I don’t particularly take pleasure in crushing difficulty. If it’s fair, it’s fine. But it can be draining smashing my head against a wall to try to overcome a single challenge. One thing that has always lightened the blow is a cute presentation.
Aside from getting so upset at Odin Sphere that I took a nap, I have no memories of tantrums or controller throwing from something a game presented at me. If anything, overbearing challenges just grind on my patience. At some point, I move on. Lube that gritty difficulty up with some pastel colors as well as chibi anime girls though and I’m in for the long run.
Probably the two most stand out examples of this for me are Rupupu Cube: Lup Salad and Sayonara Umihara Kawase. They’re not the most brutal, but they’re not easy. They’ll hold you up on a level for a good long time, albeit for different reasons.
Rupupu Cube: Lup Salad is a puzzle platformer featuring a girl who constantly daydreams about fantastical situations and places. She’s an Eskimo in the Arctic, a mermaid princess of an underwater kingdom, a robot on an the assembly line, and more. Each set of puzzles have a background that match the theme of her imaginations. More importantly, they feature vocal songs playing the entire time. Depending on who you are, that’s either grating or amazing. I was in the latter.
This title is a single-screen game, where you need to clear all colored blocks by pushing them into each other. Outside of the platforming aspect, which is also accompanied by cute sound effects, nothing about the puzzles stand out. Like any competent entry in the genre, the simple mechanics have the potential for immensely complicated designs. After spending an hour staring at a blocks only to still leave one behind, you’ll need that 12-year old singing in your ear to get you to press that retry button.
As much as I enjoy Lup Salad, it is essentially a standard puzzle game mixed with sugar and pressed to a disc. Sayonara Umihara Kawase falls more in the relaxing spectrum. While the series features its own big head doe-eyed girls, it doesn’t lean into it. It’s a laid-back bizarre world where characters navigate around floating platforms covered in everyday objects together with land-roaming sea creatures. There’s a bit of logic behind the setting, since the main character uses a fishing lure to hook into walls and swing the character around.
Since you have control over the velocity of the character’s movement along with the length of the wire, it creates a dynamic range of movement. You can swing over gaps, hook the character around other objects or launch in any direction. Stages have multiple exits, some of which naturally can be troublesome to not only find but also reach. Add in tight timing, and you’ll spend plenty of time falling to a watery death while trying to angle a swing or launch just right.
I like the visual presentation, but the music does most of the heavy lifting. It doesn’t really fit the tense nature of the gameplay, though rolls right into the bizarre world. An overall slow paced yet upbeat soundtrack brings a level of mellowness to the whole experience.
There are plenty of charming walks in the park with titles like Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. However I feel like pairing the presentation with a challenge goes the extra mile to encourage you to overcome what can feel like insurmountable odds.