We here at Armless Octopus are proud of our pro-mother/pro-baby agenda. Other indie sites have balked our our goody-too shoes approach, but we generally – with exceptions, naturally – oppose eating babies, even though we all know their sweet undeveloped juices are as tasty as god’s urine. So it’s rather unsurprising that I had a natural affinity for Offspring Fling!, an adorable puzzle platformer about good old fashioned family values.
Offspring Fling! uses its retro aesthetics to create a warm, familiar feeling, but actually playing the game feels like a completely new experience. You play as a creature that is most definitely the result of Kirby and Pikachu mixing DNA. Your task is to guide your progeny of kirbachus to the exit of each level. Sounds easy, right? All you have to do is avoid the water, bees, and acid-spitting plants and it’s off to nursery school.
Momma has a few tricks to help transport her cubs around. Although she lacks a marsupial pouch, she is pretty handy at picking up her chicks and moving them about the old fashioned way. She’s remarkably efficient with this method, and she can even stack three or four babies on top of each other like she’s Moses in those terrible religious NES games. In a shocking twist of realism , walking around with four chirping babies stacked on top of each other actually reduces momma’s jumping prowess and makes it more difficult to squeeze beneath ledges. Bummer.
So, that means you’ll often have to resort to hurling those precious babies around the level in order to get them where they need to go. Huge chasm of water to cross? No problem! Just chuck them across the screen until they crash into the wall on the other side and then go retrieve your concussed babies. These things must be coated in some kind of forcefield shell. Baby kirbachus are perfect for slamming into bumpers, switches, and even enemies. Momma loves you, but Momma also loves pelting killer bees with her babies.
The mechanics are fairly straightforward, but they allow for some impressively crafty puzzles. When momma hurls the babies, they fly in a straight horizontal line until they collide with something, which can include a bumper that will redirect them in another direction. Many of the levels are designed around lining the bumpers up correctly to send the babies colliding into a button or the exit. Toward the end of the game it’s not uncommon to see two or three babies flying in different directions at the same time, which is just an insane notion when you take a minute to think about what exactly is going on. .
There are only a handful of babies in each stage, but if just one perishes, you have to restart the level. That seems a little harsh and unrealistic; survival rates for most mammals in the wild isn’t all that high, so why should you be expected to save every munchkin? Logically flawed as it may be, it works well as a gameplay mechanic because the bite-sized levels are so short and can always be finished in less than two minutes, and sometimes as quickly as fifteen seconds. Success depends on your brain’s ability to deconstruct the components of each level and figure out which path will save your children and which one leads to a weeping momma.
The game perfectly inches you along over its 100 levels and keeps adding new subtle tricks to your repertoire. It never felt like it got too challenging, although there were a handful of levels I repeated at least a dozen times. By the end of the game, my little babies were bouncing all around the screen in every direction as I hopped back and forth between switches to phase bricks in and out. Shockingly, it never felt overwhelming because each component was doled out in such a regulated fashion that it was easy to combine them all.
The bite-sized levels are so quick and rewarding that I easily chomped through fifty levels before I realized what I was doing. It kept rekindling that feeling of “I’m a goddamned genius” every time I solved one of its patterns. Perhaps most telling was that I never wanted to stop playing. There was never a point where I got so frustrated that I had to stop or wished I could look something up. I had fun every single time I played this game. What more could you ask for? A level you say? Yeah, it’s gone one of those too.
Offspring Fling! was provided for review by Kpulv. It is available for $7.99 on Steam