Epic Games for the Motion Sick

Everybody hates a frustrating combination. Liking sweets but being diabetic. Wanting to go to a brilliant gig but not having any money to buy a ticket. Needing a heady pint but fainting after three sips because you’re an incredibly fragile lightweight. I am sure that we have all come across these annoying twin-sets before – but I wonder how many have experienced this specific one: loving games but suffering from motion-sickness.

Yeah, it sounds ridiculous. But it’s more common than you think – a fair few of my game-loving friends suffer from it, and I, too, cannot play free-roaming games such as Bioshock or Fallout without feeling a little queasy after long periods of time. Which majorly sucks. I mean, come on – since when do heroes have to ask for a time-out in the midst of flying around beating up bad guys because they need a tall drink of lemonade and a sit down? Like, why do I have to feel sick at crucial moment – the world is exploding and I haven’t found the save point yet!

Unfortunately, to quell a frustrating combination, you have to fix or alter one of the two twins. Now I don’t want to have to take a load of travel sickness tablets every time I want to sit down and play a game: which means that I, most commonly, choose instead to play side-scrolling platformers.

Ah, the beautiful side-scrolling platformer. The non-sickly, beautifully imagined side-scrolling platformer. Since embarking on my quest to enjoy games (without the pain), I have grown incredibly fond of this particular style, amassing a couple of strong favourites along the way. For all those who don’t quite have the stomach – or if you’re simply looking for a new game to play – here are my choice favourites found so far (all accessible via Steam).

  1. Child of Light

Picture this – Austria in 1985. A Duke and his daughter, devoted to each other, hurt by the recent death of the Duchess. The Duke remarries. Plot goes as expected – his new wife is evil. Or at least, you strongly suppose that she is. One fateful night when Aurora is deep in slumber she becomes cold as ice, appearing as though dead which renders the Duke bedridden. Austria is in danger. And Aurora wakes up in the mystical world of Lemuria.

You quickly discover that Lemuria, too, is prey to wickedness. On awaking, Aurora frees The Lady of the Forest, your game’s chief historian, who tells you that this once enchanting land was ruled by the Queen of Light, who had one night mysteriously disappeared. Darkness came crawling in in the form of the Queen of Dark, Umbra, and the land had been cursed ever since. Lemuria has no light, and worse still – Umbra took the mirror which connected Lemuria to your realm. Aurora’s world is lost. Unless… the Lady of the Forest explains that the only way to restore things to how they were is to reclaim the stolen light, which will in turn reunite Aurora with her father.

Primarily, Child of Light is blessed with beautiful, original artwork, which is a massive plus for people who really value their graphics quality and artistic style within games. The whole thing looks like a giant, responsive watercolour drawing, almost as though it came directly out of a fairytale – probably the desired effect, considering the fairytale motifs of the plot itself. More than this, the music, too, attributes towards this sculptured atmosphere: composed by Coeur de Pirate, you feel like you’ve dived straight into the dramatic action of a Narniaesque or slightly-less-gruesome LOTR epic. I recommend the track ‘Jupiter’s Lightning’ on the soundtrack if you want to get a taster of it before you play: this is the track that they play to accompany all of the fight scenes, and encompasses greatly the auditory “style” of the game.

Indeed, not only does Child of Light look and sound like a fairytale illustration/orchestra itself, it narrates exactly like one too – all of the dialogue and prose dictated to the player is in poem format, plunging you straight into a world of pure story. Indeed, there is nothing ‘realistic’ about Ubisoft’s creation, which I often find brilliant in a game: after all, game companies have the power to create any kind of world that they want, and the more unique and magical a world, the more I enjoy getting involved within the concept. Imagination fodder in its rawest form.

The gameplay itself is very responsive and progressive: your character, Aurora, can fly – which we can all agree is a pretty awesome attribute. The two key action elements within are problem-solving and fighting, which you can do as a host of characters (though when you’re out of fight-mode you can only be Aurora). As expected, the puzzles get harder and harder as the game progresses – luckily, you have your permanent firefly sidekick, Igniculus, to help you where it can! Not only this, as previously mentioned you can also play as a range of different characters once you begin fighting a wily beast – like Rubella, an Aerostati, or Norah, your second-eldest sister. This function becomes quite helpful on beginning to fight the tougher, meaner guys – as expected each different character has their strengths and on learning more about them you can choose wisely what moves to play to get the upper-hand. The worst enemies are the spiders, but I believe that dislike of mine relates to a deep-rooted fear of anything with eight legs and a vendetta to creep humans out.

Child of Light was created by Ubisoft and released last year on a whole bunch of platforms: Xbox (360 and One), Playstation (3, 4 and Vita) and WiiU, as well as on Steam for desktop. If you’re a common user of Steam like myself, you may have noticed it appearing a lot on the Christmas sale – an absolute bargain, if you decided to purchase it.

  1. Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy is a charismatic slab of meat in love with Bandage girl (his girlfriend made of, you got it, bandages). Unfortunately, their enviable romance is quashed by the antics of the game’s antagonist, Dr. Fetus (a fetus in a jar) when he takes it upon himself to kidnap Meat Boy’s lover and make him chase her through seven worlds of trouble to get her back.

Super Meat Boy is the most unbeatably addictive side-scrolling platformer you’ll ever have the privilege (or burden, depending on how much it chips away into your actual 3D, real life) to play. I downloaded this to my Steam account over a year ago and have harnessed an unspeakable amount of hours gameplay on it – partly because it is so easy to pick up where you left off, and partly because it is so, so playable. You could play it all the time. You could play it with your eyes closed. You could play it half-unconscious, wishing you were asleep but also not so that you could continue your soiree with Meat Boy. Many times I have gone over to friend’s houses where we have opened up our laptops to play games together and I have become an anti-social termite within seconds due to the power of the Meat.

You might think that I’m a boring gamer considering that I’ve devoted so much time to just this, arguably “simple”, one. You are sorely mistaken. I play Super Meat Boy so much not only because I love it deeply, but because I HAVEN’T ACTUALLY FINISHED IT YET. It has bested me time and time again, because it is really, really hard. Sure, you would think that a game which only requires you to use the arrow keys, space bar and shift key would be easy, right? This assumption could not be more wrong. Many forums online have spoken in awe of this: top gamers amongst others agreeing that it is a challenge (which makes me feel better, I won’t lie). You will probably lose your space bar bashing your keyboard in frustration. Of course, you also have the secret levels and bonuses to try and find/reign victorious over too, just to make it that liiiiittle bit more difficult. But don’t let this dissuade you – the difficult gameplay only makes you desire to play it more, and has made this seemingly simple game an actual challenge, which is always to be appreciated in gameplay. This game never gets boring.

Aside from the gameplay there are many other components of Super Meat Boy which make it so moreish. For me, my favourite atmospheric attribute is the soundtrack: composed by Danny Baranowsky, this 8-bit epic medley is the perfect tonic to push you into action throughout each level – the Hell world in particular. Not only this, but the creators ever-so-kindly implemented a visual which allows for you to see your blood trails from previous failures when a level refreshes for you to try again. Additionally, when you’ve finally completed a level, there’ll be a skippable playback which shows ALL of your attempts to pass at the same time. You could be watching 30 Meat Boy’s killing themselves in unity if you so choose.

Perhaps most amazingly the game itself was only created by two guys, Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen (who also co-created The Binding of Isaac). Personally I find it a lot easier to play on a desktop and would advise you play it the same way: you seem to have just the teeniest tiniest bit more control with the arrow keys as opposed to a joystick. Download this grim beauty to your Steam account now (unless you have impending deadlines).

  1. Trine/Trine 2/Trine 2: Enchanted Edition

The Trine games follow three principle characters who live in a magical realm of disarray and political evil (obviously). Your protagonists – Zoya the Thief (who exudes the cool, rebellious persona I always wish I had), Amadeus the Wizard (my fave) and Pontius the Knight (chivalrous and bolshy as they come) have found themselves the key to finding peace for their world through discovering the Trine, an enchanted object which has brought them together for this very purpose.

I’ll be focusing primarily on Trine 2, as this is the one that I have most recently played and also my favourite of this series so far. Your purpose in this game is fairly mysterious: as you progress, part of the puzzle is figuring out who the real enemy is, which you put together through amassing stories, poems and journal entries concerning the two princesses focal to the plot, Rosabel and Isabella. As the game continues, you get further to the core of the issue so if you fail a little at figuring out what’s going on early on then don’t worry – you’re guided by an all-knowing narrator who’ll eventually give the game away anyway, if you’ll pardon the pun.

The gameplay itself is fairly standard, much like Child of Light – your arrow keys for movement, and right click/left click for different powers. Helps if you have a gaming mouse to configure several actions at once when fighting bad guys, but if you don’t have one it really isn’t a big issue – like Child of Light again, as you get to pivot between three different characters, so once you know what strengths match what you can pretty much obliterate anything. And it is basically IMPOSSIBLE TO DIE for this same reason. Low on health? That’s cool, I’ll just switch to Pontius. He will never die, with his hammer of fury.

Of course, it is a puzzle-platforming game – you’re intended to switch between characters and use their action combos to overcome obstacles. For instance, if you have to jump over a ravine, you can use Zoya’s grappling-hook technique to swing across. If you can’t quite reach, you could use Amadeus’ levitation powers to move crates around to jump up on first. This, I believe, adds a really interesting dimension to the game – whereas in Child of Light you can only be Aurora whilst out of fight-mode (thus the puzzles you solve are all limited to what she can do), you must change between your three characters all the time in order to complete puzzles in Trine 2, adding an element of further difficulty which makes the game a spellbinding challenge! The more you level up the more powers you gain – which is great as the levels get more tricksy throughout which requires you to be more hardcore. But whoever complained at becoming more of a badass?

Trine 2 is unique in its exceptional beauty – the scenery is stunning, pumped full of bright colours and containing absolutely excellent graphics. Seriously – the people who created the artwork in this game must be the Overlords of the graphics world or something. Absolute magic. More than this, you get to explore a series of very different levels – an underwater level, a desert level and a forest level as examples. You even get to go inside the belly of a beast, fighting through a level consisting entirely of the beasts inner organs. Now that’s original.

As expected, I also had an incredibly soft spot for the fairytale-esque narration (voiced by Terry Wilton) which guides you through the game. The story, in tandem with the various, highly different levels, jumps and turns and keeps you guessing all the time – how the story will conclude is unclear. And when you do finish it, if you have the Extended Edition, there’s even more high-jinks that will creep up on you when you think it’s all over!

Trine 2 was released in 2011 on Windows, OS X, Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade and Linux. It also came to Playstation 4 over 2013/14. Trine was released in 2009 and is available on all of the same platforms.