STANDBY (Switch) Review
Release Date: August 1, 2019
Publisher/Developer: Hypetrain Digital/NoClip
Platform: Switch (reviewed), also available on Steam
The intro video shows what appears to be our main character running headlong into a compound. The game’s storefront says we need to escape. And yet, the title of this game is STANDBY. This is basically all you get as a plot. Wherever you’re going, whatever you’re doing, you aren’t standing still.
Take the hardcore platforming of Super Meat Boy and add a hefty dose of the sound and style of EDM music and you’re getting somewhere close to what STANDBY represents. Nearly every single one of the 54 levels tries to introduce a new obstacle or challenge to this super-fast, mess-up-one-move-and-you’re-dead game. Memorization is key: red floors kill you unless you are sliding, blue floors make you bounce high if you jump on them, but jumping stops a slide. You can slam vertically down to the ground midair: it kills all momentum, but may prevent you from hitting a death wall. You can use the power slam to bust through floors while you slide and shoot your handgun to blast apart walls that are in your way.
Each level is made for experts to get through in mere seconds, complete with full leaderboards and all the usual bells and whistles therein. You can collect keys in each level to increase your bragging rights, though they don’t actually unlock anything.
Perhaps the biggest thing that sets STANDBY apart from most games of it’s kind is how precise it demands you to be. I noticed this most with the aforementioned “keys.” When you run, it’s full throttle or nothing. When you jump, you hit the angle and that’s it. Therefore, most challenges in this game revolve around hitting those jumps just right. You won’t be getting a key if you miss the jump, and you’re already working your brain overtime on staying alive. The keys feel more like a challenge for gamers who can survive the level in the first place with ease.
I feel there’s another reason for the needed precision: the floatiness of the controls. As I said, you’re running or you’re standing still. You’re jumping or not, there’s no “aiming” your character to a safe spot. This is further exacerbated by how the button scheme is laid out. STANDBY uses two buttons. A jumps, and B does everything else. If you’re moving, you slide. If you’re standing still or already sliding, it shoots. If you’re midair, it slams you to the floor. This hyper-use of the B button is likely to help with speedrun logic, but I’m used to “BUTTON DOES THIS,” so I’d constantly flub up on a section only to realize that it’s more a rhythmic tapping of the B button rather than dexterity at some points.
The game can be very unforgiving. I’d usually find about three “choke points” per level that proved challenging, and dying on the third would throw you back before the other two that you might have gotten past only once before. Practice makes perfect, but I have had more than a few levels that caused me to step away in frustration.
STANDBY lives it’s style. While our hero is very tiny on the screen and looks like a zoomed-out Pitfall Harry, the slick colors on the stark backgrounds make for a thrilling and unique experience. Colors flash on a death, and the EDM soundtrack blurs and warps. In death and actiony parts, the screen will twist and pan (as seen in the trailer below). I feel that this makes it a bit too hectic for a game designed around precision, especially with all the above concerns and the fact that it feels like there’s no room for experimentation. You need to succeed by following the exact pattern the developers created. A successful run feels like a DudePerfect montage.
STANDBY is not for gamers who are looking to relax. Each and every level will test your mettle. The quick resets give you that “one more try” feeling, but finally besting a couple tricky parts to slip up on a third and get thrown back to the start of a level makes me glad the Joy Con controller set can intentionally be broken apart.
-Easy to understand what the developers want you to do (it’s the act of doing it that’s hard
-Wonderful minimalistic graphic design and audio presentation
-No room for creativity or error: play as the developer intendend
-Sudden surprise obstacles right after a hard part throws you right back to the start of the level
-Many different moves mapped onto the same button with several unused on the controller
Special thanks to Hypetrain Digital/Noclip for providing a code for review!