Name: Not Without My Poop
Developer: David Mulder
Publisher: Red Splat Games
Reviewed on: PC
Acquired: *A copy of this game was provided from the publisher for review purposes*
Not Without My Poop is a game about poop. Well not really, it’s a game about moving poop. It is also about a dung beetle, and possibly a David Attenborough impersonator
There isn’t much of a story in Not Without My Poop. There is a vague sense of progression from farmlands, through an urban cityscape to an office building, but that’s as much as you’re going to get about this particular beetle’s journey.
In addition to the beetle’s journey, each level starts with a calming voice over providing dung beetle facts. “It may not look like it, but the dung beetle is actually capable of using the stars to navigate” it might proclaim, as you roll around your big ball of poop. The narrator is a genuinely charming touch, reminiscent of BBC nature documentaries and in particular of Sir David Attenborough.
Apart from these touches however, there is not much of a story here, and I will refrain from giving a score in the category.
Not Without My Poop might visually be described as a “typical Unity game.” The flat lighting and simple – mostly untextured – models reminds me of many a game jam game or student project. It is, however, not a bad look. The simple visuals complement the simple gameplay and don’t get in the way of player feedback. I have some issues with the choice of fonts, as well as the visual effects around goal zones as neither looks great and the font really doesn’t match the rest of the game.
There are, however, some deliciously sloppy sound effects associated with the poop and the aforementioned narrator voice is delightfully recorded and edited.
Overall, Not Without My Poop looks pretty good for a one man project and makes good use of its simplistic models and flat colors, but does little to differentiate itself or really “pop” visually.
The gameplay of Not Without My Poop builds on a simple idea. Like a clown on a large beach ball or a dung beetle atop a ball of poop you must traverse the environment indirectly by manipulating your beach/poop ball. This means you must walk backwards in order to roll the ball forwards, to the left in order to roll the ball to the right and so on. It also means you have to balance on top of the sphere, which is where the challenge really lies.
Unfortunately, this sort of balancing is an inherently unstable system. By “unstable system” I mean that small perturbations are likely to escalate and cause increasingly more trouble. If you want to adjust to the right, you must move your beetle to the right before applying force in the opposite direction. This puts you at significant risk because moving the ball right also move the beetle down and away from the center of gravity. The positive feedback loop created by this effect means that moving very slowly and carefully is often the optimal strategy. Additionally it is often near impossible to correct mistakes once they have been made, leading to long moments of hopeless flailing before the poop splatters all over the camera.
The slow progression is compounded by rather long levels, especially at the start of the game, which makes the pacing rather slow and somewhat frustrating.
Despite all this there is a real joy in successfully maneuvering your ball of excrement through the various obstacles that should not be discounted.
Controls are as simple as could be. Use WASD or the arrow keys to move your beetle and enter to select menu options. That is it. Alternatively use an analog stick and the a-button, but I actually recommend using a keyboard because movement is easier when the beetle is perfectly aligned to axis of movement.
There is not much to say about the controls other than that they are simple, intuitive and get the job done. Nothing fancy, but they do the job well.
If by replay value you mean “replay the level over and over because you keep dropping your poop” then Not Without My Poop has incredible replay value. Levels are not timed or scored other than completed/not completed, but the difficulty of movement makes it a fun challenge to go back to just to have a bit of fun rolling around on your poop-ball.
I am not sure I would go back and replay levels if I ever did beat the entire game, but there is definitely enough challenge to the pure execution to warrant playing again once in a while.
Not Without My Poop is a decent game. It executes its simple premise competently and with charm and is worth trying if only to marvel at the unexpected facts about dung beetles. Controls are bare-bones, but efficient and the visuals are likeable, but nothing to write home about. It does struggle a bit with the pacing of its difficulty on account of the aforementioned feedback loop and early level design, but if you want to roll around some poop or learn a few facts about beetles it might be worth checking out.