Platform: PC (reviewed on), iOS, Android.
Release date: Out Now
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Duet, to me, was another somewhat welcomed addition to the library of games I normally wouldn’t stumble across.
I’ve mentioned in previous reviews and articles that I often like a challenge. The sense of satisfaction after overcoming a challenge in a video game is often difficult to explain to a non-gamer – but hopefully if you’re reading this – you get what I mean.
Duet is a simple game from a graphical, sound and control perspective. You have to control two orbiting spheres through a set of different puzzles/mazes.
It sounds simple but when you take into consideration that these spheres are constantly moulded together, trying to navigate through various mazes is far from easy. When you want to move one sphere, the other will effortlessly join in the same motion.
I suppose it could be considered like having children. You can’t take one out for a walk and forget the other. There is no favouritism in Duet. It’s a team effort.
If you consider a game where left means left and right means right…
Then, add to that simple concept by considering clockwise and anticlockwise…
That’s still quite straight forward, right?
Finally… if you attempt to overcomplicate the above simple navigation by trying to incorporate and understand the physics of trying to motion two orbiting spheres through moving blocks, you pretty much have the idea of how this game works.
If your brain could wrap around that attempt at ‘simple’ explanation, you might actually stand a chance of getting through this because Duet almost encourages players to tap into parts of the brain that you wouldn’t normally think you’d need; unless you are actually a physicist.
Perhaps I’m exaggerating slightly but my point is simply that the game is really quite clever.
The only way I can describe getting to grips with this title is when you first try to get used to using controls on an inverted (or vice versa) set-up; basically the one that you don’t favour. You press the wrong button when you think it is going to do one thing, quickly forgetting that it is doing the other.
You have to train yourself to be ready for what is actually going to happen to both spheres, not just one. One mistake and it’s likely all over. You can rarely casually undo a mistake. You need to be near perfect on every run.
That’s essentially where the difficulty comes in with this game.
Some people prefer the punishment and challenge of perfecting a game with an extremely high difficulty factor (e.g. Dark Souls, Bloodbourne, Ninja Gaiden: Black) but few games are so simple in the design element. This is quite genius in its own right.
Oddly, there appears to be an attempt to follow some sort of narrative which amusingly and surprisingly suits the game.
Some of the levels are named after the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) with some extras thrown in like guilt or hope.
The narrative between levels seemingly prods at your insanity for continuing to play such an unforgiving game. Lines that try to get you to give up, that doing the same thing to no avail is madness and so on.
Touching on the five stages that make an appearance, I pretty much played the game in that way:
Denial – “Ah, this is just a game. It’s not going to be THAT hard.”
Anger – “Screw this game.”
Bargaining – “I just want to get it over and done with, I’ll do anything!”
Depression – “Why the **** was that block there?? It’s pointless! Life is pointless! I’m an empty husk of a human, what’s next… incontinence!?”
Acceptance – “It’s difficult. I’m sort of getting into the swing of it though. I still want to snap that block that moved when it shouldn’t and I’m probably a solid decade away from incontinence anyway… it’s all good.”
I have to applaud the developers for considering a game that is so simple in looks, smooth in the execution and so damn addictive because it truly is hard to put down, irrespective of the mountain of difficulty you need to overcome.
I won’t lie, the game is frustrating because you get teleported back to the beginning of the puzzle to restart after you fail and can go in that constant loop of trial and error for quite some time… even if you know what to do but somehow can’t…
Personally, I found that the soundtrack and almost ‘optical illusionary’ background started to annoy me. It’s bad enough having to redo levels and retrace your steps to some annoying music and pulsating backgrounds. I might be amongst the minority in that regard but I suppose it is a further testament to the game’s simplicity.
All factors combined, the game is truly merciless and punishes even the slightest error, often prodding you with the realisation of past errors with the freshly ‘painted’ blocks signifying your previous demise(s).
It can be said that you can learn how to tackle various obstructions and tend to adopt a fairly casual approach to them but some require timing and precision that even the greatest Guitar Hero player would fail to perfect.
I mentioned the five stages of grief earlier? Enter some of the other level names now…
I kept thinking about that interview from the late sixties/early seventies when Bruce Lee says, “Be water my friend”. Despite my attempts to get encouragement from a legend – I wasn’t water. I was slush at some of the more difficult puzzles. Hope was lost.
I’m sure that less stable individuals might throw a fist into their respective screens at the constant failure… but the persistence can be rewarding as you get overcome with the feeling of satisfaction, especially upon completion of a puzzle that had previously bested you. It doesn’t last long though because the next puzzle will probably make the last seem like a cakewalk.
The game features daily challenges and an infinite mode so there is some continued longevity there if you fancy it. The latter, I’m sure there is someone, somewhere playing in the infinite mode expecting to see the Holy Grail at the end and good luck to them because I certainly wouldn’t have the patience to do so.
I can happily walk away from this game content with the experience but for me, I won’t be going back.
I don’t feel depressed in any way, so don’t feel the need to play the video game equivalent of overcoming hardship.
Would I recommend it?
Sure, it’s always worth trying something new.
However… I would say that the infinitely more hard-core gamer that tends to shout; scream or get physically violent when they fail should definitely avoid and play something that they can easily perfect.
All in all, quite a positive experience with this game!
- Very clever in its execution. Definitely feels different.
- Simple controls, it’s just perfecting the physics of the orbs that is challenging.
- A good way to kill some time.
- Rewarding upon completion of a puzzle.
- Extremely unforgiving.
- May make you question your sanity (perhaps even use of time!)
- Might not appeal to a diverse crowd based on the difficulty.
No reason why not. It’s just the digital cousin of the family friendly board game ‘Frustration’.
A code for the game was kindly supplied by the developers for the purpose of creating this review.