The Floor is Jelly

A game by Ian Snyder for PC and Mac, originally released in 2014.
The Floor is Jelly posits a rather fun question… What if the floor were made of Jell-O, and moreover, what if that Jell-O wobbled about when you stepped on it, jiggling itself and everything around you, allowing you to jump onto it from any height, and even becoming a makeshift trampoline as a result? It certainly allows for more interesting possibilities than the age old children’s game of The Floor is Lava.

Even though the game is all about bopping across various gelatinous surfaces, it actually begins with a single wobbly blue ring floating in space. In each corner of the screen is a white dot, and touching the first of these dots causes a collection of colored blobs to stream into the playfield. You are free to bounce around between them, slide over and repel them away, or let them push you along. Touching the other dots brings in more of these blobs with a current moving them around.

These blobs are actually comprised of the same colors that make up the first world, and sliding over the last white dot causes everything to move downward, with the blobs – blue, white, red, orange, and yellow – settling to become the rubbery blue ground, white background, and autumnal flora. And at last, a tiny little being is dropped onto a blue surface that bounces when it lands.

You control the little thing who appears to be nothing more than a body and a pair of legs… but your character isn’t nearly as important as the world it inhabits. The first few levels allow you to try out the game mechanics and act as a playground for you to experiment with the unusual environment.

Here, you’ll learn that jumping from any surface causes a reaction, pushing that surface away from you. Jumping repeatedly in the same place – with the proper timing – allows you to use the elastic reaction as a trampoline to send yourself soaring high into the air, whereas mistiming the jump will cause your jump to fall flat. Understanding how to perform bounce-driven jumps is vital to successful navigation.

Not only is the floor made of jelly; so too are the walls, and jumping against any vertical surface will allow you to use it as a springboard, either slowly jump-climbing your way up a wall, or slingshotting yourself over a wide gap. Given the gelatinous nature of the world, you are free to fling yourself about as you like, and you cannot be hurt by slamming into walls and floors… although you will be poofed into oblivion if you touch any spikes or fall off the bottom of the screen.

Fortunately, checkpoints are fairly abundant, allowing players to freely explore the environment and experiment with puzzle solutions without a tremendous penalty for death. Each time you pass from one area to another or interact with an object, your progress is recorded, and you have infinite lives.

Levels are tied together via a series of windows, complete with drapes blowing in the breeze. Jumping through a window pops you out on the other side in a new area, although you are free to backtrack if you like. The opening area is entirely linear, but later areas have interconnected windows that drop you out in various parts of the world, allowing for some creative navigation, and occasional backtracking if you happen to miss one of the required collectibles. Generally speaking, however, you are always on the hunt for the next window, and windows that you have yet to enter are marked with a ring of circles.

While some levels simply task you with making it from one end to the other, others are more structured, featuring a locked circular door that can only be opened by collecting wisps from elsewhere in the environment. Each wisp you collect follows you around, and returning to the door will cause the wisps to move into the door, adding to a ring of light around it. Once you have collected enough wisps to bring the light to a full circle, the door will open, and you will be transported back to the beginning of the section.

Basic progress involves completing three different levels – which you may enter in any order – and returning to a hub as each of these levels is completed. At the center of the hub is an object with three circles, and each completed level fills one of the circles. Once all three have been filled, this object becomes a doorway to the next world, with a new hub and a new set of three levels to complete.

Along your journey, the rules of the wibbly wobbly world change a bit, offering new challenges. For instance, one world is water-based, with the bottom half of the screen filled with water and acting as a gravity-negative area, much like the world of of Ibb and Obb. Here, the player is often tasked with performing a high trampoline jump in order to dive deep into the water and use his momentum to reach a low point beneath the surface, or even wrap around an underwater object to shoot high into the sky.

Further challenges require the player to activate a series of flowers in a specific sequence within a time limit in order to open a window to a new area. You may also need to experiment with various statues that allow you to rotate all or part of a room, setting up challenges where you may need to climb a wall, rotate the room so that the wall becomes the floor, and then run across it to reach the exit. More challenging are areas where you need to rotate specific pieces of the room to solve puzzles, such as getting water to certain plants while shading others. In addition, rows of flower trampolines require the player to perform precision jumps to cross gap and make long ascents, and these bouncing flowers always face upward, regardless of which way the room is rotated.

A snow-themed area makes some rather drastic changes to the environment by providing white platforms that turn solid when you touch them. Whenever you jump, all of the lines in the environment become solid. Landing on a solid line will turn it into a platform, and touching one from the side will turn it into a wall. But when you are touching a solid surface, the lines become dashed, allowing you to pass straight through. This means that you can touch an object from the inside, causing everything outside of the object to become solid, while the inside remains hollow and allows you to move around. Puzzles become more complex as more of these objects overlap one another, forcing the player to consider whether he should be moving on the inside or outside of a given object, and what will happen when he makes his next jump.

Aesthetically, the design is very subdued and soothing, with atmospheric music and backgrounds consisting of smooth gradient fills against a setting of rain, stars, the moon, and other relaxing imagery. The environment is populated with colorful trees, funnel-shaped plants, and other flora, while the occasional bit of life is seen in the form of hopping frogs and schools of fish. These aesthetics, combined with the oddities that come from a gelatinous world, give the game a more playful feel, and the lack of penalty for failure removes some of the frustration that comes from repeatedly attempting to solve a tough environmental puzzle.

The Floor is Jelly was developed by Ian Snyder, who is also known for the experimental first person adventure/maze crawler Feign. The Floor is Jelly was originally conceived during a short game jam, after which Ian continued to experiment with the bouncy gameplay and develop a full-fledged commercial release. The soundtrack for the game was created by Rich Vreeland, a.k.a. Disasterpeace, who also composed music for FEZ, Bit.Trip Runner 2, Krunch, Shoot Many Robots, High Strangeness, Hyper Light Drifter, and the film It Follows. Ian also composed three of the tracks for the game on his own.