Feature

Trap Adventure 2 is Super Mario Brothers in the Black Lodge

Hiroyoshi Oshiba is a terrorist. We should be meeting in non-descript rooms and drawing up plans to raid the Japanese developer, take him into custody, and answer for the pain and suffering he’s been causing iOS users.

Hiro takes glee in this hurt, if the whimsy he takes in warning players to turn away in the App Stores game description, like Willy Wonka “trying” to prevent Augustus Gloop from drowning himself in chocolate.

And like a chubby son of a Russian oligarch, I dove in. My fault, of course, but what’s done is done.

There’s nothing about the game that strikes you as anything but a standard platformer made in Stencyl in the early moments of it. Even the first time you hop on a platform to see spikes reach out and greet you, sending you to the dreaded “Game Over” screen, you sort of scratch your stubble in contemplative frustration. “I’ll have to lure it out, and play around it.” you tell yourself in earnest.

Then you approach the jump again. You leap on your platform, and leap to the second spiked one. Ah, but you’ve learned this time! Mid-air, while the spikes erect to hug you in it’s sinister embrace, you turn back towards the previous platform. Pleased with yourself, you plan how your going to navigate around this trap you’ve deftly exposed. Then something weird happens. The trap gets up, and hops to you. It collides into you as you try to hop your way back down to safety, shunting you back to that dark Game Over abyss.

This time, you got it. You hop up to the spike platform. Lure it out and turn around. It chases you, but you’re ready. One hop, two hop, three hops and now your back to safety. This mimic spike block collides into the floor and disintegrates, and you sigh in relief just in time to realize that the ceiling above you is collapsing on you.

You fashion to jump over this monster block instead of run from it. You land on what looks to be a safe cliff behind it, but surprise, another spike trap. There’s a little spot in front of it though, so you work your will back up to try again. Hop over the monster block, onto the spike cliff right before the trap. Then you jump over the spikes and they freaking follow you!

You’ll have exhausted all of your Drew Scanlon-blinky-eyes-reacts before you even get out of Stage 2

There’s a word floating around the Internet nowadays – masocore – to describe the sorts of ultra demanding, precision-tuned platforming experiences that have been made by and for the hardcore gamer in recent years. Super Meat Boy, 1001 Spikes, I Want to Be the Guy, and the freshly launched and lauded Celeste fit this bill nicely. There might be no more pinnacle example of this subgenre than Trap Adventure 2

There is a masochistic quality to a player’s dedication to enduring the rigors of the “try and die” cycle of these games. Besides the sense of accomplishment when you beat a hard challenge, there is also some enjoyment in the act of being beaten. But in games like Trials, where platforms move in predictable ways, and the paths to jump and dash and climb are relatively static, Trap Adventure 2 is aggressively dynamic.

TA2’s stages constantly morph and change around your actions to subvert your expectations. It garbles the language of platformers we’ve spent 30 years learning. It’s a Phoenix Rage level by way of a Bloodborne boss fight. It’s Super Mario Brothers in the Black Lodge.

And for all of Hiro’s crimes against humanity, his spitefulness also reveals a sort of brilliance. The brutal and mean can also be clever and beautiful. In the scope of that horror movie conceit, it becomes pretty easy to see why so many people have gravitated to this game almost two years after its release. In a world that seems to get ever darker, we have found solace in the dadaist absurdity of self expression. There is nothing darker, more attractive, or more utterly absurd on the App Store right now than Trap Adventure 2.

So I guess Hiro can skip Guantanamo, this time…

Previous Article
Old Man's Journey Review
Next Article
IrrationalPod Ep. 366