When I look at a controller, I see a way to interact with a game. It’s all there, the D-pad for menu navigation or various stupid emotes, the joysticks for movement and perspective, and a load of other buttons for actually doing things in the game.
NEXT Studios, developers of Biped, looked at controllers and saw something different, at least in the joysticks. There they saw potential, a way to completely subvert a player’s expectations, rendering even expert gamers stupefied.
Developer: NEXT Studios
Publisher: NEXT Studios, META Publishing
Platforms: Windows PC , Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
Release Date: March 26, 2020
This is a game that presents a lot of familiar elements to players, such as coin and star collecting. It also gives them a main objective, something to achieve. However, it’s in doing the collecting and completing that the game shines.
In Biped you take on the role of a number of bipedal robots, sent from space to reactivate beacons around the world. The story is light and told mainly through the environment, which is charming and incredibly well-designed.
The game can be played both solo and in co-op mode with someone else. It’s a joy to play in either mode, but co-op is where the game’s mechanics and level design stand out from most of the other similarly-sized games that I’ve played this year.
Biped revolves around solving simple puzzles and navigating each level using the left joystick to control your left leg, and the right joystick (you guessed it!) for the right leg. This might sound simple in principle, and it is. But in practice this becomes another element to each and every puzzle.
You start out in a tutorial level that attempts to teach you the basics of movement. It does a great job of doing so, but I guarantee that you’ll fumble just as much as I did regardless of how good the instructions are. Once you’ve got the hang of movement, it’s time to jump into the game proper.
Each level in Biped is set in a different region of the world. They’re all extremely well-crafted, and introduce a new form of movement that becomes integral to completion. Puzzles ramp up slowly, starting with something as simple as walking across a bridge.
Then you’ll progress to bridges that fall down after a few seconds, and eventually you’ll have to throw your Biped across a sheer icy cliff with nothing but a rope. The sense of progression is simple yet enjoyable, and really that’s all you need.
While movement is slow when you’re controlling each step, Biped also has a skate function to keep the pace up between puzzles. This speed is a nice change of pace after being stuck in one area for a good ten minutes, and helps avoid things getting dull.
As I already mentioned, scattered throughout each level are coins and stars. No, this isn’t a Mario game, but collecting these items does give you a sense of nostalgia for that franchise and its era. There are even blue versions of red coins that spawn a group, that must be collected within a time limit.
These stars and coins are used to track your progress towards 100% completion of the game. Some are locked away in hidden areas, and others are only accessible in co-op. The coins can also be used to purchase fun accessories to make your characters look amazing.
It’s not just your characters that will look amazing though, since this is an incredibly polished game. The visuals are near-perfect, the kind of standard that you’d expect from a triple A game like God of War, though this feels much more like Knack.
Those visuals are a great asset, since the game is quite short. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing. There isn’t a huge range of levels, but each one is ripe for multiple replays. The fact that the levels change depending on how many of you are playing also effectively doubles the size of Biped.
While playing solo, characters from the game’s world will fill in the role of a partner, helping you halve the work of certain puzzles. In co-op though, it’s all down to the players. This makes for some frustrating yet fun moments, just make sure you play it in a good mood.
The music in Biped is exactly what you want it to be. It’s playful, matching each environment, and doesn’t place too much emphasis on key moments, apart from the completion of a level. It’s nice to sit down and listen to it as you work through each level, bringing an extremely chilled out vibe to any session with it.
You could say that Biped is a game designed for children based on the music and menus alone, but when you get into the meat of the game you’ll realize that it can actually be very challenging. That’s not to say that it isn’t for children, but it’s definitely for adults who want a fun co-op experience as well.
Anyone looking for a short, sweet co-op game to keep them busy for a couple of weekends will find exactly what they’re looking for in Biped. While the game is better when played with someone else, an extra player is far from necessary in order to enjoy it.
The game feels like it should be worthy of far more praise considering how well it plays, the varied environments, and the great puzzles found throughout. However, Biped is short. When I say that you could complete every level in just a few hours, I’m not exaggerating.
The length of the game really is it’s only weak point, but given how well it has been made overall, I don’t see it as such a big deal. You need to decide what you’d rather have, a game with loads of content that looks terrible, or a great-looking game with a small amount of content.
I’d argue that the replayability of Biped, not just from collectibles but from solo and co-op modes as well, makes it a far deeper game than many lengthier games with far worse graphics. There aren’t many games of this size out there that play this well and look this good.
If I’m nit-picking, the only other point at which I didn’t feel like I was enjoying the game was the occasional puzzle that felt far too difficult compared to the previous ones. It’s almost like the difficulty spike you sometimes experience in a JRPG, presenting something so unbelievably difficult that you have to work around the actual mechanics in order to pass that point in the game.
Biped is a brilliant, if short, experience that will keep you busy on rainy afternoons. The potential to have fun with others is massive, even more so if the person you’re playing with doesn’t play a lot of games. Not only that, but this is a great entry point for friends and family if they want to try to get into games with you.
If you’re after a gritty story and lots of gore, go and look elsewhere. This game is packed with adorable robots who are just trying to light beacons around the world, looking constantly stupid with you controlling. You might not spend much time with Biped, but you won’t regret the time that you do spend with it.
Biped was reviewed on PS4 using a review copy provided by NEXT Studios. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.