Game Design Analyses for the Week of March 11

Quick Analyses

You Have To Burn the Rope is an amusing case of disproportionate reward. In exchange for a minute or so of extremely trivial gameplay, the game literally sings praises of you.

Redder is a minimalistic Metroidvania game made in Flash. For a reason I hope to figure out someday, Flash-based Metroidvanias typically fail to resonate with me, and Redder was no exception. However, the game made excellent use of its few mechanisms.

Canabalt is interesting in that its setting – the rooftops of a city experiencing a robot-induced apocalypse – seems to be the main draw of the game.

Super Puzzle Platformer is a delightfully literal interpretation of the term “puzzle platformer”. Though it’s basically SameGame, the fact that you must act via an avatar on the board instead of an omnipotent cursor makes a world of difference.

In-Depth Analysis

Rescue: The Beagles is a delightful action-platforming game. It has a fast pace, but because of the gameplay area’s large size and the speed at which you can maneuver it, you have time to think in spite of that pace. And there is much to think about…

The gameplay area consists of four vertically-stacked randomly-generated paths. Each path changes elevation frequently, and advances at a rate which slightly differs from its neighbors. Thus, those parts of the playing field which can be traversed with a given difficulty and a given degree of item usage will mutate constantly. Beagles and items offer a plethora of targets to strive for to motivate your movement across this landscape.

The game gives the same penalty to the loss of a beagle as it gives to damage to your character – one life is lost. This has interesting gameplay consequences, as rescuing those adorable dogs becomes equally as important as protecting yourself, and moves that risk your life become justifiable if they enable beagle-gathering. This makes skill-building in judging which moves won’t cost your life practically mandatory, and contributes to establishing the game’s setting of a beagle rescue mission.

Your limited supply of ropes and parachutes presents an interesting constraint. Use them too much and you won’t have one when you need one. But can the extras that have appeared on the playing field be collected in time? More can appear on the field, but will they come soon enough? Just how much use of them is justified to meet your goals? Will the shifting landscape open a route that doesn’t require them in time? Developing the skills to answer these questions adds to the thrill of the gameplay.

The scoring system – the manipulation of which is the only way to earn extra lives – suffers one unfortunate flaw, which is that the valuable special bonuses are practically only learnable via the text file that is distributed alongside the game. The in-program documentation makes no mention of them, and if you earn one by accident, unintuitive names, which all include the word “Flow” for no discernible reason, make it difficult to figure out how to earn them again.

Overall, a wonderful and exciting game.

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