“Pause Ahead” is a free online action-platformer game from developer Askiisoft that employs a very unique mechanic in its gameplay: the pause button. Hitting the pause button in this game causes all the on-screen action to freeze, but the player character retains his momentum. The player is given no special powers outside of this one, which opens the door to a lot of complex and trying puzzles.
Like many indie games, the graphics hearken back to the pixelated 16, 32, and 64-bit games of old, but the visuals are not the only old-school feature in this game. The first few introductory levels do a good job of easing the player into the game and getting him or her used to the mechanics. After the mechanics are established, a noticeable difficulty curve creeps its way exponentially into the game. The puzzles gradually start to require more thought and effort from the player and before the player realizes it, they have turned into full-fledged frustration fests that often require a surprising amount of trial and error. However, nothing ever feels unsolvable and that tantalizing belief of being so close to the finish line will drive most players to keep going until they discover the secret to navigating each level. The challenges each new pitfall and trap present make the victory of finally solving each puzzle incredibly satisfying in a way that many modern “run and gun until you win” games never quite find.
The boss level, though, is a no-holds-barred insanity-inducing rage-fest wherein the game jumps from “fairly difficult” to “seemingly impossible” in a matter of seconds. It is possible to defeat the boss but man does it take some serious time, effort, and tenacity. Gamers are advised not to play this game within earshot of any family members or young children who should not become aware of the extent of the player’s vocabulary of obscenities. This warning goes double for the final boss level and gamers should additionally consider that when they hit this level, it is entirely possible that everyone in the immediate vicinity will become aware of exactly how many ways they can combine every curse and insult they know.
Steep as that final difficulty curve may be, the game and its boss are not insurmountable, though players should not expect to find many of the game’s secrets on their first runthrough. There are extra challenges and secrets that add to “Pause Ahead’s” replay value and the game drops intriguing hints throughout its course that the player is really part of a larger story and conspiracy. Overall, “Pause Ahead” has a very uniquely simple and inventive main mechanic and the game as a whole is fun, challenging, and quite absorbing. It is an easy game to pick up but a hard one to master and definitely something to check out for those gamers who are up for a challenge.