In games, your objective may be to save the galaxy or rescue the princess, but the real goal, every time, is to just stay alive. After all, you can’t save the galaxy or rescue the princess if you’re dead. But in the clever puzzle game Life Goes On: Done To Death — an updated and expanded version of 2014’s Life Goes On that’s now available for PlayStation 4 as well as PC and Mac via Steam — the only way to complete your objective is to go against thousands of years of evolution and human nature and let yourself die. A lot.
I’ll explain. In Life Goes On: Done To Death, you play as a knight who must traverse a puzzle room of intricate traps to get The Cup Of Life. This means dealing with walls and floors covered in spikes, spigots that shoot flames, closed doors, and switches that can move those spiked walls and floors, turn off those flaming spigots, and open previously closed doors.
But the kicker is that when you die, and you will, another knight appears via a magic portal you activate, and they can then use your previous body to get around. For example, if there’s a floor covered in spikes, and it’s too far to jump over, you simply jump anyway, die, and let the next knight avoid the spikes by using your impaled body as a safe platform.
Kind of reminds me of a certain darkly clad knight I know.
Dead knights aren’t just good for stepping on, though. In the second puzzle of Life Goes On: Done To Death, for instance, you learn that by killing yourself in the right spot, your body can drop onto one of those door opening switches. You can also use the corpses of your predecessors as hand holds. In the fourth level, you throw your body against a wall of spikes that’s moving up and down. You can then, after getting a new knight, jump up and grab hold of the dead body, riding the spike wall up to the platform where the Cup Of Life is being held.
In still other scenarios, you have to sacrifice yourself for the greater good. For example, in level 3, you hit a lever that opens the door to the where the Cup Of Life is being kept. But in doing so, it closes off the path, preventing you from going back to where you can grab the Cup. No worries, just throw yourself off a cliff, and let the next knight, who’s back at the beginning of the level, claim the prize. There are even times, later on, when you must sacrifice a bunch of your brethren so that the pile of bodies is high enough to…perhaps I’ve said too much.
And this is just the beginning of Life Goes On: Done To Death. Later on, you have to deal with see-saw-like platforms, conveyor belts both spiked and unspiked, cannons that can shoot your soon-to-be-lifeless corpse at just the right angle, and a myriad of other physics-based puzzle elements, each more clever and sadistic than the last. Not to mention the added challenge of making sure you’ve activated the right knight dispenser, since rooms may have a bunch.
Of course, the trick in Life Goes On: Done To Death is to get through each puzzle with a few deaths as possible. The game will even tell you how many knights you’ll need to compete a level, and how many it took you to do it. Thankfully, this isn’t a limitation, it’s more like playing golf; you can take as many strokes as you need to finish a hole, but there’s a sense of personal satisfaction if you do it “under par.” Similarly, Life Goes On: Done To Death also keeps track of how long you take to finish a level, and how long it should take you. And again, thankfully, the timer doesn’t run down, but instead goes up, so you’re not penalized if you don’t do it in time. There’s even an optional on-screen indicator that will tell you how long it’s taken you, and how many lives you’ve sacrificed.
That said, while I appreciate that Life Goes On doesn’t penalize you for not finishing within the time or knight life limit, I wish they’d give players the option. Sure, I don’t need the added pressure, but some people enjoy that kind of challenge.
As for how Life Goes On: Done To Death improves upon its predecessor, sorry, couldn’t tell you. The developers have said that this version adds another fifteen levels, bringing the total to sixty five, and that they boast new mechanics. But having not played the original, I can’t say how the addition of these new levels makes the game better or worse. Though considering that you’ll get this new version for free if you bought the previous version on Steam, there’s really no reason to care what I think.
That said, Life Goes On: Done To Death does bring the game to the PlayStation 4, which is a great way to play it if you don’t have a controller for your computer. After playing the PS4 edition, I can’t imagine playing this game with a keyboard, at least without getting even more frustrated.
Regardless of where you play it, though, Life Goes On: Done To Death is still an inventive, enticing, and intellectually challenging puzzle game. Sure, it runs counter to everything our survival instincts have been telling us to do since humans first did whatever you think humans did on day one, but since there is no galaxy to save or princess to rescue in this game, you might as well make a sacrifice in the name of a gold cup.