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StillAliveDS Review: The champion of non-robotfindskitten DS homebrew is this Portal-ripoff platformer. It has a nice 50s-esque cartoon aesthetic, the level design is clever, the portal mechanics work perfectly, and there's a map editor. It's as fun to play as many commercially sold DS games, and it's definitely worth downloading and keeping around.

The major downside is the controls. You jump with the up arrow instead of the more typical tactic of using a button. This is awkward, but necessary because your right hand needs to be operating the stylus at all times, because the stylus is what you use to indicate where you want to put a portal. It's an understandable design decision but a little awkward when you just need to run and jump. Also, in a "we present you a new quest" type move, once you complete the main level set you get to play the exact same level set again except with more turrets and plasma balls.

There are two other problems I'm a little loath to bring up, but here goes. The first is the cake. You know how lame media tie-in games, especially in the NES era, always had some iconic thing you had to collect? In the Bugs Bunny game you had to collect the carrots, in the Back to the Future game it was clocks, in the Mickey Mouse game it was copyright extensions. You get the picture. Well, in StillAliveDS each level is full of little hovering pink cakes, all of which you must collect to leave the level. They took a game whose whole premise was the absence of cake, and made a spin-off where the problem is too much cake. Is this a game design problem strictly speaking? I say yes, because "collect all these identical things" is to my mind the ur-annoying ludeme (Mario coins, how I loathe thee), and it seems to be favored by tie-in creators especially.

The other problem is the writing. I'm not going to fault the game creator for not doing better writing, especially because English is probably not their first language, but I'm also not going to not mention it. Every level has a little taunting monologue from GLaDOS just like in Portal, but GLaDOS is feeling especially passive-aggressive or something because she just tells you how to beat the level. And occasionally she quotes a line or two from the song "Still Alive". Yes, not even actual dialogue is being stolen, just song lyrics. So it's like you're being tormented by a GLaDOS fangirl with a vocoder.


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