By: Brian Gunn
Talent Not Included is the latest game from Frima Studio, a developer known mostly for Chariot, an underappreciated little gem. Can they make some noise with this title, or are they relegated to ironic punchlines about the game’s name?
Talent Not Included is an action platformer with relatively simple controls. You have basic running and jumping as well as an attack and a specialized button for the current character’s unique ability, such as a dash attack for the warrior or a dodge roll for the rogue. The game nails this approach as it demands more and more precision and combos of abilities to proceed.
Using a play to tell stories in video games is not particularly new, with titles like Foul Play and Puppeteer pulling the trick just a few years ago, but Talent Not Included provides a lot of charm in this aesthetic.
Rather than traversing large levels, they come to you, as machinery slides your latest challenge into place as pieces of the set. There’s a nice paper-craft style to everything in addition to the play gimmick, and it helps the game stand out from the glut of indie platformers on the market.
Sound design doesn’t fare as well, rarely rising above generic. There are a few adventurous tunes that seem to get repeated a lot, though the sound effects of the stage transitioning between levels are well done.
Talent Not Included tells the story of a few adventurers, separated into acts. You’ll first step into the shoes of a warrior, but about halfway through his campaign unlock the rogue, and so on. There’s not much of a story, just a few snippets of silly dialogue here and there.
Each stage is a race to the finish, but you’ll be running in place. There’s a gear icon to obtain in each section, and once you do, the play will shift, adding new obstacles and enemies. The ultimate goal is the get to the end while maintaining a high score, in this case translated into pleasing the audience.
Most stages are just running a bit of a maze as you collect candies for points that often show the ideal route through a level. There are spikes and chainsaws to dodge, and an enemy or two to whack on your way to the goal. These ramp up considerably over time as you’ll need to use that dash attack as a key part of your movement arsenal and learn how to effectively wall jump and climb.
These stages are broken up with gauntlets that challenge you to survive until the end as the floor turns to lava or that safe tree you were in suddenly collapses. It offers up a nice change of pace and could have been used more.
And finally there are a few bosses. While not very challenging, they are fun fights and inject the proceedings with a little more personality. If there’s one glaring issue with the game, it’s that it has too many similar stages where nothing is going on. While going too story heavy wouldn’t have been a great idea, allowing characters to speak or be involved in the more routine areas could’ve made things stand out.
Talent Not Included offers a co-op mode for those that want to bring along a friend. Being able to unlock the next act before finishing the previous one is also a nice touch as it can offer a change of pace and more variety, something the game sorely lacks.
Talent Not Included is a solid action platformer with unique visual gimmicks. While it doesn’t end up using them to notable effect very often, it’s not without its charms.