Strap in for wild ride — and if you don’t possess the vestibular hardiness of astronauts, you’d better take a pill for naupathia. In Youropa, a puzzle-platformer similar to Portal, you play as a humanoid figure reminiscent of the well-known Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet. Your character is a paint addict that can walk on any surface with his suction-cup feet. You will have no choice but to appreciate the abstract world the title drops you (upside down) into, as beautiful views are immediately available from every angle.
HOW DID I GET STUCK IN THIS TREE?
The premise of Youropa is that Paris exploded: The Eiffel Tower’s foundation shook, lost power, and a bunch of Paris was tossed high into the sky. Exactly why or how really doesn’t matter. You accept this without questions and embark on a journey as a nameless guy or girl and adventure through the fragmented world. Platforming in Youropa is simplistic at first glance, with your character having to only make it to an end doorway, reachable after navigating your way across a floating island. You quickly realize that you are unable to jump throughout the game, which makes things more interesting. New elements are added as you progress, such as having to move boxes, find hidden lore, or light up door control pads.
YOUR BEAUTY IS FLEETING.
You can customize your character’s appearance by choosing the eye shape or skin color and painting those on, but while these options are merely satisfactory, they’re also tough to understand how to do. This customization is also a bit of a waste your time, because any spray paint you added to your character will fall off when you take damage.
ENVIRONMENTAL BEAUTY IS LASTING.
Aesthetically, Youropa is a great combination of familiar urban landscapes and geometry, in a topsy-turvy way. The graphics are polished and clean, with soft lighting and shadows. Overall, the whole atmosphere is warm and pleasant. You enjoy stunning views due to your upside down or sideways orientations, with the city far below. Audio is light and unobtrusive, yet picks up when danger is just around the corner.
Puzzles are the core of Youropa. Platforming is satisfying and sometimes stressful, with some of the levels requiring you to exercise your little grey cells. You will find yourself walking off a platform and falling to your death quite often, but this urges you on to find the solution. Within each stage are three pink cassette collectibles you need to find, and some graffiti opportunities, which are an extra challenge beyond simply passing the level. For the graffiti, you have to find a paint can and the place to use it. When you solve puzzles, it sends power to the Eiffel Tower and can unlock a new skill, which keeps gameplay from becoming boring.
Rainfall eventually makes an appearance, which is a problem to deal with when you realize that you can’t step on any wet surface. This kicks up the challenge, yes, but you feel more rewarded when you get past it. Along with regular puzzles are vehicle challenges (which was a good decision the developers, freckle Aps, made). The vehicles start with a stick but progress to a van. The vehicles’ behavior is pretty much the same, however, so it would have been nice to see some differentiation there.
EVEN MORE OBSTACLES.
Enemies, such as big dogs and guys called the Onesiders, try to foil your plans. Whenever they spot you, they will chase you, but mostly they aren’t hard to avoid. The dogs are a real danger, being quick and always angry, seemingly living only to bite you. You can defeat them with a few kicks — so there’s a combat element to Youropa — but be careful, as they usually come in groups.
PLAY AND REPLAY.
Youropa isn’t a game for everyone because of its challenging puzzles. If you lack patience, I’m afraid you won’t enjoy the game, as it involves a lot of failure. But if you’re a fan of puzzle platformers like Portal or Q.U.B.E, you will absolutely love this one. The built-in level editor also allows you to get creative, which offers endless replayability, limited only by your imagination.
The Verdict: Excellent
Does the game’s topsy-turvy aesthetic shake up the platforming genre, setting itself apart from all other titles? Simply put, yes. There is no doubt that Youropa offers a unique puzzle-platformer experience. The need to be gravity-conscious at all times, paired with brutal tests of your visualization skills, generates a new kind of challenge that many platforming fans will truly appreciate.