Showing posts with label art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Take Care of the Trees

I have been known to review the occasional artsy game on here. Opinion on their worth seems to be split: some people find 'em to be interesting and thought-provoking, and others seem to think art as a game is a waste of time. There is merit in both arguments, though I lend more to the former. I enjoy art games...

... so long as they are somewhat game-like. Take Care of the Trees... not so much on the gaming.


Concept

You are a man. You live in the wilderness with your brother. One day, the brother goes into town to fetch a new axe, leaving you behind to watch the house. That's boring, however, and you decide to go looking for your bro... only to find... well, bad things.

Very bad things.

I can't say a hell of a lot more, because another sentence would probably ruin the rest of the story. And that's all this 'game' really has going for it: a short, weird, not-totally-logical story. And while it's true that art doesn't always HAVE to be logical, it might help in this case.

So what's the game part? I dunno. You move around and interact with things. You can cut down trees, if you like, and despite what the name of the game implies nothing bad happens if you slice them all to pieces. Shrug?


Controls

Arrow keys. They are responsive. Moving on...

Graphics

As is pretty dang common with browser games, Take Care of the Trees resembles an SNES-era game, specifically an RPG. That said, it's slightly below that level, as none of the characters really have animations that bring them to life. There's no expressiveness, and thus little of interest in the visuals.


Sound

The one element that stood out in this game is the sound. It's quite good. There's only one REAL song, but it's fantasy-country-catchy. There's also a smattering of voice work involved, and though it's largely inconsequential the extra work does benefit Take Care of the Trees.

Challenge Rating

If you lose at Take Care of the Trees, your browser crashed. That's the only way to explain failure here. This is fairly typical of artistic games, as they're often not meant to be challenging in the traditional sense.

Problem is, Take Care of the Trees doesn't include something to take the place of challenge. There's no depth. No potential for extra endings, no major interactions, no hidden plot explanations, no... nothing, really. The logical flow of the story is quite lacking. There's potential here, but what currently exists just doesn't work.

Conclusion?

This isn't really a game. It's a semi-interactive movie with an unexplained plot. I'd say pass and play something else, but Take Care of the Trees only takes about five minutes to play, so... why not?

PLAY TAKE CARE OF THE TREES

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Saw Her Standing There

NOTE: Reading this review will spoil a funny little fact about the game that's worth discovering for yourself. I recommend at LEAST watching the intro before you read the review, 'cause from here on out, it's spoilers aweigh.

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All done? Okay. Yeah. Then you should know that this game is, surprisingly, about zombies. And that, piled on top of the puppy love, makes it a weird, sweet, funny little title.


Concept

I Saw Her Standing There is the classic tale of a boy and a girl. Boy loves girl, girl loves boy. Something is separating them, however... and in this case, it's 'cause the girl is a freaking zombie. Bit of an obstacle for a relationship, eh?

Not for the boy. He loves his girl. So much so that he keeps her locked in a cage. And whenever she escapes, he happily lures her back to captivity. It's a rather twisted dynamic, but judging by the little cracking heart over the girl's head whenever her boyfriend dies, she doesn't mind.

That, then, is the point of the game: lure the girl into her cage, using the guy as bait. When necessary, and it's OFTEN necessary, avoid other zombies. Proceed through the story. Aww, how cute.


Controls

For such a simple game, I Saw Her Standing There is surprisingly well-tuned. Your little boyfriend goes exactly where you tell him to go, and his jumping skills are quite amazing. The controls actually make it a little difficult to die, which is... quite a reverse...

Graphics

The boy's love for his girl is simple, and the graphics perfectly reflect his affections. Everything in this game is little more than a symbol. I might bemoan the lack of detail in other titles, but here, nothing else would be suitable. The love story would lose its subtle impact if the girl looked anything more like a zombie.


Sound

I Saw Her Standing There is virtually silent, save for one thing: one acoustical song that plays forever in the background. I LOVE THIS SONG. It carries the pleasant, grassroots theme of the game from beginning to end, completely robbing a zombie apocalypse of its threat. Never has the annihilation of mankind seemed more relaxing.

Challenge Rating

This is not a hard game. It's only fifteen levels long, and most of them can be demolished in a minute or two. Disrupting the pleasant little story with too much difficulty would rob the experience of its charm, however, so I'm fine with that.

And for those of you who might complain that games SHOULD be challenging? Once you beat I Saw Her Standing There, you'll unlock a series of little cheat codes that can make it REALLY hard. Namely, by tossing more zombies into the mix... and allowing them to jump. Yeesh.


In Conclusion?

Quirky, cute, eminently playable. I Saw Her Standing There is a short-lived experience, true, but one you're likely to remember for a while. Enjoy.

PLAY I SAW HER STANDING THERE

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Don't Look Back

I've seen lots of mythical monsters pop up in video games before - minotaurs are damn near staples in fantasy games, for example - but I don't know that I'd ever played a game directly based on a myth before I locked horns with Don't Look Back. Needless to say, at least in this case, the combination works beautifully.

Assuming, you know, you have the willpower needed to never turn around.


Concept

If you're familiar with Greek mythology, you'll probably recognize the myth behind Don't Look Back as soon as you read the title. It refers to the tale of Orpheus, a man who waded into Hell itself (well, okay, Hades) to take back his fallen love Eurydice - only to look back just before they emerged and watch her spirit vanish forever. Fun times.

Don't Look Back follows Orpheus' trek, albeit in a more modern fashion. A man has lost his significant other, and he treks into Hell (Hades?) to get her back. He gets a gun, though, so you can't QUITE say he's Orpheus... just a close analogue.

Game play-wise, Don't Look Back is a platformer. You need to jump over enemies and circumvent traps to survive. Once you fetch your lady love, you need to leave Hell, and... do... y'know... the obvious. (Or NOT do the obvious, as the case may be.)


Controls

Don't Look Back's controls are perhaps its weakest aspect. They aren't bad, but they do tend to make the game more difficult than necessary: responsiveness is a teensy bit laggy on some jumps, and your capacity for firing your gun isn't as swift as I might like. There is no life count and you restart on the same screen you died each time, fortunately, so the controls don't destroy the game.

Graphics

My first thought when Don't Look Back booted up was 'Atari'. Granted, it looks a hell of a lot nicer than most Atari games in animation and execution, but the point stands: the pixelated nature of this title is pure retro. Which, given that it's based on an ancient myth, seems altogether appropriate. (Though it perhaps could have used a climbing animation for the ropes. Tiny detail.)


Sound

Don't Look Back is half-and-half silence and gloomy horror music. Silence is primarily ambient noises, which are difficult to fault; the music was pretty decent. There are two primary tracks, one for bosses and another for cave exploration, and both smack of epic combat against creatures most foul. I enjoyed the selection, even if it was tiny.

Challenge Rating

Don't Look Back is a surprisingly difficult game, and that's not the fault of the controls. The puzzles in the game are fairly inventive, and given the do-or-die nature of their completion you need to remain on your toes throughout the game. This is also true of the bosses, though given the nature of restarting after a death it's fairly easy to pick up on patterns necessary to oust the big baddies.

The most difficult part of Don't Look Back, however, has to be not looking back in the second half of the game. You'd be amazed who hard it is to master the impulse to hit the left key when avoiding a trouble area. Get ready to learn.


Conclusion?

Don't Look Back is another nice art piece with a strong message pointing towards the futility of fighting death. It's also a solid game in its own right, if a little short. Greek mythology fan or not, you'll probably appreciate this title - especially if you want a challenge. It doesn't take long to beat, but doing so feels good.

PLAY DON'T LOOK BACK

Monday, December 26, 2011

Loved

Not a ton of time today, so I'm reviewing a short artsy game. Loved! It is, despite the name, not a very happy title - though it does get you thinking.


Concept

Loved calls itself a short story, but you might be hard pressed to puzzle out the actual plot. What APPEARS to be happening is this: you, a blobby little monochrome creature of undetermined origin, are subjected to the capricious demands of an unseen, unknown presence. This presence asks questions of you and tells you to do certain things, and how you react to these requests changes your very landscape. If you comply like a good little slave, the world resolves into something approaching detailed normalcy, like so:


If, however, you consistently ignore what's being asked - and you're typically told to jump into spikes or hold still during lethal situations, so you'll probably WANT to hold true to your own decisions - the world becomes indistinct and pixelated, like so:


Your actions also have some bearing on how the game ends, so playing it a few times is a good idea if you want to get the whole plot out in the open. (Though you'll never quite understand what's going on.)

Beyond the story? Loved is a platformer, straight and simple. Avoid problem areas.

Controls

As a platformer, Loved requires precise controls. And, yeah, for the most part it delivers. There is the occasional tendency for the controls to carry you a bit too far on jumps, thanks to over-sensitivity, but the sheer number of save points littered throughout the game - not to mention its already short duration - makes this not much of a problem at all.

Graphics

There's not a hell of a lot to see in Loved, as the world is, even at its clearest, still a series of black-and-white silhouettes. The jarring changes depending on how you progress are pretty neat, though, and even when the game is reduced to long corridors of glowing boxes, it still looks pretty neat.


Sound

Loved sports a one-track musical accompaniment, and it's not so much a song as a haunting tone that's half Gregorian chant and half scream. Difficult to describe, and not terribly pleasant, though it suits the themes of Loved rather well.

Challenge Rating

Loved isn't a difficult game. On your first play through you shouldn't require more than ten minutes to get through the various traps, especially if you ignore the demands of the over-voice. Subsequent plays will become easier and easier. Seeing everything there is to see in Loved won't take more than an hour at most, and probably less for solid platforming players.

Difficulty is, that said, not necessarily the point of Loved. It instead seeks to leave its players with a message about the nature of love... whatever that may be. Probably not a pleasant one for most people, though ever open to interpretation.

Conclusion?

Loved is an art game. What can I say? Its aims are not those of traditional games, and it often tries to force you to do things you wouldn't normally do. It's still fun to play, and will, if nothing else, kill twenty minutes of your time.

PLAY LOVED

Friday, December 23, 2011

Verge

Life. Death. Everything in-between. All constant concerns for we poor mortals - but what if we could transcend all three, in a sense, and cross between the boundaries with ease? And solve puzzles in the process?

Yeah, that's more or less Verge for you.


Concept

Verge doesn't have an easily-identifiable plot, but the snippets you get to start give you a good idea of what's going on: you're dead. Or you are, at least, not quite alive - and following on the tracks of an angel who's always just out of reach, you need to proceed through various levels and find your way... somewhere.

You quickly discover, however, that in order to proceed you need to kill yourself. Repeatedly. In doing so you're whisked to a strange underworld - literally, it's UNDER the level you're currently in - where gravity is reversed and turtle-like beasts look to drain your vitality. You can move between these worlds of life and death by jumping through water, and indeed doing so is necessary to complete almost every level in the game. Using death as a game mechanic isn't totally original, but I don't think I've quite seen it used in this manner before, which is a definite plus.

Besides that? Switches. Timers. Baddies every now and then. It's a standard platform puzzler, albeit one with a deeper story than average. (You need to collect EVERYTHING to get the true story.)


Controls

The controls in Verge constitute my biggest gripe by far. They aren't TERRIBLE, but they're far from spot-on. I had a lot of trouble sticking landings that would have been easy in other games, and my little guy wasn't nearly as responsive as I would have liked. The game is beatable, yes, but it's a lot more frustrating than necessary. (I hate those stupid boxes.)


Graphics

Verge is another of those 16-bit era games that I love playing so much. It boasts some rather neat sprites, even if they do lean towards simplicity, and the environment is placidly foreboding - perfect for the subject matter. I especially liked the sudden conversions between the two worlds, especially near the end of the game when such changes get even creepier than usual.

Sound

Another game with a rather sparse soundtrack, Verge, but I don't mind. The primary song that plays during the levels is a haunting piano-and-woodwind melody that's neither intrusive nor repetitive; it just becomes a normal part of the scenery. I don't think I'd ever mute the game. Beyond that, the last song you come across, right near the end of Verge - if you can CALL it a song, it's more like mad ramblings of some unknown man - is downright bizarre. Well done.


Challenge Rating

Verge isn't a long game. It took me about twenty minutes to beat my first play through, even with the problematic controls, and shouldn't take anyone else much longer. There are few levels, which is good - I think piling too much on top would have detracted from the experience.

What I appreciate most about Verge's difficulty is that it slowly rises without getting too tough, too fast. You have more than enough time to practice the game's mechanics before you reach the end, and then once you get there you need to use some strong deductive skills, along with your knowledge, to ascend to victory. I'll emphasize here that you really REALLY need to work on your jumping to get through Verge, though I won't say why. You'll understand. (Really.)


Conclusion?

My gripes about the controls aside, Verge is an excellent game. It carries a strong artistic message backed by a great set of play mechanics, and is just long enough to appreciate without dragging out the plot. Highly recommended.

PLAY VERGE

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

These Robotic Hearts of Mine

Popular media has long laboured to give robots emotion. The Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz gets his heart; C-3P0 and R2-D2 of Star Wars are thoroughly infused with human traits; and Johnny 5 of the Short Circuit movies claims, over and over, that he's alive. Can't avoid the robot with heart.

These Robotic Hearts of Mine, by contrast, goes in the opposite direction. A robotic heart can never replace a human's. This is not, consequently, a game you wanna play if you want to maintain a happy stance regarding artificial lifeforms and emotion.


Concept

Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl. They were in love. One day, a robot came along and befriended the two... though in doing so, it irrevocably split their relationship, and nothing was the same thereafter...

These Robotic Hearts of Mine is not a happy story, and you can tell it's not going to be just by listening to the music for a little while. This is a bleak story that starts out nice and quickly turns sour, the kind of small tale likely to be found in a Tim Burton movie. It's GOOD, don't get me wrong, but not an idealistic fairy tale by any stretch of the imagination.

The story aside - and the story is kind of a big thing in These Robotic Hearts of Mine - this is a puzzler. You're presented with a series of cogs in each stage, the cogs surrounded by hearts, and you have to spin the cogs so the attached hearts are all properly oriented. Once every heart LOOKS like a heart, you move on to the next level. The cogs can snag hearts that are attached to adjacent cogs, however, so this is harder than it probably sounds.


Controls

These Robotic Hearts of Mine is not a time-sensitive game, so the controls are appropriately casual: it's a point and click adventure. Tap the cogs and they'll turn. Tap 'em again and, hey, they'll turn again. Aside from navigating the menus that's all there is to the controls in this game, so there's little to say on this front.

Graphics

Pretty damn basic. These Robotic Hearts of Mine is primarily a text-based tale, with minimal effort put into the visuals, as you can see below:



The hearts are graphical focus in the game, and they're simple enough that this could, in another age, probably work on a very old computer.

That said, the graphics aren't really SUPPOSED to be the focus in the game, and there are still some neat things done with the bare bone visuals - for example, laying out the action of the story via trails of hearts in certain levels.

Sound

These Robotic Hearts of Mine has only one 'song', and it's a depressing series of breezy noises that perfectly capture the bleak nature of the story. I wouldn't call it music so much as atmosphere, and it's okay at what it needs to do.


Challenge Rating

With enough fiddling it's not that difficult to beat These Robotic Hearts of Mine. Hell, you can breeze through the game without playing any of the levels, if all you want to do is read the story, as there's a tiny arrow in the bottom right corner of the screen that allows you to skip the current puzzle.

Those who savor a good puzzler won't be disappointed, however, as the game includes a counter that keeps track of the number of spins it took you to complete the level. You'll maximize your points by keeping the cog spins to an absolute minimum, providing a nice challenge for anyone who wants to compete against other players.

Conclusion?

These Robotic Hearts of Mine isn't bad. It sports a neat story, and the puzzling dynamic is sufficient to amuse strategic players. Those who like rubix cubes will probably get the most out of this woeful love story.

PLAY THESE ROBOTIC HEARTS OF MINE

Friday, December 2, 2011

Depict1

Lies. People tell us lies all the time. We tell OURSELVES lies. Hell, I lie to myself daily about the number of calories in a cookie. (Can't be that much, right? May as well have three more.) So why not base a video game around lying?


Concept

Depict1 is a game about a free woman. She's not at all trapped in a maze, and there's a perfectly nice, innocent person giving her accurate instructions from above. Everything is, in this world, as it should be.

Or that was all a lie. Which encapsulates the experience that is Depict1.

This is you:


And this is the strange person who talks to you throughout the game, your only company and guide:


That's a smile you can trust. I sure think so, anyway.

The events surrounding Depict1 are a mystery, and they probably don't matter anyway. Point is, your little hooded dude is trapped in a topsy-turvy world of shining beams and weird monsters, and you need to steer your way out while avoiding hazards, using the aforementioned beams to move from one level to the next.

The problem? It's the guy. The guy lies to you. Over, and over, and over. You must learn, in a hurry, that not all is as it seems in your prison... to the point that you even need to question the game's controls. Yeesh. It's a neat idea, and calls into question, constantly, the sincerity of those in our own lives. How can we tell when somebody is lying and when they're telling the truth? Especially when they sound perfectly reasonable?


Controls

Depict1 is a teensy weensy bit more complex on the controls front than your average game, as you not only have to figure them out via clues given in the game, but you don't use up to jump. This was doubtless a conscious decision on the programmer's part, but this coupled with the ability to toss projectiles can prove a little confusing without some practice. The levels are small enough that a control-based flub isn't the end of the world, but guiding your guy around is occasionally irksome because of the layout. On the plus side, though, his landings are absolutely perfect, which is a necessity on precision courses.


Graphics

Depict1 is a bit weird in that it has a fairly basic aesthetic that's nevertheless really cool to see in action. The levels all look more or less the same, and after an hour or two they'd probably get downright boring, but given the scope of the game... everything works. The sprites are clean, the animations crisp and, most important, the shadowy figure you're forced to face is appropriately sinister despite hiding in the shadows most of the time. Well done.

Sound

Depict1's sound is probably its weakest area. The music isn't BAD, but it's understated. Barely there. A lot of levels are completely quiet, and when they aren't, you'll probably pay little attention to the sound. No complaints, just nothing special.


Challenge Rating

Depict1 is not a tough game. It's merely a trial and error: most levels shouldn't take more than a minute to complete, and though there are a few posers amid the puzzles they're far from the majority. The average player will require a solid hour to complete Depict1, and once you know how to beat it you can probably blow through the game in ten minutes flat. (If that.)

This does not, however, take away from the game. I have no trouble playing through Depict1, mainly because I enjoy the lying "compatriot", and there's some satisfaction in getting away from him in the end.

Or... do you...?


Conclusion?

Depict1 is a neat, semi-disturbing game that'll get most players thinking about the nature of deceit. And, hell, it's still a fun platformer even if you don't get too philosophical about games.

PLAY DEPICT1

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Endeavor

I am a fan of exploration games. I like being able to roam through hundreds of rooms, searching every nook and cranny until I find... something. Anything. Consequently, games like Endeavor just plain old make my day.


Concept

You are a dwarf, the son of an explorer and treasure hunter, and the time has come to set out and make your mark on the world - or at least check out your dad's treasure stash. It's just beyond your reach, however, and you have to develop your dwarvenly muscles to jump that high...

... and unfortunately, you wind up doing that by falling off the edge of the dwarf world and into the under worlds, places where strange beings dwell - not the least of which is a voice that promises to return you home if you collect a series of gems, scattered throughout the lands. Why? It doesn't say. Sketchy, but what choice do you have?

The plot itself determines the nature of the game. Endeavor is a treasure hunt, plain and simple... or perhaps not so simple. (When are games branded 'art' EVER simple?)


Controls

Like any good browser game, Endeavor's pretty easy to control. At the beginning, all you have to do is hit X, and your little dwarf will jump. Jump against a precipice and, vitality allowing (the blue bar at the top of the screen), he'll grab on. There's a lot of running and jumping in this sucker. And, every now and then, you have to hit C to interact with people. Easy enough, and the programming's so precise  that you shouldn't have any trouble leaping around the pixelated world of Endeavor.

Graphics

This is you.


Personally speaking, I have trouble seeing a dwarf in that. And while some of the other characters are a bit more obvious, the graphics on Endeavor are less-than-stellar. It's an NES-level game.

I won't complain about the graphics, however, because a) the game is pretty damn huge for a Flash game, and b) it's incredibly varied. Most screens use different tile sets from one another, to the point that every time you move from one screen to another, you're entering a whole new environment. Basic? Yes. Uniform? Hell no. And, given that you're on the hunt for unique items amidst massive plots of land, I don't mind that everything's simple, because it's very easy to pick the important stuff out of the background.

Sound

Endeavor's visuals are so-so. Its music, on the other hand, is gorgeous. There are a lot of tracks in this game, and they're all perfect for a trek into strange lands - a pleasant mixture of gentle horns and sometimes ominous drum beats, in most cases, though every now and then the tempo picks up as well. Don't play this game on mute, I implore you - the programmers put a lot into the soundtrack.



Challenge Rating

Endeavor is not a game in which you can die. Your dwarf falls a reeeeeally long way at the beginning of the game and doesn't even break his legs on impact. That said, you CAN still fail in that you can get frustrated at not finding the gems and give up. It happens, and I wouldn't blame some gamers for getting frustrated at the slow pace - you need to be really thorough to get the most out of Endeavor. (Which is why I find it lots of fun, 'cause you get to explore without having to worry about killing baddies.)

 













Conclusion?

With tight controls, a solid story and multiple endings (yes, there are several ways to beat this sucker), Endeavor is a browser gamer's dream. I could play this game for hours and not get bored, and I suspect hundreds (thousands?) of other gamers have done the same. If you enjoy exploration, PLAY THIS GAME.

PLAY ENDEAVOR

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How to Raise a Dragon

How to Raise a Dragon was already a movie, last I checked, and the creator of this Flash game admits as such - but I somehow doubt that as much thought goes into the topic in that flick as does in the game of almost the same name.


Concept

How to Raise a Dragon is a somewhat misleading title, because despite what it implies, the dragon - which is you, fair enough - raises itself for most of the game. The plot more or less covers the entire life cycle of a dragon, going from this:



To, uh, this:


Moving from egg to adult you grow gradually larger and larger, interacting with your surrounding world in ways that will affect your future. If you want to be a cruel dragon, for example, you'll want to eat humans and burn down their houses. Wanna be nice instead? Leave them alone - or perhaps even heal them, assuming you develop the proper breath for healing (completed during the second stage of the game).

What's neat about How to Raise a Dragon is that your actions can sometimes have unforeseen consequences. If you develop breath that can heal people, you will be able to treat the wounded - but you may accidentally cause zombies to rise from the dead, forever giving yourself a bad name. Think carefully before you do anything. (Or, y'know, play the game over again. That option becomes more and more viable with each play through, as you can skip life stages once you've beaten the game.)


Controls

How to Raise a Dragon is an artsy game, and consequently you don't need to worry much about the controls. It's a pretty standard setup anyway, with Z, X and C all employing various uses throughout the game while the arrow keys guide your dragon around. I found the three letters easy to confuse while playing, but, again, that won't much matter unless you absolutely want to avoid a particular ending. (In short, if you wanna avoid accidentally jumping on humans, hold the jump key to glide, or hit it again to double jump. Or both.) No big complaints.


Graphics

Because art games have a message above and beyond the norm, I usually give 'em a break on graphics. That said, How to Raise a Dragon is just a bit TOO simple, and though it's easy to tell what everything is I could stand for a modicum of shading on some of the backgrounds. I wouldn't mind more animation on the humans, as well, since they kinda... float across the landscape... and they're not small enough to warrant ignoring animations. No huge problems, however, and I did like the little homey details of the second stage of life.

Sound

How to Raise a Dragon is not a musical game. There are occasional woodwind flourishes, but for the most part raising your reptile is a quiet affair. What is there isn't bad, but some more sound effects to convey a sense of dread - or at least weight - to your huge-ass dragon would be nice.


Challenge Rating

There ISN'T any challenge to How to Raise a Dragon, really, since there's no set end - your dragon will each full size no matter what, and though there is one tiiiiny potential battle at the end, it's, ah, not exactly difficult.


In short, if you want a difficult experience, this game isn't one to play. If you want something that provides neat information about dragons, however - and one with many potential endings - then you've got a worthy title in How to Raise a Dragon.

Conclusion?

Despite a few minor shortcomings, How to Raise a Dragon is pretty neat. It's not preachy or judgmental like a lot of art games, and unlike a TON of Flash titles, it's well-written. So long as you're not looking for a traditional experience - think of this more as an interactive documentary - you should have fun raising a scaly friend or two.

PLAY HOW TO RAISE A DRAGON

Friday, November 11, 2011

American Dream

Ever had a dream? Did it include making millions of dollars off the stock profits of celebrities? Then you've found the right game in American Dream, the artsy Flash project thing that mocks consumerism! Yay!


Concept

American Dream is a rough approximation of the actual social dynamic of the western world, though pushed to somewhat ludicrous limits. Your goal is simple: make $1,000,000 bartering on the stock market each day, buying and selling stocks that are... well...


Yeah. Celebrities. Bill Cosby, Mr. T, Rick Astley, Michael Jackson... each one is worth a bit more than the last, and you need to buy and sell your way up the ranks to eventually earn $1,000,000 and win the game. Yay.

But there's a catch! See, you're a trendy, go-getting little industrialist-type, and so you need to keep your home well-furnished so that people will go to your parties and appreciate all of your stuff. Naturally your furniture becomes outdated in a hurry, so replacing it all on a regular basis is a necessity. (Like, almost immediately after you buy the stuff.)


Controls

American Dream is pretty simple. You use the arrow keys to navigate the menus (or your house), and the action key (z) to confirm, well, actions. My browser cut off the actions printed at the bottom of the screen and wouldn't let me scroll down, so I floundered about on the keyboard until I discovered what was what. If this happens to you, keep Z in mind.

Graphics


American Dream is... okay. I like the 8-to-16-bit look of the house, but the rest of the game is pretty crude, the stuff of the Commodore 64 era. Which is fine, since it's supposed to be an ugly subject, though I will admit that I found the weird flashing pictures of peoples' faces rather annoying. They are meant to be obnoxious, however, soooo... mission accomplished?

Sound

The music in American Dream borders on the edge of old, harddrive-generated music, albeit slightly better. I enjoy the jaunty The Sims-esque song that plays whenever you're in the house, but the weird techno stuff that plays whenever you go to work is... bleh.

Challenge Rating

Though it takes a while, earning $1,000,000 in American Dream is pretty damn easy. Do as your 'advisor' says and buy low, sell high. Jump on stocks in the negative and sell 'em when they're in the positive. The stocks fluctuate every time you go between screens, so you won't have any trouble getting your investments to soar. Then buy better stocks until you make your way up the playing field. (Oh, and despite the early pressure to buy new stuff for your house, you don't have to at all. There's no penalty for ignoring your house, as far as I can tell.)

In short, American Dream is not challenging. I don't think that's the point of the game, however, so... shrug?


Conclusion

American Dream is an odd experience. It's an art game with a message, but getting to the message isn't fun. You just mess with prices and buy new stuff until you win. I suppose that's exactly the way the programmers wanted it to go, but the end result isn't terribly compelling. Still, it's worth playing for the rather grim picture it paints of the world of high finance.


PLAY AMERICAN DREAM

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gyossait

As you may have noticed, I'm a fan of artsy Flash games. The freedom of indie projects gives programmers a chance to convey a message alongside good game play, and I always find those messages interesting, regardless of what they're saying.

I just wish I knew what Gyossait was saying.

This game... is messed up. And even though I chose a worthy title for a Halloween game in Rebuild, Gyossait is the game I SHOULD have reviewed on October 31. Trust me.


Concept

Okay. So. I'm not entirely sure what happens in Gyossait, but I'll take a stab in the dark anyway. AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, Gyossait is the tale of Oyeatia, the god of mankind, and his lost love Gyossait. Ignoring his responsibilities as a god, Oyeatia sheds his divine body and returns to the Earth to find Gyossait...


... only to find Earth all messed up, because Gyossait's influence is poisoning the landscape.

Sounds straightforward, I guess, but even with the small blurb on Newgrounds.com about the game you'll still have a hell of a time figuring out what's going on, as Gyossait's narrative plays out through a series of creepy scenes and cryptic messages that are embedded into the landscape, like so:




Sure, that's cool. I dig.

Does this approach work? Yes. If nothing else, it sets the tone for what's meant to be a creepy-ass game, and though I'm not easily unnerved by video games I know a lot of other players will find Gyossait thoroughly disconcerting.

Oh yeah, it's also a side-scrolling, running and jumping and (occasionally) shooting game. There's that too.

Controls

The story is the important part of Gyossait, and since you have unlimited lives winning the game is a sure thing with enough mucking about, but the controls still play a crucial role in expediting your journey through this landscape.

Unfortunately, the controls are probably the weakest part of Gyossait. They aren't HORRIBLE, but your little god has a tendency to drift a bit when he moves, often leading to cruel, unfair deaths when you run into pits or enemies. On the plus side, however, the controls are very simple - run around, hit up for jumping, hit down to use your shield or fire your gun when you get one - and even with some hitches, getting around won't be too difficult.

Graphics

As heavily stressed before, Gyossait is a strange, strange game. Earth has taken a turn for the surreal, complete with crimson skies, trees with eyeballs and giant heads that mock you for trying to reunite with your love.


I'm pretty sure you're in Hell at this point, but in Gyossait it's hard to tell.

Gyossait is pure SNES-era gaming when it comes to graphics. The backgrounds are gorgeous, and the sprites, though small, are surprisingly expressive... and, yeah, creepy. Part of this stems from the fact that you can't really be sure who's an enemy and who's just an innocent bystander until you walk by them... and that occasionally changes, so be wary of everyone.


Looking at you, shifty knife women.

If there's one downside to the graphics, it's the occasional ambiguity in the landscape. Because Gyossait is cast primarily in blacks, blues, reds and greys, some platforms blend into the background... and some backgrounds look like platforms. Be careful when jumping.

Sound

The graphics of Gyossait aren't the end-all be-all of atmosphere, however, as this game relies heavily on sound effects to set the proper mood. Gyossait is like so many other horror games in that its background music is more a collection of unnerving sounds and horrifying tones than it is actual music, and all of them are suitably insane. There is SOME music in here, and it's quite good, but most of the time you'll be wandering around in a screaming landscape. Quite diverse for a browser-based title, and overall well done.

Challenge Rating

You're a god in Gyossait. Consequently, you have as many lives as you want, and though you can die in a single hit you'll respawn every time. Winning is a matter of patience and time, and so it's difficult to give Gyossait a challenge rating, because you WILL win. Eventually.



That said, some parts of Gyossait can be tricky. There are plenty of enemies to circumvent, and the platform hopping portions can prove somewhat irksome if you don't master the jumping in a hurry. There are also some light item-collecting elements to Gyossait, though these puzzles are quite basic, and barely add to the challenge.



Oh yeah, and bosses. There are a couple of those. Your unlimited lives make beating them a moot point, however, so don't worry so much if you suck at boss battles.


Conclusion?

Gyossait is a good, polished piece of Flash, but I don't know if I'd say it's fun, and I'd almost hesitate to call it a 'traditional' game. It is, instead, an experience - and one you're not likely to forget any time soon.

(Oh, and do as the game suggests and play in a darkened room with no distractions. Trust me.)

PLAY GYOSSAIT