The common perception of the noble medieval knight is fueled by stories of brave, adventurous souls setting off into the world to accomplish great feats of strength and daring do. Taming fierce fire breathing dragons, storming castles to fight evil wizards and, of course, going to great lengths to rescue the fair damsel in distress. Honorable and rich with moral fiber, knights are fearless and so skilled in combat that they are nearly invincible. Life Goes On twists that perception, turning these paragons of virtue into lifeless stepping stones. As a puzzle platformer, you’ll use knights to get past traps and switches in order to reach the Cup of Life at the end of each stage. Getting there, however, requires sacrificing them in a comically grim fashion in order to activate buttons and traverse spike pits. Death isn’t the end in Life Goes On. It is merely a stepping stone on the path to fortune and glory.
There is very little story involved in Life Goes On and to be honest, it doesn’t need one. The goal of each level to navigate through a series of mechanical and environmental traps to acquire the grail-like Cup of Life. Each individual knight cannot sustain prolonged damage before dying and by the end of the game, your knights will be impaled, burned, eaten, frozen, sliced and dropped into bottomless pits. Normally, such pitfalls would be avoided but here, subjecting these characters to such horrors is the only way to complete a stage. For example, in order to enable a wall climb, you’ll have to throw a knight against a bed of wall spikes so that the next knight can climb onto his body and advance to the next phase of the stage. With no penalty for failure or a limited supply of knights at hand, you are free to use as many as necessary to complete the game’s different areas. However, each stages does have a specified time completion and suggested number of knights to use. Meeting or falling short of both will reward you with a nice piece of flair on the stage select screen.
Life Goes On thrives on its grim sense of humor. The names and titles of each knight brought into a stage is written on a parchment and unceremoniously crossed out upon death. The knights lack character and don’t speak, outside of a few pained wails and screams, but are charming in appearance with their slightly bigger than normal heads attached to nimble armored bodies. The act of strategically placing corpses will allow a character to hop across the heads of his lifeless comrades is often hilariously unnerving. When killed, their bodies go ragdoll, offering a sad but funny picture as they tumble along conveyor belts and flop down on pressure pads like a sack of potatoes. Tucked barely out of reach in each level is a cute, fuzzy little creature that, for completion’s sake, must be fed one of your knights. All this excitement occurs within a 2.5D environment made up with details that gives each level a sense of character and life. The world around you goes on as mining equipment transport rocks to places unknown, lava ebbs and flows and snow flitters between the peaks of a mountain pass.
I had a marvelous time with Life Goes On. Easy to understand and fun to play, the puzzles - each finely crafted and fair - are what make it so enjoyable. There’s a comfortable progression of difficulty, with the game’s initial stages easy enough to understand and later stages that require a good deal of thought, planning and timing. And there’s nothing more satisfying then the inevitable “aha!” moment the comes with figuring out a particularly complicated stage. Combine great puzzles with a good sense of humor, pretty visuals and a surprisingly well produced soundtrack, Life Goes On is a delightful gem of a game.
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.