Imagine if Carrion, Happy Wheels and Heave Ho somehow had an inbred child together and then that inbred child had a baby with The Thing. You get Struggling, a challenging yet absurdly grotesque physics platform game published by Frontier Developments and developed by Montreal-based studio Chasing Rats Games, in which you assume the role of a monster attempting to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Key word... attempting.
Long ago, when the world was in peril and the future seemed hopeless and bleak, selfless saviors emerged from the shadows and instantly put a stop to all evil. Each and every one of them was defined by their uniquely abnormal appearances, and these unconventional guardians helped create a new golden age for humanity. However, a false prophet rose to power and drove the aberrations back into hiding. For years, these malformed monsters devoutly believed that a pair of great heroes, called Hector and Achilles, would come to save all of freak-kind when the time came, keeping their chin up even when dwelling in the darkness.
...It's just too bad these so-called "heroes" came a few centuries too late, taking the form of a conjoined genetic experiment possessing little else other than two floppy, flailing limbs. Breaking out of the laboratory in which it was born, this pitiful folly of modern science traverses deranged worlds to achieve its full potential.
This videogame provides examples of:
- Adipose Rex: The King of the Rats is incredibly fat and lazy, being carried around by his underlings than moving on his own.
- Advancing Wall of Doom: Some of the most harrowing sections of the game involve outrunning mortal danger, such as giant hordes of swarming rats that can devour Troy in seconds, and are so numerous they can flood and fill up a room like they were water.
- All Just a Dream: The final boss, the Metaphorical Duck, turns out to be a hallucination of Troy's as they float downstream on a boat. The duck itself was real and they did kill it but it just happened to be an unlucky avian they grabbed at some point. The worst part is the end shot: Troy is back inside their tank, with the crack sealed up.
- Arrow Catch: Once you unlock their Super Reflexes ability, Achilles and Hector are both capable of snatching flying arrows out of the air, knocking them away or shattering them.
- Art Shift: Upon encountering the Amalgam of Seduction, Agamemnus, the game suddenly transitions into a more Animesque art style as you interact with their three heads.
- Black Comedy: Constantly. Death, misery, and horrific injuries are all subjects of comedy and horror both, most prominently Achilles and Hector's screams of agony and fear whenever something goes wrong—which is all the time.
- Bloody Hilarious: Just the mere act of moving causes Troy no small amount of pain and misery, even before they fall from great heights, are bounced around like pinballs that scream and feel fear, and are killed in all manner of gruesome manners such as being eaten alive by rats, impaled on biological spikes, or dissolving in radioactive waste. The amount of trauma they've sustained even reflects on their body as they steadily get blackened eyes and generally look battered up and more miserable than usual. All of this is, without fail, Played for Laughs.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: After the twins are gifted with intelligence and the ability to speak and express their thoughts, they speak at the Galaxy Brain Summit and talk about the dark side of the For Science! attitude that produced a constantly suffering, sentient abomination like them, then directly talk about their experiences being controlled the players, injured, killed, then resurrected, all for the players' amusement.
- Body Horror: GOOD LORD, this game doesn't hold back. Crusty, wet eyeballs, meaty flesh, body parts in utterly inhuman arrangements, and disjointed teeth are just a few of the many grisly sights you may witness as you flail and tumble your way through the game's worlds.
- Bookends: The game starts with a scene of Troy floating around in his incubator in a laboratory. By the end of the game, Troy is right back in his incubator, but two of the Abomination Gods he's met on his journey, Amadeus and Agamemnus, have also been contained in the laboratory in their own separate tanks.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Troy's speech to the scientists who created them at the Galaxy Brain Summit is variation of this, calling out the pain and suffering that their audience's prior actions ended up leading to. Hopefully the standing ovation they received in response implies that they took it to heart and will be more careful and responsible in the future.
- Conjoined Twins: As shown by the tutorial, Hector and Achilles have two distinct brains, personalities, and voices. The last is usually heard by their distinct tones when screaming in terror and pain.
- Co-Op Multiplayer: The game can be played single-player or with two players at once, each controlling one of the twins and the arm they control.
- Cyclops: Some of the abominations shown in the game (e.g Achilles, Paris, and Morpheus) sport only a single eye.
- Devoured by the Horde: One of the many painful demises that Troy can face includes being eaten alive by giant swarms of rats.
- Easter Egg: As Troy traverses the scaffolding of one of the many parties going on in the laboratory, they can stumble onto a microphone. If you make them scream into the mic, you can audibly hear their auto-tuned suffering blasting from the speakers alongside the music.
- Escape Sequence: As Troy's combat skills are lackluster, at best, they have to rely on running away from things such as the Pigosaurus, a giant abomination that can be found on the second floor within the Lab and is definitely trying to eat them.
- For Science!: You have to assume this was the driving reason for the creation of Hector and Achilles and all the misery they go through. As they state at the Galaxy Brain Summit, the two of them actually have a positive view of the philosophy and its intentions for progress and enlightenment, but question the worth of blindly following when it produces abominations like them.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Early on in the game, Troy will find himself sliding through a room encased in flesh at high speeds. If you were to backtrack a bit (or stop before you could get past that point), you may find an old, destroyed container in the background, with a faded-out label which reads "#003: MORPHEUS". Morpheus is the name of the third and final Abomination God encountered in the game.
- Giant Space Flea Out Of Nowhere: The Metaphorical Duck comes from completely out of left field and though the battle Troy has against it is truly worthy of a Greek Epic, it turns out to be All Just a Dream.
- Healing Factor: Achilles and Hector can regenerate their arms when they inevitably get destroyed, dissolved, or devoured.
- Hollywood Acid: A common hazard are large pools or vats of radioactive waste which will rapidly dissolve Troy if they are exposed for more than a few seconds, or worse yet, fall in.
- Nice Hat: Troy can find a number of lovely headwear throughout their adventure and can each put on one. They are, unfortunately, lost upon death. Some examples include conical party hats, discarded red plastic cups, and possibly sentient lumps of flesh with an eyeball on them.
- No OSHA Compliance: One supposes the laboratory that produced Troy and the rest of the abominations is so clearly an underground secret facility because of the sheer amount of environmental hazards, unsafe work environments, and lack of proper guidelines about recreational events on-site would get it shut down by the proper authorities. It all leads to no shortage of deaths and misery for the twins and the scientists both that you have to wonder how much they're paying them to work in such a death trap — or if the loose standards about partying and goofing off on the job are just that appealing.
- Pinball Zone: The battle with the first boss, Amadeus the Firstborn, is essentially set inside a biological pinball machine.
- Reset Button: If you happen to get the twins stuck in a particularly inconvenient location, you can hold down a button to make them scream in agony so long and so hard they explode and respawn at the last checkpoint.
- Super Reflexes: Troy eventually gets a superpower that lets them slow time, very useful for avoiding fast-moving traps and reacting to impending doom.
- Swarm of Rats: One of the most common recurring hazards in the laboratory levels are the hundreds of thousands of rats that infest the facility, eager to devour Troy as soon as they get within range.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change:
- The boss fight with Amadeus turns the physics-based puzzle-platformer into a pinball game. There are also some levels that reuse the mechanic so the twins have a chance to outrun whatever hazard is trying to destroy them this time.
- You "fight" Agamemnus by flirting and charming their four separate personalities, dating-sim style.
- Womb Level: A bunch of the levels in this game look like Achilles and Hector teleported inside a human body.
- You Bastard!: At the Galaxy Brain Summit, Achilles and Hector call out the player for puppeteering them and forcing them to go through no shortage of pain, suffering, deaths, and respawns all for the sake of entertainment.