A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 101 Ways to Die is a violent downloadable puzzle game that challenges players to figure out where to place traps to kill lemming-like humanoid clones marching through small stages. Impaled by spikes, blown up by explosives, squashed by rolling boulders, run through by harpoons, and melted in lava pits, the clones often burst apart, spraying bright red blood that coats the walls. Some traps will leave their heads rolling along the ground. All this blood and gore is tempered to a degree by the game's cartoonish presentation, over-the-top vibe, and dark sense of humor, much of which comes from the psychopathic scientist who designs the traps that players use.
What's it about?
101 WAYS TO DIE puts players in the role of an assistant to a mad professor who has dedicated himself to developing unusual ways in which to kill mindless, vat-grown humanoid clones called Splatts. It's your job to test his inventions, placing traps in dozens of dungeon-like stages with an aim to murder the Splatts before they can escape. Players begin each stage with a handful of devices -- mines, repulsor bars, teleporters, wind fans, bombs, and more -- that need to be placed during the "plotting" phase of the puzzle. When ready, players release the Splatts and then watch to see if the traps they've laid will manage to kill them all, occasionally clicking buttons to initiate an explosion or fire a cannon. All the stages have "graduate" objectives -- such as killing a certain number of Splatts -- that must be met to move on to the next stage, as well as "master" objectives -- such as pulling off a specific combo kill -- that earn more stars, increase the score, and help players climb online leaderboards.
Is it any good?
It's a little rough around the edges, and the over-the-top cartoon violence isn't for all audiences (or tastes), but the basic puzzle mechanics this game is built on are sound. Every level begins with an analysis of objectives, stage layout, and the number and type of Splatts you'll be contending with. Then it's a matter of deducing where to place your various traps and gizmos. It sometimes involves a bit of trial and error to get the timing of certain elements right, but most puzzles can be solved through a mix of logic and the player's common-sense understanding of physics. There's definitely a sense of Rube Goldberg-esque satisfaction that comes with working out an intricate trap combination that, say, flips a Splatt up into the air, bounces him off an explosive mine on the ceiling, and sends him flying through a fan before being harpooned and pinned to a wall of spikes.
That said, the puzzles don't involve as much imagination as you might expect. Many puzzles -- especially early on -- seem to have only one possible solution capable of satisfying all graduate and master objectives, making them projects about figuring out what the game designers want players to do rather than exercises in creative problem-solving. That's a missed opportunity. Long story short, 101 Ways to Die isn't going to be for everyone, but puzzle fans who prefer clear-cut deduction over inventive problem-solving (and can handle a fair bit of senseless gore) are likely to be at least moderately entertained.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. This game attempts to find humor in cartoonish violence, but under what circumstances, if any, is it OK to joke about acts of violence and violent behavior?
Talk about using your brain rather than brawn to solve problems. What differences exist between the satisfaction drawn from working out a solution with your mind and the gratification of overcoming obstacles via feats of physical skill? Which do you prefer?
For kids who love puzzles
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.