★★★★★

You’re going to play Offspring Fling at least twice. Actually, you’re going to play it a lot more than that, but twice – to completion – is your absolute minimum. That’s because Kyle Pulver’s latest is two games folded into one. First you get the sweet, gently inventive puzzle-platformer, then all of that drops away and you get the cruel, precision-tooled speed runner. (Then you get to share your best playthroughs, of course, but that road leads to madness.)

It’s the kind of trick I’m used to expecting from studios like WayForward by now – a game where burning through a campaign just to get to the end leaves you feeling like you missed the point – but Pulver’s every bit their equal. Offspring Fling has plenty of fresh ideas (you and your fluffy children need to get to the exit of each level, and the best way to do that is often to throw your kids through narrow gaps, say, and then hop across the long way) but the most crucial part of its design comes after the journey’s complete, when you’re there on the score screen congratulating yourself on a job well done and you see that – what? – the stage you just fought to clear in 35 seconds can actually be beaten in 10. Back to the grind, then: back to slicing seconds off jumps, hitting switches in just the right order, and skimming that poison lake so you hit the ground on the other side as quickly as you can. Much of the fun here comes from encumbrance – you need to have your kids with you when you reach the goal, but when they’re stacked on your head, you won’t be able to jump as high – and this all needs to be factored into your speedrunning, too. Hey, this level isn’t as straightforward as the pixely, Yoshi’s Island artwork lead me to believe. What gives?

“Beating games” is one of those telling little phrases that separates US gamers from UK gamers, I suspect. The English complete a game, the Americans crush them. Offspring Fling, however, is a game you’ll actually want to beat whatever side of the Atlantic you come from. Nothing less than utter victory will show it who’s boss. Anything other than total completion just isn’t doing it justice.

Offspring Fling is available for PC and Mac right now, priced at $7.99