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You're an Experiment - Test Subject Blue Review
I really enjoy puzzle platformers. Games such as Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem and Time Fcuk are among my favorites in the genre, and they properly provide enjoyable run-and-jump sequences and combine them with satisfying brain teasers. That's why I was super excited to play Test Subject Blue, a free browser game on Nitrome.com. Though the site's reputation is riddled with both good and bad games, I dared brave Test Subject Blue due to its initial charm and promising gameplay. In the end, I ended my experience with the game somewhat satisfied, but a bit bored.
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Test Subject Blue Gameplay
You play as a blue blob-like enzyme that's being used in several experimental tests run by a happy little professor. Each of the game's 25 levels requires you to reach a goal, and along the way, you must figure out how to get from point A to point B. The game quickly teaches you the basics, and prior to each stage is a short journal entry by the professor that gives you hints about any new obstacles or abilities presented to you. These briefings do a good job of explaining what to do, but after a couple of levels, I couldn't help but feel that the professor had a tendency to ramble on unnecessarily.
The levels themselves are actually pretty cool for the most part. Several portals adorn each of the stages, and it is your job to navigate through these portals as you attempt to reach the goal. Jump into a vertical portal on one side of the screen and you end up on the other side. Fall down a horizontal portal and you find yourself in another area. Each of the stages spans a single screen, so you don't need to worry about getting lost. That said, objectives sometimes suffer from surprising amounts of unclarity, and it can definitely take you a while to realize what exactly the game is asking you to do. Oftentimes, getting from point A to point B isn't as simple as it should be. Other times, the answer is right under your nose, but the confusing level design makes it impossible to see that at first.
New enemies appear later in the game, but it isn't the villainous orange enzymes that will cause you trouble (though they will at times). Instead, your biggest threats are the turrets located on walls and ceilings. These cause plenty frustration as you're trying to traverse platforms, and because their projectiles can go through portals too, rest assured you will be caught off guard and meet an untimely demise. The most frustrating thing about these turrets is that even after you've memorized their patterns, you can still fall victim to their attacks due to Blue's sluggish movement and weak jumping ability.
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You control Blue using the arrow or WASD keys on your keyboard, and hitting the space bar allows you to fire your very own weapon. Overall, I can't really complain about the setup. Most freeware indie games use the keyboard, so this control scheme isn't exactly out of the blue. But the main gripe I had with the controls in Test Subject Blue was regarding the gelatinous little protagonist's ridiculously slow movement coupled with his lackadaisical jumps. Blue walks way too slow, making it impossible to get away from hazards at times. And because his jumps are so short, you need to get to the edge of a platform before you even attemp hopping over to another ledge or through a portal. These subpar controls are Test Subject Blue's biggest flaw, and they make playing through the game's puzzles feel like a chore at times.
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Visually, Test Subject Blue looks a lot like other Flash games, which is definitely not a bad thing. This graphical style is often hailed for offering clean, bold colors and charming character models. I will definitely vouch for the former as far as Test Subject Blue is concerned. Enivronments feature solid colors with a nice aesthetic touch. In terms of charm, though, nothing really has this quality save for the professor and a couple of the enemy enzymes. Blue is stuck in a mech-like pod the whole time, so its personality never shines through. And the environments aren't very appealing aside from their colors. Everything looks a bit too mechanical, and maybe it's because I spoil myself by playing games like the original Meat Boy, but I couldn't find myself caring too much for the art direction in Test Subject Blue.
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Like the graphical style of Test Subject Blue, the game's sound design is decent. You only hear one theme the entire time, but luckily, it's a fairly lengthy and catchy tune. Truth be told, it's a fine song that's fun to listen to while you play. Unfortunately, because it's the only theme in the game, you're left wanting more.
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Ultimately, Test Subject Blue is a fun puzzle platfromer that's best if played in short bursts. Nitrome.com has put together a fairly enjoyable title that should please plenty of gamers. Unfortunately, the game's sluggish controls, unclear level design, monotonous puzzles, and uninspired presentation will likely keep those some players from enjoying the game fully.