First, let’s talk about the difficulty.
The many deaths players will experience before beating Play Pretend’s deviously designed levels are not due to design faults or sloppy control implementation. Players will die because they screwed up. The controller implementation is precise, but the trick is to realise your culinary-obsessed avatar has momentum. You can pick up speed, hold down the jump button and jump a long way, but learning when to let go is the key. It becomes an exacting skill, and levels will not be beaten until mastered. Being able to gain such mastery over your movements is a credit to Play Pretend’s efforts.
Where it borders on frustration however, is just how many obstacles you’ll face in a level. Just when you’ve finally beaten a certain section thanks to memorising the timing, behaviour, and placement of enemies and obstacles, you’ll very quickly come up against more that are equally difficult in different ways, or a different combination or placement of those enemies. Beaten that? Then here are some more. It’s not that levels are too long, but that the onslaught of obstacles can be a little relentless. Thankfully each level has a checkpoint, and there are free lives to be both found, and earned through the collection of macaroons (100 equals a free life).
Perhaps the kindest way to describe Le Parker is not as an exploratory 2D platform game, where you’ll be able to roam happily and freely in colourful dreamscapes, but as a puzzle to be cracked. Each level is a series of trials to be learned and memorised. Eventually you can get to the next one every single time, and in turn you can then get through those first two every single time before dying at the third one in that level, and so on until you’ve beaten the level. Le Parker is an acquired taste to be savoured in small play sessions, one level at a time.
Enough about the difficulty, what makes it so good?
Well for one thing, it’s gorgeous to look at. Think retro-flavoured pixel art through a soft-focus camera, with bright candy colours that make you want to reach out and eat the damn game. I swear I could devour a tonne of those macaroons.
The variety in the enemy design, in everything from their depiction to their behaviours are another credit to Play Pretend. The same can be said for the levels and worlds as well, they’re a treat to spend time in.
It can be said that 2D platforming in its simplest form is merely a recipe of left, right, jump, and collect, and that everything after that is just re-skinning that basic formula. But it’s the care and attention that go into that re-skinning that are important, such as the ingredients outlined above: the world, level, and character design, the balance of difficulty, and the implementation of the mechanics and controls. Play Pretend have combined these factors in a way that compliments the 2D platform genre, and have created an example of why the style remains a mainstay in the gaming landscape.
Lastly, play Le Parker through a decent stereo or set of headphones and you’ll be treated to some truly high quality electronica.
Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire may have come out of the oven a little heavy handed as far as the difficulty goes, but this shouldn’t stop you experiencing this rewarding homage to platform goodness.
In a Nutshell:
The master chefs at Play Pretend have concocted in Le Parker a punishing, yet satisfying 2D platform game that looks good enough to eat.