Sometimes games will suddenly rush in popularity due to the content streamers and YouTubers put out around it, becoming a real trend in the mid to late 2010s. This still happens, with titles like Crab Game and the dozens of Wordle clones that players still love playing. Once a decent enough game hits a suitable social media feed, its chance of selling tons of copies goes up exponentially.
Titles like Only Up! are really smart in capturing this streamer and viewer audiences, as getting to the top of the map and winning the game is an actual achievement not many have. While it might not be the most polished game that’s ever existed, there is still a sense of genuine pride or frustration depending on how far you can get in each attempt. However, the game doesn’t make this easy in any sense, and that’s only sometimes by design.
It’s very reminiscent of Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, a sidescroller game that became known for the frustrating nature of falling long distances and essentially erasing all progress, only to start again. However, that title seemed a little more polished when it was released, with clear banners and sound design that didn’t become the most grating thing in the world.
Keep your head up
In Only Up!, there seems to be some semblance of an attempt at a story in short sequences of dialogue that are clearly being delivered by some kind of text-to-speech or AI program. It starts with inspirational messages and then moves into music or narrative dialogue, but the frequency at which it repeats was grating. Not only that, but the poor enunciation paired with the very slight errors in translation often made it feel impersonal and did not give an inspirational feeling as seemed intended.
The Steam description for the game claims that it is inspired by the fairy tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, with the main character even being named Jackie, and a lot of the narrative is delivered through the audio. As stated above though, I found the sounds of the dialogue and music, plus their triggers, made the game more enjoyable with the sound off. That being said, even in silence you get the general theme of the title: that you must keep trying every time you fall if you want to succeed.
You start on the ground in one of the poorest parts of your town where everything from singular objects to entire structures has been lifted into the sky in a large pathway. While it’s a bit disorienting at first, the simple routes become pretty memorable and I even found myself sprinting along many of the buildings as I got tired of carefully inching my way across.
Don’t look down
When I launched the title for the first time, I was surprised to see how poorly it ran, but that was only because it started at the max graphics setting automatically. After lowering this setting and capping my max FPS around 60, I found that the game still looked pretty great and ran like a dream. This made specific steps and other moments much smoother, allowing me to get further without dropped frames.
I was actually impressed with how well the objects were laid out, this makes certain portions too easy due to how clear the path is, but this could also be viewed through the lens of giving the player a break. There wasn’t once where I had to guess where to go because the game’s philosophy of “only up” is present throughout.
As far as visuals and core mechanics, this game gets the basics right but that’s not necessarily a feat in itself. While this is the first title from SCKR Games, it largely feels rushed and like the worst of Steam’s Early Access program, allowing developers to put out a very basic title to make money with a promise to improve it over time, whether that turns out to be true or not.
The Final Word
Only Up! is the kind of viral game that gets a lot of attention due to the fact that an audience’s favorite streamers are playing it and raging. However, it’s a poor imitation of Getting Over It at best and feels like a rushed cash grab at worst. While SCKR Games manages to get the basics right and promotes a basic sense of accomplishment, it feels like this title has a long way to go before it can be considered even good.
Only Up! was reviewed on PC via Steam. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!