Originally published on Steam

Almost There naturally gets compared to Super Meat Boy. It is a punishingly challenging platformer that requires many attempts and nearly perfect execution to complete the short levels. There are only two control verbs: horizontal control and jump. Every other mechanic arises from the environment. For instance, long platforms allow the player to gain enough momentum to make longer jumps and vertical surfaces enable wall jumps. The levels introduce new mechanics in smart ways so you never feel overwhelmed or stuck. Instead, your focus can stay on planning your movement and perfecting your actions.

Still, this game lacks a lot of Super Meat Boy's character. I mean this in a literal sense as you control a cube in a sterile environment. Sometimes elaborate themes and story can be distracting, you know? Perhaps a better comparison is 140, another platformer featuring a square. (Though, that box turns into a circle when rolling and a triangle in the air.) The one bit of character Almost There's box has is a red line, which seems to be a bit of ribbon according to the cover art. It serves a useful purpose of streaming behind to show where you've travelled.

Despite being demanding, it is possible to make progress through the levels if you take your time and plan your route. I suspect the square shape aids platforming by making platform edges obvious. Like Super Meat Boy, the levels are short and it's easy enough to try again. Unlike SMB, you don't restart the level immediately after failing. Instead, you have to press a button. I think this is intended as an aid to speedrunning so that you can prepare to start the run immediately. Completing levels under certain time thresholds earn extra stars. (I think the stars unlock new words, but that's unclear.) In my opinion, it would be better to just boot the player back into the level without a button press. That encourages the player to do focused practice that can help them learn to be better at the game. Also, and this mostly fun, I miss Super Meat Boy's replay feature which shows all the ways you failed before beating a level.

Many of the mechanics (especially the spinning buzz saws) harken back to Super Meat Boy. Some of the challenges seem a bit closer to plagiarism than homage. If you are going to copy, take from the best, I suppose. Still, there are plenty of unique (as far as I know) ideas here. More importantly, Almost There captures the tension and release cycle that makes for the best platforming experience. You are in complete control of that little box whether using the keyboard or controller, so yours is the responsibility of failure and so is the glory of success.