Struggling: review of an absurd, difficult and atypical platformer

Who I am
Alejandra Rangel
Author and references

The discourse of difficulty is cyclically back in vogue, of the need to always and in any case have access to an "Easy" mode for difficult games. The discussion, however, often arises around works that, to one degree or another, include some kind of statistic that can be raised or lowered "in an instant", to make life easier for players. But what happens when a game isn't difficult because the enemies are too powerful, but simply because each pixel is designed to get us in trouble? Suffer and carry on.

Here is ours Struggling review (nomen omen), a game where everyone suffers and nobody wins. Except you. Perhaps. Maybe not.

A game in hand

Struggling: Ettore and Achille, in all their beauty

What is Struggling? An easy way to imagine this is to think of Getting over it with Bennet Foddy, perhaps mixed a little with Snake Pass. If you don't know either of the two games, know that we are talking about two platform based on an atypical control and movement system. In Struggling we will have to guide Hector and Achilles, within a series of levels. The two are a ball of flesh with eyes and mouth, with only two arms to support the whole. We control, with the levers and triggers, the hands of the iliac couple and use them to grab objects and drag, swing, throw and crash around.

As you advance you also unlock a couple of powers, i.e. the ability to detach the arms and move them away (but not too much) from the body and the ability to slow down time for a few moments, so as to perform extremely precise moves with success (NB The success rate may vary from person to person , we are not responsible for repeated deaths).

By now you will have already widely understood, but we specify that Struggling is certainly not a simple game. The idea of ​​grabbing, throwing, dragging and so on is simple on the surface, but it requires a certain level of commitment. Controlling two independent arms requires considerable mental flexibility and if you usually struggle to manage structured control systems, this game is not for you. You can also play in co-op (one arm each), but we have not had the opportunity to test it and, in all honesty, we believe that certain phases would be really tiring in two, given the coordination required for certain movements. Probably, played in co-op, it could almost become a sort of crazy party game where you can laugh at your failures. Or make social relations violently end.

So let's get the tooth out immediately: the game can absolutely be frustrating. Indeed, we take it for granted, we do not believe there is a single player who will not find himself somewhere in the game huffing and screaming terms that we cannot write in this review. The rest of the time, however, he will feel some satisfaction in being able to complete a section. Struggling makes us swing between hate and love for the duration of the adventure.

Struggling will make us climb just about everywhere

Is it worth playing it, then? To answer this, we must first ask ourselves two questions. First of all: are the levels interesting? The answer is yes. The level design of Struggling is well done, in some sections inspired and intriguing, with also unique and absurd stages ranging from a motorcycle race to a TV show in which you will have to find your true love (ask no questions). Above all, the game regularly changes the cards on the table, with new environmental elements that vary the rules and the type of movement we can perform. If at first even dragging ourselves up a slope seemed like a challenge, in the second half we will fly left and right with a certain freedom and knowledge of the facts. There is always a little bit of trial & error, with traps placed right where the inattentive player will end up with the next move. In some sections the team could have made life easier for the player, instead of adding difficulty upon difficulty, but from a title called Struggling it's hard to expect otherwise.

The second question, however, is: do the controls work well? We say ... almost always. The "problem" of Struggling is that it is based precisely on the idea of ​​struggling and controlling a character in a strange, deliberately uncomfortable way. We control the hands and move them using arms that are almost tentacles which can then tangle on themselves and self-lock in place. On the other hand, when we anchor one hand to the ground, our control will shift to the shoulder which can push the body in the desired direction, as long as the slope of the ground, inertia and the other arm help. When we take off an arm, we will no longer have the support of the body, so we will have to think about the movements differently. The control system is therefore layered and ever-changing and, in the first stages, your head may burst (not literally, although in the game it happens all the time to the characters) in an attempt to understand how to move the character correctly. Unfortunately, sometimes the arms get stuck in the ground or between them and, every now and then, the character freezes on himself and makes it impossible to move quickly: various phases are full of traps or are timed, so even just an indecision involves a game over for which we are not to blame.

A nonsense plot

There are also some unique sections in Struggling

Struggling shares with Getting over it with Bennet Foddy the atypical nature of the control system and the will to give the player a demanding challenge (Foddy's game is much more difficult, mind you), but certainly does not share the narrative component. Foddy has created a game that discusses consumerism and digital culture, video game art and the concept of difficulty and frustration, which he sees as a positive, if perhaps a little masochistic, force.

Stuggling is a game about a ball of flesh that screams in pain all the time and releases farts when it loses its arms. Don't expect a sensible game world, in fact, be prepared for some sections too completely nonsense. For the record, however, we specify that there is a kind of plot.

By grabbing the javelins you can travel at great speed in Struggling

In ancient times, humanity was saved from Evil by some Heroes (deformed humans, in essence). A King, however, chased away the Heroes who finally disappeared, leaving to posterity a prophecy linked to two brothers who would reunite the community of Heroes. In modern times the prophecy comes true, with the only problem that Hector and Achilles are almost brainless, deformed to the point of unbelievable and that the world is now in disarray. The whole adventure goes back to ancient Greece, with characters such as Ulysses, Pandora, Paris and so on, who however have little nothing of the original figures, as they are also beings with poor physical and intellectual abilities. Basically, judging Struggling for the narrative component makes little sense, because it itself doesn't try to give the whole game a purpose.

Even the ambienti vary randomly, going from a laboratory, to caves, to a canyon in perfect Far West style, arriving at a dream world in which the developers have completely abandoned all constraints and have only mixed random things one after the other. 'other. Stylistically, Struggling is not very original, a very classic full-color cartoon. It is not anything unique, but it does its duty. Pleasant also the sonoro: the music can be heard, but it is the screams of suffering from Ettore and Achille that make the difference; more than once we realized that we had an expression of pure disgust on our face (in a positive sense, eh) in seeing and hearing the tribulations of the characters.


Tested version PlayStation 4


Readers (5)


Your vote

Struggling is a strange product, which wants to make us work hard and also suffer. If you are looking for an atypical platformer, you are not afraid of the challenge (not too long, in any case: we finished in 6 hours) and you do not care that a real plot is missing, then you should give it a chance. If you know you have little patience and for you video games must always accompany the player without putting him too much in difficulty, then stay very far from this title.


  • The levels are unforgiving, but they are well done
  • Pleasantly atypical control system
  • It gets frustrating easily
  • Sometimes we lose control over the character, without being to blame
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