Standby Review

by | Jan 16, 2017

A Machine of Pure, Explosive, Compelling Movement

Standby hurtles through claustrophobic tunnels of strobing color and throbbing light, demanding reactions bordering on precognition. If you crave speed and relentless challenge, Standby has it. Standby will move so fast there will be no time to think. It will train you to react. It will make you into a machine of pure, and explosive movement.

Or it will destroy any will you have left to fight it.

Steam Page
HypeTrain Digital
Release: January 6, 2017
Intel i5-4690K @ 3.50GHz
Nvidia GTX 970

Standby casts you as a nameless figure, small and insignificant before teams of murderous red, yawning chasms, and scathing yellow beams. You have to make it through these passages, dodging around objects that will kill you while leaping, dashing, and wall-jumping to the finish as fast as you can manage.

Standby doesn’t just ask you to go quickly, though. Quick is do-able for the novice. Manageable. Standby demands blistering speed. Even in its tutorial stages, the game asks you to go so fast that you’ll spend minutes on end dying for reasons you’re not even sure you understand. Your character moves so fast, and the obstacles come so quickly, that it’s hard to determine why you died unless you take a moment to process what just happened.

It’s not that the game does a poor job of communicating danger and hazards to come. Your character on-screen is small so much of the level can be shown in advance, letting you take a look ahead to know what reactions you’ll need to make in a few moments. All of these are created with bits of bright color that jump right out on the screen, making it impossible not to know what you’re about to run into. Deadly paths are bright red. Beams of yellow will cut you down. Blue paths will adjust how your jump works. It’s all crystal clear in front of you.

It’s that you will be rushing into these dangers. You move so very, very fast in Standby that you’ll have to train yourself to have the reaction times it needs. It works on the level of brain function that makes you jump back when a glass shatters – your mind registers what to do based on the colors and things it sees, then takes the appropriate reaction before you’ve even had time to think about it. It is that fast when you get going, and you’ll appreciate that before you’ve even left the tutorials.

All the while, the game pulses with sound. The music surges with the player’s speed, carrying them along on a wall of electronic sound that’s as compelling as the dizzying speed the game moves with. Dying during these tracks makes the music come to a distorted halt, an audio effect that mimics the jarring stop of your character’s death. It’s unpleasant, and it adds another reason to want to avoid failure if only to keep these songs going.

“Even in your destruction, you will come once more, compelled to this altar to dizzying momentum.”

You’ll also get caught up in the visuals – a haze of lights and shades that communicate what the player needs to know while also creating a pleasant burst of color. It shudders as you move through it, radiance shifting as you rush on by. You can also add a distorting glitch effect that fits perfectly alongside the various colors that make up the backgrounds, creating this surreal digital landscape that feels well-suited for you to rush and die within. At least it’s a pretty place to meet your end in.

And, as hard as you think it is in your current stage, it will only get harder. Standby continually adds new elements, new hazards, and new effects as you play the game, each time expecting you to incorporate them into your stock of reactions until you can perfectly make your way through each of the stages deadly arrays. Once you can do that, you can try collecting all of the medals in each level. Not that they’re deviously-placed in most instances, but getting them all means taking a very specific route through each stage. You can’t get sloppy and eke out a victory by accident. Getting the medals means getting everything right.

Moving on from that, you can use the game’s in-game tools to do your own speedruns, which the game seems naturally built for. It will calculate your time and let you play seamlessly from start to finish, letting you practice should you want to try not failing in front of people online. On top of that, you can also check out the game’s leaderboards to see how you fare as well.

By the end of your time with Standby, you will be a creature of reaction – one who can respond to speed with movements trained by thousands of deaths. It will draw you in with its speed, electronic sound, and colorful, vibrating landscapes. It will keep you in its clutches as you learn to adapt to its hazards, reacting to the slightest shift in terrain and color. It’s a hard game but goes out of its way to fairly communicate what it demands of you. And even in your destruction, you will come once more, compelled to this altar to dizzying momentum.

Score: 80/100

[A copy of the game was provided by the developer or publisher for the purpose of this review.]

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