STAFF REVIEW of Binaries (Xbox One)

Saturday, September 17, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Binaries Box art I was raised to not be a quitter. Sure this was more directed as life advice than my gaming career, but I try and follow that motto when playing games as well. Well, sorry mom, I quit. While most people would use Dark Souls or a specific shmup game to be a benchmark for challenging games, those people clearly haven’t had a chance to play Binaries yet. Binaries lures you into a false sense of security with its retro inspired visuals and basic looking gameplay. Man, I was so wrong. Simple in design, basic controls, but brutally difficult. I had Binaries pegged wrong all this time.

The core premise of Binaries is that you control two sprites at the exact same time, blue and orange, and you need to get them to their respective colored goal areas. That’s it. In the beginning it seems almost too simplistic, as both sprites are locked to the same movements at the same time; so when you move right, both move right, and when you jump, they both jump, and so on. Your basic introduction is simply there to lure you into a false sense of security, as things become much more difficult very quickly.

Some levels are basic, others you’ll finish by sheer luck, but most though, will have you resisting every urge you have to throw your controller right out the window. You will learn to hate spikes, as those can kill you if touched, forcing you to reset the level (automatically). Luckily there’s zero time for reloads, and levels are only supposed to last around 10 to 30 seconds, if you’re going by the benchmark times for ranks. Eventually you’ll have other objects to avoid, like turret fire, and other nasty tricks that you’ll start to call mean names to.

What I wish Binaries did better was increase the difficulty gradually and slowly, but there’s a certain point where it just skyrockets in its challenge, leaving you frustrated and confused about how to even tackle the level properly. Luckily progress isn’t a linear experience, as the world map shows every level as its own dot on the map, touching other dots. When you complete a level, any other dots (levels) that are physically connected open up to be played. So this allows you to play any unlocked levels in any order. Sometimes you’ll breeze through a seemingly harder challenge, while the ‘simpler’ ones will have you pulling your hair out. This was a smart idea by the devs, as if I was forced to complete levels in order without being able to progress, I would have given up long ago.

To get your two orbs to their respective finish lines sounds easy, yet it’s anything but. Some levels are one big open area, while others tie each orb to their own ‘track’. While there is a time limit for each level, it’s simply for bragging rights (and achievements), and as long as you make it to the goal, regardless of your time, you unlock any adjacent levels on the world map. Eventually levels also include 5 second time bonuses, when if collected, will reduce your overall time for that attempt. They aren’t necessary, but for those that love time attacks, you have your work cut out for you.

Easily the best part about Binaries though is its humor. The background of each level has messages that pop up from the devs, sometimes with a funny joke (or terrible pun), or simply making fun of themselves, like how a developer was fired for making a specific level too hard. Normally when I become frustrated with difficult games, I found myself not wanting to go back for more, but Binaries is somehow different. Even though I want to destroy my controller at times, I still want to try new levels, even after the hundredth time.

While visually Binaries looks terribly simple, it’s appealing to the eye, and the smooth and precise gameplay helps with that. As for the audio, it’s a good fit, and I noticed there’s even some relaxing ambient music, possibly in attempt to try and relax the player from maximum frustration.

I know when I’m defeated, and Binaries defeated me pretty bad. For those puzzle fanatics that are able to complete every level, not even including S ranks, my hats off to you. Puzzle games are supposed to challenge, and Binaries took that to heart, and possibly even a bit too far at times. It’s not an easy game by any means, but it’s well deserving of its price point.

Binaries contains an incredible challenge, complete with a massive learning curve, continuously increasing difficulty, and simplistic gameplay. If you want to know how many swear words you truly know, sit down with Binaries for a few hours, and you might even surprise yourself with some of the profanities that come out of your mouth. Oh, and also stock up on spare controllers, you’re going to need them if you want to get through all of the challenges.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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