A matter of life and 774 Deaths

774 Deaths

I imagine that, after playing Square-Enix’s 774 Deaths, most people would be comfortably able to describe it in one word. Not necessarily the same word, mind. In my case, that word is BRUTAL.

The difficulty is brutal. Each death, usually on a blood-splattered blade, is brutal. The graphics and sound are brutally retro – though also endearingly so, to my eyes and ears.

774 Deaths - tilting!

Little in the way of explanation is ever offered – brutally so, if you like – but it’s not hard to get the gist. Each room contains a number of doors, complete enough of those and you unlock the next room.

The four varieties of game behind those doors are equally simple to fathom: standard platforming levels, complete with virtual controls; auto-running levels with a tap to jump your only input; tilt-controlled maze-like levels; and levels that you fall through, again with tilt controls.

That’s the simple bit. The tough bit is not dying. Repeatedly. The game delights in throwing virtually unavoidable obstacles against you, and relishes you making the wrong choice. This delight and relish mainly comes in the form of killing you. Repeatedly. Did I mention that?

774 Deaths - falling!

But, in common with the chase levels in Rayman Origins, the game minimises the frustration: restarting a level is speedy, and the controls are surprisingly spot-on. No mean feat, given that virtual buttons and tilt controls have a habit of being as precise as rounding a really really really small number to, like, one decimal place.

As such, although death is rapid-fire, with sticking with it yields incremental progress. Levels are often like puzzles, and completing them equivalent to finding the solution – albeit a solution which requires some exceedingly accurate tapping or tilting to execute.

In that way, there are some lovely puzzles, which initially appear impossible, but reveal themselves after either rethinking, or just being even more bloody precise. In fact, it’s genuinely surprising just how precise you can become with repeated attempts.

774 Deaths - platforming!

That lasts for a while. I even chuckled once or twice when, in reach of the level exit, the game throws something unreasonably harsh at you. Dead. Do it again. Ho ho!

But I imagine most people will reach a point at which the part company with the game. The problem, to my mind, isn’t increasing difficulty – though it does get tougher, obviously – but that the levels get too long.

It never becomes less than satisfying to master yet another tricky section of a level, but when the game doesn’t even let you know how much more you’ve got to persevere to reach the exit, it’s hard to keep committing time to it. And coming back later isn’t an enticing prospect, since you’ll have to virtually relearn the timings and so on.

774 Deaths - running!

So about half way through the nine rooms and 33 doors, after more than 600 deaths, I’d had enough. Not angry, not frustrated, just a bit bored of it.

For 69p – the all too brief promotional launch price – it would be a recommendable little bugger. But now at full price – £2.49 – it’s a tougher sell.

Version: iPhone
iTunes App Store: £2.49