Take Gauntlet, mix it with a little Smash TV and throw in some puzzles and you get close to what Beta Dwarf Entertainment’s Forced brings about. Oh ho ho! A puzzling game indeed! Forced is a top down arena brawler with puzzles thrown in for good measure, and despite the name, nothing about this title feels forced (see what I did there?). It’s a fun, refreshing experience that only gets better when multiplayer is thrown into the mix. The campaign pits players as slaves within a gladiatorial school, going through trials attempting to win the favor of the arena guardians, and eventually, their freedom. Players are also accompanied by a spirit guide known as Balfus, who is incredibly smarmy for an orb of blue light. Balfus is instrumental in the trials as players will use him to activate several different shrines needed to complete the puzzles. Players have the ability to either make Balfus wait in place or call him to follow a straight line towards the last location of the player. With that, knowing when and how to guide Balfus becomes one of the core mechanics for the trails. Aside from the puzzle elements, players will also be faced with fighting waves of enemies. This is an arena game after all, and what would an arena game be without drones of blade fodder. The enemies range from the standard minion type to stronger acid spitting variations, to giant axe wielding barbarians. To make matter worse, several levels will have spawn shrines that will increase the number of enemies that attack until they are destroyed with the use of Balfus. As a whole it creates a frantic environment where players are constantly balancing survival with deductive reasoning. It’s a formula that blends well. Luckily, players are given a fair amount to fight back with. When the game first starts, players are instructed to pick a weapon which will dictate their class. They have the choice of a shield, two-handed hammer, dual blades or a bow. Each of these classes comes equipped with their own set of abilities and style. So far it seems like a standard formula for hack and slash games. However, one of the great things that Forced does is give players a choice. At least they’re honest about your options Players are not…well, forced, to stay as any one class. At the beginning of every trial, they have the choice to swap to another class, which encourages players to find new ways to surpass the challenges. As the players beat trials, they unlock stones which are used to level their characters. Each trial can award up to a total of three stones, with one being awarded automatically for simply finishing the trial. The other two are obtained by beating the trail under a set time and by completing specific challenges. Players have the option of replaying each trial as many times as they want to unlock all three stones. Once a set number of stones are obtained, the players rank up. Each rank awards them with new abilities that can be equipped, split among active and passive abilities. While at first they have access to one equip-able slot in each, as they progress they can unlock up to three. This gives players a great degree of customization, allowing them to change their approach to each challenge. The shield warrior for example, can be equipped with several damage mitigation abilities as well as buffs to speed and health for himself and allies. But, if helping others isn’t a players’ cup of tea, then they can deck him out like a ranged fighter with a shield toss that would make Captain America shed a tear. The best part about the system is that when a player chooses to change classes, all unlocked skills carry over. This allows them to seamlessly change their tactics without having to worry about building up another character. Classes are also color coded for your convenience. After playing through a few trials, players will get a feel for the type of game only to be punched in the face by reality. While the first set of trials are simple, they quickly escalate as more puzzles are thrown at them. During one trial I found myself bound to Balfus, which meant that if I got too far out of range I would begin to take exorbitant amount of damage. The trial was complicated even more by the introduction of moveable shrines needed to activate switches laid out in a maze. I found myself running around balancing my position to switches so I could have Balfus move the shrines, all while trying to stay in range. Of course, this was all done while I was trying to run away from axe wielding Berserkers that not only were faster than me, but they had a lovely knock back attack that quickly pushes you a few feet away. All my work was completely meaningless however as soon as I jumped into co-op. While the beginning trials are much the same, players will find the game quickly adjusting the conditions of each trial when there are more players involved. So imagine the scenario I was in above, except that now I’m limited to a specific section of the map and blocked by an invisible wall, while my co-op friends are trapped in their own sections. Suddenly it becomes a game where communication is key to keep each other within range while also attempting to solve the puzzle. Of course, no co-op experience would be complete without THAT friend, the one that likes to hang back and wait until the last second to screw everyone else over for their own sick amusement. But I digress. As a whole, Forced is a great game that provides a lot of replay value. Overall there was only really one complaint I had with the game, and it was controls. There were times where they did not as a tight as I would have liked. The trials can get very hectic, and at times it is imperative that you have Balfus lined up perfectly in order to hit a switch or activate a shrine that could mean the difference between life and death. Often times however, I found myself enjoying the warm embrace of defeat because Balfus decided to miss the shrine by a hair. That meant having to reposition myself in order to guide him again, only to waste valuable time that could have been spent not getting my faced chewed off. Then again, it’s a small complaint when you consider these guys lived secretly in a class room for about 7 months before anyone found out. I think I can forgive them.