Dev Discussion: Modern Gaming and How it’s Evolving

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Today I will feature a discussion that I happened upon on the internet.  Developers were having a heated exchange about an age-old argument that most often causes bloodshed between gamers.  For the sake of constructive intellectual exchange, I will curb my PC bias and look at this objectively.  Note also, Console v PC.  I will make fun of Mac gamers.  That is comedy that writes itself.

Gamers often get into heated debates over which is better: PC or Console gaming.  Console gamers often cite titles and communities as the strongest factors favoring console gaming, while PC gamers will fill your screen with chart after chart displaying the raw power of a PC compared against consoles, or grab screenshots to illustrate the visual differences between the graphics.  While each side certainly has a compelling argument, which really is better and , more importantly, where is it leading us?  This exchange focused more on the evolution of the various facets of the industry, rather than an argument over which is better.  Joining the Crotchety Old Gamer in the discussion, we have three fine gentlemen: Joe Yeats (@ProceduralJOYE via Twitter), a developer from the UK currently working with Autelia LTD on Human Orbit, a procedurally-generated simulator about shaping a computer-controlled utopia.  Max Krieger (@MaxKriegerVG via Twitter), an Indie Game Developer from Chicago and student at DePaul University.  Drake (@DMODP via Twitter), a programmer, designer and writer.  I came late into the discussion, but some very intriguing points were made.  Feel free to join the discussion in the Crotchety Gamers United Steam group!

Lightly paraphrased, Max said that the time-proven model of Mac vs PC illustrates why Console and PC gaming will coexist.  While Drake and myself were somewhat confused by the statement, Max was happy to provide a more detailed explanation on his viewpoint:

“[…] In this age where computing platforms are all headed in the same direction, the differentiating factor that will be key to platform sales remains the image and curated experience of that platform. I used Mac OSX as an example because it shows how illogical this thinking can be – OSX is really cumbersome for a lot of simple tasks, doesn’t play nice with industry standards, and only runs on a very closed line of hardware, but people lap it up because of the image it supports: a creative, media-oriented one that strives for intuitive use over flexibility. Make no mistake, I am not an Apple/OSX fan, but they’re one of the biggest proven examples of the curated platform image in the modern tech industry.”

Max does make a good point.  Essentially, he is saying that the biggest difference between the PC and console crowds is the image they use to represent themselves.  With the development of the Steam Machine, this viewpoint was never better supported.  Steam started as a PC gamer’s wet dream, but recent implementations in the retailer (such as Big Picture mode) reveal a strong push toward console gaming.  Not to mention, the fact that the Steam Machine plans to license its construction out to third parties, which will create a variety of hardware builds, make it a bit of a frankenstein PC-esque Console.  With companies bridging the gap between the two worlds, one has to wonder when the differences will be declared null and void.  Drake had a similar thought process, but with a different approach.

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Drake also did me the favor of elucidating his view:

“The reason people often side with one or the other and not both is […] because they’re polar opposites. They have their own unique control schemes. Consoles and computers are polar opposites not [just] because of their difference in controls, but in their difference of experience. First, [PC gamers] don’t have to move to a different part of the [house] to experience games. They’re right there on the same machine we use for work, surfing the web, social media, etc. Second, [PC gamers] can open windows […] for reference material […] but this is also good from a social standpoint. [PC gamers] can take screenshots and post them [on the internet], we can respond to [people] on our favorite social network, etc.”

So, as you can see, Drake has a solid point, too. Despite consoles, such as PS4, recently enabling access to other forms of media and direct internet streaming capability with the touch of a button, there are still a myriad of things that PC’s can do that still remain unavailable to Console gamers on just their consoles.  Drake continued, elaborating on the features of the console camp:

“I feel consoles are the extremist response-time choice. […] For response-time challenges, the question is: Who can execute the highest number of actions in the shortest amount of time? It provides a completely different experience from computers.”

My personal experience with computers, however is totally different.  The mouse offers pinpoint accuracy while playing a game.  How can you get more direct than pointing at it with your mouse? The answer is getting a touchscreen and pointing yourself.  Of course, Drake had his own response to this:

“[…] A controller’s reaction time is far more demanding. It’s more than clicking a billion times a second. It’s about hitting the right buttons at the right times and getting your fingers everywhere they need to be without looking down at [the device]. Console games often assume the player’s really good at this activity to the point they make [players] do everything all the time. [Console gameing] is about just doing.”

Of course, I would offer that this depends on the player.  I grew up on PC gaming first, so the ‘WASD’ model is practically gospel for me.  Sure, different games have different controls, some even have demanding hotkeys, but use of them is up to you.  You can customize the experience to your own play-style, and the majority of games tend to use the keys immediately adjacent to the ‘WASD’ keys for additional actions where applicable.  Not to mention, the sticks on a controller can’t be as accurate as a mouse.  A mouse is literally point-and-click.  Controller sticks are more indirect.

Joe’s thoughts on this topic were a bit of a combination:

“It’s obvious that some genres are better aided by certain input hardware than others. This is certainly the case with simulators and strategy games, which usually do better with a keyboard and mouse. I don’t think it’s necessary to expound on this.”

Max largely agreed with Drake’s assertion of their differences, but had his own interpretation of how this affects gaming.  The tech he refers to is more the innards and less the interface devices:

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Max got more specific in explaining this part of his thought process:

The Playstation 4’s success also may owe itself to [platform image], but it’s too early to tell. Sony has always given the PlayStation brand a mild sense of curation by endorsing or even producing avant-garde titles on the platform, moreso than any other console maker in history. Going forward, this curation may end up being the PS4’s largest difference when PC hardware overtakes it again at an equivalent price point.”

Around here, Joe had some relevant input on the topic:

“The technical boundaries between a console and a desktop machine have become increasingly blurry over the years – but we’re all still pretty sure what they each are and when we make a decision about how we want to play a game, we know how to compare the ‘desktop experience’ to the ‘console experience’. We all know that we can hook our PC up to the TV and use a bluetooth controller for a ‘console-like’ experience: but most of us aren’t going to do that. The reputation and image of the formats has been accrued over a generational time period – we couldn’t shake that easily and there may not even be a good reason to do so (even if all games were available on all platforms). When I play a game on a console, I know that it has been tailored for the specific controller that I’m using, for the hardware that it’s running on. I can expect a reliable game experience without having to faff around. The experience has been designed for me down to the slightest detail. I don’t even have to tweak the graphics settings. I just need to switch on, plug in & tune out.”

The conversation gradually drifted in the direction of mobile gaming.  Drake disagreed that mobile gaming had a different target demographic and said that it targets everyone, presumably everyone with a mobile device.  Of course, just in the virtue that targeting “everyone with a mobile phone” is a task achieved differently than targeting “everyone with a specific console”, it logically follows that it is a different target demographic.  In fact, because of the similar situation of iOS v Android, console and pc gamers might find themselves on either side of the mobile discussion depending on their devices.  In this way mobile almost has a market that is totally separate from, but still noticeably influence by the gaming market comprised by PC and Console gamers.

Of course, Drake also touched on a separate issue that abounds in the mobile gaming market: the quality of games:

greatmobile

Now, before someone starts cluttering the comments sections with cries of Angry Birds adoration, Drake is referring to the fact that simple, casual games, like Angry Birds, currently dominate the mobile market.  And while he is right in that great mobile games are hard to find, they are far from non-existent.  The greatest example of a mobile-specific game that uses its functionality is Ingress.  Read about that game here.  And Ingress isn’t the only one, but, to my knowledge, it is the first.  Windows phones will be able to play QONQR, a game that wants to be Ingress, and X-Tactics, a game that is just like “Fuck Ingress!  And now for something completely different!”  Of course, location-based games are certainly not the only angle mobile gaming could take.  The fact that progressive-thinking developers have tried, and failed, to make augmented reality games more accessible overall shows that we are still a long way from making it work effectively, even with Google Glass.  So, Drake definitely has a point with mobile games being “designed to waste time while you [wait] or short experiences.”

Of course Max breaks back in and asks for a thought experiment:

“[…] If all consoles disappeared overnight, could mobile [gaming] fill their place? Yeah. But they’d have to cater to both convenience and involvement – two contradictory ideas that dilute platform image.”

This is true, but if gaming were to be forced onto mobile devices, I find it believable to find games evolving to replace what was lost – FPSs utilizing the mobile device in question combined with the player’s surroundings, RPGs that focus more on tap-controlled characters, etc.  In short, mobile games wouldn’t stop being the simple, casual games, but these types of games would be joined by an overwhelming number of widely varied games and genres.

There was more discussion about Mac OS vs Windows, of course.  This piece of the discourse was meant to display how the image-focus model has affected other markets aside from gaming.  Max posited that Mac OS continues to sell primarily because it does “normal user” better than Windows. He continued saying that Windows tried to retake that ground by creating Windows 8.  This undermined the “pro” part of Windows, which upset their users. Then, when Windows repaired the alterations to their OS, the image of a “jack-of-all-trades” OS persisted. Max maintained his standpoint, saying “image is everything.”

Max’s final thoughts on the discussion were pretty broad, but still relevant.

“Ultimately, I believe that the current trend of consuming media in any environment is one that will plateau once our near-omniscient media viewing capabilities lose their novelty. It’s an undeniable phenomenon that certain forms of media are better consumed in certain environments and settings. The biggest obstacle to a unified platform for all gaming is not the tech, nor the interface, but human nature itself – not something that can be so easily overcome. Nobody expected the PS4 to be doing as well as it’s doing right now, and I think that alone is proof enough that human nature has a lot more twists left in the evolution of gaming tech than we expect right now.”

Drake came from another angle, though, saying that games are a form of media.  And if there is one thing that is true now more than ever, it’s that people want their media no matter where they are.

everywhere

Joe broke into the conversation here, pointing out the relevance of the feature of PS4 where it can be played remotely from the Vita.  Drake admitted that he hadn’t tried it, but named a relevant issue with that right off: not every PS4 owner has a PS Vita.  Drake also suggested that the Vita isn’t the best handheld to carry around with you.  Joe threw in some more thoughts of his own regarding the PS Vita.

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Drake added saying that it really needs to be a native experience that still feels extremely great. But to do something like that, you’d have to take the ‘app’ structure and generalize the controls, then change the controls so they cater to every device the game might appear on.  He had a lot to say about this especially, and there was also a considerable piece of discussion about porting.  That will be included in another piece since this one is long enough already.

If you’ve made it to this point, please remember, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic!  Come join the discussion on my Steam Group, and let’s see if we can get some interesting exchanges started!

Boogey Boy, Preview of Fears

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You know that dream where you are running and running, then suddenly you look back and there is a giant black demon horse chasing you? Goon Studios made a game about that and it is not nearly as terrifying as the dream.  Frustrating at times, but still a lot of fun.  Granted, it’s not completed, so this game is a preview version, but the good news is you can play this preview, too, on Indie Database!  Don’t want to commit to the download?  here are my thoughts on it as it is so far.

You character is a kid in his dreams, which end up having the same exact mechanics as an endless runner, like Canabalt or Crazy Critter Dash.  Interesting that I should compare it to mobile games, since this little blue-haired fucker will be charging his way across PC monitors, Idevices and Androids.  As he runs, his arms flop behind him like he was dreaming about seducing an anesthesiologist prior to arm surgery, then the running started.  His art reminds me of a combination of Coraline, carrying some similarly creepy vibes, and Adventure Time.  Nothing on this fucking Earth would get me to watch that show, but the art looks similar from what I’ve seen on posters at the mall.  You are being chased by a rotating cast of silhouetted eldritch horrors across the terrain of your dreams.

Gonna die!!

If I was being chased by Cthulu’s drinking buddies, I would look like this too.

While you are running, there is the ground itself, which undulates wildly.  Stay on the ground and you’ll be dead in seconds, since the nightmares, I’ll call them, run fast, and you really don’t for the most part.  When they catch up to you, you roll under them like that guy in Ben Hur.  To avoid this, there are a number of floating platforms you can leap to.  Jumping is a lot of fun, and this kid is apparently the blood relative of an ancient ninja: he can double jump.  And his double jump is fucking fancy!  He’ll jump, then double jump and end it with a travolta.  It’s wild and fun, and the best part is that this game is fucking creative.  Sure, you have the usual platforms, floating pieces of road, clouds etc.  But there are also things like beds to bounce on.  As you might expect, this enhances your jump, which can already be enhanced by holding down the jump key.

But you have to move fast, since the nightmares toss platforms aside as they pass under them.  Of course, you don’t control your run so much as struggle to cope with it.  The only way to increase your run speed is to grab stars, which seem to make you speedier the more of them you have.  Much like other running-centric heroes, you will lose your shiny collectibles if hit by an enemy.  Enemies are pretty surreal, too.  They run the gamut from helicopters and frogs to cars with spring-loaded boxing gloves in them.  Most of these you can ‘defeat’ by jumping on them, but sometimes you can run along the top of them to escape.

Aside from stars, there is an array of powerups you can grab, and I have no idea what any of them do.  I will tell you, instead, what I do know about them.  The batteries you grab fill up your batter bar at the top of the screen, which makes me feel good when I get them.  I have not been able to fill it and posit that its effect would be known if I could get the third battery slotted.  Unfortunately, runners are not my natural habitat.  There is also a kid-style superhero cape, which seems to actually be a blanket. You can’t trample my dreams!  There are also dog, bubble, sister and teddy bear pickups.  See if you can uncover their secrets!

Jump on the magical unicorn to briefly escape a horrible death by trampling!

Jump on the magical unicorn to briefly escape a horrible death by trampling!

This is a really fun game.  I have only played a couple unfinished levels, and I am really interested in this title, despite my neutral emotions toward its genre.  Honestly, most of my love for Boogey Boy comes from the art.  The look is really dream-like and surreal:  enemies make a sort of vague sense, platforms are creative and neat.  Another thing is the music.  It leaps and frolics around with you while still leaning on you to keep up a solid pace or be stomped into dream dust.  The controls are simple and the UI is a bit random, but coherent.  Overall, I would be alright paying money for this game.  Its early stages of development generate their own ire, but it is to be expected at this point.  The most annoying thing about this title is the lack of fucking exit button on the menu.  There is also the issue of no pause menu’, so you only get the choice to return to the title menu, but even there you have no exit option.  Again, though most of that title menu is non-functional because this is an early early development preview!  Check it out, but don’t be judgmental.  It’s a great work-in-progress that deserves to have an eye kept on it.

Double-Up Discussion: Freaky Dragon, Shurican

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This title, by Freakout Games, is more than a bit unhinged.  First off, the dragon looks like Barney raped Spyro, and it can barely stay aloft with those tiny wings.  You tap the screen to fly, so it’s another flappy-style game.  Its art is rather nice and the music is fun, considering it is only one track, but there is still much that will anger you about the game.  The most entertaining feature of the game is the least utilized: if you play a dragon, even a pink polka-dotted purple dragon, you’ll generally want to breathe some fire.  Freaky Dragon opts out of this, making you spent the better amount of time dodging obstacles.  After a solid couple hours on this game, I didn’t use my fire balls once.  Next, in-app purchases.  I cannot emphasize how much I hate this standard of the mobile gaming industry.  Every time you die, the game suggests you might revive the dragon and continue if you have eggs, pictured above.  Not enough eggs?  Buy some with real money!  Thanks, but no thanks.  If I play this game anymore I might just end up snapping my phone in half.  This game is free on Google Play.

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Certainly the better of today’s games, Shurican is another flappy-style game starring a ninja.  Good start.  Every time you tap the jump button, he slashes.  Double jump and he throws a Shuriken.  Hold your finger a second and release for a charged slash.  There are two play modes in this game.  Challenge, which takes place on the same board, and seems implied to be finite.  You are scored by percentage completed.  To date, I have gotten 44.15% completion.  I have never made it to the end, but the other game mode is called endless.  This one is point scored and starts a new level every time.  The points are gained each second you survive and from killing enemies.  My best score is 216 points.  Both modes pit send the ninja down a constantly scrolling corridor of death, dodging buzzsaws and slashing at demons.  It is challenging and fun, refusing to take itself seriously.

The art comes from simple vector graphics and it’s bloody as hell: your ninja spews blood everywhere and explodes upon death like a robot.  The music goes with everything else in this game: heavy techno-rock that says “ninjas, demons, explosions… why not?”  There are small ads that display across the top of the screen when you die, but they don’t slap you in the face and it is difficult to accidentally hit them.  Enjoyable, well-made app that is considerate of its players.  Add to that it is free on Google Play, and I would recommend this to mobile game fans.

 

X-Tactics, Genre Fusion By AAA Veteran Devs

 

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Generally, I like to promote games from indies in need, but this is a story too deeply bizarre and intriguing to pass up.  Veterans of the AAA gaming industry have broken off and teamed up to create X-tactics (pronounced Cross Tactics), a game that will link gaming across mobile and PC platforms for an exciting blend.  Honestly, the anime art might not be my usual bag, but the concept behind this game is so vast and exciting that only the Japanese are crazy enough to do it right.  Ingress better watch out, shit’s about to get real.

First things first, who the fuck are these people?  Our developer in question, GAMKIN, is the product of minds from Square-Enix, Sega and Capcom.  Those names drop harder than Skrillex does his bass, but still it stands.  This is a game that will be rendered by veterans from three legendary household names in gaming.  Fuck.  These guys got together in late 2013 and they have spent most of their time in Japan away from the warm lights of our hemisphere.  Mostly they’ve been working with interactive children’s television and collaborating with local game schools to cultivate next-gen game devs.  So these guys are legit philanthropists with a serious mind for our future.  Now they turn their thoughts again toward gaming, and this beast, which they’ve gotten fully funded with 33 days left on their Indie GoGo clock, threatens some formidable levels of awesome.  For a little perspective, the campaign launched on the 8th.  This means they achieved their primary goal in just 6 days.

GAMKIN has a lot on their plate when you look at their plans.  The platforms they will be releasing on include iOS, Android, Kindle (2014), PC, Mac, Linux and Google Glass  (2015), and none of those are stretch goals.  The features of the game are complex and paint an exciting picture of gaming interaction.  First off, this is another genre-fusing game.  Its main components are tactics, fighting and urban exploration, with a 50%, 25% and 25% split, respectively.  In their own words:

When we set out to make X-Tactics we didn’t want to make just another tactical game, nor attempt to create some sort of perfect tactical game. Instead our goal as developers here is to create something new. We combined equal parts of tactical gameplay of classics like that of Final Fantasy Tactics and Valkyrie Chronicles, together with fighting game mechanics and aesthetics, like those found in the Street Fighter series, to create a new gameplay experience, that we at least have not seen done before.

– GAMKIN on Xtactics, Indie Go Go campaign

 

Now this doesn’t explain the other 25% of the game, but let’s stop a minute what this means for PC gamers, as PC and MAC will be options for the game.  The game itself will use turn-based tactics to create a high-speed gameplay environment that focuses on treacherous close-quarters combat, as you might find in an urban setting.  Your heroes won’t be able to take ridiculous amounts of damage to the face, so you will need to make quick moves and calculated risks to achieve victory rapidly.  Failing to do so finds you at the business end of some purple alien’s psychic attacks…

 

... and that suit screams "business time"

… and that suit screams “business time”

Each battles takes up the full screen, and each mission will be comprised of several battles.  With one screen active fights will be tightly fought, so bonuses like flanking, support, destructible furnishings in the environment and traps will give you a serious edge and change the battle’s dynamics every time you play.  X-Tactics will also utilize an initiative system, which they compare to that of Final Fantasy Tactics, but I will translate that to the American readers: shit’s going to battle like DnD.  Initiative will be based on speed and turn order will be thereby determined.  This will also open up the ability for seasoned players to fine-tune their initiative-order to get their team members to unleash dual combos and team combos.  Not to mention, enemies will come in waves each battle, so you really have to get that ass in gear and wipe out your foes before more arrive!

What does this all mean for mobile users?  Honestly, this part looks to be the most exciting.  GAMKIN is going to use GPS information to create a variety of missions that will allow you to defend your neighborhood, school or workplace from outbreaks and other dangers.  Each character you have will even have locale-based storylines that will be unlocked depending on where you are, so the exploration is highly encouraged.  Where this game will really shine is how it will use the GPS of your device to investigate your surroundings, reveal hints and uncover treasures.  This will open up to more modular features where users can organize their own location-based events and treasure-hunts with friends.  In addition to all this, the game will be sensitive to the time of day, moon cycles and even weather to unlock events, initiate outbreaks and influence character abilities.  Having the mobile functionality will also allow for 4-player co-op missions, so you don’t have to be anti-social with this title.  And for those of you guys who shelled out the outrageous amounts of cash to join in on the googe Glass explorer program, the team will also have a companion app that will assist with the urban exploration part of the game.  If that isn’t enough, they will also be updating weekly with episodic content for the game, including missions, items and new heroes all at no cost to players.  If they throw in anything else, my brain might explode.

O, no, wait.  That's just my aunt's baking.

O, no, wait. It’s just my neighbors’ cooking.

This is all well and good, but what is the fucking story here?  Well, it takes place in a story like our own, if our world was controlled by top-secret government agencies and secret societies.  It isn’t, right?  You’ll control a motley crew of secret agents, treasure hunters and adventurers that are working to keep the truth in check.  This means you are more “Men In Black”, less “defenders of the people”.  I expect we’ll likely be killing those free-minded liberators of information, and that makes me laugh with dark, dark relish (enjoyment, not condiment).  And the game is perfectly ok with this.  In fact, the creators have said that it will use dark humor and anime punk art styles to put a new spin on conspiracy theories and urban legends!

And this got funded seemingly over night.  I have known about this game for four days, and it has already gotten its Indie GoGo funding, and they are into stretch goals.  Literally, they got a money enema.  They have 6 hunters with 2 more listed for stretch goals, including some badass ninja panda and a thick list of additional concepts.  Go and check it out for yourself, and wait with bated breath for the release!  Congratulations to these guys for getting their funding goals!  Now get in there and see if we can help them meet a few more stretch goals!

A bit of gameplay for ya ; )

A bit of gameplay for ya ; )

 

Double-Up Discussion: Fireflight, Sloth Hop

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In Sloth Hop, you have to guide a little sloth along a river that is laden with rocks.  Honestly, the last time I saw a river so full of stepping stones was during a drought.  Getting the sloth from the bottom to the top of the screen is a matter of tapping on the next squares in front of your sloth.  In true sloth fashion, he doesn’t visually move, you technically move the board by tapping on the screen.  Don’t tap on the water tiles, though.  That will end the game and your sloth gets wet.  Because the last thing a fuzzy animal that has a small fucking ecosystem in its hair needs is a bath, right?  The game has three different modes of play: survival, time, distance.

Survival is the first and by far the toughest mode in this game.  When you start, it looks just like the other modes, with one catch: the screen moves.  Where you set the speed that you tap in other modes, in this one you have to tap frantically along with the scroll of the screen.  I never made it far in this mode.  The second game mode is time.  Time is a little easier and its main feature is the timer in the corner.  As you tap along through the stone path in the river, the time runs longer and longer.  At the end of the round, the time it took you to jump to the end of the river.  Every time you exceed your score, it is saved!  The last mode of the game is a reverse version of the time mode.  Instead of running up, the timer starts at 30 seconds and ticks down.  You tap along as far as you can get in that time, and the number of stones you jumped across is saved.  The best score, again is saved.

Apparently sloths and cats alike hate water, both desperately need to be bathed.

Apparently sloths and cats alike hate water, both desperately need to be bathed.

Sloth Hop focuses on one thing: Digital dexterity.  It all depends on how good you are at hitting the little rocks that you have to jump across.  It is a fun little waste of time that you can use to fill in that space waiting for the train.  The game itself is free, so its downsides can’t really be that bad right?  Right?  Try playing this game for a bit.  One thing you will notice, and come to fucking hate, are the ads.  After every single game that you play, your celebratory screen will be thrown over by this fucking ad to play someone else’s game.  It is really irritating, and you can probably blame that shit on the nature of the App distribution systems.

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Fireflight: Vengeance is an interesting game that follows the standard of more popular SNES genre games, such as Desert Strike and Zero Wing.  You control a fucking dragon.  Awesome.  This dragon breathes fire all over everything and kills enemies.  Of course, unlike other games where there is little resistance against the awesome power of your incinerating blasts, in this game enemy dragons, ballistas and magic towers shoot fire, balls of energy and lightning at you.  You have to dodge the enemies and their attacks while simultaneously killing them.

One of the most important elements of this game is the money you collect.  Throughout the level, you have to collect gold coins.  These coins add up slowly, but you’ll play through a few times at first.  The first few times you play, you will get totaled.  Your first few plays don’t end wll, but as you get used to the starting conditions, slow flight, slow attacks etc., you will get better.  As your coins accrue, you will be able to buy better and better upgrades.  After a few plays, I was able to get enough coins to buy an upgrade that made me launch fireballs faster and faster.  This is another free game, so it is worthwhile to download it and at least give it a try.

Shoot 'em all!

Shoot ’em all!

Things in this that pissed me off the most aligned with the things that usually bother me about newly downloaded mobile games.  Getting a hold of the controls at first is fucking aggravating.  I almost didn’t make it past the first level, but once I put a little thought and effort into the game, I got used to it.  One of the most frustrating things about the controls is how the speed that your dragon flies depends on how far away you tap from where your dragon is at the time of tapping.  There is also the in-game purchases.  Those are also reasonable, though, giving you 2,000 coins, which will get you 4 base upgrades, for a nominal sum of 1.99$.  Not too shabby.  So jump in and get your game on, these are some pretty fun titles, overall.

Crazy Critter Dash, Frantic Running Fun!

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I am not a fan of mobile games, facebook games or in-app purchases.  I hate it when games make you pay money to progress or make you pay out the nose for inconsequential items that alter the look of the game.  Red Tentacle Studio’s Crazy Critter Dash, however, is reasonable and fun if a little frustrating.  I would recommend playing this game on a smaller mobile device, since iPads and tablets can pose some issues.

When you start up this game, you’ll see a little chubby hamster hanging out in his cage.  He looks a little bored and should probably be running on a wheel to keep in shape.  At the very least he should have a damn pull up bar; he is going to need every last ounce of pellet-powered hamster muscle to get him through this ordeal!  I mean look at him.  His cage doesn’t have paper in it, so he probably wallows in his own sewage, there is no wheel, so he must be bored.  Just look at that face.  Unexpressive, chewing on some object (there is no food dispenser, just a water bottle) and casting a disinterest look around his cage.  He even seems to roll his head in boredom since he realizes he’s been forgotten.  The reason these critters are crazy is likely due to hours of neglect by children who are off playing videogames.  Possibly ones about hamsters.  This little guy needs to escape.  Somehow, probably by throwing his corpulent form against the bars of his cage, he manages to slip his bonds and make haste for egress!  Onward Captain Snugglepants!  To glory!

Hit the dash button and it’s on.  Your hamster is just auto-running his chubby little ass off to the tune of something like the Benny Hill music.  It’s a great time… if you can figure out what is going on.  At the moment the game lacks a basic method of conveying the instructions, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.  My wife tried this game a couple times and gave up because the controls were too difficult for her to figure them out, but I stuck with the game for about 10 minutes and got the game down to where I was tearing it up.  Your hamster is constantly running, so this game requires some good reaction time.  Rock your device left and right and the hamster will veer left and right while running.  Swipe up and your hamster does a chubby hop that gets him belly-scrapingly over low obstacles.  To get under obstacles, like the fucking jack-in-the-box, you need only swipe down and your hamster reaches into his repertoir of action film moves he learned in hamster stunt-school, pulling a sideways slide under the oncoming obstacle.  See a turn coming up?  Before you hit the turn slide your finger left or right, depending on the desired direction, and the hamster turns.

Honestly, the controls are pretty simple, but without instructions you’ll find yourself back in the cage frequently.  Throughout the game you will have a number of other obstacles that you will have to overcome, as well.  If you hit something, you will probably roll it off.  Granted, plow into a fucking toy truck and you’ll be on your ass.  But blocks and marbles you can roll over once.  Do this and you tyrannical overlord, some fucking kid, starts following you, trying to grab you.  Eat enough critter food, though, and you will out run the hand.

Space-age critter, ready for take-off!

Space-age critter, ready for take-off!

Dodging through glue traps and under lego barricades, you come to realize something terrifying.  I think your owner is the toy psycho from Toy Story.  It makes sense when you come up to the spartan torture devices that he made out of a fucking erector set.  This kid is a lunatic and only bothers to pay attention to you when you escape, since he doesn’t want to have to clean up after you, but he’s happy to let you wallow in it.  I want the  rogue-like companion game to this one where you escape and sneak around the walls of the house leaving turds in this kid’s lunchables.

Should you meet the challenge, though, you will find yourself exploring a variety of treacherous boards to race along.  My favorite transition so far is the hamster-tube transition.  Get far enough on the first board and your hamster will have the opportunity to utilize another piece of his hamster stunt-school learning: the slow-motion sky-dive.  He pulls this shit without a parachute, too!  In case you missed that though, let me recap.  You find a tube, intentionally set by a larger being, which leads you out a fucking window!  You then freefall onto a pile of leaves below.  This kid is now a fucking lunatic.  Granted, you get to collect some food pellets mid-air, but that just means he tossed some food out the window after you in a moment of after-thought.  Real nice.  To get at those falling bits of food, you have to rock your screen similar to running.  This is where I really think having a smaller mobile device helps.  If you have a tablet then you feel like you are rotating this bulky, square steering wheel.  I always feel the urge to lean forward and look down at the little guy as he falls.  Helps the immersion.  Turn on a fan under your device to really get the full effect of being a tiny critter falling through the clear sky toward uncertain doom.

I would like to rebrand this game "furry action star escape"

From the specifically mowed path, I get the idea that the parents are complicit in the reign of the lunatic kid.

Being a free modern mobile game, there are some in-app purchases, and unlike other games that inspire baby-shaking murders, this one makes them optional.  On top of that, they are also reasonable.  Give them 0.99$ and you get 50,000 critter food.  To give you an idea, that will allow you to unlock the other two critters (a rat and a bunny) and have 20,000 critter food to spend on dress up, like a sombrero and bandolier or a space-exploration suit.  Also, BUNNY!  Now, you can also get the bunny and the rat without spending a dime, but if you have a “good run” like mine, you will get stuck in the yard and amass about 800 pellets max every time.  Not too bad, all told.  There is also a wide variety of costume sets that you can put on your critters to make them cute while they run.  They’re not cheap, but again, you can get what you need just by playing the game.  If you enjoy it as much as I did, you’ll end up getting a few thousand per play-session.

Getting pellets also allows you the opportunity to increase the effect of in-game pick ups.  There are four different pick ups: slow, fast, shield and vacuum.  The slow upgrade makes it really easy to navigate the obstacles in the game.  Speed allows you to blow past everything at a high rate of speed, even allowing you to avoid traps without having to jump or slide.  The shield upgrade puts you in a little hamster ball.  This is really funny will give you an extra layer of protection against running into things.  Grab a vacuum pick-up and you will suck in all the pellets in sight.  Upgrading these makes them last longer, allowing you to get more of a benefit.  There is also a continue upgrade.  Want to avoid going back to the cage?  You can grab critter treats to get back on your feet, but if you don’t have enough treats, you won’t be able to continue.  Upgrade the continue to be able to continue dashing on with fewer treats with a minimum of 1.  There is also a meter upgrade, which makes food fill your power meter faster.  I am not sure what the meter does, but it has a shield on it, so I imagine it allows you to plow through obstacles without dodging, as long as it is full.  If you can’t seem to get treats, you can buy them. 0.99$ will get you 25 with 4.99$ getting you the maximum of 200.  Again, not a bad deal.  You can even watch some videos or like them on facebook or follow on twitter for more treats and pellets.  If all that isn’t enough for you, check out the leaderboards to find out how many people suck worse than you do.

Here I come to save the day!

Here I come to save the day!

Crazy Critter Dash is one of the better quality mobile games that I have seen out there.  It has a few tough spots, but if you can get past some basic issues, then you’ll really have fun with this game.  Hell, if you want to support the developers, throw a little money in and have a little extra fun!  It is a free fucking game, after all!  And you have options if you are stingy.

The thing that pisses me of the most about this title should be pretty fucking obvious by now.  That kid makes me want to break my fucking foot off in his ass!  Seriously!  Who lets their hamster run out a window?  This kid must be as fat and stupid as his pets if he really is just letting them expire in their little cages.  I hope his father comes home and gives him a few cracks with his belt!  Ain’t nothing wrong with a little discipline if he is keeping his child from becoming a sociopathic lunatic that tortures animals for fun.

Double-Up Discussion: Hover This, Rhombi

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It took me a few tries of playing this before I realized it was a Flappy Bird clone, just not exclusive to the iOS.  Granted, there are a few amusing elements that make this worth a download.  Of course, the gameplay is as simple as tapping the screen repeatedly.  You can play it on a bus, in a doctor’s office lobby, hell, you might even play in traffic, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Enough fucking morons on the road without you flapping your bird in the middle of it all!

When you start this game up, you will notice that it has similar artwork to flappy bird, but instead of navigating a run of vaguely Nintendo-esque green pipes, you flap through blocks.  I am pretty sure you are flapping a box, though…. Yea, further research has revealed it’s a fucking box.  I am not sure if this was the intent or laziness of the developers, but you can certainly buy a new sprite for the “flapper” you control.  Ah, so it is more than just an epic heroic story about the box that taught itself to fly.  Here I was going to nominate this game for some dadaist art award.  Aside from a new flap to tap, you can also buy new blockers ( the obstacles you flap to avoid ).  In the default game, these are tall rectangular pillars that I thought represented the equilateral oppressors seeking to stop box-flight as part of their traditional beliefs.  But flappy box would not be contained!  His dreams would be fulfilled and everyone would learn the beauty and freedom of the skies!  Ok, so it looks like this was done to inspire you to buy shit from these people.  On the bright side, you can get a squid that flaps through some kind of cream-puff piles.

after almost twenty minutes of this game, I was hoping the vile was actually full of cyanide

after almost twenty minutes of this game, I was hoping the vile was actually full of cyanide

Don’t want to pay some in-app purchase shenanigans?  Yea, me neither.  So collect the flappies.  Little fuckers are basically coins that you can use as an alternative to real money.  Granted, 2000 flappies translates to $4.99 apparently.  I’m not sure where the third-world country of Flappidia is, but that shit is way over inflated.  Whatever, send some goddamn republicans their way.  That ought to fucking devalue their fucking coin a bit!

As for free gameplay elements, your game looks like a sepia-toned screenshot of a similar flappy game rendered by a hipster via Instagram.  You can grab a ‘C’ coin and it will change the colors.  Just avoid the impending ‘8’ coin to keep from going back to hipster drab.  There is also a ‘V’ coin that lets you change to vector graphics and a shrink potion that reduces your size, cause sometimes wider isn’t better.  Then there is this random fucking power boost.  You hit this baby and all bets are fucking off.  Your little box goes kao ken x 100 and blasts through all the blockers.  heh heh, take that you fascist polylateral pricks!

Rhombi_app

The company behind this game, Mycaruba Studios, seems to have taken a name that is an anagram for Aycarumba! something that I thought Mexicans said all the time while eating tacos and wearing sombreros.  What?  I was a dumb kid that grew up watching culturally insensitive cartoons that literally cannot be fucking shown on t.v. anymore.  You know, Looney Toons.  Anyway, this game looks like it was made to torture anyone with tequila in their veins.  You are this little Rhomboid vessel with contrails streaming from your side-angles.

Somewhere in the ship is a gunner that is thoroughly bored with his life.  He refuses to aim or fire the weapons remotely fast, so, being the navigator and in control of the steering and thruster mechanisms, you are not going to go down without a fight.  Your job is to steer the ship around and hit the enemies with the immobile laser mechanism on the front.  Now, I designate this the front, because it points up at all times.  You steer the ship by touching the screen and dragging down, moving your finger left and right.  This is a little tough at first, but you get the hang of it.  Pull your finger down a ways, too, and you’ll have some, albeit frantically scant, time to react to enemies coming at you from behind.

Actually, I had a lot of fun with this game.  It gets me nostalgic for true retro games on my Commodore 64.  I say it is the enemy of tequila because that picnic blanket pattern changes colors, and when you get to higher speeds and start steering to dodge, it made me feel a little dizzy and nauseous sitting down.  Enemies are similar rhomboid shapes that will spin weirdly then dart after you.  Sometimes they’ll ride alongside you just to dip in toward you for the kill.  Zapping the little ones with your laser will blow them up, but the bigger ones take a couple hits.  Bastards.  I wish I had a screenshot to put up for this game, it actually is fun to play a little bit.  But what you see on the logo is pretty much it.  Just with more shapes and constant lasers.

The moral of this article is fuck in-app purchases.  I never understood them and while developers need to get paid, they don’t need to wring every last cent out of every player they can corral into tapping their shiny little icon on the Play Store or the App Store.  Fuck that stupid shit.  Both of these games are free to download on the Play Store.  Not sure about the App store, but probably.