Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).
One-trick ponies have a bum rap. A circus trainer’s lack of creativity and pony-training skill (and, likely, compassion) are not the fault of the pony, yet they’re the ones who have gone down in history as tiresome performers worthy of our derision. Well, I think it’s time we destigmatize “one-trick pony,” and Binary Boy will serve as the official game of this movement.
You play as the Binary Boy himself. His one trick? Flipping across the linear track that he’s been damned to walk on for all eternity (or so I assume). You’ll use this move to progress through five levels, each with a new spin on how this flipping trick is used. At the beginning, you use the flip to dodge some simple enemies and projectiles. Soon enough, you’ll be flipping across the surface of flood water as it rises and falls inside a maze-like boat that’s oddly spacious. It’s not a long game—the creator says his best time is six-and-a-half minutes—but nailing the strict timing required by many of the obstacles can be tricky. Thankfully, each new challenge also comes with its own checkpoint, so failure should only take you back a short way. Boss fights are the only exception to that rule, and a couple of these are frustrating, as a minuscule mistake is all that separates victory and mind-numbing repetition.
There’s a momentum to the weirdness and inventiveness of Binary Boy’s art and level design. Its brief but exquisitely strange final level left me feeling bummed that there wasn’t more to play. Even so, it gets a lot of creative mileage out of one very simple trick. It just goes to show you, it’s not the number of tricks that matters; it’s how you use them.