A game by Northway Games for PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2012.
Incredipede is, without a doubt, one of the most disturbing games ever created. The game focuses on controlling unnatural abominations through a number of physics-based environments, churning your asymmetrical limbs, dragging your one-eyed head across the ground, and constructing various multi-legged creatures in hopes that their wild convulsions will allow you to complete the level’s challenges. But once you get past your gut-wrenching desire to murder these various monstrosities, you will find a unique puzzler that challenges you to think about shape and mobility.
There’s not much in the way of story, outside of an opening and closing narrative that sees Quozzle, the game’s oddly-appendaged heroine, standing on a shore while her family is carted away on slave ships. She flees the slavers and heads toward a village on the other side of the island in the hope of rescuing her sisters.
The game consists of 3 worlds, with about 20 levels each. There are 2 difficulty settings, normal and hard, with the former offering you preconfigured creatures and the latter allowing you to construct your own (more on that in a bit). New players should start with the normal mode, which introduces new concepts slowly and shows how various creatures move and function.
Levels are quite short, often placing the finish line in view of the player’s starting position, but this is not a game about overcoming a variety of challenges from one end of the stage to the other; instead, the player must focus on one or two obstacles, maneuvering his creature to reach the collectible items in the level and then making it to the end.
Each world has different objects to acquire, but they come in three basic varieties. Stationary objects – represented by cherries in the first world – are the most abundant of the collectibles. These objects float in the air and can be picked up by simply touching them with your head (although this is often a challenge in itself) and making it to the end of the level. On levels with multiple collectibles, you are free to collect each on separate playthroughs, rather than being forced to get them all at once.
Small round objects – represented by apples in the first world – are affected by gravity. Often, you must roll these objects along the ground or position yourself to carry them to the end of the level. Collectibles rolled across the finish line also count toward your completion goal, so it doesn’t matter how you get them there. There are only a few of these objects in each world.
Finally, each world has single large object in its final level, which must be manipulated toward the goal. These objects are considerably heavier and therefore harder to push or pick up.
A counter on the world map shows how many of each collectible you have acquired, and there are minimums for each. Typically, you’ll need to collect around a dozen of the stationary objects, 3 or 4 small round objects, and the one large object before you will be allowed to continue to the next world. With the exception of the large object, there are a few more collectibles than the minimum required, allowing you to skip some troublesome stages and still see your way through to the end. While each world is laid out with stages in a linear path, you are free to play them in any order you like.
Movement is done by rotating Quozzle’s limbs. The A and S keys flex muscles that allow you to spin limbs clockwise or counterclockwise. This does not necessarily translate into direct left and right movement, however, but rather allows you to scoot yourself along the ground a bit at a time and climb over obstacles, all the while contending with gravity that pulls your unnatural shape downward. Your head weighs more than the rest of your body, so you have a tendency to fall when you leave yourself unbalanced. You must also fight the force of friction when dragging yourself or manipulating objects in the environment, including rolling round rocks and pushing carved square stones.
In addition to standard environmental navigation, you are occasionally tasked with a very specific challenge, such as hanging from floating points that can only be navigated by manipulating your limbs like a monkey and grabbing other floating points while you fall. There are also puzzles where you are in a wheel shape that you must expand and contract to get rolling and fit through certain areas, and water-based puzzles where you must paddle across the surface or use your buoyancy to direct your movement.
The second world introduces lava, which can burn off your appendages if you leave them submerged for too long, and which will kill Quozzle outright if you leave her head pressed into the molten substance. This world also introduces a second set of controls, allowing the player to control some limbs with the A and S keys, while controlling another set independently with the K and L keys. This allows for some more complex creature configurations and puzzle solutions.
The final world introduces air currents which can push you along in certain directions, and can even be used to float along on the currents, using your limbs to catch the air and act as a rudder.
Given the physics-based nature of the puzzles, it is possible to get yourself stuck, but the game offers a quick restart. Also, the size of the levels means that you won’t have much repeated gameplay… except when you can’t seem to manipulate your creature in the way that it was intended. Certain complicated creature designs can make it difficult to logically determine how to work them to meet your ends. Multiple leg and muscle attachments, and 2 sets of clockwise/counterclockwise controls can leave the player occasionally flailing about at the keys, hoping that some combination of controls and gravity will provide a window for success. It can be frustrating to watch your creature flopping about on the ground, or accidentally causing it to fall backwards into a bottomless pit or lava, when you are simply trying to wrap your mind around how to get the thing to move in the direction you intended. Still, trial and error will allow for successful completion of most levels… at least in the normal mode.
In the hard mode, you are introduced to a few pre-set creature configurations before being set free to essentially create anything you like. Some of the levels are identical to those in the normal mode, meaning that you could create similarly-designed creatures to complete these levels. Later, you’ll be introduced to entirely new levels.
Each level provides a quick flythrough so you can see what your goals are, and it’s up to you to create a creature that will allow you to grab the collectibles and make your way through to the end. Building your own creature is akin to using a robotics kit. Muscles act as a motor that can spin forward or backwards, and this motor can be attached to limbs to allow for mobility, including arms that can grab ledges, push objects, or even carry things.
Creature construction starts out pretty easy, and new controls open up after a few levels. Eventually, you will be able to click on the creature’s head to extend a limb outward in any direction, and each limb has an attachment point that allows you to connect a muscle that will rotate clockwise or counterclockwise. You can also grow limbs off of other limbs, but each new limb will be shorter, and you can assign whether the muscles will be controlled with the A and S keys, or the K and L keys. You may stop the game at any point to reconfigure your critter, but this also resets your progress in the level.
The game has a sandbox area where you can try out various creature configurations, and there is a level editor included as well. The game’s unique visuals are modeled after the lines and styles found in woodcut artwork – an interest of the game’s artist, Thomas Shahan – where the surface of a wood block is carved and cut away, and then inked and pressed onto paper. These visuals are is accompanied by tribal music with lots of percussion and the occasional wood flute, along with ambient noises like rustling leaves and chirping birds.
Incredipede was created by husband and wife team Colin and Sarah Northway under the label Northway Games, with art by Thomas Shahan and audio by sound designer Jordan Fehr. Colin Northway previously worked on the physics-based puzzler Fantastic Contraption, and Sarah previously worked on post-apocalyptic strategy titles Rebuild and Rebuild 2, as well as the word-based title Word Up Dog. Sound design was provided by Jordan Fehr, who also created sound effects for Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, Snapshot, Shank 2, Hotline Miami, and Krunch.
Following Incredipede, Northway Games went on to develop additional entries in the Rebuild series, and also released an esoteric one-button physics-based action game entitled Deep Under the Sky, which Colin Northway developed in partnership with Rich Edwards of Pineapple Smash Crew fame. In this game, the player takes on the role of a jellyfish that must repopulate its species by releasing its jellyfish seed all over special nests.
At the start of each level, the jellyfish is launched into the air, and it has a limited set of moves, each of which are initiated with a single tap. Players cannot perform any additional actions or alter the canned list of moves in any way; they must figure out how to navigate the environment and reach all of the nests with just the tools given at the outset.
Among these moves are the ability to boost in a set direction, the ability to boost in the jellyfish's direction of travel, a grappling hook to swing under and around objects, and the ability to tuck into a ball and roll down hills. Early levels rely on basic use of these abilities, while later levels add in bouncy surfaces, barricades that can only be destroyed by passing through a glowing orb before reaching them, and some pretty creative movements within the physics-based environment. Players may smash directly into nests or self destruct nearby (self destruction is always the player's final move) and hope that the seeds make it all the way to the nests.
Each level also contains two optional stars, often tucked away in hard-to-reach areas, offering an additional challenge to skilled players who may attempt to reach them before all of the nests are activated. There are a total of 80 levels across four worlds - although the theming of each world is very similar, aside from the color palette - and players who find themselves stuck may skip any levels they like and continue forward.