Controller-smashingly tough. Fiendish puzzle solving. Death-defying challenges. And jokes, that may not be funny. Reading down the description on the Nintendo eShop for Binaries, it’s clear that developer Ant Workshop has throw down the gauntlet.
Their BAFTA-nominated puzzle platformer places two balls under your direct control, one light blue and the other orange. With their movement being synchronised, that means that when one rolls to the left so does the other, and, when you make them jump, they both do so at the same time.
After becoming overly confident from the relative simplicity seen in the early levels, this soon becomes the greatest, nigh on-infuriating challenge that Binaries poses. The levels, too, are coloured with light blue and orange sections, and while you needn’t fret about the flat surfaces that you will soon see as a place of safe haven, it doesn’t take long before the developer dares you to play with fire.
It is spikes, shurikens, shifting platforms, and rotating walls that threaten an early demise as your coloured balls constantly dance with death. Both can pass into an area constructed with any colour without any problems, and, one thing that will take some time for you to get your head around, is that the light blue ball cannot take damage from, say, orange spikes and vice versa.
That isn’t as much of a concern in the earlier levels where the player only has to test their reflexes against one type of hazard that has been placed numerous times in an effort to prevent them from reaching their goal. But, it isn’t long before the developer starts cranking up the difficulty to leave you with more and more to contend with at once.
Short, jokey messages that jostle for your attention within each level look to lighten the mood, but, Binaries treads that dangerous line where it can feel insurmountable on occasion. While I am always happy to face whatever challenge a developer wants to throw at me head on, there will be those that, like me, will see their interest wane after failing a particular level multiple times.
With the game pushing you to complete levels as fast as you possibly can, that soon means that it won’t be long before you aren’t chasing the S, A, and B ranks, instead choosing to take your time and often having to settle for a U rank as a result. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that a more leisurely pace will make the whole experience less pressurising, and, in part, it does, as you allow yourself the chance to breathe on occasion. But, even then, you will still have to overcome whatever challenge lies ahead.
To their credit, the developer has tried to work around any potential anger or frustration that could soon see your Joy-Con or Nintendo Switch Pro Controller hurtling out a nearby window. After you complete a level, those that neighbour it are unlocked on the map. So, if you are finding one particularly tricky, then you can always back out to the map and take on another that is nearby.
That isn’t to say that Binaries ever feels unfair, quite from it. The platforming mechanics that underpin the experience are finely tuned, meaning that the player can readily accept that any mistake that is made is the result of their own miscalculated move, rather than the game cheating them out of their success.
With 101 increasingly fiendish puzzles, seeing Binaries through to completion will inevitably feel like the mightiest triumph over adversity. Those with the tenacity to push on through will enjoy continually chipping away at overcoming the game’s nightmarish levels, but those looking for a less punishing experience should perhaps consider checking out other contenders in the puzzle genre on Nintendo eShop. It’s all up to you.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Ant Workshop