Almost There: The Platformer (Switch) Review
Almost There is a tough-as-nails platformer that tries to capture a similar experience to other beloved side-scrollers like Super Meat Boy and Celeste. I say “tries to”, because like its namesake, it doesn’t quite deliver.
Almost There is a slick little package that’s simple in style, mechanics and presentation. What it mostly lacks though is a sense of purpose; those other aforementioned platformers ooze personality, positively brimming with character, content and story. Part of what keeps you coming back to playing a game hell-bent on kicking you in the gender-spot is a sense of pride for helping your character overcome every challenge. Here, unfortunately, there really isn’t any reason to progress in the game – let alone beat the fastest times – apart from the fact you paid for it.
Upon starting the game, there are three different “worlds” to choose from, each with its own sets of stages. But pretty much the only difference between them are some of the hurdles set to kill you. At any point you can hit the X button to instantly restart the stage and try again.
In Almost There you’ll jump and wall-jump/grab, but neither had me feeling like I was particularly in control. Whereas other platformers will have a sense of weight or gravity, Almost There’s box (ninja?) doesn’t feel like it has any real momentum. This makes moving and jumping especially tedious, because letting go of the stick at any point will have you drop where you are. There’s no sprint button either: rather, the game auto-sprints after a moment and is frustrating to gauge when to jump from a platform. I found myself heading towards a ledge, only to unintentionally get a burst of speed and fall off the edge before my reflexes were ready to jump.
And the wall-jumping is especially confusing, as it deviates too far from the status quo. When grabbing a wall, instead of pressing the jump button to leap off, you have to push the left stick away from the wall. That means instead of holding the stick against a wall and continuously pressing A to hop up a-la Meat Boy or Mega Man, you have to quickly flick the stick side-to-side to leap away from the wall, then mid-air jump back towards it. It’s a bizarre design choice that never felt intuitive and after prolonged play caused cramps in my thumb, not to mention how much my tense grip was likely wearing out the Joy-Con stick. I might have felt a little better if I just had some more control over the character’s movements, sprint button and all.
Most of my criticisms stem from Almost There failing to match or improve on other games in the genre. In a day and age where (good!) platformers are easy to find, it’s surprising to come across a game that looks like them on the surface, but seems to actively differentiate itself by not copying what makes the formula so engaging.
I’m sure some will find value in playing Almost There, particularly those who enjoy speed-running or getting a rush from wanting to throw their controller out the window. But if you’re hoping Almost There is the next big indie platformer, I’m sorry to say you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Almost There is perhaps the most aptly-named game in recent memory. I love platformers more than most other
- Nice, minimalist design
- Tedious controls
- Lacks a real sense of reward
- My thumb hurts