Ascend is a short platformer created in just four weeks, but given how difficult it is, it’s hard to believe that it took so little time. Interestingly enough, easy games can really be made within a short time-span, but when it comes to fine tuning every gap and platform in order to give the player a very hard time, I’m not sure whether it can be done just as quickly. Ascend is a game about loss, developer rose-engine says, and even though you’ll get the real connection solely towards its ending, the grim atmosphere put together tells already pretty clearly that this is not going to be a magical journey through a land of happiness.
The game takes place in what looks like a tower made of a complex system of tunnels. Everything is pretty open-ended here, as the only goal given to the rather athletic girl you control is to ascend until she reaches the pinnacle of this odd labyrinth. Doing so, while the lack of any enemy may suggest you otherwise, is going to take you quite a while. Calibrating the potent jumps is difficult, and accepting the idea that you can cover almost any gap just by dosing well the pressing of a key is both relieving intimidating at the same time.
Many side corridors may not bring you to the exit, but it’s important that you explore every little corner because checkpoints and other important stuff can be sitting there hiding. Orange roses, for instance, give you one more life, and the animation of them turning into ashes is lovely to say the least. Several traps can be found too, however, so the key to succeed is to be always ready to jump to a place that you know is safe.
Losing all the lives turns the character into a lifeless black and white entity, and even though it won’t make you start over, you’ll evidently realize that something bad is happening. As a matter of fact, the game has two endings: one where you manage to escape with no lives left, and the other where the girl comes out retaining a little bit of her color. The latter resulted to be impossible for me to reach, but in the end of the day, even making it to the end felt like a great accomplishment.
Ascend can be played for free right on its page on itch.io. All you need is the Unity browser plugin properly installed on your machine.