Life is full of questions that are hard to answer, including what truly killed the dinosaurs? Is there life on Mars? And where is Waldo? But there was one question that no one could answer: “What would it be like if the floor was made of jelly?” Until now, that is. Thanks to the newly-released indie game The Floor is Jelly (TFiJ), created by Ian Snyder, this long-asked question can finally be answered: Trippy yet intriguing.
TFiJ is not a game that digs deep into its character’s dark past, nor does it try to shove symbolism down one’s throat at every turn. In fact, narrative is altogether absent from the game, as your nameless character (who I shall refer to as Jellykid from now on) drifts from world to world without any sense of urgency. Your only goal is to move from area to area, progressing through magic windows which take Jellykid to the next stage of each level. At the end of each level there is an elevator which connects to the next level.
The controls, like the story, are bare-bones. Your arrow keys move Jellykid from side to side, whilst the space button is used to jump and the down key to activate in-game switches/elevators. With such simple controls the drawing point of the game is of course the jelly filled world that you traverse. For unknown reasons the world is made up of a gelatin substance. When Jellykid first jumps off the ground, a depression appears, but after a few moments the land will spring back up and continue this jelly-like cycle until it loses its momentum. Making use of these physics to create upwards momentum is critical in TFiJ. Along with that, Jellykid is able to cling onto the walls and jump off of them, in similar fashion to the gameplay in Super Meat Boy. Both using the floor to gain height and jumping from wall to wall feels smooth, and when things do go wrong it’s often due to the characteristically unexpected movement of the jelly.
The Floor is Jelly features 10 different levels, each one showcasing its own unique mechanic, as well as featuring its own amount of gravity. For example, one level uses various switches which turn the land masses of the stage 90 degrees in one direction, while another uses water to achieve reverse momentum. Each level makes use of its own mechanic to good effect; none of them are overly frustrating and all are pretty simple concepts to grasp a hold of. The most interesting by far is the final level of the game, which changes the mechanics of the jelly itself. The level of gravity varies from allowing Jellykid to go flying into the air to more Earth-like effects. Getting used to each level’s own gravity is key to travelling across the jiggling world that is TFiJ.
While death is frustrating, it's merely a simple roadblock. There is no life system or health, and death occurs when falling down into the never-ending abyss below or running into spiky jelly structures. When you die, the game resets you to the window you came in from for the most part, although there are certain levels where you must retrieve items and for these you will be taken back to the moment you picked the item up. While The Floor is Jelly is somewhat linear it allows for a fair amount of exploration; there are secret windows to uncover and you can choose the order in which you attempt the levels.
While the game is visually pleasing, there are a few technical hiccups that mar the experience. Certain levels, including the water one as well as the last level feature noticeable slowdown, with the FPS count dropping greatly when you're working your way through the larger stages of these levels. On top of that, a few times during my playthrough Jellykid got stuck inside the jelly, causing me to become trapped and unable to complete the level.
Aside from the odd concept, the thing that most stands out about The Floor is Jelly is the visual style. It makes use of a colorful palate of pinks and oranges throughout. The foreground consists of simple, solid colors that make up the jelly blocks, while colorful flora grow atop the blocks in certain levels. There's also wildlife - fish, birds and frogs - that interact with the land, and are a contrasting black color. What really makes the visuals stand out is the combination of this simple foreground with beautiful backgrounds. These backgrounds vary from a solid color, to a sun setting which causes the background to turn into an autumnal orange. Almost all of the levels showcase backgrounds that fit perfectly with the level’s theme, whether it be night or winter.
The soundtrack, like the visuals, is top notch. It was created by Disasterpeace - an artist best known for his music in FEZ, Bit Trip Runner 2 and the upcoming Hyper Light Drifter. While simplistic, the music really suits the levels, so that while none of it is especially memorable it has its own unifying charm.
There is much to complement The Floor is Jelly for, from its odd premise to its striking visual style, but one thing that is hard to complement is its runtime. It lasts a mere 3-4 hours, and while there are secrets to find there is not much incentive to replay the game. It's an interesting and trippy ride to say the least, but for $10 it’s a hard sell.
The Floor is Jelly is an odd platformer with relaxing, gelatinous physics. While it doesn't bother with narrative elements, it's a charming experience nonetheless. This is a bouncy world that 2D platformer and Super Meat Boy fans will appreciate for its quirkiness alone.
This review is based on a digital copy of The Floor is Jelly for the PC