Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-03-25 09:28:22
Kersploosh! and One-note Gameplay
When I throw things down a well, I don't really care where they end up. I typically throw the usual types of things down there: a penny for good luck; an apple core; a condom. It's perfectly cool to do that, because we don't live in the 1400s anymore where wells are our primary means of getting water. We don't put on our pigskin boots nowadays and say to the family, "Well, I'm going out to get some water," only to have them reply, "Okay, honey, but watch out on the way for smallpox and disgruntled, axe-wielding lepers." It just doesn't happen.
But Kersploosh! for the 3DS wants us to suspend disbelief and do something that many of us have only contemplated in our wildest dreams - it wants us to imagine what it's like inside a well. You might think that wells have just boring stone interiors, but that isn't the case at all. When tumbling down the well in this game you encounter the contents of someone's leftover picnic, from pizza slices to biscuits, as well as lots of other weird and wonderful things. It's an outlandish, Kafkaesque nightmare, and you're invited for the ride.
You play as a stone, or a Russian Doll, or a bit of glass. Anything that someone might throw down a well, really. The object of the game is to dodge all sorts of obstacles that exist in the well and seem intent on slowing you down. There are boosts that you can zoom through in order to go faster, and your ultimate objective is to get to the bottom of the well as quickly as possible. What awaits you at the bottom? Water, obviously. Unless you complete the levels in less than ten seconds, in which case you hit soft chocolate pudding.
The culinary delights of the wishing well get tiresome after a while. There isn't much variety to the game: you fall, and try and get faster times. You can play as a variety of different objects with different health bars and faster or slower falling speeds, but it's all pretty similar stuff. Touching the rim of the well or any of the obstacles causes damage to your player object. One object you can play as can only take one damage before it breaks and the 'game over' screen pops up. I assume even the fasted-handed ninjas can't actually play well enough to reach the bottom without touching anything whatsoever. I was hitting everything during my playthrough. It's like a weird "Through the Wormhole" experience, only with less narration by Morgan Freeman.
Before each item is thrown down the well, some faceless characters explain reasons for wanting to discard their object. These conversations are wittily written and often quite humorous. My favourite is the character who is addicted to throwing '80s sitcom stars down the well. I hope they all had a safe landing; it would be distasteful to bash Gary Coleman's head against the stone interior of the well.
This isn't a game that will sustain your interest for long periods of time. The game never really changes, and there aren't any challenges outside of trying to get to the bottom of the well. Everything is reliant on speed - it's like Sonic, but without the fandom. There aren't any leaderboards, and so attempting to beat your high score is a solo affair that nobody else will be interested in. However, games such as this that offer simple, but effective, forms of gameplay on-the-go are certainly able to tap into a casual market. The real question is if they also appeal to the hardcore player. If you like to challenge yourself rather than other people, Kersploosh! is a good bit of fun. It only costs a couple of pounds/dollars/euros and it makes good use of the 3DS' 3D effects. Better use, in fact, than many full-budget titles. What's up with that?