Wednesday, 31 March 2010

International Exports

I bring to you a game from the Netherlands, and 1 from Japan. One of which is dreadful. Find out which!

.exe, Optional fullscreen

Maru is a 2D platformer based very closely off of creator Jesse Venbrux's previous game "Frozzd", and now ported to a similar game "They Need To Be Fed" as an entry to YoYoGames' "Design a Handheld Game" competition. Taking the ever-popular circular platforming seen in quite a few flash games over the past few years, and more obviously the 3D Sphere-a-thon in Super Mario Galaxy, Maru is a quick, painless, atmospheric little download to enjoy in just a few minutes.

Firstly, I advise you play this game with over-ear headphones. The music and ambience of this game, created by
Jake Almond, is incredibly atmospheric. It gives the entire game an air of individuality and professionalism, which immensely adds to what could have been a rather underwhelming game. Overall, I would say that the short 10 minute experience of this game is a saving grace as it doesn't really give the player much to do or think about. It veers dangerously close to bland, hoisting itself back into creativity with its quirky "HUD" and downright cute character design. I say "HUD", as the lives gathered in Maru are follow your little character around, floating above his head ready to resurrect the fallen guy or even in use with puzzles. Clever and endearing, I reckon.

Oh, and another gripe I had was the introduction to the "Life" puzzle. I actually had no idea how to get passed a certain section as I did so in an entire run without dying. There was no indication at how to continue. A big no-no! Always give the player some inidcation on how to progress or even play your game.

A short little game, I would hope that the new, improved version of Maru in "They Need to Be Fed" separates itself from the slew of similar coded games of late. One thing I definitely recommend though is the music director Jake Almond. I'm checking out his stuff right after I'm done writing this!
Download here:

.exe file, Tiny tiny window...

I'm just going to quick with this one, as I wouldn't recommend it at all to be honest. Teleportower is a puzzle game in which you can teleport between two sides of the split-screen to solve puzzles and pass obstacles. A clever idea wrapped in dreadful music, an uninspired art-style and anti-fun.

The first thing to be addressed here is the music. and 8-bit monstrosity, the tunes in this game sound like the soundtrack to a (bad) 90's romance anime fed through a NES. Needless to say, it's sickeningly sweet jauntiness was muted shortly after my starting this game. The art style in Teleportower is blue on black 8-bit graphics with no attempt at individuality or character. The character himself looking like a quickly rejected Ness concept. And finally, the gameplay, on a screen this tiny, split further into two, the movement and jumping feels like navigating a one-winged fly... with teleportation powers.

I did not enjoy Teleportower. At all. Here's the link (In Japanese);

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Please, (Do) Feed The Dragon

After a few days out; partying, D&Ding, scaring myself shitless with Project Zero... I'm back for another Inside Indies. I have a huge list of Indies to play and review, so until I get through them here's another great flash game I've been loving!

(Don't) Save the Princess
Flash, no Newgrounds achievements

Titled like a Radiohead B-side, (Don't) Save the Princess is the first time I've laughed out loud at a flash game in a long time! Oodles of fun, DStP takes a twist on an age old formulae for storytelling. There's no happy ending for this brave knight and his budding Rapunzel, no Peaches for Mario, instead, Bowser gets his chomp on and devours the little meddler, with your help. A hilarious little puzzle game, which I would describe as "The Anti-Lemmings", you have to launch the knight into the waiting mouth of the dragon that protects the princess. To get the Dragon's om nom on, you have to essentially "steer" the knight around obstacles using arrow blocks to fire him at high-speeds around the map.

The reason this game is so damn good, besides the addicting puzzle element, is that it has bags of character. Selectively placing the magical launching tiles on the map feels rewarding at completion of each level, because the result is always guaranteed to make you smile. The tiny armour-clad victim is cannon-fired at pleasing speeds, soaring purposefully around the entire map to his doom. That. Is. Just. Funny. The game itself is challenging enough also that it's a real brainteaser, good news for all you puzzler fans out there! The art style is very fun, using a mix of hand-drawn flash assets and 8-bit, the sound effects also lending from the popular bit style. the only gripe I would have is the Retry/Complete screens. The fireworks sound effect is incredibly annoying, having me quickly clicking on the nearest "Not This Screen" button I could find. Also, the screen itself, bizarrely, has two different font types and a different art style to the rest of the UI and game. This of course isn't a huge gripe, or even a medium gripe, but it is a small one, that can cheapen the overall feel of the product/piece and should always be given the attention it's due.

Overall, I love (Don't) Save the Princess, and with a Daily 4th Place on this week, I would say lot's of other people are too. Fun, charismatic, challenging, I definitely recommend this for a good use of 40 minutes, unless you wan't to dive into the Level Editor, in which case, a day or four.

Play Here:

PS, for added laughs, imagine the soaring knight is a guard from Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. "STOP RIGHT There, criminal scum........."

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

More Testaments for Cinematic Flash Games

2 very impressive flash games today, both very prominent in the sound department, among others. So get your speakers or headphones ready, and let's head to Newgrounds.

Flash, includes achievements (

A wonder of cinematic flash creations, Hippolyta (pronounced, Hih-POL-it-ah) is an action puzzle game working on a very simple reflex-based key input. You play as Hippolyta, a captured fierce Amazon warrior whom we see escaping her capturers. No Stockholm Syndrome here, as she rides and slaughters her way to freedom on a stolen horse. Duck, jump, block and murder through each level in the story mode unlocking "Amazon Points" and new story information as you go.

Simple gameplay, your character on the left of the screen, riding towards obstacles which you must spot and react accordingly. Using WASD & Space Bar, you can duck branches, block arrows, jump obstacles etc. Each level passed will introduce new obstacles to master, each increasing with difficulty. Simple! Right? Well, kind of. First thing I must warn you about this game is the difficulty level. Equipped with a warning at the loading screen of the game, creator Evil-Dog is. not. lying. This game is a real ball-buster. Quick reflexes and full concentration is required to get past even the first few levels in this game, without either you will be condemned to a pike in the chest, arrow through the heart or tree branch in the mush. It is a massive shame this game is so tough, I believe, as the art, animation, music and intensity of the experience is at such a high level, each time you are forced back to the start of the level it loses a little something. And this will happen a lot. This kind of conundrum reminds me of this clip from Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe episode, an interview with comedian Dara O'Briein on difficulty in games.

Despite this, as I've repeatedly mentioned, this game is a cinematic goldmine for flash, the opening animation and narration reeks of "300" and "Heavenly Sword" (unashamedly it seems, the game including achievements with names like "Fight in the Shade"). It's a tough game, but it's a damn, DAMN good one. This is definitely in my list of top 10 flash games.

Multiple game modes, save game functionality, impressive art and animation and a music score even better, Hippolyta is a must play, even if you have to put up with the few Game Over narrator lines. Who, by the way, reminded me of the Aladdin narrator. I recommend playing on Newgrounds, as the game comes with achievements that work with the site (if you haven't registered, do that before playing).

Programmer's Newgrounds:
Programmer's Site:

Flash, some achievements (

A simple game, solid, well made and surprisingly big, REDDER is the best palindromic named flash game of the year! ...that I can think of.

2001: A Space Odyssey meets classic Metroid, REDDER sees you as a lost little spaceman who runs out of fuel and lands on an uncharted red planet. Platform your way through the long, maze-like interior as you collect fuel "gems". Science! Although I have mentioned the length of the game, it does a good job of keeping you on-track and helping out in times of need. the extensive map can be brought up at any time, and you can warp to any checkpoint you've activated at any time, making those puzzles that little bit easier.


My favourite part of this game is the sound. The sound effects sound like they were man-made, the blips of lasers merely recordings of someone going "...blip..blip...blip". I personally have a huge love for man-made sound effects, particularly in hilarious Python-a-thon "Edible Castle" (also on Newgrounds, check it out!). Charming sound and character design, as well as an extensive map and Metroid-ian atmosphere, REDDER is another great flash game just released to us lucky, lucky people.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Echoes of Ecco

Another day, another indie. This time a quick look at a quick game.

Fish Face
.exe file, fullscreen for some reason...

Now when I downloaded Fish Face, I didn't actually know much about it, deciding to research it after playing it. It wasn't until this stage did I discover that Fish Face was another entry into "Gamma 4", the same competition that previous reviewee "The Night Balloonist" was entered into. It seems the one criteria of this competition is to make a game that was controlled entirely using one button. This is where the similarities of the two games end, however, Teknopants' "Fish Face" taking on a much more simplistic, arcade style and functionality. You control a fish-man thing - mostly fish - and swim through treacherous waters, collecting rings as you go. In this game, the only button you use is the Down key, using the programmed buoyancy to jump ledges, collect in-air rings and overall, survive the Thwomp-a-likes and other Mario-style enemies.

For me, this game got off to a very bad start, as it fails to tell you what to do in it's very simple menu. Dictating "Press Button", the game waits for you to work the keyboard, running up and down the keys to find the elusive "button" like Tom chasing Jerry with the hammers inside a piano. I found the button, eventually, now unsure at which one it was. Then I managed to choose the difficulty level in a similar way. It was only in-game did I figure out I was to work this game with Down. Okay, now I could begin, begrudging the afore-downloaded caption "casual" attached to this game.

The game itself however, works very well. It tags itself with a super casual 2D Sega Mega Drive style, down to the music and graphics and colour palette. As I sailed through the murky waters with my horrific, gurning fish-man, I was immediately reminded of an old favourite of mine, Ecco the Dolphin. Down to the heavy buoyancy and fun ring collecting goal, it felt as much like Ecco as it did the more obvious influences of the Mega Drive like Sonic. the gameplay was fun, rewarding and very responsive within a challenging battle between fish and player, it is a tough game after all.

The music is standard, not a lot to say outside of the classic stylings. Same for the art. Although, a special mention goes out to the character design. On the captions for this game from the site I downloaded it from, one of the more prominent, bold taglines was "Cute". "Cute"? A fish with the face of a human is not cute. It's as creepy as the idea of any other animal with the face of a human. Kind of like the Eye-Pet. *shudder*.

If you're interested, check it out on his official site/blog below. I recommend giving the site a look as he has a plethora of quirky little titles listed.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Balloons, Cogs & Fog

Hello again, only one day as passed and already here's another great indie, we are definitely spoiled!

The Night Balloonists
.exe file, Fullscreen only

Possibly the most accessible game available, 2-4 player The Night Balloonists boasts an uber-simplistic control scheme, using one button for each player. One button. Explained both in-game and on their homepage as improving accessibility for disabled players, 2 man dev team Spooky Squid gain my respect as one of the only indie teams that implement this kind of thought process in their game design. Again adding to the accessibility, TNB also includes functionality with up to 4 Xbox 360 game controllers, using only the A button to control. Well played Squid!

A simple pick-up-and-play experience, 2 to 4 players each control their own respective hot-air balloon with the ability to drop (by holding the button down), or burst upwards with ink (double-press button). The playing field uses a "gust of wind" that rail-roads players around the level to collect small fireflies that appear. By using this wind to move left and right and around, combined with their up-and-down button, players can glide skilfully and serenely around the map to munch these little golden pyres.

The first thing to be said about the game experience is the lovely, lovely sound. That and the art design. Both. Combined. Lovely. The ever-popular steampunk style is instantly made much more interesting with the "art nouveau inspired" intertwinings, and the serene, calming ambience of the soundtrack embalms the player in near-instantaneous bliss. Lovely. The extensive list of forum users credited at the end of the game reflects the impressive list of bird calls, wind gusts and cog turnings, each adding to the experience indefinite. Oh, and my personal highlight of the game is the Flying Circus-esqe ending tune for the winner. Bloody brilliant.

The gameplay itself was reasonably fun, the one-button gimmick becoming a fun installation, once you've figured out your goal and game mechanics that is. For this, I had to recruit quickly my flat-mate Kenny, and both of us agreed the game was quite fun, the sound and art great, however both of us were quickly perplexed at the overall goal of the game. We knew we were to collect little glowing thingies, but had no idea if it was timed, or if there was a limit, or... anything. We just kept playing until something happened. Turns out we were timed, which was in no way displayed or indicated to us. Other than that, the fluidity of the game, the animation, the art, sound... it would be an understatement to call this game charming.

A more-than-charming little game, I would give it a look if you've got someone nearby looking for mini-fun.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Future of Game


You know, keeping up-to-date and in-the-know with video games news is tough. But keeping up with indie games is miles, leagues, bounds, and other measurements tougher. On a journey to expand my gaming horizons, I plan on keeping a log on new indie games, demos, interactive pieces and other things of this nature. I'll review, discuss, jest and praise any little indies I find, in quick little posts for you and me.

I urge you to send me links to anything interactive, be it flash or .exe, anything. Please do this, so that I can reach my proverbial tentacles throughout a larger expanse of this goldmine that is the internet.

And to start off, here's to great gems I found via my many contacts on Twitter and the suchlike. Links to some good contacts below.

Tiny & Big (Demo)
.exe file, Fullscreen mode enabled.

Posted as a "prologue" to the full game, Germany's "Black Pants" dev team created this inspired piece to demo the full title upcoming in the near future. A simplistic puzzle platformer, it utilises a basic Croftian rope pulling system, intertwined with a very impressive laser-gun, able to carve through enormous pillars of rock.

The demo itself gives a taste of the full story, a quirky little tale of a slippery, pants pilfering "Big" antagonist, and his plucky pursuer "Tiny", the player's rather frail-looking character. It seems Big has stolen Tiny's now deceased Grandfather's pair of favourite (best?) magical underpants, and is using it to teleport frantically away from the player's grasp. In an attempt to reclaim the undercrackers, Tiny dons his helpful companion "Radio", and chases the criminal up a cloud-piercing mountain.

The game itself runs very smoothly, in-part due to it's very minimalist style. The on-screen assets never really go above a dozen or so, so the framerate keeps strong and steady, even in the destructive finale. the movement can be quite difficult, with a deceptively low jump and ice-skate movement, keeping steady on a treacherous mountain with pin-point jumping puzzles can be frustrating if not treated with a furrowed-brow level of concentration. The definite best points, however, come from the laser/rope combo, and the art style in full. Cutting down humongous pillars and catching them to be pulled down with a simple few steps backwards feels very rewarding, and the slow, hulking physics feeds this indefinitely. The art style is very cute, even with it's grey greyness being very grey. Sound effects appear as giant onomatopoeic dictations of "GRAB" and "CRASH" and my favourite, "GAME OVER", looming over you as you dodge, or fail to dodge, pillars of looming rock casting shadows over Tiny.

Loved it, keep an eye out for the full title.
Dev Team Twitter:

PS, the sound didn't actually work on my computer, the music could be awful, I have no idea. I hope it's bongos. Or a harmonica. Simplistic instrumentation to complement the art style.

.exe file. Optional Fullscreen.

So this one actually came out in June 2009, but I only just stumbled upon it with the release of "A New Zero" (which was quite impressive in itself considering the team size) and upcoming "No Quarter". Coincidentally, if you haven;t heard Tool's cover of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter", get on that, it's phenomenal as it is long.

Anyway, I Somnia seems to include around 12 levels of bizarre, shadow-based platform mindfuckery. I actually could only handle the first 4 levels before I gave up, but it was an interesting ride to say the least. You control a character in first-person that, going by the shadow, seems to be some kind of Vortigaunt from Half Life (that took way too long to find out what they're called
). Now bare with me because this next part is hard to describe...

Basically, you pass between 3-dimensional realm, and the Shadow Realm, a top-down view of the existing level, where the player stand upon the shadows cast by the assets from the game. Except, you're sideways, but when you change back you're on top of the assets... it's... like... not exactly intuitive. A difficult gameplay mechanic, harboured further by odd movement makes for a rather agonising experience. HOWEVER. Considering the idea behind the game, it feels about as right as it could be, and the art direction is quite impressive, the 3D assets in each level looking rather American McGee.

A bundle of games here, I recommend you give em a look and see what you think.
Dev Team Blog:

Thanks for reading, hope you subscribe and I'll keep this updated with new and interesting indies, as well as some other posts that may or may not resemble a regular human blog. You know, about me and things I like and stuff. Stuff you don't want to read. Grazi!

Sexuality & Games (Old)

"On Saturday, July 18th, GLAAD held its first ever Digital Media event as part of our newly launched Project on Homophobia & Virtual Communities. The event, a panel discussion hosted by Electronic Arts on their private campus in Redwood City, CA, brought out some of the industry’s foremost companies, organizations, gamers and media as both panelists and audience members."

I've always had a huge interest in sexuality as a topic, particularly in sexuality in society. My intrigue in sexuality, it's effects in society, and how it shapes people and perceptions, is most-likely due to the fact that my Mum used to be a sex education teacher in our local schools. My early acceptance into a mature and open world of sexuality has all but evaporated any sense of repression or confusion, thus my analysis of other people and the societies they've helped create began quickly and without confusion. I credit my untainted view to an early, honest and mature relationship with this particular taboo.

Even as I type the word "taboo", it baffles me that this still exists. In a world with telecommunication, flight, a space program and Jeremy Paxman, it is truly disheartening that we have come so far in furthering our society and the shaping of our world, and yet we've managed to suppress a key experience that releases the right chemicals into our brains that make us happy?

All in all, I'm very interested in sexuality. I'm also pretty interested in games. I'm studying to be a Games Designer, that was a good decision on my part. Yay me. +1 Perception. So with these two interests at my disposal, I'm more than happy to delve into the much un-archived world of sex & games. Now to tackle this combination of two heaving topics, I'll spill these thoughts out into two piles. First, Sex in Games. Then, Sexuality in Gaming.

Bioware release "Mass Effect", and it's really, really popular. It sells a tonne of copies, creates a very convincing in-game world with great dialogue and some pretty interesting game mechanics in it's delivery of in-game conversations. Bioware clearly wanted to make a mature game with mature themes in a fully customisable experience to give the player a much more rich and immersive experience, they give you the option to have your character begin a relationship with NPC's in the game. Being a fantastic idea with near perfect delivery,

I was very happy with this decision and fully agree with its sentiments. It even includes a sex scene if the player completes the "Paragon" relationship side of the game, fantastic! Very mature choice Bioware! The problem came, however, from the options they gave the player for their character. If you choose a female character, you are given the choice of Kaiden (male) or Liara (female), but if you choose a male character you can choose between Ashley (female) or Liara (female). So Bioware are basically saying, "We want to give the player a rich and immersive experience, custom to their own decisions that shape the world and your character as you see fit. But no gay sex. Nope. We're having none of those shenanigans!"

This is a direct quote from Dr. Greg Zeschuk, Co Founder of Bioware, on defending the sex scenes from Mass Effect;

"I think from our perspective we want to reflect real human relationships. If you're trying to have a relationship with a character we want to reflect that and the impact of the connection with that character. And if that involves some sort of intimate scenes, we want to provide those for the player. It's based on the fact that this is a sophisticated, mature experience."

I would challenge that this is a sophisticated, mature experience, Dr. Zeschuk. Needless to say, I was disappointed in both Dr Zeschuk, and in Bioware.

Straight or Lesbian, you are free to play the game as is it's concept intended (and delivered). But god forbid you're a homosexual who wants to play your character as promised in the Mass Effect design document. Not only is it quite childish and near-spineless to not include simulated male/male relationships, whilst stating that you want your players to have a mature and personal experience, it is also a sure sign of the way homosexuality as a concept is treated within mainstream media.

Next, Sexuality in Gaming. With the way that language and words have been corrupt by modern ignorance, we have seen words change meaning, effect and status with each passing day. Where a lot of originally hate-fuelled racist words have flip-flopped between the way they are used and perceived, so too has words that identify sexual orientation.

Thanks to the slow evolution of our society, some of it's progression haa lifted a lot of injustices towards gay people, aspects like gay marriage's legality for instance. But with the unmoving goliath that is the internet hate-machine, words like "gay", "fag", "faggot" and "homo" have made a rousing comeback into the insult dictionary. Once again, referring to a peer as "gay" is now seen as an inflammatory insult, and the word "faggot" has taken place atop the throne of evil buzzwords.

Now to bring this round to some kind of relevant topical point, the recent meetings of the aforementioned GLAAD have had some very interesting points brought up that were discussed with a great panel. One of the points was that people who define themselves by their sexuality in online games are separating themselves from the community by branding themselves based on their own sexual preferences. I would say to this that the worst culprits who are dividing the community are the ones that spout this mindless, ignorant bullshit across their microphones, tucked-up and snug in the knowledge their anonymity will keep them safe and guilt-free, because that's the way 4chan taught them.

I personally lost a lot of faith in the online community a few years ago; I played Xbox Live online with a huge number of people, and the percentage of trash-talking ignorant spoutings of intolerable haters was so astounding I found that playing online games became an insufferable experience if not with friends.

I only recently picked up Xbox Live again and after just a few hours of playing online I had already begun to meet these people again. I was called a "Faggot" because I used female avatars for my Rock Band characters. This level of homophobia has become so ingrained into so many aspects of these modern societies, that it's spilling out into what should be people's leisure time.

So we have homophobia in gamers, and a serious lack of LGBT representation in games. Big deal. It's everywhere! It's in all media formats. So while games and gaming has a long way to go to become a complete haven of equality (as does film, music and tv); as with most topics in the evolution of our society, it needs to start with the nurturing of the young'in's.

Creating a mature, open environment for your children immediately decreases the chances of that child becoming confused about sex and, in turn, sexuality as part of their living experience. Now while I do appreciate this may clash with some religious beliefs, those parents should at least invite the key set of morals that comes with the knowledge of how the human body works; acceptance, tolerance and not-making-fun-of-my-Rock-Band-characters.

And to everyone else that isn't a parent, I invite you to consider the words you may have become used to. By all means throw up some friendly trash-talk to your enemies as you careen through their defences in a reinforced tank, blowing their carcasses half-way across the map, but please don't chainsaw through the bonds of compassion! (That stuff gets everywhere...)