Developer: P1XL Games
Release Date: 11/19/12
“The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.”
This is the Bible quote that introduces the choice that the player is given at the beginning of 4NR. The game opens with our one-eyed protagonist laying on his deathbed, a descending ladder into the core of the Earth being the only option for moving forward. But he is then visited by an angelic figure who grants him a last chance at redemption in the form of ladder falling from the sky. But the choice is still given and it’s still a simple one: up or down. Just the very thought of this decision bring thoughts of angry televangelists and fire and brimstone to mind.
However, 4NR’s depiction of the afterlife isn’t quite so black and white.
You’ll quickly find that the direction you choose will drastically change how you play 4NR. Climb the ladder toward the heavens and you’ll find a fast-paced platformer that you will have to play over and over again to beat. You will need to get a good grip on the game’s non-traditional touch-based control scheme and refine your reflexes if you want to reach the pearly gates. As you jump and climb upward, the deathly black foam of Sheol rises quickly beneath you. You’re only ever one mistake away from being engulfed in it and being sent back to your deathbed.
Heading downward into the pits of Sheol you’ll find a slower, more methodical game—but it’s completely unforgiving in its own way. You won’t have to worry about Sheol swallowing you whole, but you just might dig yourself into an inescapable hole. You also won’t find a pit of lava or a horde of red demons in the core of the earth—however, the barren, lonely landscape 4NR presents is even more frightening a reality. In fact, when I had finally gotten down to the bottom of the level and “beaten” the game, all I was given was another bed to sleep on—a “second” sleep so to speak. I didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment. 4NR didn’t even pat me on the back.
“If I look for Sheol as my home, I make my bed in the darkness,” the game says as my time is displayed on the screen.
It’s a quote from the Book of Job. But if I remember correctly, that’s not a story about the afterlife and that certainly wasn’t how it ended. I’ll tell you what though—the second I finished the Sheol half of the game only one thought was left in my mind.
Nowhere to go now but up.