Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Don't Look Back

I've seen lots of mythical monsters pop up in video games before - minotaurs are damn near staples in fantasy games, for example - but I don't know that I'd ever played a game directly based on a myth before I locked horns with Don't Look Back. Needless to say, at least in this case, the combination works beautifully.

Assuming, you know, you have the willpower needed to never turn around.


If you're familiar with Greek mythology, you'll probably recognize the myth behind Don't Look Back as soon as you read the title. It refers to the tale of Orpheus, a man who waded into Hell itself (well, okay, Hades) to take back his fallen love Eurydice - only to look back just before they emerged and watch her spirit vanish forever. Fun times.

Don't Look Back follows Orpheus' trek, albeit in a more modern fashion. A man has lost his significant other, and he treks into Hell (Hades?) to get her back. He gets a gun, though, so you can't QUITE say he's Orpheus... just a close analogue.

Game play-wise, Don't Look Back is a platformer. You need to jump over enemies and circumvent traps to survive. Once you fetch your lady love, you need to leave Hell, and... do... y'know... the obvious. (Or NOT do the obvious, as the case may be.)


Don't Look Back's controls are perhaps its weakest aspect. They aren't bad, but they do tend to make the game more difficult than necessary: responsiveness is a teensy bit laggy on some jumps, and your capacity for firing your gun isn't as swift as I might like. There is no life count and you restart on the same screen you died each time, fortunately, so the controls don't destroy the game.


My first thought when Don't Look Back booted up was 'Atari'. Granted, it looks a hell of a lot nicer than most Atari games in animation and execution, but the point stands: the pixelated nature of this title is pure retro. Which, given that it's based on an ancient myth, seems altogether appropriate. (Though it perhaps could have used a climbing animation for the ropes. Tiny detail.)


Don't Look Back is half-and-half silence and gloomy horror music. Silence is primarily ambient noises, which are difficult to fault; the music was pretty decent. There are two primary tracks, one for bosses and another for cave exploration, and both smack of epic combat against creatures most foul. I enjoyed the selection, even if it was tiny.

Challenge Rating

Don't Look Back is a surprisingly difficult game, and that's not the fault of the controls. The puzzles in the game are fairly inventive, and given the do-or-die nature of their completion you need to remain on your toes throughout the game. This is also true of the bosses, though given the nature of restarting after a death it's fairly easy to pick up on patterns necessary to oust the big baddies.

The most difficult part of Don't Look Back, however, has to be not looking back in the second half of the game. You'd be amazed who hard it is to master the impulse to hit the left key when avoiding a trouble area. Get ready to learn.


Don't Look Back is another nice art piece with a strong message pointing towards the futility of fighting death. It's also a solid game in its own right, if a little short. Greek mythology fan or not, you'll probably appreciate this title - especially if you want a challenge. It doesn't take long to beat, but doing so feels good.


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