The opening scene of the platformer Talent Not Included introduces us to three monsters (Zordok, Derp, and Kevin, respectively) living in the fantasy land 'Notthatmuchfurther'. All three are huge fans of slaughter, bloodbaths, and... Shakespeare. Being bored out of their minds, they decide to put on their own play. The trio make the mistake of hiring Zot, a demonic critic, who wants nothing more than cause mayhem on stage by altering the decor into frivolous deathtraps for nothing more than amusement purposes.
Taking on the role of the actors, who themselves take on miscellaneous roles in turn, you must lead the monsters through various varied acts until their performance is complete. Break a leg! (Although it'd be better if you didn't.)
The game takes place in a theatrical setting where you play through various acts. Each act focuses on one character only: Act 1 is strictly for the Knight, completing Act 1 unlocks the Rogue for Act 2, which in turn unlocks the Mage for Act 3. Each Act is divided in several scenes varying in difficulty. It is your goal to reach a red platform, thus ending the scene and starting the next. The shifting of scenes is an interesting concept; with a cylinder-based setup, each scene rotates new scenery on stage, complete with new deathtraps and eventually even enemies to defeat.
Each scene also displays an array of candy you can collect, and doing so will add to the score you receive after each scene. Sometimes following the candy may hint at a path which offers the best way to complete the scene, but often it's just there solely to be picked up. However, the amount of points you accumulate doesn't play a role in the game whatsoever - it doesn't unlock anything or give you any perks or achievements. Granted, the game is challenging enough without having to achieve a minimum score or having to pick up candy, yet it seems rather peculiar to put points and obsolete objects in a game.
The game mechanics are easy, and utilising just your keyboard you move, jump, attack and dodge your way on stage. Gradually you get access to a few other moves, such as double-jump and wall-crawling. With no use of the mouse throughout the entire game and no rebindable keys, you get a very basic platform experience - perhaps another peculiar choice for a PC game.
Unfortunately we encountered a few hiccups in terms of response times - as death means you have to start the act in question over from the first scene, this can become rather frustrating. Having to start each act from the first scene after you die will make this less desirable for casual players who are looking for an easy, relaxing experience. This setup may also fail to incentivise players to return post-completion or if they want a quick blast of game; Talent Not Included definitely demands players to clear their schedule for at least a few hours in order to give a performance of a lifetime.
Despite leading your characters through a play, there isn't much story to be found after the intro. This isn't missed, though, as the game will keep you captivated without the need for a deep storyline and complicated character motivation. Dying is also no biggie, you just respawn without any commotion. After all, the show must go on!
The art-style of Talent Not Included is colourful and well-animated. from the seamlessly shifting scenes to avid actors. The overall aesthetic of the game deceives players into thinking it's going to be easy, with the bright and happy colour palette making even the deadliest obstacles look easy to dismiss. On top of that the background music is similarly happy and upbeat, matching the game's general look very well. Furthermore, an unseen audience is audible throughout the game, and your character gets cheered on and applauded for successfully completing scenes, whereas dying is met with displeased booing.
Talent Not Included is a platform game to its core: simple yet challenging, unforgiving yet addictive. As the intro strongly suggests, it's filled with absurd humour which soothes dented egos as your character dies for the umpteenth time. The game feels fresh and well-executed, and whilst it may not be for everyone, it will prove a fun challenge for fans of the platform genre, and Xbox One fans can enjoy it next year as well.