Where Are My Friends? is developer Beard Game Studios’ first release, and trying to span four different genres in your first game is a pretty damn impressive show of confidence. Games that have tried to do this in the past have a pretty mixed track record: for every Kirby Super Star, there’s about a dozen Action 52s. Unfortunately, Where Are My Friends? falls closer to the latter than the former.
In fairness, Where Are My Friends? pulls off two of its four disparate gameplay styles quite well. The first of these, a twitchy auto-run platformer, is the game’s clear high point. A giant bird pierces the cranium of the player character, a one-wheeled robot, setting off a mad chase across a hand-drawn, psychedelic landscape. Unlike most “hallucinogenic” episodes in games, this sequence really the feeling of an altered state, with each new mechanic adding to your sense of the main character’s panic. The second of Where Are My Friends?’ high points, a portal-based puzzle platformer, is perfectly enjoyable for what it is, but there’s nothing much to distinguish it from any other incarnation of that genre you could find for free on Newgrounds.
Two Exercises In Tedium
The remaining two levels just aren’t fun, however, and that’s really a death blow to the whole multi-genre concept. If a new form of gameplay isn’t well-implemented, then introducing it is just a rude interruption to the previous gameplay. The exploration platformer level in Where Are My Friends? is the worst of this, with loose controls and unclear hitboxes making the process of navigating cave after cave of pits and spikes complete tedium.
Finally, there’s a classic-style point ‘n’ click adventure level, which calls back to the height of the Escape The Room game’s popularity in the mid-00’s. If you ever frequented LazyLaces or JayIsGames back in the day, you’re probably already familiar with the opaque puzzle design and infuriating pixel-hunting that dragged this genre down back then, and none of that is gone in Where Are My Friends?.
It’s unfortunate that so much of the gameplay in Where Are My Friends? is dreck, because the aesthetics are really adorable. There’s a cartoonish, almost child-like quality to the brightly colored graphics, particularly in the point ‘n’ click and auto-run levels, that reminds me of the visuals in Jonas Kyratzes’ work. The music is really exhilarating, too, with the auto-run stage again being a standout, managing to incorporate “jungle drums” without causing eyes to roll. There’s so much creativity at play here that just doesn’t show up in the game’s nuts and bolts.
- Charming hand-drawn graphics
- Awesome score – the jungle level bops!
- Stiff, unwieldy controls
- Repetitive gameplay in the Caves section
- Unclear hitboxes for instant death spikes
There’s a lot to like in Where Are My Friends?, but it just isn’t worth putting up with the full half of the game that isn’t fun, exciting, or even very interesting. Where Are My Friends?’ reach is admirable, but its grasp doesn’t match up.