Impossible Road will make you scream, and then hit “retry” for the umpteenth time.
Remember Peach’s Slide from Super Mario 64? Mario would go shooting down on his bottom, grabbing coins along the way, and making sure not to fall off the edges. However, if you could take a dive at the right moment, it was possible to fall onto another section of the slide below, and shave entire seconds off your time. This is the basis for Impossible Road, a new mobile game that will make you rip your hair out much in the same way that Super Hexagon did before it. It may be a little too based on luck for my liking, but that doesn’t stop this minimalist game from being one hell of a rush.
You’re provided with a ball, and a road to run it along. This road twists and turns procedurally, meaning that no two runs are ever the same. The road is also never-ending, so you’re going to die eventually – and it will probably be sooner rather than later. That’s because Impossible Road, as its name would suggest, is hard-as-nails. There are checkpoints at intervals along the road, each with a value that is one more than the last, and by touching these you bolster your score. On your first go, you might get two. On your second go, you’ll probably get two again. On your fifteenth play, you might have reached ten or so (and screaming blue murder all the way).
But you’ll keep playing, because Impossible Road is hugely compelling, especially when you throw in the Game Center leaderboards. Until you’ve managed to beat your friends’ scores, you won’t be able to stop playing – and even after that, you’ll most likely continue onwards in the hope that you can maybe get lucky and secure just a few more points. Here’s the trick though – there’s no point in staying on the track. When you fall off the road, a timer begins, and the screen starts to fuzz over. If you can touch another part of the track before the five seconds or so is up, the timer will start all over again, and you can potentially cradle the road and continue on your way.
Notably, your score isn’t how many checkpoints you’ve gotten through – it’s whatever the last checkpoint you touched is. Hence, it’s actually sort of pointless to go through the first few checkpoints. If you can see a good place to dive off and land down below, then you should go for it. Impossible Road is more about leaping into the unknown and hoping that you don’t bounce around too much, rather than sticking to the set path. It’s a huge rush all the way, thanks to the speed at which the ball can potentially move and the slick visuals that pass you by. The sounds drumming through your ears are also fantastic, adding to the drama and giving Impossible Road that extra little kick.
But the nature of what makes Impossible Road entertaining is a double-edged sword. Essentially, your progression through the game isn’t solely based on skill. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that most of it is based on luck: Will you get a track that is kind? Will the ball bounce off wildly when you land? Will you hit a checkpoint as you bounce? These are all elements that are out of your control, and no matter how much you play Impossible Road or how good you get at it, there’s always going to be an element of luck that rears its hand every once in a while, and makes all your other runs seem pointless.
My own highest score of 46 came about after bounding off the road multiple times like a mad man, getting lucky with how the road was winding, and then landing perfectly on a checkpoint by accident. But I don’t feel like I earned that score fairly – instead, it feels cheap, like I received it using barely any skill whatsoever.
There’s also a hitch with the visuals. The ball is white, and the abyss all around you is the same shade of white: meaning that sometimes when you’re falling towards a road below, and if you’re dropping at a specific angle, it can be nigh-on impossible to see where you’re aiming, and you’ll end up completely missing the platform as a result. It would perhaps be nice if there was an option to make the ball slightly transparent, so you can see where you’re actually going.
Impossible Road is going to receive a lot of attention over the coming weeks, and well-deserved attention too. Whether it will have staying power is another topic entirely – the game’s heavy reliance on luck may well prove to be its downfall.