Sometimes You Die is a game for iPad and iPhone, that is conscious about itself being a game. It constantly questions itself and confronts the player with actions that make him think about what he is actually doing. Despite this anti-esque approach, the game has been quite successful in the App Store. It has been ranked #1 (games, iPhone) in USA’s App Store charts after its release on 03/17/14 and #1 Overall (iPhone) in Germany after its German Update.
At its core, it is a puzzle platformer. The central game idea is dying to succeed. The pixel corpse stays where you were killed, and can be used as a stepping stone from now on. Later in the game, you have to pile the corpses to get through the complex, only for being criticized by the narrator again and again.
I thought that many would not understand the intention and see it more like a jump’n’run, the target audience have been experienced iOS gamers that have been annoyed with In-App-Purchases and Freemium models more than once. But I have been astonished that there is very positive feedback from every group of people. There were reviewers that wrote that they were brought to tears or that the game has changed their life (USA, App Store).
I don’t want to spoil anything, that would ruin the experience. Everything from here contains spoilers, so please do not read before playing.
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In chapter seven, the game gets mean. It provokes the player with all means of the device. It shows flashing lights, makes extremely boring levels, gives wrong hints and shows a fake In- App-Purchase that the player has to use as an obstacle to reach the exit. Some App Store reviews did actually give the game one star, being indignant about that 9.999 $ purchase.
The narrator puts into question whether a game has to have an end, or what you actually expect from playing through it. Is it because of the way to the finish, or the finish itself, even if you have no fun playing it. The first key moment is when you reach the last level, and you notice that you are at the beginning and the game loops. But this time, you have realized that you can make it through the game without dying once – When you flip the screen and inverse gravity.
Until now, the game has been pretty easy and short, because it is preferably played in one session. Now things get serious, the hidden levels are complex and hard, and a zero-death-attempt is very hard. The hidden orange levels end in a deadlock where the pause-button is unlocked. In this game, you get it not until the end, for example to turn off the music that should be annoying by now.