October 13th, 2012 | By Arsen Nazaryan
Michael P. Consoli’s Against the Wall is all about scaling this giant, intimidating, and downright complicated wall filled with blocks of different sizes. You pull blocks out to help you traverse this massive wall. It is as simple as it gets and as simple as it sounds. So what makes Against the Wall special enough to be one of IndieCade’s “showfloor” selections? Well, it’s the gameplay, really. Against the Wall is built on the idea of pick up and play. Thus far, there are no in-depth instructions (aside from the general: use WASD and jump). There is no real tutorial. There are no helpful hints along the way holding your hand and gently nudging your bum in the right direction while you make an ass out of yourself. Instead, it is unforgiving — especially if you forget to save!
That being said, the game is beyond tutorials. You really don’t need them. Anybody with an inkling of what a first person puzzler feels like should know exactly how to play it: use WASD and your mouse, dumbass! For the rest, you’re on your own. If you notice, I’m a little apprehensive towards the game, mainly because the developer sat there and watched me fuck up time and time again, nearly giving up on me as if I were a lost cause. Fortunately, he didn’t, and neither did I — I don’t falter in the face of puzzling intimidation. So I strapped on my big boy boots and got my ass across that wall faster than the eleven-year-old that went after me. Goddamn, it felt good.
Basically, you’re scaling this wall where you have all the time in the world to decide which blocks to pull out and what your path will be. Initially, you will have difficulty — can you tell? But there is this beautiful connection that occurs once you understand just what’s going on and you begin to exercise this awesome sensation of flow. It’s something that Consoli built into the game, but true flow is something you’ll see in few big-production games — save for games like Catherine which does bear similarities to Against the Wall. Flow is the sensation you’ll feel when you’re in the zone while playing Tetris. It’s godly, really, and it is a result of being so in tune with your brain and your hands that you know exactly what to do and how to do it without even consciously thinking through every move. When you really get to your zenith in terms of flow, you’ll be scaling the wall like a ninja and laughing at your past self for being a dimwitted dipshit. That is, until you hit your next stop. Then it’s back to square one, but your recovery shouldn’t be too bad this time around, champ.
This idea of flow is something that both Consoli and I agreed is distinctly missing or just defunct in a lot of experiences that would really benefit from having it. It’s a beautiful thing that Kickstarter patrons put their faith in his ideas, because there’s a sense of excitement when he speaks about the final product — which, he says, is pretty far away. There are variations to the formula: new kinds of blocks, new environments, expanding mechanics, new mechanics, and so on. His eyes sparkle as he gleefully expresses his ideas to someone that he feels truly understands them. I may pretend I do, and I may act as if I’m totally aware of what’s to come, but in truth I’m just as puzzled about the new mechanics as I was when I first sat down to play the game. I think Against the Wall will really put us gamers to the test, if only for the question: If the wall is infinitely tall, how far will you climb?
One thing I know for sure: Against the Wall is fun and fresh, and you’ll want to practice your skills if you don’t want to fall off tumbling infinitely to your death. Sure, the block-pulling and climbing is something even Consoli admits Catherine did incredibly well, but this promises to be a different experience altogether. It may be in alpha, but it’s core ideas are very much alive in this build, so play it.