Few sources of motivation are more powerful than the maternal instinct, and for the chubby, rabbit-like, Pikachu-ish mama creature in Offspring Fling, misplacing dozens of her young is inspiration enough to warrant adventuring through 100 levels in search of them. Developer Kyle Pulver’s latest indie game (check out his resume) delivers a cutesy experience built on puzzle-solving and platforming action.
Played to a calm and catchy soundtrack by Alec Holowka, Offspring Fling presents a set of easy-to-pick-up controls. The directional buttons move the mother, the “X” button makes her jump, and the down button lifts one or more of her chirping babies (stack ‘em high!). The “C” button throws left or right, depending on which way the player is facing, and “C+down” gently drops them on the spot. That’s all there is to it.
The actual gameplay is more demanding. In what feels like separate handfuls of levels, the game introduces a concept and then expands on it. The difficulty fluctuates between easy and hard, with the overall challenge growing as the player progresses and the game stirs together more elements—like switches, hostile enemies, and even threats of nature. The puzzles themselves take on a more complicated layout, too. Some levels require a little more creative thinking or faster reflexes, but the difficulty never gets out of hand—and those looking for a real test can attempt a time trial to earn a gold flower, which adds to the total count (a blue flower is awarded for every successful level completion). The more flowers you collect, the more levels that open up and the closer you come to the final showdown: Let’s call it a mother’s revenge, and it’s very à la Super Mario.
Offspring Fling continuously varies gameplay, adding new obstacles and challenges and never retiring to an older routine. Granted they have enough flowers tucked away, players are free to skip the levels they find most taxing and return to them later. Click on the composite flower in the menu and you’ll be taken to a special screen containing your garden, perhaps suggesting that a greater reward awaits those who obtain a glorious 100%.
Much credit for the game’s manageable play is due to the levels’ insightful titles, each one a clue to solving a puzzle. This feature proves especially helpful for players who might not know where to start. A quick press of the “R” button will reset any irreversible moves, a convenient option for those who’d rather take their hard work and mistakes and funnel them into one informed speed run.
I only noticed one problem with Offspring Fling, and it’s minor. When hurling babies at bumpers so they’ll bounce off in a predetermined direction, sometimes just the wrong angle will prevent them from staying in motion when they hit the object in question. Given the relatively quick pace of gameplay, it’s not too much of a loss when this glitch happens, but it can put your adorable children in the mouth of danger. Otherwise, the game is a clever jigsaw of different components that, with a little strategy, allow players to push past levels with a strong feeling of satisfaction.
The game itself is very much a finished product: a delightful combination of pleasant graphics and charm with a heroic soundtrack that intensifies as players reach later levels and content that appeals both to average gamers and the elite of titles like Super Meat Boy. Offspring Fling promises a quality of entertainment more than worth the $8 cost of entry.