This Is Hard and This Is Fun

Review of This Is Hard on XBLIG: Buy
A hard-as-hell platformer, This Is Hard strikes a prefect balance between challenging and fun.

After my review of Lab Rabbit called for a revolt against bad hard-as-fun games, it is refreshing to discover This Is Hard.  This Is Hard is everything you want in a hard-as-fun game.  It’s a fast paced platformer with a not-quite-in-control feeling.  Imagine Luke making the Death Star run, turning off the computer and trusting himself to know when to fire.  It’s like that.

The gameplay is simple.  Run to the right, find the exit, use A to jump.  Hold A for a long jump, tap A for a short jump.  There are no power ups or special moves, and while there is a timer and time goal for each level, there is no requirement to complete levels within a time limit.  Within these simple rules the game has numerous ways to kill you, including pits, spikes, lasers, missiles, lava, land mines, saw blades, falling stones, and zombies.  Not your slow, limping zombies, but crack speed zoom’n zombies.

Each round the block head hero starts in a safe room.  On the wall of the safe room is a tally of the total number of times I died across all games (very cool).  I can see my best time for the level (if previously completed) and the challenge time, or goal for the level.  The first few levels are designed to teach the game, and slowly introduce the different obstacles encountered later.  Failing a level multiple times will open up an option to skip the level and go on to the next.  Levels can be returned to at anytime, and in any order.

The graphics are in a wonderful cartoon style, and the classical music played kept my blood pressure low as I died repeatedly in each level.  As of this writing I have died over 700 times.  I have completed most of the levels, and on many of them met the challenge time.  As odd as it may seem, I like to play This Is Hard to relax.  Death is painful, but quick.  Replaying one level ten or twenty times only takes a few moments.  The levels are never longer than 30 seconds, making them easy to commit to memory and have no need for check points.  All of this comes together to create a zen-like moment of piece, even as I die over and over again.

If I have a complaint of This Is Hard it is a common one I have with hard-as-fun games.  The jump button seems to have a slight delay between the button press and my block head hero’s reaction.   Timing edge jumps are very tricky, and the later levels make heavy use of quickly executed edge jumps.  I found the rest of the controls to be very responsive and am willing to accept the jump delay is a developer’s gameplay decision.

This Is Hard gets a solid Buy rating from me.  Even if you do not normally enjoy hard-as-fun games I encourage you to check out the trial.  I do not recommend attempting to complete this game in one sitting.  This Is Hard is best played in small breaks between other games.

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