As you may know, the ninth Humble Indie Bundle was released this week, containing some of the best indie games from the past year for a ludicrously low price (if you didn’t know, stop reading and go buy it!). Eets: Munchies, while included, is not one of those bestseller games; for starters, it’s still in beta, with a vague “It’s done when it’s done!” message on the official website. However, the game is being developed by Klei Entertainment, responsible for fantastic games such as Mark of the Ninja and Don’t Starve. That was enough for me to dive right in.
Eets: Munchies is a 2D puzzle game with gameplay that falls somewhere between Lemmings and The Incredible Machine. The goal of each level is to guide the main character, Eets, to the cake at the end of the level, either by placing items in his path or by manipulating the ones already there. I’ll admit I was unsure what to make of the game when I booted it up. The music is upbeat and jazzy, and the overall aesthetic of the game is whimsical to the point of goofiness. Dancing bears and elephants punctuate the loading screens between levels. “Is this a game for little babies?” I muttered to myself as I made my way through the first levels.
Well, okay, I didn’t actually mutter that. I honestly really loved the art direction of the game, and the loading screens have some animations that made me laugh out loud. It’s only made better by the way the sound effects and the game’s music blend together; for example, Eets’ footsteps plunk out a melody which speeds up or slows down depending on the game speed. The overall effect is a very consistent aesthetic, which is nothing less than I’ve come to expect from Klei Entertainment.
Anyway, I was starting to feel like I wasn’t the target audience after the first few levels, which were easy–as most games in this genre often are at the start. The game guided me through putting a plank in Eets’ path so that he could jump over the gaps. It introduced food items such as chili peppers, which make Eets angry when he eats them and allow him to jump farther. Characters such as the Inhale Whale, who sucks up and spits out items when clicked on, were added to the cast. And then I began to realize that this game was starting to get pretty hard.
Each level has three food items to collect, as sort of the ‘optimal’ solution. By the middle of the second world I was missing cupcakes left and right. The music, which had seemed so happy, felt like it was mocking me. Make no mistake–this game is challenging, and you will struggle to solve some of the later puzzles without cheating. And even with cheating, many levels require good timing, and sometimes even just good luck.
That last part is a bit of a turn-off to my tastes. The game can be frustrating when a solution requires you to click in a precise pattern for a few seconds, just to have an explosion blow up a few pixels off, forcing you to start all over (Spooky Caves level 10, I’m looking at you). For better or for worse, explosions level scenery in perfect circles (think Worms: Armageddon), and it can mess with Eets’ pathfinding and jumping detection.
However, a lot of times those problems just mean you’re doing the puzzle wrong. I remember feeling the exact same way as a child playing The Incredible Machine, which remains one of my fondest childhood experiences. Eets: Munchies does a good job evoking that binary of frustration and accomplishment, with some solutions that can only be called elegant, even if you have to admit it begrudgingly, like me. It also includes a puzzle editor, which has items unlocked by collecting the food in each level. If you’re interested in level design, those baubles are worth seeking out–props like the Flippy Fungus, which reverses gravity, can significantly add to the possible solutions for a level.
Though the beta only includes 35 levels across three worlds, I am confident that the variety and creativity of tools in the game’s arsenal will allow for some very interesting levels. The time I spent with Eets: Munchies had its ups and downs (especially with the Flippy Fungus, ha ha), but I can comfortably say that the experience was very satisfying. If you’re a fan of the 2D puzzle genre at all, keep your eyes peeled for updates on the game’s release–you won’t want to miss this one.