Talent Not Included is an adorable, cartoonish platformer, that combines a cute, theater-based theme, clever dialog, genuinely challenging platform puzzles, and a multiple-character cast to create a fun, visually appealing indie title. Released on Steam on August 30th, 2016, from Frima Studios, Talent Not Included is a Windows and Mac-friendly, split-screen multiplayer choice that’s a great addition to any platformer library, with Steam achievements available to boot.
Introducing the Cast of Characters
I enjoyed the witty dialog, and the theater theme felt refreshingly original especially in what could have been another routine, if enjoyable, platformer The conversations have subtle, clever nods towards other Pop Culture references, and the sound effects, spotlight feature, and stage prop-style opponents work wonderfully to tie everything together. There are Shakespeare style undertones, “absurd humor,” and moderate amounts of combat, plus 3 “Actors” who happen to be a Warrior, Rogue, and Mage.
Each character has different pros and cons, and each has an act leading up to the final showdown. The Rogue, for example, has an ability that allows her to ghost through danger, temporarily becoming invulnerable, whereas the Warrior has a dash ability that renders him immune, albeit briefly, to spike attacks and other hurdles.
Controls, Combat, and Configuration
I was disappointed that, at least currently, there’s no option to reconfigure your key bindings. You can opt for a keyboard set-up (mouse isn’t supported), or plug in your controller, but the buttons are set in stone. While this was only moderately annoying at first – I slowly adjusted to the default settings – it combined with very vague semi-tutorial “Tips” on how to do action maneuvers, and together that left a lot to be desired. I had to Google what it was trying to convey to me with a stick figure diagram because button mashing just isn’t my go-to method, especially when playing with a keyboard. It was a bit more intuitive with the controller, but it would have been nice if instructions for “Attack,” “Dash,” “Double-Jump” and the like actually included the default, mandatory button setting rather than just a cute graphic.
Local Co-Op Only?
One of the things I was most excited about with Talent Not Included was the “Multiplayer” flag in the Steam store. Typically, this means that online multiplayer (Co-Op or Competitive) is available, especially when the “Local Co-Op” tag is also present. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here, and Talent Not Included is limited to a Couch Co-Op environment instead of online play. This always seems like a poor choice in my book, given the Steam platform vs. a console release, but this is certainly a game that benefits from having a multiplayer option.
Like Trine 2 and similar titles, Talent Not Included quickly becomes more chaotic in a 2-player run, as you battle for platforms and unintentionally hinder each other’s progress. One issue that I ran into, along with a friend that tagged along to help me playtest the game, was that we were limited to one keyboard and one controller, and from what I could tell, we both had to play the same character at the same time rather than being able to combine the Rogue with the Mage and so forth. In addition, whenever one of us died and respawned, we immediately poofed back into existence exactly where the other player was – which includes, in the middle of jumping over a spike pit. This also happened whenever one of us completed a stage, teleporting us together, but also disorienting whoever had been across the screen in the middle of a different action.
And while this game feels a lot like Little Big Planet and similar Local Co-Op titles on consoles, Talent Not Included needs some tweaking to be a viable Steam-based multiplayer choice. I’d love to see the addition of an online version, for 2-to-3 players perhaps; I certainly could have talked more friends into joining me via an online connection, rather than coming over to Couch Co-Op on my PC.
Talent Not Included is an excellent choice for anyone who enjoys a witty, unique platformer, and while I was disappointed with the multiplayer feature, I think a few tweaks to the settings could easily improve that situation. The conversations are humorous, and the graphics/sound effects blend to create a charming, appealing environment; the difficulty level is substantial enough to be challenging, even for experienced platformer fans, without being utterly overwhelming to those who rarely indulge in the genre.
If I had the choice between picking Talent Not Included up on Steam (currently the only distribution channel on which the game is available), or purchasing it on a console, I’d definitely choose the latter. As much fun as the single player mode is, I definitely would prefer sitting around with friends on the couch, chuckling at the dialog, and completely-but-accidentally (wink, wink) getting each other killed. Still, if you love this type of game, Talent Not Included will make a worthwhile addition to your game library.