September 15, 2012

Small Games

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Thanks to various Indie Bundles I now have scores of “small indie games”. That is not meant to be disparaging (I aspire to create such little games), just an assesment of their scope. Small teams have necessarily smaller ambitions – at least they do if they want to finish! Without further ado, here are my thoughts on 10 of them.

The Binding of Isaac is a great game and quite addictive. It is a sort of Roguelike. Each game lasts around 30 minutes (although I’m yet to reach the last level) with the player advancing room-by-room through a dungeon. The gameplay is randomised with a reasonable number of monster types, but a huge array of objects/upgrades. It is very easy to get started but very hard to complete and luck plays a large role. Graphics and sound are good, plus it has religious metaphors and poo jokes – definitely a winner. This is staying on my desktop.

Steel Storm is a top-down arcade shooter that is not too hectic. It is not on rails so the player has some choice and can play the game at their own pace. The gameplay is quite good and I completed the single player campaign in 10 hours. The only downside is that it gets a bit repetitive in the later levels and the homing missiles seem to solve all problems (for all enemies just back up behind cover and fire homing missiles). Still definitely fun and worth the few dollars it costs.

Crayon Physics Deluxe a puzzler where the player draws in crayon on the screen to create physics objects. For instance, a swinging mallet can be drawn to hit a ball and propel it across the screen. Nice idea, well implemented, but not for me.

Cogs is another puzzle game where the player moves around tiles to form particular patterns. I like this and got about a quarter of the way through in an hour, but it got much more difficult towards the end. It is staying on my desktop as I can see myself playing this occasionally.

I would consider Osmos a puzzler, but an unusual one. You play as a floating blob looking to absorb other smaller blobs while avoiding larger blobs that can absorb you. At first it seems hypnotic and relaxing, but soon becomes frustrating in a good way. Staying on my desktop.

Universe Sandbox is a gravity simulator. You can model the solar system or stars falling into a black hole or anything. It’s quite pretty and has a range of interesting preset scenarios. However at larger timescales the simulation breaks down and when setting up bespoke scenarios it’s hard put objects in the exact right spot (if for instance putting planets at Lagrange points). The developer was at Unite12 and mentioned they are working on version 2 which will address these points.

Hammerfight is a 2D side-view fight game where the players fly barrel-like contraptions and hit eachother with hammers (hence the name). It held my interest for about 30 minutes before the clunky controls and a screen so cluttered I couldn’t see the action ruined it for me. The basic idea seemed to be just furiously moving the mouse to swing the hammer. A nice idea, but perhaps a little too slight.

Jamestown is a classic top-down shooter with 8 bit graphics. It is fast and furious like I remember the old arcade games (1942 comes to mind). This is not my sort of game, I prefer something slower.

My review of the last 3 games is the same. VVVVVV, And Yet It Moves and Super Meat Boy are all platformers. In these games the source of difficulty is often not working out what needs to be done, but actually performing the required actions with split-second accuracy. Again, not my sort of game. Still, I can appreciate them: AYIM has an interesting ripped paper art style; and, VVVVVV is a glorious 8 bit throwback. However, they have all been removed from my desktop after less than an hour each of play.

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