The Floor is Jelly is a colorful and relaxing drop of chaos. It can be quite demanding at times, but generous checkpointing, instant respawns, mellow atmosphere, and the constant lack of precise control caused by the floors, walls, and ceilings all being made of bouncy jelly make even failure fun. Not willing to stop at just turning everything into jelly, this game introduces a string of delightfully experimental surprises from start to finish.
Many elements typically associated with hardcore platformers along the lines of Super Meat Boy can be found here, but rather than focusing on difficulty The Floor is Jelly emphasizes playfulness and discovery. Yes, the game is divided into dozens of fairly small rooms with quite a few spikes and difficult jumps between them and, yes, an instantaneous respawn system exists precisely because players are expected to sometimes die quickly and repeatedly, yet many of the rooms have little to no danger within them while the more hazardous rooms usually have one or more invisible checkpoints along the way. Though many rooms lack any source of physical danger, they still contain their own challenges. Platforming puzzles are everywhere and every time a new mechanic is introduced it is gradually built upon, adding layer upon layer of complexity. This is a game which wants players to poke and prod at it in order to gradually discover how each of its mechanics works and how they can be used. Of course, before you can fully understand the later mechanics, you must first learn the nature of jelly.
Aside from spikes, every surface is made of jelly which bends and bounces at your touch. The default jump you can perform from a completely flat, still surface is rather unimpressive, which is why you must frequently make use of momentum and a good sense of timing. Landing on jelly after a jump pushes it downward and jumping when the jelly is fully depressed will send you even higher into the air and, in turn, push the jelly even further downward upon landing on it. Springs and trampolines are platformer mainstays, but the fact that every surface behaves in such a way and the sheer amount of height which you can gain makes for a very different experience. Wall jumping and climbing in particular is affected by the jelly as the reverberations from multiple jumps can make a surface rather unstable, but making good use of the jelly’s bounciness can result in being able to fly across some impressively large gaps.
A final, though incredibly important, thing to keep in mind about the exact nature of how the jelly functions is that the jelly’s volatile nature can allow the rules to be broken in creative ways. In fact, the game even explicitly teaches you this with three rooms in the first area. The first of these rooms features a window leading to the next room underneath a thin line of jelly. Instead of the typical solution of finding a hidden path, the answer here to is simply bounce on the jelly until it bends down just far enough to let the protagonist touch the window and proceed. The next room builds upon this lesson by showing how this trait is not always beneficial as spikes positioned directly under a similarly thin line of jelly can kill the protagonist if players land too heavily on the jelly. The final lesson takes on the form of a room with a spike column which seems impossible to bypass, but jumping on the jelly right next to it a few times allows players to briefly create a makeshift tunnel which they can use to run underneath the spikes. These mechanics come into play in more extensive forms later on, but the overarching point which the game is trying to get across is clear: the jelly can be used for a lot more than just jumping really high, but it is up to players to figure out the specific limits of this bizarre terrain.
As to the mechanics which are introduced in later areas, I don’t want to give away the specifics within the confines of this article because figuring out how each element functions is closely tied to the puzzles themselves. What I will say is that after the first region players enter a cavernous hub from which they can navigate to any of three additional regions and completing all of these regions in turn opens the way deeper into the cave. Nearly every region has an entirely unique mechanic which it builds upon. Water, or more likely liquid jelly judging by the way it behaves, is one of the simpler and seemingly familiar mechanics, but even it has a fair share of surprises in store as players are tasked with finding ways to dive deep and ascend far above the waves. Unusual plants, platforms which can be switched from outlines to solid objects, and other elements each have inventive and often surprisingly complicated sets of rules governing how they can be interacted with and learning these rules through solving platforming puzzles leads to a wonderful sense of discovery. This process of constantly teaching players through asking them to experiment with environmental interactions in enjoyable ways that it even ties directly in with the grand finale where the levels become increasingly chaotic and players must find the logic behind the chaos in order to break the levels in the right ways needed in order to progress.
There is no denying that The Floor is Jelly is a beautiful game. The whole world has a simple yet vibrant design and every region has its own distinct look. It’s fun simply to sit still and watch as nearby plants are gradually pulled sideways as the ground shifts beneath them, but the real beauty lies within the more subtle details. Plants within the caves glow more brightly when you are near them and small birds fly from one tree to another each time you disturb their rest. The sound design is particularly exceptional here. Not every region has music as the focus is instead placed more upon environmental sounds like the echos of croaking frogs and falling water in the caves or the sound of a strong breeze over a vibrant blue ocean. When music is present, more often than not it ties in with your own interactions with the level, interweaving and building up notes and sounds. There are so many little ways in which The Floor is Jelly breathes life into its world that you can’t help but to stop and admire them from time to time and even then you may miss a few.
This is a high-quality game through and through, but this high mark comes at a steep price – literally. For $9.99 you are getting a game which lasts for about two hours. This duration can be extended by a considerable amount if you want to hunt down the several dozen hidden rooms, which are hidden well enough that I didn’t even know of their existence during my first playthrough and even now I have yet to find the majority of them. However, anyone not interested in seeking out secrets really is looking at a game with a two-hour playtime and little in the way of replay value. Both the production value and the quality of the content rather easily clear the bar as far as expectations go for a game priced at $9.99, so it really is up to potential players to decide for themselves if the relatively low amount of content is a deal-breaker.
Potentially questionable price aside, The Floor is Jelly is a phenomenal game with an expertly crafted world where nothing is as simple as it first seems and where the rules can be bent as easily as jelly.