QWOP is a gaming classic and whilst some games have taken inspiration to create odd and purposefully borked physics based games, Tip Top keeps things simple. Using your analogue sticks and bumper buttons on your controller, you’ll climb a rock face and end up on top of a mountain. If you fall, you’ll die and its back to the very beginning of the game for you. QWOP The Rock Climbing Roguelike – that is its name.
Starting out small, you’ll have early rock faces to climb that are small and full of hand holds. You hold down a bumper button until you want to move your hand. At which point you let go, move your warm with the related analogue stick and when you line up with the hand hold you grab on again by holding the bumper button. Your character has decent arm span but if you don’t even out her weight nicely between both hands, her stamina drops very quickly. Some handholds are just crumbly anyway so you need to move off them quickly too.
Stamina is key to everything as its an ever decreasing commodity. You can’t get up any cliff face without running out so to replenish your stamina meter you’ll need to chalk each hand. You do this by moving your hand into your back pocket and holding a button. All the while the other hands stamina will be draining too. You have to do this sparingly though because each chalk up removes a small slice of your total stamina meter. You can’t be cautious, you’ve got to run close to the limit every time in order to survive. If you lose stamina, let go of a hand hold or miss a stamina sapping jump, you’ll fall and its game over.
Hooks are the only mini salvation but they come with a price. If you use a safety hook on a level but then fall, you’ll restart from that level, not the entire game. The level also stays on the exact layout as you encountered too. The poisoned chalice is that a safety hook removes a large chunk of your total stamina bar. This means you’ll need to move very quickly to reach the top and my advice to anyone playing is don’t use more than one hook per level as you’ll get stuck in loops where the peak is unreachable. This happened to me far too often as I was simply being too cautious. It’s a tough game over pill to swallow but you get used to it. Making the pill easier to swallow is that after you die for the first time, permadeath mode can be switched off. You can also choose to restart from your last safety hook too instead of the bottom of each climb. I found both these easements made Tip Top far more enjoyable than its purist mode.
I’m not normally one to take the easier route but with Tip Top, I ran into quite a few game breaking bugs. If both your hands reach for a safety pin, the game crashes. I also had a few black screens following a death too and my progress was lost. There is also a level set in the clouds which felt very unfair. You can’t see where to go next until the cloud passes but they are so big you’ll have lost most of your stamina waiting for a gap. Later levels introduce quicksand walls, frozen and breakable holds and these felt like well balanced gameplay mechanics but the clouds were just a bit much.
Outside of the main game, you can practice each area to get better at it and eventually, maybe tackling permadeath mode might be the end goal. For me, Tip Top plays better with it off and that’s how I’d recommend it. Genuinely unique in premise and execution, if the bugs can be cleaned up post console release, I think Tip Top will deserve your time. Quirky, in a good way. QWOP up!
Console version provided by developer. I had previously bought the PC version.
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