Oh, Floogen – I wish I could love you more. Food is often the way to a man’s heart/stomach – whatever takes your fancy, but one of my things is stop-motion and experimental animation. I love it. Fuse that with a game? I love it.
From the get-go, I loved the presentation. It’s so visceral and gritty – not in a hard-boiled dick (detective) way, but how obvious this is a low-budget indie production. That’s acclaim. I like how everything from the characters to the scenery feels alive. But what about gameplay?
This is where it slips. Floogen is way too hard, to begin with. I found it challenging to identify the audience with this one as the art medium could appeal to a broad group of people, as would the platforming elements, but is it cute and for kids, or is it a Metroidvania for those looking for a break from FIFA and CoD?
It’s not that it’s a precision platformer, but it is… fiddly. I would explain the plot here, but I don’t know what was going on other than I needed to collect watermelons. I’m okay with that. You play a hash brown-like being and swiftly recruit two more clay friends with their own unique abilities.
Beginning with our hero in Floogen, you’ll smash some baddies in the face with an axe and collect said watermelons. Within your repertoire is a jump, roll/evade and attack. This setup was straightforward to process but hard to put into practice for the first stage. For what seemed like an age and an inevitable rage quit, I’d keep dying, being forced back to a checkpoint to relive Hell. And then I got what the watermelons did.
Each time you collect 50 watermelon slices, a watermelon will drop out of thin air for you to collect and exchange with the local merchant. Here you can increase your axe swinging and stamina to help with said swinging and rolling, and it’s possible to add more clay to your exterior to toughen up. A.K.A. health. This could be the placebo effect, but all of a sudden, my Floogen experience improved.
What was an initial arduous affair of jumping through dripping honey and rolling then jumping in the dark metamorphosed into something more palatable. No longer was I on the verge of quitting Floogen but admiring the art as I had in the trailer. Only now, it was no longer a passive experience.
The next level flew by, and it became apparent that I was getting it. Then we enter Hell and have to escape a rise in lava. This was when the clay hit the fan as the camera couldn’t keep up with my movements, and I’d frequently jump too soon, late, or the platform would give way. It wasn’t fun to repeat the same sequence repeatedly, nor did it help with a handful of screen freezing in some of the scenes.
Resorting back to a classic trait of mine, I started grinding levels to upgrade, but this was no longer helping, and it became apparent I’d hit a wall. As I began this write-up, I wish I could love Floogen more, but there are so many frustrating elements that it’s not something I can confidently recommend. Naturally, that’s a subjective aspect, but it requires more patience than anticipated.
It’s a shame as it’s clear a lot of work has gone into this from Ian Levesque. It genuinely was rewarding to see cutscenes in full stop-motion, making the frustrating bits worth sticking out. As this is a port by RedDeer Games, I had a look at the consensus on Steam, and it looks all positive, so don’t take my opinion as the decision-maker as I may be in the minority. All I’m saying is to be prepared for some hard work from the get-go and some frustrating mechanics. Floogen on the Switch might be worth a look-see if you can get past that.