Going through the list of new releases and looking for something to review can be a tedious task; the choices being I go into my overdraft buying the latest triple-A game, or I find some artsy piece regarding flowers with few redeeming features other than being short so it’s less painful. Occasionally, however, you will find a game that not only intrigues you, but speaks to you on a personal level. A game that really resonates with player and is an experience that everyone can relate to, regardless of age, gender, or creed.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to the video game version of ‘Everybody Poops’.
‘Where’s My Mommy?’ is a continuous running game where you, a small nugget of feces called Poopy, are cruelly separated from your mother by an ‘Earthquake’. You chase after your mother through the dark catacombs that you call your home. But be careful! No one has ever come back from ‘the other side of the dark tunnel’. Between you and your mother lie obstacles to make your journey all the more perilous. The only tricks at your disposal are the ability to change to a hard form, which allows you to break through objects in your way, or a soft form, which allows you to flow through permeable things. If this sounds about as subtle as a starting pistol in writing, then imagine how in your face the final product is.
If I had to describe this game in one word, it would not be ‘highbrow’. In game, you are treated to the finest in sophisticated humour. As you traverse the depths of an unnamed digestive tract, you encounter tea strainers, small animals, and bags of white powder that turn the screen psychedelic colours when they burst. It’s funny, because those things shouldn’t be up there! It’s hilarious! The first time you see it at least, then the one tune this game has turns boring and you are left wondering what ‘Where’s My Mommy?’ has left to offer. The answer is not much, unfortunately. If you are a fan of internet memes last seen in 2009 however, then you won’t be disappointed. Troll faces and Legolas jokes are strewn across the landscape in a desperate attempt to be seen as funny and ‘with it’. Like your father taking an interest in your favourite band, it comes across as contrived and forced.
This could all be forgiven, however, if the game itself was solid. In fact, I may have praised it for not being yet another pseudo minimalistic affair attempting to be Canabalt and trying something at least a little bit ‘out there’. Instead you feel as though you have no control whatsoever as you are being forcefully shoved through the small intestine and thrown at various obstacles. While this may be accurate for the human digestive system, it does not make for good gameplay.
One weird quirk of this game is as you transfer between soft and hard states to move through different obstacles, there is no conservation of momentum whatsoever. Changing between soft and hard states alters your speed very quickly, killing any flow or rhythm you may have had. This gets infuriating as the levels become harder and instead of feeling like you are gracefully gliding through the game, you have about as much control as being dragged through a hedge. The procedurally generated levels feel unforgiving at best and flat out impossible at worst, spitting out some combinations that seem to be impassible barring divine intervention. ‘Where’s My Mommy?’ is playable, but I would not call it fun.
After the cult hit that was ‘Goat Simulator’, one trend that seems to be creeping into some smaller games recently is treating bugs and glitches as if they were intended features and trying to reward them as such. ‘Where’s My Mommy?’ does this by having steam achievements awarding players for getting stuck on the terrain of a procedurally generated endless runner game, something that I did not think possible before this game. There are also achievements available for glitching out certain obstacles. If these occurrences were very rare, then it could be a nice easter egg; even the best games sometimes act weirdly. But it’s not very rare, it’s annoyingly frequent.
As you sit stuck in an intestinal wall, waiting for the game to realise that you cannot move, you wonder why you even bothered. When the game does realise you are stuck, you get greeted with a slap to the face in the form of a ‘LOL you got stuck’ comment on the game over screen. In ‘Where’s My Mommy?’ it seemed to be easier to patch a frequent problem with an achievement as opposed to fixing it. By fixing the spelling errors I make when writing a review and not calling it a ‘typo treasure hunt’, I am already putting more effort into quality assurance than Exquisite Games did.
The only saving grace to be found is the soundtrack. Not made entirely out of fart noises as one would expect, it is a chiptune affair that is actually very well produced. Made by American composer Inverse Phase on a Sega Mega Drive, it is a homage to the games that inspired him and is certainly worth a listen if you like chiptune music. It really feels like that he threw audio pearls to video game swine here. A gem in a pile of manure, if you will.
About as funny as staring at a toilet bowl before flushing, ‘Where’s My Mommy?’ may look intriguing from the outset, but when you get into the bowels of the game it falls down upon closer dissection. The endless runner genre is already large and varied. With many better games available that are asking for much less than the £4.79 that ‘Where’s My Mommy?’ asks for, it really is hard to recommend this for anything other than an expensive gag gift. Good if you need something to laugh at, not with.
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