The year is 1989. If you were not born yet or were in diapers, just follow along with me. Your parents put a small box in your hands that may or may not have been wrapped depending upon whether it was your birthday or Christmas. Inside was a magical, yet bulky piece of plastic we all know as the Game Boy. Now this is 1989, so the massive library of Nintendo’s first portable console did not exist but there was a game in the box. We all know that music. The classic Russian puzzle game of Tetris. Extremely simple to pick up; it was not even difficult to get good at. However we all know that feeling; the onset of pure madness as Tetris punished you in its later levels. A lot of us still get that feeling playing it on our smartphones and if not, you get it from games like Candy Crush. Ladies and gentlemen, these games are nothing. Literal child’s play compared to the joyous torture the minds at Ant Workshop have created. Welcome to the world of Binaries. Please check your sanity at the door.
DON’T STOP BELIEVING Binaries has no story and yet it will compel you to press forward in order to discover its secrets. You are Blue and Orange. You do not choose which you want to play as; you are both at once. Blue and Orange must reach their respective goals in each of the 101 stages of Binaries. Simply put, they must travel from point A to point B. That is all there is to the game and it sounds simple. You know what else sounds simple? Going to New York City and crossing Queens Boulevard. Many of you have no idea what I am talking about but let’s just say that it isn’t called “The Boulevard of Death” for nothing. Binaries is immensely satisfying when it isn’t driving you up the wall. This usually happens when you are trying to make Blue go up a wall and manage to make Orange die on a spike. Or it might be vice-versa. It’s even more frustrating when they just both die. Regardless, you will try and try again. Keep some spare controllers on hand.
TWO FOR THE ROAD Binaries is not your friend. Binaries likes to talk about you behind your back, but it also makes fun of you to your face. As you roll, drop and hop along the levels, comments pop up on screen. They might be hints, but more often than not they are taunts because you are taking too long on a level or dying repeatedly. The achievement list for the game is confident that you will actually die in excess of 1500 times whilst playing. Honestly, if you play all 101 levels, that is a fair assumption. Binaries is the type of game where you tell yourself “I am just going to finish this level and go to bed.” Two hours later, one of three things has happened. Either you are still trying to beat that same level, you actually did beat it and kept saying “one more” to yourself or you passed out with the controller in your hand. The gameplay is simple and that is why it is so addictive. The left (or right) analog controls direction and you hit A to jump. Binaries actually utilizes fewer controls than Tetris but unlike that game, you are humbled much sooner. Spikes are stationary, but there are little spiked wheels that move about some levels. Sometimes you can use this to your advantage because blue can only kill blue and orange can only hurt orange. Blue can move over orange spikes unharmed and vice versa. Blue will absorb orange projectiles and so on. Whenever you think you have figured the game out, the next level throws you a curve ball. Even if you have passed all the levels, I bet you haven’t achieved an S-rank time on all of them. Much like De Niro, Binaries will pull you back in.
SIMPLE IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL They are just circles, aren’t they? Binaries probably has the most simple design of any game you will play this year. Orange and blue circles moving along their respective tracks (spit-screen) to their goal. There are no real graphics to speak of, just geometry. Geometry that kills you, repeatedly. Did I mention that the game makes your disintegrated remains litter the floor as you die? That stays on the floor. It does not pile up enough to hinder your movement, but it is there to remind you that you have screwed up. The music tries to encourage you by getting more upbeat when you do well and slowing down when you hit your inevitable slump. While the visuals may be far from enchanting, I guarantee you will have your eyes glued to the screen.
I could get all philosophical and talk about how Binaries is about duality and the dichotomy of life and blah, blah, blah. The fact isthat it is a fun game that will drive you up the wall the more you improve. Every time you think you have leveled up by beating the lat challenge, another one is waiting for you. In that sense, this game is not going to be for everyone. If you absolutely suck at puzzlers or do not have the patience or dexterity to get past the worst levels in (pick one Mario game, then you will want to use your Steam cash elsewhere. For the rest of us who refuse to give up and relish those type of challenges, Binaries is ready and waiting to test your mental fortitude. If you manage to get an S-rank time on all 101 levels, please contact the guys at Ant Workshop, because even they have not managed that yet.