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Egglien Review

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Is the release date of Egglien deliberate, so that it coincides with Easter? We honestly couldn’t tell you, but we’d love to know. We’d love to know because, while there is clearly an eggy theme here, the eggs in question are being propelled out of the backside of an alien. It’s not exactly the Passion of the Christ.

What fascinates is that Egglien is a single-developer game, and that single-developer is 14 years-old. I can remember what I was doing when I was that age, and I wasn’t publishing my first ever game. So, I can stop being snooty about the scatological concept: Egglien is already a fantastic achievement. 

It’s also an egg-centric little oddity. Egglien is not the typical budget platformer that we get to review on the Xbox Store. We didn’t quite warm to it, either, but there’s a small part of us that’s glad we tried it. 

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There’s a story, told at length in Egglien, but we couldn’t make much sense out of it. It’s the tale of an alien called Asteri, who gains the ‘Egglien’ ability to produce eggs at a ridiculous rate. Alongside a friend who only seems to turn up for between-level chats, Asteri uses this power to try to find Earth. Except – as every alien seems to know – Earth was obliterated completely in centuries past, after earthlings misused technology and wiped themselves out. We were left wondering why Asteri was searching for a planet that meant nothing to her, and which was mostly stardust anyway. It was all highly confusing. And completely ignorable. 

It’s dressing for some egg-chucking. Because Egglien is, very broadly, stupendously simple. You’re in a level, and you will complete that level once everyone’s been killed. There are aliens who want to halt you in your mission (the reasons will eventually be revealed), and you need to kill them all, with eggs, to progress.

Asteri’s weapon is also her means of moving about the level. Farting out eggs gives her propulsion which can effectively ‘jet-pack’ her from one end of the level to the other. But these eggs can kill, so the downthrust of Asteri can also be used to kill enemies that are below you. 

This leads to a simple approach: you are looking to gain the higher ground, moving above enemies so that you can kill them with some well-placed and well-timed eggs. But the most basic enemies move, so you have to follow their movements if you want to kill them. That’s easier said than done with enemies that bounce like ricocheting balls around the room, or follow you around the level. Often, Egglien becomes a game of patience, as you wait for the right moment to surge above an enemy and unleash yolky hell.

But as the levels progress, enemies become tougher. They fire projectiles on a rota, some in straight lines above, others in arcs. How do you defeat an enemy who fires upwards, when your only method of attack is downwards? You will need a plan, and it often involves a strong sense of timing and the ability to swerve out of harms away with a reflexive jolt. When a room has a combination of enemies with different strengths and weaknesses, this can be difficult. 

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Luckily, levels are short and replaying them is pain-free. You will die plenty in Egglien, and that’s okay. When there are no more than five or six enemies in a level, and those levels aren’t much bigger than a game screen, you won’t feel the need to rage-quit when you fail. With a quickfire restart you will be back in the action, dying again because you’ve lost any patience that you’d previously accumulated. 

TNT blocks lead to chain-reactions that can wipe out an entire level’s worth of aliens. Walls will only open once you’ve killed certain enemies. Rooms fill with water. These are all familiar, but Egglien does a good job of introducing them at a steady pace, giving each level a unique identity. To be fair to Egglien, the levels are never the reason why we lost interest or found ourselves looking at the clock. The same goes with bosses, which challenge you to defeat Robotnik-like entities with only that downwards fire.

Ultimately, Egglien’s problem is not in its levels, which are pretty spotless. It’s in its basic concept and the way the controls map to it. We never found ourselves truly enjoying getting to grips with Asteri, and therein lies a pretty hefty problem. 

To kill enemies, you need to fire eggs. When firing eggs, you move upwards. So, what you have is a dance where movement and firing are indelibly tied together. Take a simple enemy, barely moving and certainly not firing: to kill it, you need to hover in place above them. But by firing you are moving upwards, and that moves you out of sight of the enemy. Suddenly, you are firing blind because the enemy is off-screen. Are you still hitting it? Is it dead? Do eggs even travel offscreen? The only way to find out is by stopping your thrusters and diving down to find out. 

This rhythm is frankly rather frustrating, at least to us. Even the most basic enemy becomes fiddly to dispatch, as you alternate from being on and offscreen. But these enemies rarely stay stock still. They move and swerve, firing bullets and spikes in a multitude of arcs and patterns. And this makes the problem worse, not better. When you’re more likely to be killed by something, you steer further away from them, and that means they’re more offscreen than usual. And if they’re moving, then you’ve got the added dilemma of whether you’re tracking their movements.

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That’s not to say that we didn’t get better at managing Egglien’s quirks. We did, to the point that we mastered a kind of pulsing egg-shot that let us hover in place rather than constantly surge upwards. We started hitting targets like B-wings, rather than flapping about tossing eggs willy-nilly. There was some mitigation to be had. But it still didn’t feel good. We were mostly making the best of a bad thing.

It’s absolutely possible to ride Egglien’s difficulty curves, finishing off levels in one or two goes, rather than floundering. But we never lost the underlying sense that Egglien was awkward and not entirely enjoyable to control. And that’s down to the fundamental premise. A death-jetpack – which is Egglien’s one weapon – isn’t as cool as it sounds. There’s a reason that most games separate their movement from their attack buttons. 

File Egglien under ‘quirky’. It’s a unique pitch from a fourteen year-old (fourteen!) that imagines what a game might be like if you could only fire downwards. It commits wholly to the idea, and cracks out some pretty fantastic platform-meets-shooter levels with the concept. But we couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe, games should let you fire in other directions too. 

You can buy Egglien from the Xbox Store

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