‘Trainee god’ is the position Incredipede initially seems to be offering, and comedy is definitely the wage it’s paying. Broad, slapstick comedy to be sure, but also awkward, horrific, gallows comedy, as the contorted freaks that spring from your mouse flop and twitch and spasm across the landscape.
The objective for each of the game’s dozens of different 2D levels is to reach the finish line, mastering the terrain and collecting optional doodads along the way. A fine ambition, perhaps, but one that proves very easy to ignore for the first few hours, as you start to realise the true nature of the powers at your disposal. Each click and drag of your pointer sees new bones sprouting from your unlucky test subject, and a further tap adds muscles to fresh limbs, allowing you to choreograph movement with surprisingly simple controls.
It’s a game in which you’re always fighting your creations, perhaps, but the fight is filled with wit and pathos. While you wouldn’t particularly want to meet any of these unfortunate creatures in the dead of night, you can’t help but root for them as they hiccup through the elegant woodblock world, navigating a series of simple obstacles and occasionally being called upon to manipulate the environment more directly.
As the game grinds on, in fact, that constant tension between design and the environment comes back to the fore, shaping your creations, and encouraging you to explore the possible relationships between rigid and flexible structures more deeply as you iterate. Tension, experiments, iterations? Maybe it’s not a trainee god Incredipede’s after in the end. If this is what a Darwinian puzzle game looks like, let’s have more of them.