STAFF REVIEW of Glam's Incredible Run: Escape from Dukha (Xbox One)

Monday, April 11, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Glam's Incredible Run: Escape from Dukha Box art Chances are that if you’re a fan of challenging 2D platformers, you’ve most likely spent many hours with Super Meat Boy, Celeste and a handful of others in the genre, dying hundreds of time as you try and reach the end of every stage. The latest game that takes inspiration from these classics is Glam's Incredible Run: Escape from Dukha from indie developers Three Legged Egg and published by Red Art Games.

Generally in games like these there’s not a large focus on story and narrative, instead centering on the gameplay itself, which is why fans of the genre keep coming back for more. What I found odd is that there’s absolutely no story within the game itself, yet the store and game page talks about how you, Glam, are trying to rescue her mother from the realm of Caterina. How she was taken by some sort of evil witch, why, and any other questions you could come up with are not explained or even brought up in the beginning at all. As long as you go in knowing that there’s essentially no story element whatsoever and you’ll be focusing on the gameplay solely, you'll be fine.

An incredibly challenging 2D platformer, Glam is placed into a stage and must make it to the portal at the other end of the room. This is easier said than done though, as you’re going to have to use your jumping abilities, climbing, hair swinging and more if you want any chance of trying to survive and make it to the next stage. You’ll not only be having to wall jump and navigate over chasms, spikes, bullets and more, but you’ll sometimes also have to deal with some goblins and skulls with sunglasses that like to shoot projectiles at you. If that wasn’t enough, there’s some light puzzle elements as well with switches to hit, collectables to try and get and more.

Before you begin your adventure and dying repeatedly though, you’ll want to customize Glam to your liking. You can change the color of her hair, skin, eyes, top, skirt, boots and jewelry. Is there any real point aside from making her look how you want? No, not really, as there’s no gameplay differences, just simply the colors you want to see her dressed in including her hair.

Speaking of her hair, this is where one of Glam’s main skills comes into play. In many platforming games like these you usually have some sort of rope, grapple hook or dash to swing from point to point, but Glam does so with her hair. Yes, you read that right. Glam somehow has the ability to control her hair, use it like a rope and swing with it at specific points. She’s also able to grab onto certain rock portions, allowing her to hang or climb for a short period of time before she gets too tired and will let go. The same goes for swinging with her hair, as you can only do so for a short time before she will fall.

Platforming games like this live or die by its controls. If it’s not precise, players will become frustrated and not want to continue playing due to dying for what seems not their fault. I wish I could say I never became frustrated, but this review took me much longer than I expected for an indie game like this due to having to take breaks now and then when I was dying on the same level dozens of times. While I’ve never been fantastic at the genre, I’m decent, but I’m not sure if it’s the controls or design, but I struggled nearly my whole time with Glam's Incredible Run: Escape from Dukha.

Simply moving with the stick and then just three buttons, ‘X’ for your hair swing, ‘Right Trigger’ for grabbing onto walls, and ‘A’ for jump, gameplay should have been easy, but sometimes just feels ‘off’. I’m not sure if it’s simply the default button layout or what, but I lost count how many times I died because I either pressed the wrong button or somehow didn’t hit it in time. When having to grab onto walls or swing, it’s almost like it feels a bit delayed somehow. After a handful of hours I was still having issues on the levels when it becomes chaotic and you need to chain jumps, swings and moves to reach the end of the stage in quick succession.

Speaking of stages, there are 11 Chapters, each with its own backdrop, enemies and theme. The first few worlds aren’t too bad challenge wise, but there’s definitely some imbalance that needs to be addressed. Each Chapter has a good handful of levels with 220 in total. That’s a lot of levels to die in and I’m still trying to reach the final Chapters. Each Chapter tends to add some new mechanic or enemy type, as eventually you’ll be dealing with spiked walls and platforms, shooting skulls, switches to make platforms appear and disappear, bullets to jump on or swing from and more. It keeps the gameplay fresh when you don’t get stuck on a specific level for a prolonged period of time, but that happens often. Every now and then you get a level that the difficulty spike is massive that will cause you to die a hundred times, then the next might be a simple level that I beat first try, so the balance can feel a bit off at times.

With every level being handcrafted, there’s one clear correct path to the finish that will take a bunch of trial and error to sometimes figure out, not even counting the precision movement and timing needed to actually do so. For those that really want more of a challenge, certain levels also have a collectable to try and get, but these are usually incredibly difficult to reach and finish the level alive, to the point where I basically started to ignore them as it was causing me to get frustrated more than normal. A note that I made when I missed a collectable early on was that you can go back and replay a Chapter, but there’s no level select within each Chapter, so if you miss one collectable and move onto the next stage, you’re going to have to replay the whole Chapter from the beginning for another attempt to nab it. Thankfully when you die, and you will hundreds of times, you start at the beginning of the stage instantly after a quick respawn in less than a second, so there’s no waiting around for the level to reset.

What I didn’t expect was a multiplayer co-op mode where you and a local friend can play in 60 unique levels that differ from the single campaign. You’re going to need teamwork and a lot of communication if you want any chance of beating these levels though. Even more so is that you’re going to need a partner that is equally skilled as you, as if you thought the exact timing and precision was difficult in single player, both players in co-op will need to do so in unison and tandem at times to complete certain levels.

Aesthetically, Glam's Incredible Run: Escape from Dukha is bright and colorful, looking almost like an animated comic at times. While I question Glam’s design, the backgrounds are done well with some detail, but there’s a lot repetition with assets being reused throughout, causing for some tiredness if playing for a prolonged period of time in one sitting. There are some cute Easter eggs hidden if you take the time to look, like fossils of Pac-Man, EVE from Wall-E and a few others hidden in the soil sections of certain levels. As for the soundtrack, there’s a few good tracks, but there’s not a lot of selection and it doesn’t seem to always fit the mood of the gameplay, so the same few songs get repeated over and over, so after an hour or so you’ll want to put your own Spotify playlist on.

Glam's Incredible Run: Escape from Dukha has well over 200 levels, but they can feel very lifeless much of the time. With no story or reason, there’s not much reasoning to play for aside from wanting to complete all of the challenging levels. The difficulty spikes were hard to deal with, becoming frustrated when stuck on a level for quite some time, then breezing through the next handful no problem.

If you’re up for a challenge, Glam's Incredible Run: Escape from Dukha can offer a good few hours of platforming, and while the difficulty curve is all over the place like a seeing random speedbump placed on a highway out of nowhere, the gameplay itself is decent if you can get used to the controls. Priced fairly at $5 USD, Glam's Incredible Run: Escape from Dukha might not wow you, but it will scratch that 2D platforming itch if you enjoy challenging yourself.

**Glam's Incredible Run: Escape from Dukha was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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