Sponsored By: Clockworkhouse
Time SEUMed: 43 Minutes
Michelob Light Review
I’ve heard that cheap beer can give you the runs, but this is ridiculous!
Miller High Life Review
SEUM ("see um") has two core building blocks that make up its foundation: the first-person platformer, and the timed mission. That’s all there is to the game, just dozens and dozens of floating platforms and obstacles that you have to surmount before a clock runs out. And if that clock runs out, you have to try again.
If you walked away right now, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s almost all of the worst ideas in video games in one dose. If they’d packed an escort mission in there somewhere it would be a trifecta of terrible. In fact, if I were to make that game I’d call it "Trifecta of Terrible."
Sometimes execution is everything. If you’re good enough, and maybe a little lucky, you can play tennis in rollerskates, or cook a delicious meal without meat in it. You can even, or so I’m told, become a competitive Mortal Kombat player as Stryker. So why shouldn’t a developer be able to make first-person jumping puzzles fun? It wouldn’t be the first or last time that someone made a bad idea work.
In that spirit, here’s a guide to making a bad idea work, from the perspective of someone who’s never made a game in his life but has played a whole lot of them for a short amount of time.
Use the Elevator Pitch to get a rise out of people.
I bet I can sell you a copy of SEUM in less than thirty words:
Dude with an unironic mullet and a fantastic mustache steals the devil’s arm and follows him to Hell in a quest to recover a stolen case of beer.
Woot! 28 words! If that doesn’t sell you a copy of the game, you must hate fun.
Make a good First Impression.
It’s a cliche to say that first impressions are lasting impressions, but do you know how cliches become cliches? They made a good enough first impression to be repeated.
SEUM makes a fantastic first impression. The first time you load the game, you’re treated to a comic-book style introduction in which the mulleted hero from the elevator pitch receives a mysterious record album in the mail. He settles down with a case of beer that is pretty obviously not an IPA to sacrifice an afternoon to the gods of metal, only to find that this album summons the literal devil into his living room. The devil grabs his case of beer, which will not stand, and The Mullet tries to resist. The devil then chops off the man’s arm and absconds with the beer. As he dashes out the door, however, The Mullet hurls the mysterious record album at the devil, and it slices off the devil’s own arm. So what’s a one-armed throwback to do? He rams the devil’s arm on to replace his own, and gives chase to the devil through the fiery pits of Hell.
Then the game starts.
To say I was sold on the game at this point is an exaggeration, but only just. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the proof of the game is in the playing, which brings us to our next checkbox.
Execute well, or not at all
The best elevator pitch in the world won’t save a game from playing badly, and a good first impression with no follow-up is just a disappointment. Happily, SEUM delivers here, and it does so in a number of ways.
First, the controls are tight and responsive. When I miss a jump, I feel like it was me missing the jump, not the controls doing it. That’s critical to an experience like this, because if I felt like the game was fighting me I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it, and this would be a very different review.
Second, if you’re going to make me start over after every mistake, you have to make that restart time vanishingly small. SEUM delivers this by the spade. While it takes a while to load a level the first time, (and an even longer time to load the level menu, for some reason), starting the level over is nearly instantaneous. Just hit the R key, and you’re back at the starting gate.
Third, the controls are tight and responsive. I may have said something about this earlier, but I’ve got a short memory and a shorter attention span, so I’m not about to go back and check. I’m all about moving forward, baby! Anyway, good controls are critical to any game, and especially so if you’re trying to execute on a bad idea. SEUM’s controls feel just right, especially after I played with the mouse sensitivity (I set it to 66.6, because I was hoping there would be an achievement for it. No luck there, but it still amuses me.)
So there you have it. The key to making a good game is 1) Coming up with a good premise, 2) Making a good first impression and 3) making a good game.
You know what you need to do, developers, go to work.
There are more levels, but will I SEUM?
SEUM is one of those games that I’ll come back to periodically because it’s got such a low commitment level. I can jump in, play a level or two and jump back out without spending a lot of time thinking about it. The only thing to remember is that SEUM is, quite literally, a sprint and not a marathon. I find that I can’t play it for long stretches without getting twitchy, kind of like Devil Daggers or any other high-precision, fast-moving first person shooter.
Is it the Dark Souls of beer runs?
To be the Dark Souls of time-limited first-person platformers, a game must be so diabolically, brutally, and punishingly difficult that it would probably break my keyboard just during installation. SEUM fails that test.
This is not to say that SEUM is an easy game. When you’ve failed the same level by a fraction of a second three times, it can be frustrating. There’s a lot of challenge there for people who want it, and if you want a challenge you could do worse than SEUM.