Review

Stikir Review — Meta-Humorous

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Sometimes, the hardest part of game development is simply deciding what kind of game to make. The possibilities are endless: platformers are always popular, but a racing game would be interesting too. Does one tackle the complicated project they have been dreaming of since childhood, or start small to get the hang of programming first? Stikir includes the player in this conceptualisation process, shifting the style of gameplay constantly as the developer ponders and discards ideas. Created by a solo developer, Bilge Kaan, this quirky adventure backs up its random humour with solid gameplay and great pacing.

Sikir is a game all about discovering how to progress, which is often achieved by taking  unexpected actions. The game begins with ‘I want to release this game in six months’ appearing word by word upon a black background. Players can shoot down these words with a little space ship at the bottom of the screen, darting left and right like in Space Invaders, but the game only continues once the player moves off screen to the right,  counter to how Space Invaders operates. Each idea explored becomes its own little self-contained puzzle, a discovery on how a Cuphead-like boss only moves when the player does, or escaping the confines of an endlessly looping race track. The developer taking a coffee break shifts the gameplay style again, creating a quest to locate water to fill the coffee machine. This style is reminiscent of the WarioWare games, both in the focus on discovery as a gameplay mechanic, and the absurdity of the world’s setting.

Throughout the ponderous adventure, the player encounters many colourful characters. These include an angry circle (which was harmless until the protagonist attacked it), a deer that assists the player in a game of Pong, and an enormous purple humanoid that stomps energetically on to screen, but has little to say. Every encounter is silly, but charming, and the unusual cast adds to the dream-like nature of the world.

This silliness could have been misused as a substitute for proper gameplay, but each of the mini-games throughout Stikir are well-executed. Controls are tight and intuitive, and are simple enough that a tutorial is not required. Broadly, gameplay falls into three types: platformer, shooter, and boss battles. Each instance of a style, however, is different; platforming might take the form of an auto-runner, or have different movement speed and obstacles. Shooting can consist of flying 360 degrees around a single target, or facing down waves of enemies. Boss battles often combine both platforming and shooting, the player bouncing between surfaces while trying to hit a weak spot. Boss encounters are tough, but reviving from death is near instantaneous, softening the blow of failure. The only instance that felt overly challenging was the final boss, a dragon comprised of dots that weaves through the platform the player stands on. The camera is zoomed in extremely close, and touching the dragon causes instant death. Due to the limited viewpoint, avoiding the dragon is a case of trial and error rather than skill or quick reflexes, and took many attempts to defeat.

Big blocky sprites and a severely limited colour palette create a striking aesthetic for Stikir, reminiscent of ’80s computer graphics like those found on the ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64. Levels are mainly white upon a black background, with the occasional pop of colour in a weapon or boss creature. Sound effects are similarly limited, comprised of a comforting mechanical hum broken up by classical music for boss battles. This simplicity works in both communicating the game’s ease of use, and increasing the surprise when a section breaks the rules of gameplay.

Stikir is a short game, taking roughly an hour to complete. While brief, the constant stream of new ideas and gameplay experiences utilises the time well. The short form also works well for the random style of humour, with quick flashes of absurdity that could grow tiresome in a longer game, but remain funny throughout. It is a fun look at the creative process of designing a game, and all of the ideas that get altered or discarded along the way. Bilge Kaan could have easily taken any one of the concepts explored and expanded it into a full experience, but this playful combination of many different elements gives Stikir a unique appeal that is greater than the sum of its parts.

OnlySP Review Score 4 Distinction

Reviewed on PC.

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