Das Überleben dem Großen Sprung, German for “Survival of the Big Jump”, is a freeware game released by Teknopants back in 2010. It’s fairly small and straightforward: as a skydiver descending a long tunnel, try to make it to the bottom without smashing into any obstacles. That’s it – once you make it to the bottom, your high score is recorded, and the game resets. It’s arcade-like in that regard, but there is some depth (no pun intended) to this little game.

The first of six selectable stages.

The first of six selectable levels.

The only way to control your character is by moving them around in order to dodge obstacles, so Überleben is very easy to pick up, even for the most casual of players. Layers of obstacles jutting out from the walls come by in waves, the frequency of which is determined by the difficulty setting you chose (there are five settings, including an endless mode). Golden rings are scattered about, which you may collect in order to increase your speed. This is how the high score feature comes into play – by reaching the bottom of a level at a faster time, you get a better score. There is one single high score for the whole game, and your longest survival time is recorded for each of level under each of the five difficulty settings. I’m not sure why the high score isn’t saved by level and difficulty setting, or, for that matter, why there isn’t a high score table option on the menu. I would consider these to be objective flaws, though they shouldn’t dissuade you from giving the game a try.

There is no bonus, no unlockable rewards or golden stars or any such thing to mark your accomplishments, only a little recorded time which displays whenever you die in a level. I feel like the real draw of this game, though, is not in trying to master it, but in simply enjoying it. It’s a nice little diversion, and it is oddly soothing. There’s no music in Überleben, just the sounds of rain falling, rolling thunder, winds blowing through, the whoosh of a stalagmite as you barely pass by… There are six levels, and each is aesthetically beautiful, presenting very different environments in the game’s simplistic, surreal style.

I'm not even mad when I splat against these branches. The game is oddly serene.

I’m not even mad when I splat against these branches. The game is oddly serene.

Each successive level has interesting new shapes of hazards, such as stalagmites, branches, blocks, or statues. This alone provides significant variety in gameplay, but some levels have other hazards, such as worms that float around, fog that obscures your field of vision, and bolts of energy that rise from the depths. For what it is, I would say that Überleben contains a pretty sufficient amount of content to keep you entertained, especially since it’s one of those games that you’ll likely just be playing in short bursts from time to time.

Multiple worms in the distance provide a sense of danger and mystery.

Multiple worms in the distance provide a sense of danger and mystery.

If you’re particularly mad, you can set a “spin” option to modify your, uh, experience. Choosing “static” just rotates the entire tunnel randomly when the game begins, but other options cause you to spin at a steady pace, or when you move to the side, or randomly or spastically. The result can be quite dizzying, and might even give some players a headache (or worse), but I suppose that someone out there would derive some kind of deranged amusement out of the zanier spin settings. From my personal experience, it was mostly only entertaining as a means of upping the silliness of multiplayer.

Oh yeah, this game offers competitive play. In contrast to the often relaxing solo play, multiplayer can be fierce and merciless. Up to seven people can play in one match, each one taking control of a differently-coloured skydiver. You all compete for survival. The golden rings are still present, which can be used by confident or chaotic players in order to speed up the game and dispatch their rivals, or they can be used for another purpose which only comes into play during multplayer. You see, there is an option called “fighting”. I’ll give you one guess as to what that does, and then, since this is an article and I can’t really just wait for you to give your hypothetical answer, I’ll simply tell you: The “fighting” option allows you to kick away your opponents when you run into them, potentially causing them to hit an obstacle and die. This is just as ridiculously fun as it sounds, as you all battle it out in a treacherous shaft of death.

Whether you play with or without the “fighting” option, though, it’s quite fun. Some years ago, I had the chance to play this with another person, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, he liked it enough that he later asked me for a link to the game so he could play it with more friends. I imagine it would be difficult to get seven people around one computer, especially as the controls are preset, four of which are mapped to the keyboard, but if you could do it, it would be pretty intense. I’ve never played with more than one other person, I believe, but my friend and I eventually placed six skydivers into the game and set half of them to his controls and half of them to mine, thus allowing us to control three at once. It made things kind of interesting.

This is what it looks like with seven players. If only I had actual people to play with...

This is what it looks like with seven players. If only I had actual people to play with…

This raises the problem, again, of the lack of AI in many multiplayer games. Simply offering some bots, perhaps under the control settings for each player, would really give multiplayer a chance to shine for a lot more people. Once more, it wouldn’t even need to be that complicated – all it has to do is dodge stuff, try to grab rings, and maybe try to kick opponents if “fighting” is enabled. There could even be randomized or selectable personalities, such as an AI who is more concerned with grabbing rings than danger, or vice versa, or who just focuses on trying to murder the shit out of you.

Faults aside, Überleben is a great little game. It does what it needs to do without unnecessary complexity, and it is very well executed. If you’re looking for a brief diversion, or if you need something calming to zone you out, or perhaps if you have some friends around and you’d like to pull them in for a very different gaming experience, you should try this game.

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