Puzzle your way to death with Suicide Guy
Content warning: suicide, described in tasteless, humorous terms.
BY MATT TIERNAN
Suicide Guy is that wonderful experience transformed into a puzzle platformer, split into just over 24 levels of varying difficulty. Each one has the same objective - find the way to take your own life.
Everyone has one of those days once in a while - you fall asleep in front of the TV and then half-dream a bunch of bizarre scenarios where you have to kill yourself in order to wake back up.
Suicide Guy is that wonderful experience transformed into a puzzle platformer, split into just over 24 levels of varying difficulty. Each one has the same objective - find the way to take your own life. Some are plainly obvious, such as the tall tower with a diving board and a giant X painted on the floor below. Other levels might take a little playing around to discover exactly how you might achieve your deathly goal.
The first few levels provide a tutorial to the controls and general setup, providing a simple path and a clear way to finish (yourself). Even in these basic training sessions, the clumsy controls can slow down your progress and frustrate you in your endeavours. Grabbing items can be hit-and-miss, moving items around is awkward, and trying to clear precise jumps can take several attempts. This could be an intentional design, providing an additional layer of “challenge” to prevent you from topping your dream self, but generally it just annoys and makes a 30-second speedrun turn into a 2-minute slog.
That being said, not all levels require delicacy or precision. Some need you to think outside the box, experimenting with the elements available to you until something clicks into place. This is where the game shines - lateral puzzles with solutions that take some playing around to fit into place - resulting in something horrible happening to your character.
The actual death is never gruesome or visual; simply implied. You set up the Rube-Goldberg machine to take care of the nasty bits and then the screen just turns to black. After a few levels, I actually found myself wishing for more action - perhaps seeing the grizzly results of your efforts might give the game more impact. The quiet end to each level feels like an anticlimax after spending ten minutes setting up all the pieces to come together for your fatal finale.
This could be developers exercising caution - preventing a moral outcry by not glamorizing the deaths which form the central theme of the game - however I still came away feeling slightly short-changed. Does that make me a bad person?
The variety of puzzles on show is good and the overall structure is well-paced, often alternating between a “physical” and a “mental” game (if I can borrow from the Crystal Maze lexicon).
The physical levels are platformers with a twist, finding movable blocks to access higher areas, or using weighted objects to activate buttons. These work well for the most part, except for where precision is needed, or you are trying to race through for a quick time - that’s when you might end up falling flat and having to play through a few sections again to get the janky physics to work properly.
The “mental” levels can give clues to the solution - perhaps a whiteboard with some hints in one corner of the room - while other levels will only let you interact with a few objects and you are left to play around until they fit together in such a way as the solution becomes obvious.
The early parts of the game highlight that you are on the correct path, by changing something in the environment or showing an animation which keeps you moving in that direction. For the first half of the game, there were only a couple of occasions where I was left scratching my head trying to decipher what I was supposed to be doing to progress. There’s almost a feeling of the old point-and-click adventure games in some levels, picking up every object and trying to combine it with every part of the environment, but you rarely get lost in obscurity and most solutions are (reasonably) sensible.
The overall objective, as I mentioned at the start, is to wake your sleeping character. This is loosely outlined in the short introductory cutscene, but that’s all there is in terms of story. The main “hub” where you select your next mission has a couple of nods towards this objective, but nothing especially changes as you make your way towards the end.
You complete a mission, the screen fades to black, then come back to the hub world and select the next mission. This simple loop might keep things focused on action, but doesn’t provide much sense of achievement. The motivation for the player fairly minimal - while the idea of killing yourself to wake up sounds fine on paper, I wondered if a more engaging story arc might push me to make progress faster.As it turned out, I was quite happy putting the game down at the end of a session, and only kept pushing forward to see how it all ended (spoiler alert: you wake up).
The art style is clean and vibrant, keeping the experience light and happy, in spite of the subject material. There’s a couple of homages to gaming classics as well - in particular a Portal level - but there is also a level styled like Super Mario (which doesn’t especially fit in a game about suicide). The graphical highlights for interactable objects makes things easier for the player, and most of the time a quick look around the level will reveal the key items to get through.
There are also collectibles “hidden” in each level - the use of inverted commas there because they are not hidden very well - and these give the player an added incentive to spend the time looking around for a while longer.
You complete a mission, the screen fades to black, then come back to the hub world and select the next mission. This simple loop might keep things focused on action, but doesn’t provide much sense of achievement.
Sadly though, the levels have a single solution, and there is only one collectible per level. Once you have found the collectible and completed the level, there is no reason to play through again, meaning the game has virtually zero replay value. You could sit a friend down to see how quickly they can decipher the levels, possibly leading to some frayed relationships, but apart from that this game is a one-shot playthrough. It is a generally entertaining play, for sure, but it’s not going to hold your attention for more than a dozen hours.
The game was going pretty well…. until…. a few good ol’ game breakin’ bugs. They cropped up repeatedly during some levels, requiring a couple of level restarts, and then a complete game restart when things froze up.
Here’s how things unravelled: firstly there was the “T-Rex” level which requires a quick series of actions to complete. The awkward controls became grating by this point, dropping objects, having them fall over at precisely the wrong time, and then finally interactable objects ignoring my commands. It took twice as long as any other level - even though I had worked out how to complete it within a few minutes.
A couple of missions later was the “forklift” level, which I can only describe as broken at best, although a few choice swear words were actually used during my playthrough. The physics absolutely freaked out, the camera got stuck and detached from the player, and finally the forklift itself fell through the floor. None of this was meant to happen, and this screams of poor testing while the game was in development. I had to restart the level not once, not twice, but three times before I managed to tease the objects into the correct alignment to progress. The second time, the game downright refused to respond to my attempts to quit - so I had to close the entire game down to get the level to restart. After such a smooth beginning, the cracks in the janky physics were breaking apart.
The final nail in the coffin was the “scrapyard” level, which was just an absolute mess (and no, not because of the intentional scrap on display). What could have been a fun puzzle ended up being painful (and yes, I nearly rage-quit at this point) because one area bugged out and turned into a trampoline - so every time I tried to interact with it I would end up being bounced off into the air. This is early-access levels of bugginess, which for a game which was fully released over a year ago should have been resolved by now.
Towards the end of the game, the tight and focussed puzzles give way to sprawling larger environments with more elements in play (and consequently more things to go wrong). Some later levels truly pushed my patience, with areas of the map where you could “lose” key objects, stuck behind parts of the scenery, requiring (you guessed it) another level restart.
The clever cues indicating player progress were lost in the bigger and messier design of the final sections, and what should have been an exciting conclusion turned into a grind just to get them out of the way. I'm not ashamed to admit looking up the solution to a few of the end missions, as trying the sensible combinations of objects and player placement seemed like a waste of time, and more opportunities for things to go wrong.
The magic had faded, I wasn't getting any satisfaction any more, and was anxious that a wrong step could lead to the game crashing on me again. These issues could have been addressed with additional play testing, putting safeguards in to prevent players from breaking the levels (which you almost felt encouraged to do given the experimental nature of the puzzles) but after dozen hours with the game I was happy to see it finish. The extra levels are admittedly quite enjoyable, but I was only completing them to satisfy my OCD by that point.
If you had just played the first 10 levels, the game would have given you a warm fuzzy feeling of achievement. Once the levels get more taxing - and the game physics started to unravel - you end up with more frustration than anything. Such a shame, as the core gameplay loop felt well refined.
With a solid gameplay loop and varied level design, this should have been a fun afternoon of puzzling. Sadly, due to the stupid amount of bugs which are still present in the game, plus the general awkwardness of the controls - I can’t say that I recommend it. If you are lucky enough to avoid the bugs, the game is mildly entertaining, and killing yourself can kill a few hours.
The Good Stuff:
Clever puzzles with enough variety to keep things interesting as you play through
Bite-sized gameplay so you can give your brain a rest …. or go for one more suicide
Nice clean art style keeps the focus on the mission
A dedicated burp button
The Bad Stuff:
Sloppy platforming and controls (possibly intentional) means some levels take far longer than they should to complete
Bugs, oh so many bugs, which break levels and even the game at points
Later levels descend into obscurity and the risk of completely screwing the physics actively dissuaded my experimentation
The light-touch story means that the single joke (you must kill yourself) doesn’t motivate me as much as the developers might have hoped
Virtually zero replay value - once a mission is complete (and you found the barely-hidden collectible statue) then there’s no reason to play it again