Platform games are all about following a path while avoiding horrible doom along the way, and This Could Hurt delivers all the doom any player could ask for. If you love dodging buzzsaws, flame jets, and bottomless pits, you’ve come to the right game.
You play a young Oakguard Apprentice charged with renewing the Great Oak that protects his village. After some training levels in the local forest, your apprentice goes on an epic quest through a ruined city, over a snow-topped mountain, and deep into a fiery volcano.
Your hero is courageous, but unimaginative. He only travels by marching down the path in front of him. If he would just go off the path once in a while… climb a hill… breathe some fresh air… avoid the death traps and dive through the exit that is frequently ten feet away from the entrance… well, it wouldn’t be much of a game.
Out for a jog.
Since your apprentice does no such thing, it’s up to you to shepherd him through the levels. You have one control: hold the screen and your apprentice stops. Let go and he moves forward. By timing stops and starts, you can ride moving platforms, dodge boulders, duck swinging cannonballs and even chose alternate paths through hidden areas.
The one-touch control is simple, but there’s enough challenge to keep you engaged throughout the game’s 40 levels. It doesn’t hurt that the world is beautifully realized with a 3-D isometric perspective. The threats are well-placed, so you can always see what’s going on, and it’s fun to follow your apprentice as he stomps over, under, and behind the landscape.
There are also power-ups to get you through the worst obstacles. These are unlocked in the fourth and seventh levels of the first three worlds, and will give your apprentice temporary abilities like invulnerability, extra health, and wings to fly over pits. Each ability is powered by acorns, which are hidden in dangerous areas and accumulated at the end of each level.
Just getting some fresh air.
This is where the game economy gets tricky. You spend acorns each time you use a special ability, whether you pass the level or not. However, you only gather new acorns when you successfully complete a level. It’s easy to get into a deficit situation where you attempt a level several times, spending acorns every time, just to get small fraction of them back.
Chillingo is happy to sell you more acorns, and players determined to explore every hidden area and earn every badge are likely to end up buying them. That said, it’s easy to finish the game using only acorns gathered in normal play. Players who don’t want to pay for more can also run through the first level over and over again. That level is only 20 seconds long, and five minutes of grinding will get you the use of several power-ups. It’s an efficient strategy, but it’s not fun.
Lack of checkpoints is another way the design works against itself. The levels are short, and running one from start to finish is one of the joys of platformers. However, repeating two-thirds of a level over and over because you keep missing one jump near the end is a frustration of the genre. It’s not hard to track failure and restart a struggling player at a halfway point, and there’s no reason a modern game shouldn’t offer that convenience to players.
Despite these flaws, This Could Hurt is fun and accessible. If you like to puzzle over your platformers, you’ll enjoy mastering the game’s timing and delivering your apprentice to the end of the maze.