Have you ever played one of those games where you suddenly found yourself with a clone who mimicked your every button press, and then you had to move your character and that clone onto different buttons to solve a puzzle? I’ve always found those moments frustrating, so I was a little nervous when I sat down to play Press Play’s (Creators of Max: Curse of Brotherhood) new game, Project Totem.
Project Totem was a game built on the premise that you had to get two characters to the finish line of every level, and while they would both follow the exact same command at the exact same time, they were at different positions on the screen (typically top or bottom) and their puzzles were different. Say if the one on the top had to leap over a gap, that might cause the one on the bottom to fly into a wall of colored sludge that would instantly kill him. What was I to do?
The devs increased the challenge by letting me switch the positions of each little character, making it so that your characters could only survive contact with poisonous pieces of the environment if they were the same color. So, now I had to jump over the pit and do a little switch in midair to get by. Sounds easy on paper, but even in the PAX East demo, the devs got more and more creative, requiring a lot of advance thought and twitchy reflexes to get through their series of traps. Changes in gravity, enemies with different walking speeds, and various other little tweaks kept gameplay from ever getting simple.
Doesn’t sound hard enough? There is a co-op mode that will likely have you wringing your buddy’s neck within a few minutes. In it, you both still control two guys, and the devs at Press Play have come up with even more puzzle variants to keep two minds busy. Communication becomes key here, as you need to be constantly shouting what you’re doing at the other player to keep them alive as well. Many of the traps in this mode require very careful teamwork with little room for screw ups. There’s some creativity in the puzzle solutions, but both players need to work well as a unit if they want to get to the end of the level.
It’s a colorful, happy-looking game whose simplistic graphics keep its cruel difficulty a secret, one that will quickly reveal itself to the careless. I really liked playing it, and apologize for all of the deaths I caused the poor dev who played it with me. With a lot more levels on the way, I think it gives couch co-op enthusiasts and puzzle fans something nice to look forward to.