So you're left watching helplessly as your Grimp tumbles through space and lands right back at the bottom of the garden. The frustration is compounded by the fact you know you're going to have to navigate all those plants once again; you'll have to repeat all those stupid jumps without any real confidence they're going to work. Meanwhile, the pollen will be ebbing away from any seeds you managed to pollinate but not sprout, so you'll also have to do all that again. This sort of thing happens too often, pushing PixelJunk Eden across the line between challenging and frustrating.
You could argue I'm just rubbish at the game. True, Eurogamer MMO's Oli Welsh completed the first level in two attempts, while it took me nine. But he gave up on the second level after a few attempts and a lot of swearing. (He claims this isn't because he's rubbish at the game, but because he was "bored and wanting to go back to work". Make of that what you will.)
For starters there is the capital letter in the middle of "PixelJunk". Yes I know this is characteristic of products associated with the "PlayStation" "brand", but it's still "stupid". Then there is the music. It's all "ambient beats", as I believe they are called, by people who can't tell the difference between "relaxing" and "boring". The visuals put me in mind of LocoRoco as "reimagined" by an advertising agency. One of those ones with a name like "Pants" or "Sandwich" or "Twat".
As further evidence for the prosecution, I refer you to Gamasutra and the speech made by Q Games co-founder Dylan Cuthbert at this year's Independent Games Summit. In it he referred to "seizing back control from the bland merchants". He also described his own game as being "kind of like an organic Mario", which is akin to Ronald McDonald describing Big Macs as "kind of like reduxed filet mignon".
(Observe also the prevalence of quote marks in this article, and the use of italics, and of words like "prevalence". That is how pretentious PixelJunk Eden is; it is so pretentious it is making me pretentious. Even more pretentious than I already am.)
This one is perhaps unfair. PixelJunk Eden costs GBP 4.99. That is not much money to pay for a game that's swallowed up the best part of my day. However, I have spent most of that time performing the same jumps over and over and over and over again, watching my character tumble through space, and swearing. GBP 4.99 feels like a high price to pay for this experience. Even though it isn't.
See points 1, 2, 3 and 4.
SO WHY CAN'T I LEAVE IT ALONE?
Because it's good. It's certainly no Mario, organic or otherwise. I stand by my assertions that inconsistent physics and poor level design make for a game which is frustrating. And having to start all over again, all of the time, is boring.
But PixelJunk Eden still manages to be addictive. The more you experience and experiment with the control system, the more you realise how innovative it is. You feel as though you're learning to master something, and you want to keep getting better. As you improve, the stupid physics become easier to cope with, too.
And, for all its pretensions, there is something quite beautiful about PixelJunk Eden. It's just about worth all the confusion, frustration, pretentiousness and frequent tedium. It's worth GBP 4.99. But probably not being late to meet your Mum.