Sometimes You Die ($2) is a new minimalist puzzler/side scroller from Philipp Stollenmayer. Unlike most games, in which a player’s death is usually a setback, Sometimes You Die lets players benefit from dying. Many of the puzzles seem to require such sacrifices.
It’s clear from the very beginning that Sometimes You Die is a different kind of side scroller. Players use onscreen controls to move a simple boxed cursor — a greater-than/less-than symbol — through dark levels with ominous music, voiceovers, and omnipresent typography. You can move left, right, and jump. Some players may linger on the words in the background longer than others, as Sometimes You Die attempts to make you question basic tenants of gaming as you’re zipping and jumping around. The animation is sparse but smooth.
It probably won’t surprise gamers to find out that dying is central to Sometimes You Die. When your character hits a spike, it dies, but its “corpse” remains. Players can then use those dead blocks as platforms or to block moving spiky balls. Dying is a fundamental part of advancing through many levels, and it often offers players a variety of solutions. Your instincts of keeping your character alive quickly fade away. The gameplay isn’t just creative — it’s fun and addictive.
Sometimes You Die gets more challenging as it progresses, as initial easy levels give way to sections that will likely require a fair share of retries. Players can hit the redo button in the upper left part of the screen to start a section over again. Late in the game, Sometimes You Die has a streak of sections designed to mess with players’ heads — we’d reveal more, but the surprises are too sublime. If you’re not frustrated, you’ll laugh and appreciate the ingenuity involved.
On the downside, Sometimes You Die is a fairly short game. We whizzed through it quickly, though mostly because we couldn’t put it down. Players might also get sick of the music. It sets the mood, but it’s repetitive, and it starts to wear on you after a while. We turned it down before reaching the end.
All things considered, these drawbacks are rather insignificant, especially when considering the “hidden content” we’ve yet to see. We think we know how to reach it, but it’s going to require playing through levels again. Are we willing to do that? In the case of Sometimes You Die, yes. We can see players giving this game a number of replays and wanting to watch their friends experience the game, too. Sometimes You Die is a clever, original game that most players should find well worth the $2 price tag.
iLounge Rating: A-