We had a curious moment playing Gelly Break Deluxe, when we realised that we’d played it before. This is a bumper, DLC-laden edition of a game that arrived on the Switch in November 2018, and we must have played it around that time. On the one hand, it highlights Gelly Break’s problem – that it’s slightly too unremarkable to stick in the memory – but we also wonder whether we approached it in the wrong way. Gelly Break Deluxe has some nice touches that make it a worthwhile play, and we don’t remember enjoying it as much as we did this time round.
The first change we made was to play Gelly Break Deluxe in co-op. It’s clearly made to be played that way: the main menu has two-player as default, and the trailers proudly show couples playing it. You play as two characters, Gel and Lee, whether flying solo or with a friend, and it just happens to be that they’re stacked like a totem pole in single player, while they’re independently controlled when there’s two of you.
Having played Gelly Break both singly and doubly, it feels a whole lot better with a friend. In single player, you switch between characters with a press of the LT and RT buttons, moving you from green jelly to orange jelly and back again. Green gelly can jump on green platforms, and orange gelly can jump on orange, which means you’re switching between them to climb up areas or hop across lava flows.
In single player, the switching between colours is easy to pull off, and the levels rarely challenge your colour-switching reflexes. We suspect that’s because the single player levels are identical to the co-op, and Gelly Break Deluxe has been balanced down to make it more feasible with the harder to control two-player mode. It’s possible to breeze through single player in four-or-so hours, including all of the levels that are off the critical path, and you’ll toss Gelly Break Deluxe away like the brief dalliance that is.
In co-op, though, things get more challenging. To switch between characters, you first have to jump onto your partner’s back, and then you have to coordinate a switch – both pressing LT and RT at the same time – which is more difficult than it sounds. My partner and I find it hard to agree on the best route to Tesco, so agreeing on a split-second switch was always going to be a push.
At first, it seemed too much to ask, but – as mentioned – the levels have been skewed towards the easy end of the spectrum, and there are a fair few safety nets: a Super Mario-style bubble returns a player who has fallen off a platform; you get extra lives at a fair old clip; and your health allows for several knocks and falls. We started with the fear that we’d never get through the game (and that we’d end up murdering each other), but we found a rhythm, and we ended up enjoying it more in co-op than when I played alone.
The levels, too, are designed for co-op, and they get lost in translation in one-player. Often you’re given multiple routes, and one route will be better for green, another for orange. In single player, it’s a convenience-based choice, where you jump on the colour that doesn’t require a switch, which isn’t the most exciting choice in the world. In two-player, it means splitting up and joining back up, and that’s magnitudes more fun.
Gelly Break Deluxe does still have my 2018 issues of being unremarkable, though. A lot of that stems from its limited toybox. Around the halfway point, you’ve seen everything that Gelly Break has to offer, and all it can do is remix them into – admittedly, sometimes fresh – shapes. For example, there are only four enemies throughout the entirety of the game, and three of them are variants on the same ladybird-thing. There’s one that flies, one that crawls, and one that hardens into glass (which needs a ‘switch’ to smash). The fourth enemy is a glowing ball thing that I could probably rustle up for you in Photoshop.
The same principle is true for the levels. You will lose count of how many chasms you’ll cross with a sequence of orange-green-orange-green platforms spanning them. Boss levels spice things up, introducing some of the more memorable moments – including one of the most hectic Gladiators-style travelators that you’ll come across – but, generally, things feel familiar. There might be a slight change in colour palettes between levels, or riffs on the same gameplay (platforming, but with fans pushing you! This time there are waves of enemies!) but Gelly Break Deluxe can’t find enough ways to stretch its limited tools to make a full-blown inventive platformer.
Even with additional levels, and three gooey blobs to find per level (which gate you from accessing the side-levels), there’s a question of value and longevity that hangs over Gelly Break Deluxe. This is a reasonably expensive little joint, rocking up with a £16.74 price tag, and we’re on the fence about whether that’s too steep. You’ll probably get four or five hours out of Gelly Break Deluxe, with sixteen levels to play, bosses included. If there’s two of you getting enjoyment, we’d say it just about justifies itself.
For those who have played Gelly Break before, we’ve dived into promotional materials to find what’s new. Apparently the story is fresh for the Deluxe version, but we can’t endorse that it adds much. There are blobs you pass by that occasionally mutter something about Evil Bob and his plans to terrorise the universe, but it’s more of a distraction than anything. There are additional levels, but we couldn’t say with certainty which ones were new: all we can say is that the quality is consistent – fun but lacking in invention – so the new levels meet that bar. Other systems get the bonus of having these additions for free, but Xbox is in the curious place of not having had a Gelly Break release before, so these additions come as standard.
Altogether, we like Gelly Break Deluxe. We do. It comes alive in co-op, it’s colourful, it plays smoothly, and it has a smattering of good ideas. But the adjectives just never get sexy enough: it’s fine, nice, occasionally inventive. With a larger box of ideas to play around with, greater difficulty and more content, it might have unlocked some fancier descriptors. For now, it’s less ‘Deluxe’ and more ‘Decent’.
You can buy Gelly Break Deluxe for £16.74 from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S