Release Date: 12th June 2014 (Steam)
When you’ve played over 4000 different games in your lifetime, finding something that leaves a lasting imprint on is a rare outcome. Of the recent years, I’d count Hoplite and Super House of the Dead Ninja firmly among those standout titles. SHotDN is possibly the fastest paced game I’ve ever experienced, controlling a whirling dervish spinning violently through a procedurally generated tower. Hoplite’s slow-paced strategy exemplifies a strict rule set condensed to perfection, punishing a single step out of line. The games have almost nothing in common, so surely combining the two would have no chance of a successful offspring.
Maybe, then, it’s appropriate that you could also be left with Probability 0.
Everything in P0 is broken down to core basics. The visuals are painted from a palette consisting almost entirely of black, a somber chiptune plays quietly in the background interspersed with a crunching midi thunder roll. Your aim is equally blunt; descend into the depths using all the limited means presented to you.
For the most part, you’re forced to utilise guerrilla tactics; your melee attack’s range is woefully inadequate and throwing stars in such short supply that every encounter is a life or death situation. Avoidance is by no means simple either, with balls of spiky death awaiting missteps and only a certain distance you can fall before suffering major damage. Risk versus reward is a major factor in every action, as such devising your movements is a luxury that has its cost; with the screen on a constant rise, panicking can override all well made plans. Even the hardiest gamer will throw caution to the wind at times and attempt a rapid descent that ends terribly.
Should you manage to defeat the prerequisite number of foes, a task that starts off as just manageable before quickly growing out of hand, you’ll max your experience. Much like Hoplite’s temples, leveling lets you pick from a set selection of temporary perks that prove invaluable for beating your previous best. They may appear basic initially, with simple choices like horizontal shuriken throwing and increased melee strength but in further stages the ability to punch through solid walls or negate fall damage are integral to highscore runs.
Probability 0 is an incredibly tough game, something it likes to remind you of via background messages relaying your slim chances of surviving. Ingeniously, these gloomy phrases represent your health bar; always fluctuating, you’ll never have an exact idea of how much punishment you can still take. The tension is overwhelming at times and a real cool mind is necessary to master the depths, something that won’t be done even with hours of gameplay under your belt. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of game modes included, most noteworthy being Karma mode that uses points earned during normal gameplay as currency to purchase perks at the beginning of the game.
It’s a unique experience with a huge draw to have just one more dive. Whilst it’s easy to place the influences, there’s absolutely nothing like it and the dark, brooding cavern reveals itself to be a very tempting place to spend your hours.