One of the biggest surprises I had during EGX was Theo & Lizzy. Ever since playing the original Super Mario Bros. with my NES back in the 80s, I’ve loved platformers and the faster they are the more I like them. I want a challenge when I play them, mostly so I can show off my skills—or lack thereof—by completing levels as fast as possible or not at all.
I went by Butcherlab’s stand and saw people playing it like crazy. Knowing how busy EGX was and how many people would crowd the booth, I’d decided to only play a little bit of Theo & Lizzy, to get a feel for its gameplay so I could write this article, but the moment I started playing and got a handle on the controls, I couldn’t stop. Ollie Elliot, Co-Founder of Butcherlab, sat by me to guide me through the demo as well as answer a few of my questions.
I would love to tell you I managed to play the game and interview him effortlessly but that wasn’t the case. I became so engrossed in Theo & Lizzy that for minutes at a time I didn’t even say a word, except some casual comment when I failed or saying “Almost got it.”
Theo & Lizzy handles pretty easily. Your character moves automatically, so you only need to focus on switching the gravity up or down, dash through the air or slow the game down. The first and second mechanics are central to advancing. Flipping the gravity direction lets you avoid pitfalls and deadly spikes and the second lets you clear large open spaces and break through barriers. The best thing about them is you can combine them and in fact in many of the later stages in the demo I had to flip then dash then flip again. It gets really hard.
And that’s where the last little mechanic goes in. As the game is quite speedy on its own, you get a little button to slow it down, so you can see what you’re doing. The fast-player and competitive gamer in me didn’t want to slow down at all, but when I kept crashing down in a segment with multiple flip and pitfalls, I had to do it. It really does help a lot. The day after I met them, Ollie mentioned they’d added a button to do the opposite: speed it up. I don’t know why anyone would want to do that, but I’ll guess it’s to up the challenge—which is already quite high.
I couldn’t finish the Theo & Lizzy demo, though according to Ollie I was the only one to make it that close to the end of it. I don’t know if someone else beat me over the course of EGX, but I’d like to think I was the best at it—we all need those little ego boosts now and again. I had to hand the control over to Ollie so he could finish the last two stages of the Theo & Lizzy demo.
One thing, however, I am sure I have over every other person who played the game is that time I dashed through the air and headfirst into spikes. When you can make the developers cringe, you know you’ve done a good job. That moment became an inside joke between us, and together with the rest of the team, we joked about them adding ragdoll physics just for those occasions or a “Do a Kevin” achievement. I can only hope they actually add it in!
The story for Theo & Lizzy, from what Ollie told me, is Lizzy’s been kidnapped and as Theo you need to rescue her. It might sound simple to you, but the Steam description fleshes it out a bit more, so you can understand the drama behind this title:
“Join Theo on a fast-paced and frantic adventure through a beautiful, hand illustrated world. Flip from the ground to the ceiling, smash your way through obstacles and slow down time itself as you uncover a plot of love, prejudice and running on ceilings.
Theo is a young man whom, like all his friends and family, lives on the ground. However, the one person most important to Theo does not. Lizzy a young woman whom, like all her friends and family, lives on the ceiling. The ‘grounders’ live on the ground and the ‘uppers’ live on the ceiling. This is how it has always been. That was until Theo found out he was able to do something very special indeed…
When Lizzy’s mother catches Theo and Lizzy together, it sets off an unimaginable chain of events that might just change the world forever.”
Theo & Lizzy are ground and ceiling dwelling Romeo & Juliet!
Butcherlab’s team told me the one thing they were most worried about was the difficulty level and said they might have to lower it for the final release, but I disagreed with them. Yes, Theo & Lizzy is an incredibly difficult game—or it can be—but it’s a fun challenge instead of a frustrating one. What makes it so is the instant respawn. The moment you die, you press a button and you’re back at the nearest checkpoint, usually the start of the level, without any loading. So there’s very little if no time wasted between failure and retry. In fact, this fast respawn speed is what adds to the addictiveness of the title, because, as I told Ollie, you’ll always want to try “one more time.”
The level of polish on Theo & Lizzy, even a demo, was outstanding so I am extremely excited to play the full game when it releases early next year and I’m sure it’ll be a recurring one during my weekly broadcasts!