Game of the Week: Halloween Edition

Well the pumpkins are carved, the little ghouls have been fed, and the costume stores are closing up shop and selling costumes for a DOLLAR! [ Thanks Wal-Mart! ūüôā ] – and thus marks the end of Halloween. It was good while it lasted, but now November’s here and I’ve got to look forward towards a mouth full of turkey and a wallet that will soon be emptied by holiday shopping.

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Games don’t care about holidays though. They’re like superheroes. They work 24/7.

This is why this week I’m devoting an entire Game of the Week to Halloween!

Here are two games that will certainly have you addicted to bumps in the night!

1. Monster Park – Kiwi

Now folks who follow this blog probably know my taste in games by now. I’m pretty much opposed to any game that has me farming/collecting anything besides Pokemon. It is my deepest regret [ and overwhelming joy ] to tell you all that I was introduced to Monster Park by Kiwi. Things have never been the same since. Now, what is Monster Park?

Here’s a brief overview for your viewing pleasure:

It’s designed for mobile devices and I have to say it’s a joyful, easy, light-hearted experience. The game breaks down your Monster Park into tasks which are fairly simple to accomplish. The game mechanics are simple with one touch interface via touch screens. This game is so unassumingly addictive because of how easy it is to get started, but once you’re a few monsters in – it’s hard to stop. The biggest downside to this game is wait time, but that’s a bonus with mobile titles. You may have to wait 24 – 48 hrs for a project to finish, but – hey, at least you can play any time.

I’m a Monster! Rawr!

Pros:

  • Art is comical, enjoyable, and child friendly for all ages to enjoy.
  • Color scheme seems to be colorblind friendly, though some monsters are harder to distinguish, due to pallets and housing backgrounds.
  • Simple touch screen mechanics make the game limited mobility friendly.
  • Special mythical creatures, and holiday events add specialized achievements
  • Audio isn’t important, or required, to play this game. Plus for deaf players.

Cons:

  • Wait times can be horrendous for certain tasks [ Game Room/Some Hatching ]¬†
  • Music track can tend to get repetitive after a time, if playing continuously.
  • Breeding based on randomized algorithm. No guarantees that you’ll breed X over Y. [ i.e.: Expect to be disappointed sometimes if you don’t get what you’re after.]
  • Purchasing Mythic creatures seems to be too expensive for players to achieve

Monster Park uses a Free-to-Play method of game design – so, if you’re into collection games, and want something fun to do this fall besides eat the rest of your kids Halloween stash pick this game up! It’s available on all Android mobile devices! You’ll be dying to play it more and more as you gain levels!

2. They Took Our Candy – Level 1 Wizards

I love the retro gaming era. I know I wasn’t born till the later of it, but I can’t help but find myself falling in love with pixel art and any game associated with it. That’s why when I saw this game, ¬†I just knew I had to write about it. They Took Our Candy by Level 1 Wizards is a heartwarming, nostalgic montage to the days of our youth.

Zombies take our brains… but Aliens want our SUGAR!

 

Oh, and did I mention that you play as a group of trick-or-treaters bent on saving the universe from alien invaders who want to take your candy? It must have slipped my mind! If you like this concept though, then you’ll love They Took Our Candy this Halloween season! Grab up your goodie bags and set your fazers to KILL – in this retro-modern alien blaster!

For Reese! For Hershey’s! FOR SUGAR HIGHS EVERYWHERE!

Here’s a brief look at the game and it’s content:

Pros:

  • Game is set to auto-fire. Excellent for limited mobility gamers
  • Game increases slowly in difficulty and allows time for upgrades
  • Games color scheme is vibrant and varied enough for colorblind.
  • Game doesn’t require audio to play. Visual cues easy for deaf to use.
  • Game adds additional challenges via Survival Mode

Cons:

  • Game doesn’t have an WASD function. Left-handed gamers will have trouble.
  • Game enemies can become increasingly overwhelming in certain levels.
  • Game only allows access to new characters/new strategies after certain XP is hit.
  • Games soundtrack, while awesome, can become repetitive after a few sessions.

Overall the game focuses on being quite an accessible game, and makes for a joyous Halloween treat this year. You can stop in and play this wonderful creation over at Kongregate.com today. I would love to see a mobile version of this produced, because I think nothing would be better than blasting aliens for candy while I’m filling up with my morning coffee.

Thanks Level 1 Wizards for an exceptional Halloween treat that everyone can enjoy!

So there you have it folks! Now pig out on candy, while it’s still around. Grab your mobile or computer devices and enjoy these little indie chunks of heaven. Share them with your friends and make the sugar high monstrous addiction come to LIFE! Muhahaha – I mean…

Happy Halloween and enjoy your Fall season!

Game of the Week: Run

I’ve been catching a lot of interest in interactive narrative games lately, and so imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a wonderful example of interactive fiction recommended to me by Nick Yonge of Krang Games. The game is called Run by developer Christopher Whitman. I was intrigued by the concept and so, of course, I had to at least take a look – and what I found was a marvelous little indie experience. Whitman manages to grasp players with his words and the nostalgic look of the gameplay sequences will not only give older gamers a sense of memorabilia, but will give new gamers a chance to see how simple gameplay can make something fantastic.

Run is a story about a village that becomes purged into the pit of darkness but, as an intrepid settler, you dream about a day with sunshine. The narrative carries you through the inner thoughts and developments of this settler. It’s one of the most unique experiences I’ve played through in months. Your goal as a player is to platform through the narrative, and then play the mini-game sections of the dream to acquire sunlight for the rest of the village.

The more sunlight you can obtain, the more time your village gets to harvest crops and prosper. The sunlight becomes your timer, so strategy in how you divide your time is vitally important. Whitman challenges gamers with deceptive retro games that will truly test players on every set. Each mini game is divided up into 2 – 3 mini games – so strategy is definitely a must when attempting to collect sunlight properly. If you fail, you can move on, but note that it will drastically limit your sunlight field for feeding and harvesting food later.

I fell in love with this game from the moment I finished the first level. Though it’ll take me a while to get the strategy of how to be successful in the game down, Run has quite a lot of accessibility attached to it. Here’s how it breaks down if you’re at all curious:

Pros:

  • Run has simple platforming and movement controls via keyboard
  • WASD & Arrow Keys utilized for both left and right hand gamer access.
  • No audio cues required, so the game is perfect for deaf gamers.
  • The movement functions are easy making Run accessible for mobility impaired.
  • Precision isn’t a priority as the game has a relatively relaxed pace to it.
  • If you fail sections you have opportunities to replay sections to try again.
  • Gameplay is easy to understand and words are easy/large enough to read.

Cons:

  • Color scheme may be a bit off-putting in some areas for colorblind gamers.
  • Some segments, during the sunshine segments, can be difficult to read.
  • Strategy is key for this game, otherwise, it can make the mini games difficult.

Run is a highly accessible game with tons of retro feel. Any game or literature enthusiast will definitely enjoy this game. You can check out Run now on Whitman’s personal site and though it says it’s a demo it’s actually the full game. You can also purchase a downloadable copy for $3.99 if you want to play it elsewhere. It’s a vast, unique experience that is worth your time and a read. Whitman’s Run inspires me so much, and I hope that more and more of these interactive experiences will come to fruition in the future. Here’s to you Chris! Thanks for inspiring and providing a brilliant story and an road map for others on how to provide educational interactive fiction for all sorts of audiences!

Run

Game of the Week: The Man Who Sold The World

Today I’m feeling a bit retro – how retro? Let’s just say, “David Bowie 80’s” retro. I woke up this morning and checked on one of my favorite little indie game developers that are based right up here in the Northwest. [ Woo for hometown gaming! ] If any of you were lucky enough to stumble upon I Saw Her Standing There…, well then you’ll know why I love Krang Games. They have a distinct retro-simplistic art style to many of their games. Narratives and stories seem to drive every fabric of their games, and I’ve had a blast playing all of them.

It’s that time again! – The Interstellar DATING GAME!

Krang Games is owned and operated by developer Nick Yonge, and I have to say his games have definitely helped inspire me to try my hand at flash game development. Now, why am I in a retro mood this morning? Well it’s because Yonge [ and the rest of Krang Games ] have come out with the newest game in their vintage flash line: The Man Who Sold The World. It’s a interactive narrative/platforming game that was inspired by David Bowie’s music. How cool is that? The game is rather short [ 4 levels ] but the platforming can be challenging, so don’t take this simplistic design lightly. The object seems to be to collect as many of the glowing orbs in the levels as you can find. How did this play out? Well let’s get to the accessibility shall we?

If the world was in the palm of your hand – what would you choose?

Pros:

  • Few controls – makes for simplistic gameplay and easy functionality.
  • All dialog is text-based, which is perfect for deaf gamers.
  • Soundtrack is ambient and unique, though can be a bit¬†repetitive.
  • A & D keys and Arrow keys are both available for users, allowing for one-handed players to play [ left or right handed ]
  • Game has decent pacing, making this game a labor of love, rather than a¬†laborious struggle for gamers.¬†
  • Game has no penalty system, so if you make mistakes it’s easy to continue and try again.
  • The narrative plot is strong, intriguing, and fun. It will keep you guessing as you go forth.

In The Jungle, the mighty Jungle, The Man He Sleeps Tonight!

Cons:

  • Game almost requires two hands, due to requirement of Spacebar for jump action. [ One-handed is possible, though harder. ]
  • The games color scheme is, for the most part, accessible. Some sections and colors, however, may be troublesome for colorblind.
  • Precision gaming is pretty key to succeed, due some difficult platform sections.
  • Game has a chapter function on Main Menu, but no way to jump to new chapters unless you earn them.
  • I wish there was Skip function. I failed certain sections quite a few times due to jump spacing.

Overall, the game was a joy to play. There may have been moments of frustration due to difficulty with the keyboard based controls, but I enjoyed my time with Krang Games new sci-fi retro narrative. It’s definitely one of those few delights I get from the vast array of internet gaming fodder. If you’d like to play it as well, you can jump into the sci-fi fun over on Kongregate.

The game hasn’t been played much, which is why I’m happy to be reviewing it. Give it some love, maybe some stardust, you know – whatever you feel like! I hope this game keeps you searching through the stars and soaring into the realm of 8-bit retro games!

In closing though, I’ll leave you with two things to Bowie this post up a bit:

and for a little light humor on the subject, one of my favorite beloved comedy bands:

The Flight of the Conchords

Gaming With A Cause: The Speedgamers’ Pokemon Marathon

Well this is pretty fantastic – I found something awesome via Tim Schafer. Yes. The Tim Schafer. I follow him on Twitter and he just so happened to share a link that I feel like blogging about as well! So there’s this lovely gaming group called The Speed Gamers. The Speed Gamers run gaming marathons all the time, but this one really stood out to me. Why? They are currently running a charity gaming marathon to raise money for ACT Today.[ Austism Care and Treatment ] What is this gaming marathon about may you ask? Well I’ll let this graphic explain it:

Gotta Catch ‘Em All for Autism!

They are using Twitch TV to broadcast the stream and it’ll be up through the 22nd. So if you’re a fan of Pokemon and you want to support research for autism – grab your DS or your Gameboy Color – relive the retro love of this epic marathon and get to catching ’em all and donate to this wonderful cause. You’ll be helping children of all ages, while watching one of the most EPIC Pokemon marathons I’ve ever seen.

They’re still only half way done and they’ve got 3 days to go!

Game of the Week: Reprisal

Hey there folks. Now, usually, I’m all about games that catch my eye artistically. I mean, seriously, I’m devoted to companies like Double Fine and thatgamecompany and the artistic games they output. I find that games and art have this, sort of, symbiotic relationship. This being said, I’ve found that recently I’ve been enjoying a number of games that characterize how games can truly emphasize their artistic merits. I’ve traveled in a demo of ¬†thatgamecompany’s Journey, I’ve been marveling longingly at video for The Unfinished Swan, and I’ve even been playing a lovely retro-art game called Reprisal by Electrolyte Games¬†founder and designer, Jon Caplin.

Retro Revolutions – ahh how I love them!

This game transports me back to the days of my Gameboy Color, with it’s tightly interwoven text-based storyline, it’s hauntingly beautiful chip-tune soundtrack, and it’s pixelated, vibrant art style.¬†This game all but had me at, “Hello.” ¬†So, without further ado, let’s dive in to Reprisal.

Conquer your foes! – with pixelated toes!

As if it were something out of Avatar, you play as the leader of a nation trying to acquire both land and elemental powers back from warring tribes. There are 4 nations and 30 levels within the game. While some of the beginning levels are quite easy, as you advance in skill gaining more and more new powers, the game gets more complicated and intriguing. The game has heavy elements of strategy and coordination and will definitely keep a player guessing as to how to defeat and conquer islands. It definitely reminds me of a throwback of the old game Populous. If you haven’t ever played that game, then this game will definitely give you a reason to go check out a vintage classic.

I set FIRE – TO THE PLAINS! Watch them BURN as I STEAL YOUR BASE!

Now, how about those accessible features? Well I’ll spare you a dissertation and open up!

Pros:

  • All game instructions are done via text-based format. Perfect for deaf players.
  • Controls extremely simple. WASD/Arrow Keys can be used to view map.
  • Single button input controls for game make it easy on motion impaired
  • Chiptune music is amazingly relaxing and a welcome from the retro classics.
  • Color scheme is vibrant and characters, although pixelated, are easy to identify.
  • Game maps aren’t severely large so it makes for easy navigation.
  • HUD display provides easy access for all spells, advice, etc.

Cons:

  • Chip-tune soundtrack can tend to get repetitive, but is easily muted.
  • Colorblind gamers may have an issue with some levels due to similar color tones.
    • i.e. Green tribe on ‘forest’ land, Blue tribe on ‘ice’ land, etc.
  • Game has to be saved in order to play, so it requires a use of a Kongregate account.
  • Game gives no hints/instructions on how to defeat enemies if you get stuck.
  • Game AI can quickly overwhelm you if you don’t strategize properly.

Overall the game not only gives a lovely artistic twinge to the start of my day, but it keeps my brain working like crazy to try and determine how to defeat these pixelated powerhouses. The game lacks a bit in defining it’s storyline, but it definitely imposes a great strategy game within a very simple beginning narrative. It always makes me smile when designers can put together something so simple and make something so special!

So quickly, grab your keyboard, grab your mouse, become a leader and command your tribe! Take over the many islands of Electrolyte Games whimsical strategy game and, as they say, take back your history!

Play Reprisal for FREE on Kongregate today and share the love of pixel battles! – OR if you choose to forgo the Kongregate account you can play it directly from Caplin’s direct site dedicated to the game:

Reprisal

Pixel style!

Thanks goes to Mr. Caplin for sharing this lovely morsel of pixel goodness with the world!

Development: “Project D” is a Must See…

Now, quick, here’s my 50th post – and in honor of my newest blogging achievement – I felt like we should go a little retro. I love retro games – the old NES, the SNES, the Sega Genesis, etc. They’re the type of systems and games that drove me into my love of video games. I recently saw a video series that I felt spoke volumes to my retro heart:

Project D

Project D is a heartwarming, nostalgic, and educational view on how children view current video games vs. retro games. The series podcast is the chronicle of a young boy, Dylan [ 11 ] who gets introduced to a series of retro games to see what his opinion and interaction will be with them. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d seriously recommend seeing it. The video will help give developers a glimpse into the mind of a child, the entertainment value of vintage vs. modern gaming. The old debate of graphics vs. gameplay – all of these topics are discussed in the series, and you’ll definitely get a heartwarming nostalgic feeling with some of the old school games they detail:

  • Contra
  • Battletoads
  • Megaman 2
  • Punch Out
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’ll make it easy for everyone to access by posting them here, but check them out and let me know how you feel.

Here’s the Question of the Day based on Project D:

Do you feel like aspects like: graphics, movement, player interactivity, etc. affect the appeal of a game? – does a game have to have superb graphics, amazing sound, etc. to be entertaining to players?

Let me know how you feel and let’s start the discussion!

 

I personally know, that whenever I have children, I’m going to be doing this with my kids. You can only learn how to build games and admire games by respecting, playing, and studying the vintage retro moments from our youth.

I think this sort of project is definitely a wonderful solution if you want to give children a real view of appreciation for how far games have come for them. Take care folks – and enjoy this lovely project! I hope more and more families actually try this out – it might actually make games and family interaction grow!

Game of the Week: Game Dev Story

Hello there folks!

So, I haven’t been posting for the last few days because of college work – but I’m back now and ready to roll up my sleeves and start anew. Well, this week I’ve got a slew of smaller games that I’ll be talking about – also I want to provide folks with a heads up that I’ll actually be doing a weekly review for the Able Gamers Foundation – so I’m super excited for the opportunity! I’ll keep people posted, and I’ll be reposting any review done there 48 hours after they’ve been submitted. Now – onto today’s game shall we?

Now, for those of you who’ve been following [ and for those of you who are new ] as an aspiring game developer I’ve grown a little bit of a love affair with this game app:

Game Dev Story by Kairosoft 

Come to design games - Stay to become a legend.

Game Dev Story is a mixture of RPG/Sim Game and it’s truly an addictive experience if you like simulation games. The graphics are definitely retro and the gameplay is simple enough, but actually learning how the game works and the strategy behind getting the best scores on your games is the real challenge of the game, which is why I got so hooked. You play as the owner of your own game development studio.

Create games, train your staff, and try and become an award winning game studio!

Working really bytes... unless you're gaming!

If that sounds fun then you’ll probably love Game Dev Story.

Now let’s break the game down in terms of it’s accessibility, because that’s the important part I love to focus on as a designer. I will start off by saying, that while the gameplay is sort of slow, the game is educational, simple to play, has heartwarming graphics, and definitely a game anyone should check out once.

Here’s some gameplay to see how it works:

Pros:

  • Game Dev Story has one-touch controls perfect for physically impaired or one-handed gamers.
  • Graphics are vivid and color variations are different enough that colorblind gamers won’t have a problem with playing this game.
  • Large print text for vision impaired gamers.
  • Musical audio, but all directions and gameplay updates via text. Deaf gamers ¬†will be able to definitely grab this game and just play, without fear of missing valuable information.
  • Simple gameplay is not only educational [ helps learn financial saving/spending business concepts ] but makes it easy to play for many players.
  • Game time pauses for every time you make a change – helps physically impaired gamers play without fear of rushed decisions/gameplay.
  • Large buttons for easy touch controls.

Cons:

  • Repetitive music score, while nice at first, can get old – but can be muted.¬†
  • The game development process goes by quite fast, and while nice, when the Free version only let’s you go 5 years into development – it can feel like a much shorter experience than desired.
  • The game becomes far more difficult, not in gameplay, but in strategy. It’s a definite toss up when trying to determine which genre and style of game will sell well together – which may make the game harder for cognitively impaired gamers to be truly successful in the game.
  • No real story to the game, so the only incentives are trying to get your popularity and games to win rewards – but that’s a fun experience in and of itself!

Overall though, this game is a heartwarming throwback to the retro-sim games of old – and a wonderful experience to pass the time as a designer. If you’re interested I would totally recommend grabbing up the FREE version from either Android or the Apple App Store. This version will last you for about 2 1/2 hours of gameplay, but if you really grow hooked to the experience you can purchase the game for $3.99 on the App Store and $2.50 on the Android Market – and design till your hearts content – FOREVER! I hope that the game will get updates and perhaps some expansions in the future – but this is definitely a very simple, joyous experience I think any gamer looking for an educational, fun, and accessible game experience will enjoy!

If you enjoy Game Dev Story – I’d definitely recommend checking out the other simulation games that Kairosoft has to offer. They’re all easy to play and easily accessible – and I think that’s what more and more games need to have. Check ’em out!