Carebox’s Climbatic

My personal favourite of the show was Carebox’s Climbatic, a co-op based game saw two willing mountaineers attempt to scale a vividly cell-shaded peak, all in the name of team building.The two characters at the centre of the game are your archetypal gaming souls: one big and strong, the other small and nimble. The former has the ability to scale cliff faces and throw objects, the latter can leap great distances, plus has a spool of rope at his disposal. All of these skills must come together if they ever expect to reach the top of the mountain in one piece.

Controls are limited in an effort to keep things simple and to allow you to focus on the task in hand. Everyone can jump but each has their own specialist button and basic movement controls. As you move around the camera pans out to keep you both in shot; this can reveal some dramatic shots of the mountainside should you find yourself spread far apart.

Nothing special so far, it seems, but the whole world is based around physics and everything has a weight and everything can be gripped, grappled or thrown, assuming if your character is up to the task. There are also no sections of the wall marked up to signal that the player can climb them, instead everyone can be scaled at the right angle and it’s just a case of whether it leads anywhere as to whether it’s fruitful or not. Given these simple rules the game then unfolds.

At its basic level, one player can reach the top of a section by simply completing a small platforming section whilst the other scales the rock face. Of course that’s not the only way things could unfold; the smaller player can lash himself to the larger who can then in turn do the same climb but with his buddy swinging behind him. Alternately, the smaller player could jump up and then drop down a rope for the other to climb. Hell, the larger player could even chuck his diddy mate up and then scramble after him!Nothing is unsolvable and everything has numerous ways to get around it. You could pile rocks and picnic chairs in a pile and simply walk up the resulting pile; why not lash yourself to a rock and get the larger of the two to throw you across a ravine?; how about climbing up an overhang and dropping onto a hastily arranged see-saw to catapult your chum skywards? Of course there are easier ways around but just not as much fun.

This is the kind of thing you expected to emerge from physics driven gameplay all those years ago when Half Life 2 showed you how to drop logs on head-crabs in seventeen different ways. Few games have actually produced solid game-play off of such simple mechanics since, Crackdown being a good, recent example, but the boys from Carebox seem to have something.

I think what summed up the whole thing for me was a puzzle at the end that saw me playing as the larger of the two climbers. My friend had lashed himself to me and I had decided to try and pickup a boulder several times my own height. Instead of lifting the rock, for obviously it was too big, it began to sway with my weight and I managed to divert it towards a slope. As the rock built up speed down the slope my friend trailed out behind like a streamer and when we reached a sudden upslope at the bottom we were propelled into the air with the momentum of the boulder. The smaller chap was swung round and round in the air and as we smashed down on the other side of the gorge his speed dragged me along for some distance until the gritty floor’s friction stopped us…

Set pieces. You’ve got to love them.

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