling is a physics-based co-op platformer in which two players control one each of a pair of long, grotesque arms attached to the conjoined heads of Hector and Achilles. It is not dissimilar in gameplay terms to the quietly popular Steam indie hit Heave Ho, but offers quite the departure in style and world-building, alongside a more advanced set of puzzles. The debut title from Montreal-based Chasing Rats Games is a relatively early entry in the Frontier Foundry collection, established by the industry veterans at Frontier Games, and it is easy to see what attracted them to this obscure work of art.
Frankly, words can barely describe the striking visual of the player character, but that speaks volumes about the hideous-come-humorous design work which makes Struggling look and feel unique. Landing the perfect balance between a cutesy cartoonish art style and the type of organs-on-display inspiration that would usually merit a high age certificate, the design of the game easily draws you in as much as it will likely freak you out. Think a fleshy Rick and Morty-inspired world and you are starting along the right track.
The over-the-top art of the game is the perfect setting for the calamity that ensues when you and your best bud are put under pressure in trying to keep whatever Troy is meant to be alive. Dragging yourselves through all manner of weird and wonderful environments, with puzzles galore along the way, death truly waits around every corner in Struggling. Be it acid, teeth, rats or explosions, something always awaits those players whose timing-perfect teamwork fails them. Given the infrequent yet frequent enough bugs which occur in trying to simply clamber from A to B, this can be a point of frustration at times; notably, the seventh or eight times you attempt a particular acid-crossing and fail because you are gets tangled up. A lot of mechanical workarounds have been attempted by the developers to resolve this, such as the ability to break off and regrow your arm should it get stuck, but the band-aid fix feels like an obvious signpost that the problem just couldn’t be fixed.
Along with dragging and puzzling, several other challenges await along your path to… freedom? I think it’s freedom. The story, in case it hasn’t become entirely clear thus far, is not entirely obvious, but it is fun to traverse through, nonetheless. Anyway, on the topic of getting around in Struggling, the early methods are fairly simple. You drag, roll, and swing your way around, working in tandem with a comrade and hoping they are thinking what you are thinking every step of the way. Down the line, you can detach you apparently sentient arms to head off in different directions for more in-depth puzzles, and even ride a motorbike if your friendship makes it that far. The devs have truly found a wealth of ways to make the basic core mechanic of grabbing and pulling a somehow versatile and exciting one to exploit and entertain.
Along with the level design and promise of calamity, one of the best elements of the game is the boss fights. Except these are no ordinary boss fights. Without delving too deep and spoiling every nugget of fun that you can look forward to in the game, the first boss is the absolutely perfect example. Amadeus, who is graciously entitled “The First Born” is of a similarly fleshy nature to Troy, only much bigger and seemingly angrier than our hero(s). To defeat Amadeus and progress into the sewers (fun), you must integrate your fleshy selves into the elaborate and conveniently shaped game of pinball, which it turns out Amadeus has formed into. Cue some of the game’s outstandingly epic music, and the next ten-or-so minutes of your life is a hilarious mess of trying to destroy Amadeus’… organs? In any case, the obscure but amazing boss battle is hilarious fun and representative of the type of hilarity to come. I can’t remember having more fun taking down a boss in a game.
For your money, Struggling has it all. Provided you can bring a friend to play locally alongside you (or via Steam’s Remote Play Together, as I did), you can enjoy a promise of entertainment, disgust, awe, hilarity and calamity from the word go, with only a handful of simple mechanics and premises to learn. The sound and visual design is awesome, and the gameplay, though imperfect and buggy at times, makes for a good time spent trying, failing and laughing it off until you, like Troy, start screaming innately. Whilst the frustration factor and bugginess might be a turn off for some, I had a good time with Struggling. In a world where having fun with your mates seems a challenge at the best of times right now, this is an easy one for me to recommend you try.
Struggling is available on PC and Switch.
This Review is based on the PC version of the game.
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Struggling is a physics-based co-op platformer with a twisted spin on teamwork. Control the arms of a squishy abomination and guide it through a deranged world where anything goes. Outrun ravenous rats, joyride a dirt bike, and vault over pools of unmentionable waste. One thing’s certain: you will struggle.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 11.99
Product In Stock: SoldOut