A long long time ago, back when gaming was young and I had thick flowing hair, there was an unwritten rule – games would be rock hard. They were designed that way so that kid who couldn’t quite get through level 2 would keep throwing coins into the machine to see what would crop up next. This difficulty format then transferred into the home games market, often seeing you playing without any saves and only a handful of lives; die and you’d be forced to repeat the whole thing from the beginning. Thankfully the ability to save games soon came into force and I was able to save myself from tearing down the walls. That was until I started playing Two Parsecs From Earth, and all the haunting memories flooded back.
Two Parsecs From Earth focuses on the main hero – a robot – who is known simply by the name Z3-L1. This little guy has been hard at work doing what robots do best when its ship breaks down and crashes into an alien planet – Dimidium. This is hard on the poor robot because it was just two parsecs from Earth. Here though it’s all a bit broken, with a bad leg, and the need to collect all the cargo it was carrying that is now strewn across the planet. Your task will be to collect three batteries to power the ship. First though, that leg needs to get working again…
The writing for Two Parsecs is all very meta, with the robot commenting on the game as if it were the one playing it, so much so that at one point early on it comes across the crashed ship and says “That was easy, give me my 1000 Gamerscore now”. It’s a nice touch and an added moment of hilarity for something which is basically a hardcore 2D Metroidvania platformer.
You start the game without the ability to jump, mainly because of your leg being damaged. So you move across the map, working up and down, avoiding creatures and arriving at a place to get your leg fixed. From there though you are able to jump and then you’re off to collect the stuff needed to escape the planet.
Two Parsecs is brutal though, hopefully as you might have guessed from my introduction, and the first half an hour of playing this will see you put in the mindset that you’re going to die… a lot. It has a little bit of an open-world feel to it, likening it to the Ori games where you can wander around, working different routes. Creatures roam around the levels, with all wanting to kill you in some way. Spikey bugs move back and forth, as they always have done since the dawn of platformers, and there are others stuck on loops – if they spot you they will home in on you like a missile. There are spikes and drops to get your head around as well, where a misplaced jump can easily end in disaster. You see, in Two Parsecs from Earth, if you hit any hazards or creatures you will be left dead in a one-hit situation. There are no health bars or lives. Sorry, you’re dead.
To help you on your way you will soon find these little hubs that grant you a new ability. But here’s the thing – you are left to choose between two possibilities. For instance, in the first hub you’ll choose between taking home a double jump or adding a dash to your abilities. Then you have the choice of being able to pass through walls or floors in the next hub. Finally, you are left to decide between a super helpful teleport or being able to shrink down small. These abilities will help you get to all the cargo and rewards differently, allowing for possible multiple playthroughs of the game so you can try all the different abilities and combinations. It’s a nice touch and keeps the platforming fresh and fun.
The visuals work the scene with plenty of colour and some rather nice level designs. I especially like the comic book cutscenes that kick things off, and it does a good job setting up the main character. Two Parsecs is not however a groundbreaker in the looks department but it does a good job, especially when you take into account the price. The audio is okay too, but it certainly isn’t memorable enough to warrant more than a single line; it does the job and works well enough with the background of the game.
Two Parsecs From Earth on Xbox One comes with a great, cheap price and does a good job of delivering a solid Metroidvania-type platformer that is hard as hell; it’ll certainly challenge the lunatics out there who get their thrills from a test of their skills. If the days of hardcore gaming are what you love a bit of, then this is certainly a game that will do a splendid job of quenching your thirst.