Mortality is a curious thing. Many of us accept that one day we will leave this mortal coil and cease to be. As is the case with all continuums, there are outliers on either extreme of the spectrum regarding the acceptance of one’s death. Some people tragically reach death sooner than they are intended to by their own actions, while others fear it and will avoid it at all costs. Life Goes On: Done to Death combines both extreme ends of the spectrum.
A selfish and death fearing king wishes to obtain the Cup of Life in order to obtain life everlasting. He sends legions of knights, his very own loyal vanguard of disposable heroes to get him this chalice. Their suicide solution is how they will overcome the myriad obstacles that stand between them and the item their liege desires. Contrary to the majority of games in existence, not only is this a game where death is not the end, but death is the goal of this morbidly silly puzzle game. A fitting influence, this game’s design seems to show some inspiration by the classic Lemmings, but oddly enough the title creatures in that game have a greater sense of self preservation instinct than the characters in this title.
Each level is a puzzle where the goal is have the knight reach the chalice at the end of the level. There is no way to reach the chalice without dying, but that is the objective. The idea is to not avoid death but to be smart about dying. The only realistic thing about this game is dead bodies do not instantly disappear, so the carcasses fall where they may and they can be used to traverse the terrain. If there are wall spikes, impale someone up there and have him be a stepping stone in travelling up a wall. Impassable spiked floor? No problem, get a bunch of dead bodies and have them serve as a carpet. Need some dead weight on a button to keep a door open or conveyor belt running? Get a body. When it comes to dead weight, why settle for less than a bonafide bone filled dead body? Front line soldiers who die quickly in games are sometimes called cannon fodder. In this game these valiant knights literally become cannon ammo, and their burning carcasses fly to help achieve victory.
There is no budget set for the human cost of the king’s mission. The supply of knights willing to die so the king doesn’t have to is endless. Granted, the actual challenge comes into play of trying to complete a level in the quickest amount of time and killing less than a given number of knights. This is where certain rewards can be unlocked for being quick or smart about strategically completing a level, but this is optional. If a level calls for eight casualties and a completion time of 0:45, kudos if you can do and there may be some rewards to be gained, though they may be lacking in the practical application department. The new swords and helmets are strictly cosmetic and only provide a false sense of security. There is no dragon to slay or damsel to rescue, the knights in shining armor are kamikaze trained cogs in the greater mission. But if they are going to die, why not die being well equipped with an impression weapon and a party hat?
The beautiful thing about this set up is each level can be played as brainlessly or with as much meticulous care as the player feels like at the time. There is a certain amount of satisfaction with figuring out the best way to complete a level, but sometimes it is fun to just power through the level and stack up as many bodies as possible. It is possible to break a level if there is too reckless of an approach, though the game has enough polish that in order to this it has to be deliberate.
In one run of a level that should be completed with less than four fatalities, once the body count hit 104 the corpse pile took over the spawn point and my character was trapped, forcing me to quit the level. This tale is not told as a criticism of the game, but as a humorous anecdote about how much fun can be had in this game if the player is in possession of a good sense of gallows humor. Level breaking under normal playing circumstances is virtually impossible, but can be achieved if the goal is to fill every pixel of the screen with gargantuan piles of dead knights.
The cartoonish graphics and whimsical soundtrack provide a light hearted contrast to the actual game’s content. The controls operate smoothly, no they cannot be blamed for accidentally missing an intentional death. To appeal to pet lovers, there is some creature featured in these death trap filled levels. I think it is supposed to be a dog but it’s actual species can be debated. It is named Jeff. Feeding Jeff is a good thing. Jeff eats knights, and after he has had his fill of one knight he goes into instant food coma. So much for a high iron diet fighting lethargy. Bonuses are given for feeding Jeff, and working feeding the royal pooch into completing the level in a fast time and with minimal casualties can provide a substantial challenge.
Life Goes On: Done to Death is a lighthearted and humorous take on a selfish tyrant of a king sending his loyal soldiers blindly and obediently into an early grave for his own personal gain. The fun gameplay and sense of humor make this suicidal mission enjoyable enough to not be bothered by the fact thousands of men are being killed so that one may attain immoral immortality. This is a game where you literally step over the dead bodies of your companions to reach a goal and doing so has never been so much fun.