101 Ways to Die is the newest release from Four Door Lemon, a British outfit with a long-lasting history to its name. This newest venture presents you with a physics-based puzzle experience where the goal is to lay and use a variety of traps to kill minions in a plethora of test chambers. By doing so, you're tasked with discovering – or re-discovering, in the case of this game's narrative – the 101 ways to die, so that they can be archived in a book for safe-keeping.
The game offers an interesting perspective on physics-based puzzle games, as many recent titles in the genre have a tendency to follow in Valve's footsteps, and what it accomplished with the popular Portal games. 101 Ways to Die, however, opts for a stationary design, where you don't control any on-screen characters. Instead, you place a variety of traps before the test chamber "starts" in an attempt to kill each of the minions that are dropped onto the stage before they reach the level's end.
Setting up layered traps is an absolute blast at first, as a rather impressive array of possibilities exist beneath a simple appearance; the traps can be layered in such a way that you can essentially make multiple tiered voids of death. Instead of simply having a minion slip on a slick surface and fall into a pit of spikes, for example, you could have them slide into a series of mechanisms that ping them around the level before they reach their final deadly destination. This impressive amount of variety allows for a lot of creativity, with the layered, Rube Goldberg-esque approach to traps initially giving way to plenty of enjoyment.
However, this aspect of the game wears thin relatively quickly as new minion types are tossed into the fray. More challenge makes the traps less effective, and consequently amplifies the puzzle elements of the release, slowing the pacing and turning things into a grind. While we certainly wouldn't complain about a well-executed learning curve, in this case, by the time that things get increasingly difficult, proceedings are already bordering on being tedious.
Indeed, the fun factor here is firmly rooted in the wacky trap combinations, which result in the brutal demise of a multitude of minions – but it isn't long before things start to feel overly familiar. It also doesn't help that each stage begins to blend into the other, as they all sport the same aesthetic. As a result, 101 Ways to Die is a perfect candidate for a brief distraction. In short doses here and there, the game can be a genuinely fun experience – but it can overstay its welcome a little too easily.
Not quite as bad as falling into a pit of spikes, 101 Ways to Die is a serviceable physics-based puzzle game. Fun in short doses, it does enough right to warrant a quick look, but even though creating your own weird and wonderful traps is the title's main draw, the gameplay can outstay its welcome when the difficulty level begins to rise.