Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.
Game-sharing sites like Newgrounds and Kongregate have a template for browser-based platformers: slick sprite animation, a modicum of morbidity, and one or two unusual mechanics that an entire game can be based around—if only for 10 minutes, before the game acknowledges its own limitations and ends abruptly. Psychout follows this formula to the letter. As a mental ward inmate, the player cavorts around elaborate single-screen death traps disguised as padded cells. It all looks very simple, but that’s only because the way the inmate sees the world is very different from the way the world really is.
The rules of physics are altered from room to room. Sometimes you can walk up walls. Sometimes you can flip gravity. Sometimes there are invisible platforms. Sometimes the padding moves around and transforms into a life-sized game of Pong. The player enters a room, takes stock of the surroundings, and goes about a reality-defying escape. The 30 rooms of this M.C. Escher madhouse seek to confuse, amuse, and entertain, perhaps even in that order.
Some players might be left wondering whether the inmate really can walk on walls, defy physics in any of the other ways demonstrated here, or if these rooms really are flat terrain and the inmate merely perceives the complications and threats. Those players are almost certainly thinking too much for a browser game that can be completed in the time it takes to watch an episode of My Little Pony. It’s also just about as much fun, depending on how much you enjoy simple platforming puzzles and/or pony-based humor.