Starting at ground level in Only Up! you can’t help but look towards the sky and marvel at the seemingly infinite spiral of bizarre items that trail before you. The start was simple enough, clambering across apartment buildings and over rusted old pipes. The threat of imminent death gave me a slight adrenaline boost but nothing out of the norm for parkour titles. However, after a particularly anxious train ride and numerous strange obstacles, Only Up! took me to new heights.
After a few hours of trial and error (mostly error), the first real test of courage appeared before me: jumping off a bed onto a giant anime girl’s skirt. Missing this skirt would send me plummeting back to earth to start again. It wasn’t the first time death was watching me, but it was the first time I truly felt a knot in my stomach as the virtual vertigo set in.
Sadly, my test of courage went just as well as you may expect: horribly. Perhaps I’m too trusting, or maybe the thought of a bed sending me into the stratosphere was far too unlikely. Whatever my thought process was, Only Up! struck it down in one fell swoop. Confidently, my character threw themselves onto the bed, and instead of directing them to the target, they were launched up into the atmosphere and into oblivion.
You’ve not experienced true helplessness in a game until you’ve stared emotionlessly at a character, free-falling past every single train, box, and pillar which had taken you hours to painstakingly navigate.
Parkour games come in all shapes and sizes. At first, Getting Over it with Bennett Foddy is probably what comes to mind, as this punishing climbing game had the internet in somewhat of a stranglehold when it was released in 2017. It’s certainly true that Bennet Foddy took up way too much of my time in what ended up being a hate-hate relationship involving a cauldron, razer-sharp rocks, and various words I’m not allowed to write down here. However, really there’s a never-ending catalogue of almost-identical titles such as Mainly at Rest, Mount Your Friends, and Jump King.
Parkour games often involve players desperately trying to fight against in-game physics, jittery hands, and, most importantly, sticky keys as they edge from one obstacle to the next, knowing that one misstep can land them right back at the beginning.
This may seem like a nightmare scenario to newcomers, bringing back a primal fear only experienced when a younger sibling comes out of nowhere to prematurely turn off a console or PC before you’ve saved your game. However, fans of this genre, like myself, have a neverending and strange addiction to the adrenaline rush felt by knowing there’s real-life consequences to in-game actions.
Only Up! may not stand out in terms of originality, but it did do something that no other parkour title managed to achieve: it scared me sick. While I’ve played my fair share of third-person parkour titles, looking at your Roblox parkour simulator, Only Up! was the first time that this view gave me actual virtual vertigo.
Watching the lower platforms ebb and flow below you or getting transported across space on giant hands or precarious train rides meant that you were almost never still and certainly never had any peace and quiet. The whole endeavor left me screaming, sick, and sadly confused, but in a twisted sense, I loved every second of it.
Two deep breaths and a hard look at yourself
While the two-step forward, one-step-back process of playing through a parkour game such as Only Up! may seem sluggish and frustrating to some, it’s the very thing that keeps me coming back and always wanting more. It’s easy to get irrationally angry at games, and while that can be entertaining, it’s not particularly productive.
Games that push me to the most frustrating point possible remind me that there’s no point screaming at my monitor or throwing my controller at a wall; none of that will bring back lost progress. Instead, all you can do is take a few deep breaths and start again. It’s a twisted process but one that keeps me grounded. Especially, all you have to show for hours of progress is one very harsh lesson learned.
Only Up! isn’t a groundbreaking game. The graphics are decent, and the controls are simple and straightforward, but it doesn’t have the same creativity and flare that Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy relished in. However, if you find yourself at a loose end and are in need of some harsh lessons, then it’s a great way to pass the time and maybe make you cry along the way.
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Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.