Published On: Tue, Jul 1st, 2014 on 12:10 pm

Games: Spoiler Alert, You Win

Spoiler Alert Game

Spoiler Alert at first glance appears to be just another generic 2D mascot platformer. Run, jump, land on enemies’ heads to defeat them, get to the next level and save the princess. What Spoiler Alert isn’t however, is generic. It’s unique twist is that the entire game is played backwards. You begin the game defeating the final boss – with a single jump on it’s head, I might add – and the end credits roll. Time then begins flowing backwards, you un-defeat the boss by jumping on it again and are then asked to play the entire game in reverse.

You’re given no control over character movement. You’ll run backwards constantly through the entire game, having only the ability to jump and occasionally use powerups. If you see an enemy, you’ll want to avoid jumping on it or you’ll cause a time paradox, because whoever played this game through before you obviously didn’t kill that enemy, and for you to kill it now would make no logical sense. If you see the body of a defeated enemy though, you’ll want to jump on it, miraculously bringing it back to life. Coins are strewn though the levels and work similarly. Coins already collected will be greyed out and you’ll need to go for these to un-collect them, whereas any yet to be collected were obviously missed on the first run through so you’ll want to miss them on the way back, too.

Confused yet? Good. Failure to undo something that was already done or doing something that was never done in the first place will stop the game, present you with a ‘Time Paradox’ message letting you know you just violated causality and you’ll start the level over. Each level you’ll be graded on the number of time paradoxes you caused before completing it.

Time travel is one of those concepts that’s always fun to think about. Causality, it’s potential implications and paradoxes. The first time I heard the concept for Spoiler Alert, I knew it would be something I would need to take a look at. There’s an old episode of Red Dwarf which plays with the same premise. The crew end up in a dimension where time flows backwards and the consequences of events always play out before the events themselves. It makes for a similar kind of fascinating thought experiment. Mentally unravelling the sequence of events and trying to make some kind of sense of it.

Whether it makes for interesting gameplay might be more contentious. Because everything has already been done for you, the only thing available for you as a player to do is exactly the same things backwards. Deviating from the predetermined template at all is not acceptable and you’ll end up starting over, which strips the player entirely of almost any free will. Functionally speaking, it differs little from a rhythm game with only two buttons and less obvious button prompts. There are a few different mechanics throughout to try to mix things up a little. You can pick up powerups, by losing them on spikes in a Mario-esque fashion, naturally, and you’ll lose it a few levels later when you pick it up. Some enemies will take two hits to un-kill and others will shoot projectiles at you. There’s also a couple of simple boss fights for good measure. All that these features add though is a few extra instances to press the right button at the right time or else cause a paradox. The few powerups each only ever make a tiny handful of appearances and each is exclusive to its own world so once you’re done with one you won’t see it again.

There’s a speed-run mode to try to complete the game in the fastest time, which seems like a strange kind of idea when applied to a game which has already been completed before you even start, and in which your character will continually run backwards at a constant pace. It does add the extra challenge to try and complete the whole thing without a single paradox, though, if perfection is your thing.

The soundtrack is cleverly constructed to sound vaguely as though it’s a song playing backwards. It’s not, though. I took a few of the tracks from the files and played them backwards just to see.

It’s a short experience on the whole. There are 100 levels but they’ll each rarely take you longer than 10 seconds. I had beaten the entire thing in about 45 mins and that’s including the times I went back to redo a level just to try and wrap my head around the sequence of events. I’m not sure it necessarily needs to be longer though. It serves its purpose well as a bite-sized but thoroughly interesting experience. It’s not likely to win any awards for compelling gameplay, but as a unique experience that’s a lot of fun to think about, I think it’s well worth a look.

About the Author

Jon Biggin

- Founder and Co-ordinator of Bradford-based video gaming collective, Button Mash.

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