Dynamite Headdy. Cave Story. Hitogata Happa. Why are so many of the most difficult video games also the cutest? Maybe my brain just automatically forgets games that are both ugly and frustrating. Added to the “cute but evil” list comes Within a Deep Forest, a completely free game that casts you as a little blue ball, bouncing around a delightfully whimsical little world filled with the most frustrating jumping puzzles known to man. According to the plot, the evil Dr. Cliché has attempted twice to build a world-freezing ice-bomb; the first attempt was a total failure, and resulted in a sentient, bouncing blue ball (that’s you). The second attempt succeeded, and now the clock is ticking, and only you can save the world. Even though “the clock is ticking” according to the plot, there is no time limit, so you have plenty of time to take breaks now and then to watch the adorable creatures and Fraggle-like people who decorate most screens, going about their daily lives more or less oblivious to your presence.
Surprisingly, the game was created with Multimedia Fusion, but shows no signs of it, and has none of the problems that usually plague games made with game creators. The graphics are equally adorable and beautiful, the soothing music goes a long way toward keeping you from destroying all humans when you die for the 900th time, and the sound effects are perfect, with each of the 10 different types of balls you can become making a different and wholly appropriate bouncing sound. There’s exploration, there are power-ups (in the form of getting different types of balls), there are plenty of secrets; I’d even be tempted to call it “Metroid-like”, although there is no mapping feature and there are no bosses. Unfortunately, it’s also incredibly frustrating. The cuteness goes a long way toward compensating for the frustration, however, and in the end it just barely won out enough to encourage me to complete it; despite the cuteness, this is certainly not a “casual game”. If you’re “hardcore”, though, and live for frustration, then this is definitely the game for you, and it even has a “Speed Run” feature with an online scoreboard so you can show the world just how absolutely superhuman you are.
Thanks to the insert credit forums for the tip!