I spent my morning trying and failing to rise from the depths of a vast Brutalist tower in Beton Brutal, a new first-person platformer. It's a challenging climb yet a curiously chill vibe, perhaps because any time I fall all the way down, I'm delighted to be back surrounded by overgrown plants and sculptures rising from a pond. The developer says Beton Brutal "tries to replicate and build upon the parkour mechanics seen in Minecraft," and I think I have a lot to learn. I didn't even know Minecraft had parkour.
Here I start, at 0 metres, surrounded by giant plants and standing before a nice Brutalist sculpture/water feature. Having spent a great many weekends in my early thirties at the Barbican Centre, reading by the pond and skulking around the greenhouse, this is a comforting place for me. Then I look up and oh. Well. That's quite high. Best get up it. So off you go up the abstract structure, climbing sculptures, hopping between pipes, leaping onto gantries, scampering up ladders, and generally trying to find a path to the top.
Beton Brutal certainly gets challenging as you climb higher, and introduces some special surfaces which I assume are part of the inspiration from Minecraft parkour maps. The punishment grows too, as you can fall all the way down if you don't get lucky and land on something close. Though unlike trolly gauntlet platformers such as AltF4 and Rage Quit, it doesn't seem outright hostile and dickish. Not from what I've seen, anyway. It seems more in the vein of Getting Over It and fittingly, I heard of Beton Brutal through Bennet Foddy declaring "This game rules."
I have peeked at a few speedrun videos, out of curiosity, and oh I have a lot to learn. The game is full of little shortcuts and clever tricks to hasten your climb. Those are helpful for speeding through familiar sections after a fall, and surely vital if you get into rerunning to improve your best time (it does have global and friends leaderboards). I've tried to replicate one or two of the bigger skips I saw and nope, I think I need to master the fundamentals and complete the main path before I attempt the fancy stuff.
I have done plenty of trick jumps, bunny-hopping, and strafe-jumping in Quake and Half-Life games (sadly, I never got the hang of Counter-Strike surfing), but Minecraft parkour is largely unknown to me. Quite interesting to experience something new. This has also sent me down a rabbit hole of watching Minecraft parkour maps, which are way trickier and more complex than I had imagined.
I might never reach the top of Beton Brutal. And if I do, I almost certainly will not then move into the phase of going again and again to hone my runs and cut my times. All the same, I'm enjoying my time in this terrible tower. I'm a sucker for overgrown Brutalism, it's true, but it just has a nice feel to the place. Even the occasional trickles of dust and debris are pleasant. Nice gentle music, too. Until you gaze up or down too long and the vertgio system kicks in and things get a bit spooky. Brr.
Beton Brutal is available from Steam for £5.89/€6.89/$6.99. It's made by Jan Malitschek. Oh, one tip: hit the controls menu immediately because the defaults have spring on Ctrl and sneak on Shift, and that's just not right.
Fans of crumbling concrete should also check out the recent Brutalist map pack for Quake. And for more giant derelict structures, hit Steam and grab the demo for Lorn's Lure, a first-person explore-o-climber that's one of our most-anticipated games of 2023. Oh, and Babbdi is a great little free game which gives you all sorts of weird tools to explore a Brutalist city (thanks to reader Sam for the reminder!).