Right now, I need you to look down at your keyboard. Look at all those keys you have. Count them. I have 102 keys on my keyboard. Now, how many of those do you actually use in most games? Maybe half. Keyboard Sports - Saving QWERTY seeks to change that by making your entire keyboard into the controller. I got a chance to play the first couple of levels in the game, and see how it all works out. Is using the entire keyboard a novel concept, or is there a reason to only stick to WASD?
At the start of Keyboard Sports, you get a goofy intro that teaches you the basic concept of the game. At your character's feet is your keyboard, and anytime you press any of those keys your character will move to that spot, and if you hold down the key then you'll duck in that spot. You'll have to lead your character through various tasks using the keyboard to move them around, doing things like dodging through traffic, jumping over pits of lava, and more.
Some of these situations were actually really creative. One scene required me to navigate through what could best be described as an ancient temple, with platforms falling into the lava that I had to avoid. It was really a bit of a brain bender having to match up my keyboard with the playfield and make sure I wasn't pressing a key that would lead me over a pit of lava. Another had me simply navigating through a store, having to work my way through aisles to get the item that I needed to advance. Much like Octodad: Dadliest Catch, this is easier said than done as you have to battle both the in-game objects and the hilariously wonky control scheme. Those who have totally memorized their keyboard should get one interesting challenge out of this.
Keyboard Sports also uses physics to its advantage, with one early level seeing me trapped on a crashing airplane. I could get off the airplane by causing it to ditch all its cargo and to do this I needed to run around to cause it to tilt and for objects to slide off. Scenes like this were always creative, having me use the physics engine along with the keyboard controls. I could have fun with the physics even in scenes where it wasn't integral to the gameplay, like in the aforementioned grocery store. What can I say, I found a simple enough joy in knocking over shelves and watching fruit go all over the place.
It actually wasn't until the final level of the preview that I started having issues with Keyboard Sports' gameplay and control scheme. This level promptly tries to do too much by introducing a new shooting element. You'll get a crossbow that, by holding down the key you're standing on and pressing a second key, allows you to fire in that direction. On its own, it's an average element, one that suffers from not being as accurate as a mouse or controller would be for the same gameplay yet seeming to demand that accuracy you don't have. The bigger problem is that it's combined with all past elements, requiring you to dodge cars and lava pits while you shoot enemies. It quickly becomes overwhelming to the point of frustration, and the fact that it's a lengthy sequence with no checkpoints doesn't help at all. Hopefully, the full game will tone down on this style of gameplay, or improve it and work out the more dicey elements.
I did like that Keyboard Sports has a sense of humor in its tale. You spend most of the game hunting down a special "T" to drink. You don't enter a house, you "ENTER" a house, then later have to "ESCAPE" it. You sit on a couch to "SPACE" out. It's some clever wordplay that works well with the gameplay and setting elements. It also helps that the jokes not focused on keyboard jokes are strong enough on their own. It won't win any awards, but it got more than a few chuckles out of me. The game also has a clean and easy to figure out art style, and some decent enough graphics that makes it fun to watch. I also really liked the way the keyboard was laid out in-game, giving me enough hints on where I should be moving without spelling it out super obviously by just showing the letters.
Keyboard Sports - Saving QWERTY has some real potential to be a lot of fun. While I only got about 30 minutes to play, I got to see a bunch of unique scenarios that provided something interesting. There's still stuff to be ironed out, the last gameplay section is still by far the worst, but I see a bright future for Keyboard Sports.
Our Keyboard Sports preview was conducted on PC using a press demo provided by the publisher. The game is set to release in early 2018.