Why I love… Elasto Mania

Elasto Mania became a cult classic game around 8 years ago when I was in high school. It swept our school network (and many others) like a class A drug – you know it will suck you into its world, but the draw of being there is too strong to resist. Not that I have any experience with narcotics, mind.

It was created by independent Hungarian developer Balázs Rózsa in 2000 – someone who surely has earned the respect of many for his achievement over the years.

The game falls into the class of being a simple, but challenging and hence addictive, puzzler. The controls are very easy to get the hang of – go forward, stop, flip the direction of your bike and tilt your bike on its front or back wheel. The object of each level is to collect all the apples in the level and then find the exit, which takes the form of a daisy. It may sound cute, but the caveat is that if, at any point, your head touches any of the landscape – you die and must restart the level.

This all sounds very simplistic, but the twist of the game (and indeed why it got its name) is that your bike’s suspension is elastic – it can stretch and allow you to do the seemingly impossible. Yet the whole game conforms to a solid physics engine, and so feels extremely realistic. If you accelerate too much, the bike will be thrown back and you will pivot around your back wheel to hit the ground if you do not adjust your pitch. This simplicity combined with the complexity of controlling a bike that conforms to real laws of physics is what gives the game immense depth and challenge (and also a hook).

The 54 levels have a very well-balanced learning curve, starting with asking you to go from point A to point B so that you get used to controlling your vehicle, to levels which leave you wondering how the hell to reach that apple floating in the middle of nowhere. I assure you that you will feel like the king of the world, should you manage to conquer all 54.

The community is still going strong, with the level editor meaning hundreds of new levels have been posted on the net. There is also stiff competition from those that post speed-run videos to try and break world record times for individual levels.

Due to the game being independent, it has never been hyped up or advertised. Word of mouth has elevated it to where it is now, and that says a lot about the quality of Elasto Mania. I don’t want this game to be forgotten in the midst of big-budget, over-hyped titles released by mammoth publishers like EA, and so I highly recommend you give the demo a try. It works on Windows versions from 95 to XP (sorry Vista users).

For more information, speed-run videos and the demo, visit the official site: www.elastomania.com. Set yourself aside a good couple of hours before you do though!

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