Nobody Saves the World and exuberant middle schoolers

Backlog Duo™ returns

Grayson: On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the horror of the Bodybuilder’s nipple twitches in Nobody Saves the World?

Brandon: 11. S-tier passive animation.

Grayson: Definitely a harbinger of the body horror the game would eventually descend into. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Nobody Saves the World: for a game I texted you to play with me that you previously did not know existed, how did it strike you?

Brandon: Only thing that would have helped is if there was a Cronenbergian animation as you switch forms.

I thought it was great. The central mechanic of switching between different forms was conceived in a way that kept it interesting right through the end. And the sense of humor really landed for me. I think I described it as though it was written with the exuberance of a middle schooler—in a good way.

Grayson: That’s it, for sure. It very well could’ve been obnoxious in just how much of a joke everything had to be, but the sheer variety of gags had me laughing until the end. In particular, the various, painful ways Randy the Rad found himself humiliated were so increasingly slapstick as to have me feeling that timeless mixture of pathos and absurdity.

I also found the form switching—from slug to horse to monk to egg—to be very tuned to the co-op experience. We had some pretty bonkers synergies going by the end. In particular, our Bodybuilder plus Necromancer combo was, well, just a joy. A weird, zombies+flying barbells joy, to the point where I wondered what the game would’ve been like solo. I’m not sure I would’ve liked it as much if I’d played alone.

Brandon: Yeah, I agree—it was a fantastic co-op game. I also loved how each time we unlocked something new, we were 100% charmed and committed to the new thing. Monday: “I am a horse now and will only ever be a horse. I will marry my horse husband and live my horse life.” Wednesday: “I am slug forever.” Friday: “I can’t imagine every being anything other than an ever-flexing bodybuilder.”

Grayson: Horse husband was an unexpectedly moving part of the story, I have to say. A light and comfort in a world of darkness. Horse husband forever.

I also appreciated how the game didn’t overstay its welcome. I love indie games for a lot of reasons, but whether its the reality of a smaller development budget or just judicious editing, I appreciate a game that goes out on a high note rather than trying to stretch its ideas too far. Nobody Saves the World was this satisfying little meal, no more or less than you needed.

Brandon: I agree. It was a game that had a really good handle on its base mechanics and tone, and it knew exactly how long to remix them such that you could enjoy it in small bursts. Not a game to be binged. There were also a number of moments where I thought, “I can’t believe they would go in this direction, but let’s try and see what happens.” And every time those instincts would be rewarded. Examples of those are when you find an empty nest, return to it later as an egg, and get sat on by a giant bird. Or, to return to horse husband, the lonely stallion you meet that will take you as his lover if you return as a horse. It’s a game that always doubles and triples down in a way that is very charming.

Maybe also worth noting an obvious point: the game oozes personality at every turn, but you play a character named Nobody who gazes back at the screen with dead, lifeless eyes. Makes for a great straight man.

Grayson: New innovation in the straight man category of writing: the Straight Husk, now with 50% less soul! Truly, though, it’s that follow-through you note that really makes everything cohere in a game bursting at the seams with mechanics. I’m usually one to get overwhelmed by titles that have as much complexity as Nobody Saves the World, wherein you can mix and match the abilities of more than a dozen playable characters. Smartly, though, the game nudges you in the direction of fun via its form quests, which task you with form-specific challenges that mix, say, the slug’s abilities with the horse’s.

Later on, the game suggests synergies between forms you would never think of—or at least I would never think of. It makes me wonder whether there’s a community out there tinkering away at those combos, finding oddities that, somehow, just work. Like a slugromancer. Or a bodyhorse. A horsebuilder. A slorse.

Brandon: There is something deeply satisfying about a robot spewing slime to motor around. Or a turtle flexing its muscles. I want to see that DeviantArt.

Grayson: Get at it, artists. Swole turtle is just sitting there, waiting for you.

In the meantime, I’m left with only one question: I wonder how horse husband is doing?

Brandon: Waiting forlornly for us to return.