As the indie genre has grown, so has the tendency to overfill games with stories that either don’t match the game’s theme, or whose own self-importance is heavily overblown. Every now and then, though, there emerges a game that defies the expectations of its genre and crafts fun, engaging gameplay in the process, a game that’s just, well, fun to play. Not Not: A Brain Buster is one such game.
Not Not Not Confusing at All
Not Not is a port of a popular mobile game of the same name. With their free-to-play, cash-grabbing, addiction-feeding natures, mobile games are often (and sometimes rightly) looked at with disdain by the wider games community. Not Not proves the exception to this rule.
The goal of the game is to follow directions on the screen and guide your character as it treks its way across a cube. At first, the instructions are easy. Go left, go right, go up, etc. But a few missions in, it completely transforms. The game adds in modifiers. First is the “not” modifier which, depending on how many times it’s stacked, can have different effects, sometimes canceling each other out, sometimes reaffirming the original “not.” It reminds me of a childhood game I’d play with other kids, where you’d stack consecutive “nots” onto a sentence until the other person didn’t really know what to do.
A similar thing happens in Not Not, especially towards the end levels of the game. When it introduces colors, logical commands, and impossible moves, it can be a bit overwhelming. Like its title suggests, oftentimes I felt like my brain was being busted by Not Not as I attempted to understand commands stacked with five different modifiers and move my character in the increasingly-smaller time periods.
The game feels great to play, with the Switch’s Joy-Con providing quick, precise movements. However, it suffers with the Pro Controller, demonstrating just how poor the Switch Pro Controller’s d-pad responds to movement. Otherwise, this game feels great on a controller, much better, I’d assume, than it did on only a touchscreen.
The game also has a multiplayer mode. It’s fun for a few rounds, but it’s too hard to catch up if you fall behind. If you make one mistake, it’s all too easy for your opponent to stomp their way through the rest of the round without worrying too much. It’s disappointing, but as an additional feature, I can’t really complain.
Mobile Roots but With Games at Heart
At its core, Not Not’s is still a mobile game. The game launches a menu up after every death, obviously meant for advertisements on mobile, and the game’s structure doesn’t feel conducive to long, multi-hour play sessions. Indeed, the game felt like a warm-up for whatever I’d be playing next on Switch. I’d often find myself sitting down, playing a few rounds of Not Not and then moving on to something more substantive, like Yoshi’s Crafted World instead.
For all its flaws, however, Not Not does have one huge advantage: it’s price. I got Not Not on sale from the Nintendo eShop for $0.50. The game is normally $2, so 75% off isn’t complete out of the ordinary, but I’m still impressed. For less than half the price of a small drink at McDonald’s, I got a full-fledged game, mobile port notwithstanding. That’s a feat (at least in my book).
Is Not Not: A Brain Buster great? Not particularly. However, it does offer a fun experience that’s well worth fifty cents or two dollars any way you think about it. Much like Astro Bears Party, this game is best when played with friends and family between rounds of a meatier title, like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.