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Biped review

Biped review
Biped review

NEXT Studios’ 3D action-adventure Biped is literally about putting one foot in front of the other. Whether playing solo or with a friend either locally or online, you must control your small robot’s left and right legs to maneuver through a series of classic platformer levels. While not an adventure game in any traditional sense, the light puzzle-solving elements included throughout this manual dexterity experience make it adventure-adjacent enough to be worth a look. After all, who doesn’t love cute little robots who bleep and bloop and blap as they run into things and each other, especially if you can share in the delight with someone else?

The story here is just a basic conceit to get you right into the gameplay environments. These little bots have come to an Earth-like planet to fix its intergalactic beacon system in some undisclosed time period. However, the beacons, situated at the end of each level, are all offline, so it’s up to you to reactivate them by completing the various obstacle courses standing in the way.

Biped’s core focus is on making players proficient in its game mechanics. While it can be played with either the mouse or a controller, the latter definitely feels more natural to use. Your little robot is either a blue cube or a pink sphere depending on which player you are (in multiplayer the host is the cube and the player joining is the sphere, while in single player an option exists to switch) with two legs attached to its torso. Pressing the left or right mouse buttons or pushing the two sticks on a gamepad raises the corresponding leg of your mechanical character and aims it in the direction being moved, and releasing the control lowers the leg again in the new spot.

While many games are wrongly given the pejorative label of “walking simulator,” Biped is quite literally that for the most part. By physically maneuvering your own leg movements, you must walk your way through the various game environments. For example, if you want to get to the left side of the screen you would push left, then release with the left stick, then push left on the right stick and release, then repeat as needed. In some instances, if the ground is smooth as opposed to rocky, both controls can be pressed at the same time to skate your robot around, which is definitely easier to manage.

All challenges involve careful use of your robot’s legs, as they’re the only things able to manipulate objects in the environment. For example, you may find a lever that needs to be thrown. To do so you have to plant one leg on an anchor point in front of the lever, then raise your other leg to press against the lever to grab it, then drag the lever in the appropriate direction to trigger it. Or you may need to step on a series of buttons with simple geometric shapes in a sequence depicted on a nearby wall. Or you might have to hustle your robot across a series of collapsing platforms by quickly alternating legs.

You can play by yourself, which switches up some of the puzzles to account for having just a single bot present, but the more interesting challenges occur in dual-player co-op mode. Here there are a variety of obstacles that require both players to bypass. In one series of levels, there are platforms colour-coded to the blue and pink hues of the two bots. For instance, the platform may start off blue, indicating that the blue player needs to take one step on it first. Doing so then changes the platform colour to pink, meaning the pink player needs to take the next step. Sometimes the platforms alternate blue and pink, sometimes they may stay a given colour for a couple of steps. Frequently these platforms float through the air past additional obstacles, like vines that need to be stepped over or boards that must be stepped around, lest both bots be knocked into the abyss and respawned just before the platform to try again.

Other multiplayer puzzles involve one person controlling a lever to rotate a horizontally oriented cylinder with holes in it that the other player must walk across. Elsewhere, one player has to cut timber by sliding a saw back and forth with their leg. The pieces of wood then need to be caught by the other bot and deposited in a wood hopper before it can be whisked away by a conveyor belt. Usually what needs to be done to circumvent any of these different hurdles is readily apparent, requiring little to no intellectual effort to unravel. Instead, the core challenge is one of reflexes and timing and cooperation (if playing with another) to ensure the bots step at the right time and in the right places.

One particular challenge that my friend and I both enjoyed and were frustrated by in equal parts involved a platform that would get progressively narrower if a certain number of feet were not kept in constant contact with it. After dying a couple of times due to our lack of synchronization, a little inset video popped up showing how to handle the obstacle, except the video didn’t match the actual challenge and caused us to die even more before we figured out what was needed.

A few sequences along the way – some playable and some not – change up the general feel of just walking through a level. Certain stages begin with the bots drifting in on balloons and being dropped off, although you aren’t in control of where these fly. Some locations provide elevated rails that the robots can place a foot on and then be whisked away to the next area. While gliding along these, players can spin to collect coins floating in the air on one side of the tracks or the other. Then there are the ice levels, where the bots are tethered together by a rope. Here, using their magnetized feet, one bot must stand on a surface as an anchor, while another jumps off a nearby ledge to swing to a spot that it can grab with its feet, allowing the first robot to swing after it.

Beyond simply completing levels to activate the beacons, there are bonus challenges for those inclined to pursue them. Coins can be collected from chests, barrels, and giant carrots, then used to buy things to customize your robot, such as an assortment of hats. Each level also has a star challenge, in which you must find all the semi-hidden or difficult-to-reach star-shaped coins, along with a death challenge, which limits the number of times you can die, and a time challenge that establishes a certain time limit to complete the level.

The journey through the different regions is a purely linear one, providing no opportunities to venture off the beaten path for self-directed exploration. Biped progresses through a number of typical platformer environments, from the early forested areas, to rain-swept mountains, to frigid ice caverns, to a waterway of rapid rafting, and more. There’s nothing really surprising in what’s on offer here. About the only cliché zone not explored here is the depths of a magma-spewing volcano. Still, the fully 3D locations are nicely modeled in the same charming, vibrantly coloured style as the bots themselves, and are pleasing to look at.

The game maintains a light cartoony tone with its audio. Jingly upbeat music accompanies you along the way. Coins have an almost Super Mario-esque ring to them when picked up. Carrots plop out of the ground when pulled. The bots themselves emit small electronic utterances, though they never actually talk. A few other bots encountered in your travels speak through word balloons in fast typewriter fashion, but the text frequently disappears as soon as the last letter is typed, sometimes making it difficult to read whatever instructions are being issued. Not that it matters, as the elements for any particular challenge are always in the vicinity and their operation can be easily deduced through a little trial-and-error – when all you have is your feet to use, there’s not much the game can throw at you as a curveball.

My friend and I completed the main cooperative campaign in just under three hours. However, Biped has much more gameplay to offer than just that. Whenever a given level is completed, it unlocks a more challenging one that utilizes the same puzzle elements. Completing that level unlocks an even harder one after that. While we found the main game fun enough to warrant sampling some of the harder levels, we weren’t so enthralled that we felt the need to work through them all right away. But who knows? Maybe we’ll wander back to the rest at some future date.

The increased challenge in the optional levels comes from either increased precision requirements, stepping in sequence with the other player under time pressure, or both. While these aspects exist in the starting levels, too, they’re generally much more forgiving. For instance, the first time around players may have to alternate steps across a single, colour-changing, moving platform. However, in a harder level there may be a series of such platforms moving crosswise in opposite directions. This involves not only getting the rhythm of alternating steps correct, but reaching the next platform before it floats past the point where it can be boarded, forcing you to move faster. There is definitely a step up in the manual dexterity and fast reflexes needed for the more challenging levels, although even the easier ones can be tricky at times.

For its two-player mode, Biped allows local co-op as well as online options. Local play requires only a single copy of the game with both players on the same computer. At least one gamepad is required, with the second player either using the mouse or an additional controller. For remote play, both players must own the game, with one serving as the host who can either create a public server or a Steam friends-only server. Oddly, there appears to be no public server browser in the game. Instead, when a public game is created, a unique six-character alphanumeric code is generated, which the joining player must type in on their side to enter the game. With no server browser, however, players will have to coordinate by some other means, whereas making a friends-only server will allow you to send a Steam invite directly to your partner.

Its story may be bare-bones, but Biped is a whimsical cooperative action-adventure that can be quite diverting for a couple of hours. Its focus on mastering the game mechanics under increasingly imposing conditions means those who dislike manual dexterity challenges, timed sequences, or both need not apply. But for those whose fingers can easily keep up with their brains, the cute characters and art style are endearing, and the springy music will put a smile on the face of anyone willing to step – pun intended – outside the standard adventure genre for a bit of single or (particularly) dual-player fun.

 

Our Verdict:

Controlling a pair of robots step-by-step through a series of manual dexterity challenges may not qualify as an adventure, but the charming Biped is a fun diversion, especially in co-op mode.

GAME INFO Biped is an adventure game by NEXT Studios released in 2020 for PC, PlayStation 4, Switch and Xbox One. It has a Stylized art style, presented in Realtime 3D and is played in a Third-Person perspective. You can download Biped from:
The Good:
  • Cute robots and art style
  • Fun to work with a partner in dual-player mode
  • Single player, co-op, bonus challenges, and unlockable levels offer lots of replayability
The Bad:
  • Word bubbles frequently disappear before they can be read
  • Puzzles are more about mastering the game mechanics rather than problem-solving
The Good:
  • Cute robots and art style
  • Fun to work with a partner in dual-player mode
  • Single player, co-op, bonus challenges, and unlockable levels offer lots of replayability
The Bad:
  • Word bubbles frequently disappear before they can be read
  • Puzzles are more about mastering the game mechanics rather than problem-solving
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