Anything involving the term ‘binary’ tends to consist of two parts, and that’s no different for Ant Workshop’s first major release, Binaries. Featuring only a couple of controllable balls and just two different colours, how can they have developed a puzzling platforming game capable of satisfying the gaming masses, those whom are often used to far more complex sounding affairs? Surely it’ll be a repetitive and mundane offering, given the simplicity of the concept.
I can’t tell you how this small team did it, but they damn sure got a lot of things right.
Binaries really does present the player with an easy, and simple sounding general objective to achieve for each and every level – get the blue ball and the orange ball to their respective end-goal areas. There’s no narrative for the over 100 levels included, the balls have no back-story, neither ball has a longstanding feud with the other, and there are no names; unless you wish to name them yourself of course. At this very moment you’re wondering what the draw is, and well, I can’t put my finger on just the one aspect that turns the simple concept into a challenging and sadistically enjoyable experience. Oh wait, yes I can… both balls move at the same time and there are death-traps everywhere to try and avoid.
What you do to control one ball happens to the other at exactly the same time. Early on, holding the Left Stick to one side, and maybe the odd jump, is roughly the amount of effort needed to reach the end-zone with both balls, but that’s merely a tease because it doesn’t stay easy for long. Pretty soon, spikes begin to make an appearance, and simply touching a spike of the same colour as a ball results in instant death. Luckily, it immediately restarts the level without hesitation upon death; this is a major blessing because you’ll die more than a newbie on Dark Souls.
There are so many different game mechanics thrown in to the mix over time, and the spikes are nothing special in comparison to the guns that fire deadly stars are your beloved balls, the boosters that launch balls around or the moving platforms. They don’t just replace each other either, as by the time you’ve discovered a few new mechanics, the whole level area can become a nightmare of deadly proportion. My favourite was the inclusion of the teleports as these would warp their respective coloured balls to other parts of the map really quickly.
Where it all got too difficult though was with the introduction of more balls. Trying to move two different balls in opposite directions or onto to higher parts of the map, without killing a ball because you only focused on a single one, is darn tough. Make that upgrade to four balls to navigate around a map, and I’m looking for the nearest exit from the game. It’s not impossible, but truly mind crushing to not even be able to see a logical solution. See, that leads me to a positive note, there isn’t necessarily a linear way to reach the end-goals… you can just wing it.
Although many of the levels are rather convoluted at first glance, there’s no specific formula to success, as long as you get to the end then all is well in the world. The fact that each level is timed means that there’s a lot of replayability due to the many ways of completing them. Do them in super quick time and you’ll be awarded with an S rank, however, take all day and it’ll be a massive U rank – presumably for underachiever. With the way the levels are arranged, finishing one may unlock a couple of new ones and so, if a U is unobtainable then you can move on to try a different level.
Despite being really difficult on occasion, Binaries tries to lift the mood with random text appearing on the screen, attempting to provide wit to distract from the multiple deaths you’ll most likely face. The way it tries to not be funny also makes the whole thing quite hilarious, with a personal favourite coming in the form of explaining that the teleports are NOT portals, stressing the point for legal reasons. It’s so random, but this stuff brought a smile to my face when all hope of level completion seemed glum.
Binaries may slightly suffer from the fact that levels will seem a lot tougher than they actually are, and though the level designs are very cool in layout style, the whole orange and blue scheme becomes samey. Overall though it does enough to draw you back for another go, and another go, mainly because the levels are so short in length, restarting them isn’t much of a hassle. I enjoyed the dry humour far more than I should have, but even that couldn’t prevent the latter levels from just being far too difficult for my logical brain.
In true Binaries fashion, I have two things left to say. It’s pretty darn addictive and the price makes it totally worth a purchase.