Did you know that in addition to being a spider in certain parts of the world, “daddy long legs” is a pretty common name for a certain creature in the UK? Yep – what Brits called a daddy long legs is actually a crane fly, a member of the Tipulidae family. Crane flies kinda look like big mosquitoes, have long bodies and extremely long legs, and are classified as agricultural pests in certain parts of Europe.
Most crucially, crane flies – as their name might imply – have wings. As one might reasonably infer from this, crane flies are able to fly. As such, they’re infinitely better equipped to navigate the harsh world of Danish developer Set Snail’s latest title Daddy Long Legs. The game refers to its central protagonist as Daddy, and he does indeed have rather long legs, so it’s an aptly named game at the very least.
The objective of the Daddy Long Legs game is simple – don’t fall over. That’s it. That’s the entirety of the game’s focus, and it’s what you’ll spend the whole game doing. Just get Daddy across certain milestone points and make sure you don’t fall along the way. How hard could that be, right? How much mileage could there be in making sure an adorable little creature like Daddy stays upright?
As it happens, quite a bit. If you hadn’t already guessed, there’s a bit more up Daddy Long Legs’ sleeve than simply surviving. If you’ve played games like Bennett Foddy’s QWOP or multiplayer sports shenanigans simulator Sportsfriends, then you know what kind of ballpark you’re in for Daddy Long Legs. It’s one of those games where the elevator pitch doesn’t really do it justice.
Let’s break down the controls for Daddy Long Legs. To move, you press space, or use your left mouse key. Space is probably slightly better just because of the physical feedback you’ll get while pressing it, but the mouse button will work equally well. Again, that’s it. Daddy Long Legs is a game that excels at creating compelling gameplay scenarios with simple concepts, simple visuals, and a simple goal.
“Simple” does not mean the same thing as “easy”, though, and if you know QWOP, you’ll know how devilishly difficult these games can be. Pressing space or your mouse button will alternate the legs Daddy is moving as he navigates his world. If you don’t manage to make the next step on sure footing, then Daddy will faceplant into the ground, causing you to start again from where you left off.
There isn’t too much more to the game than that. Daddy Long Legs is one of those games that reconfigures expectations in a way that feels satisfying even while you’re cursing the very day you picked it up. This is simultaneously an immensely frustrating and rewarding experience; it’s a game you’ll play for hours on end and swear you just want “one more turn”.
Part of that is the sweetly innocent and compelling presentation. Daddy Long Legs is rendered in shaky artistic pencil-sketch visuals and its protagonist is utterly adorable. Daddy’s long legs and uncertain eyes as he takes his first tentative steps over those lines tell a story in themselves. What is this creature? Why is he undergoing a task he’s clearly not well-equipped for? The sound design is great too – it’s very minimalistic, which is likely best for a project like this since intrusive or annoying music would quickly derail the entire experience.
Moving Daddy across each subsequent threshold will grant the player in-game currency which can be spent on some of the cosmetic unlockables Daddy Long Legs offers. There aren’t any in-game stat bonuses or boosts to be acquired here; it’s just you, the game, and your skill, nothing more. That said, some of the cosmetics you can get are suitably adorable, and there’s even a nice bit of text to accompany each one that’s pretty solidly written.
If you’re looking for something to augment or ease the pain of your gameplay experience with Daddy Long Legs, you won’t find it. This is an uncompromisingly difficult game that probably shouldn’t even be approached by those who aren’t looking for a challenge, but that just makes each of Daddy’s victories all the sweeter. Once the controls click with you (and they will, eventually), you’ll routinely be beating your best time over and over again each time you play.
Until then, Daddy Long Legs essentially represents a single long, large learning curve, and that’s OK. This game is all about its mechanics and its physics. If you can’t master the gameplay of Daddy Long Legs, then simply practice until you can. There are no stat boosts, no extra gear and no in-game levels to gain skills. There’s just you, a keyboard, and as much time as you want to invest to become good at this enjoyable curiosity of a title.