774 Deaths is as grim as the title implies. In this game you will die. You will die so much that making it through a single level and not dying will result in you performing a touchdown-style dance in your living room regardless of who else is in the room with you. The screenshots of this game may make you think it’s an 8-bit throwback platformer that will remind you of your Super Mario days, but instead it’s a game only for masochists and the hardiest hardcore gamers.
774 Deaths features no story. Your character has no name or motivation. Instead, he just starts in a room. You appear to be in a castle made of dark stone and with poor lighting. As you enter each room, you will notice there are stones scattered about. These ‘stones’ are actually doorways into short levels of the game. In order to unlock room’s exit, you must successfully complete two of these levels.
Choose your fate.
Each level is relatively short and features very few types of obstacles. Mostly, you will face floating platforms and blades covered in blood. Lots and lots of blades. Your goal is to get from one end of the level to the other without taking a single hit. If you are hit even once, you will be sent back to the beginning of the level. Completing a level requires precise timing, recognition of patterns, and nerves of steel.
Levels can play differently depending on their design. Some levels are side-scrolling and require you to operate your character’s movement– forwards and backwards– as well as jump. Other levels move your character forward automatically, and you only have to tap the screen to jump. Others use your device’s accelerometer, forcing you to tilt your device to navigate bladed passageways. While the basic platforming control schemes feel fine, the accelerometer controls don’t feel tight enough for the precision required.
I cut myself shaving.
Whenever you begin a level, you’ll notice a number tally that counts upwards. This number tracks the number of times you have died throughout the game. After a while, it becomes a badge of honor. Those who have died hundreds of times have braved this game, died time and time again, and have persevered without throwing their device under a moving vehicle. 774 Deaths can be frustrating if you let it, or it can be good for a laugh. If nothing else, it tests how much you will put up with in order to feel victory in a video game. If you really want to prove your mettle, you can tweet from within the game and tell your friends how many times you’ve died.
There are nine rooms total, each containing a variety of levels for you to complete. We’ll be honest: we did not make it to the ninth room. That would require some kind of superhuman skill, and even thinking about the levels in the ninth room is enough to give us nightmares.
774 Deaths doesn’t feel like a game in the traditional sense of the word. Instead it feels like a toy to hand to your friend and trick them into playing before they turn red in the face and start swearing. Square Enix has made some fabulous games, many of which are Must Haves, but 774 Deaths doesn’t have mass appeal. Despite its nostalgic 8-bit graphics and chiptunes, 774 Deaths is a torture chamber of platforming designed to frustrate you.