Games that test your 2D platforming skills can be quite addictive if you're a retro enthusiast. Talent Not Included is a delightfully challenging little game so turn down the house lights and let's start the performance.
Talent Not Included puts you in control of a hero who must work their way through a series of tough platforming situations in order to reach the end of each stage. These stages may be single-screen but each one changes many times before you can actually complete it. You trigger a change of scene whenever you collect a gear-like item. Thankfully, you can take your time working through although you may miss out on achieving a satisfactory high score if you do. These scenarios may involve spiky passageways, quickly disappearing items, platforms that fade in and out, various selections of enemies, and many different hazards. The gameplay is simple as all you do is run and jump as well as perform character-specific moves. For example, Cécile can dash in mid-air while Bonnie can roll out of harm's way. It's simple and challenging fun and the few characters bring some welcome variety, too.
Playing Talent Not Included reminded me a lot of 2013's platforming gem Puppeteer. Both games take place on a stage and you can hear the audience react to onscreen events. Watching the scenes change is similar, too. The visuals are cheerful and bright with a few stage environments such as a forest, desert, and winter area. Each one of these stars a different character and boss as well. The characters have distinct grunts and are animated well enough so they have unique personalities. On the audio side, the sound effects are super-satisfying while the soundtrack is full of delightful ditties that'll get you tapping your toe. Overall, this is one charming game.
Talent Not Included's campaign consists of the three already mentioned areas with 15 stages in each (3 of which are increasingly difficult fights with the same boss). After that, there's the final boss. This may not seem like much but the stages get impressively lengthy and brutally challenging. There's nothing more disheartening than almost making it to the exit of a stage only to lose your last heart.
Interestingly enough, you don't have to go it alone as you can invite a friend to join you. However, I found playing cooperatively to be very counter-productive. Even though you essentially get twice the amount of hearts, the stages generally guide you along so if you're playing with someone else, either you or your pal will regularly get snagged on hazards during scene changes which can be frustrating. On top of that, you now have two walking targets for enemies. In the end, it's probably better to stick to single player.
As you finish stages, you're awarded medals according to how high you scored. There are leaderboards, too. Although this is cool, there really aren't any replay incentives besides obtaining higher scores. I wish there was a list of challenges for each stage because that would've helped extend the replay value substantially. I would have liked to see some additional modes such as competitive multiplayer or mini-games, too, but all you get is the campaign with optional cooperative multiplayer.
Talent Not Included is a delightful platforming experience that'll put your 2D gaming skills to the test. It may be light on content but the gameplay is so much fun that you'll easily sink a few hours in before you take your final bow.
- + Simple yet challenging platforming fun with various characters
- + Charming setting and great audio
- + Loads of stages and bosses to master
- - The gameplay setup doesn't adapt well to playing cooperatively
- - Could use more modes and additional replay incentives besides just high scores