Saturday, April 9, 2011

Retrocade: DataStream Y2K600

So for the past two and a half years I have been scanning the Xbox live indie games new release tab just about daily. I have my own routine: Click A, Move Thumbstick Right to View Gallery, scan images to determine if game is worth playing.

Screenshots aren't my only metric for making the gameplay determination, I play about 90% of the games that are released, the screenshots cull that ten percent with mechanics that can be completely determined from the screenshots, if I can visualize how your game plays in my head, why would I need to play it? What I am really looking for is something that I haven't seen before,

The above screen is obviously depicting a frogger clone reminiscent of the early 1980's. In other words RETRO. Something that we have all seen before by definition. So why did I instantly download DataStream and play it for upwards of an hour non-continuously? Well, for one thing it's fun.

Indeed, RBG Entertainment has this to say about their own game,

"Pure unadulterated game play that the entire industry was built upon. No fancy graphics, no social media BS, and no silly advertising tie ins; Just rock solid retro fun."

Actually, the textual overlays on the screenshots caused me to lol in real life, and whenever a content description causes this reaction, the content is added to my download queue instantly, no questions asked.

Datastream is at its core an implementation of those classic Atari carts that came loaded with multiple variations upon a single gameplay theme. Frogger is the nucleus as previously mentioned, but I always found the linear nature of frogger to be quite limiting. Luckily RBG entertainment has brought Frogger back to its roots and twisted the mechanic beyond all comprehension. Yes, you control a block of pixels and yes, you will be moving up, down, left, and right avoiding other pixel blocks while attempting to collect others but you will be doing so as a pixel block itself.

The frog has become irrelevant, Datastream is what I refer to as a pure game. One stripped down to its essential elements. I quite enjoy these types of games.

Each variation comes with its own set of rules, each slightly different, each slightly similar. I only enjoy playing one variation though, depicted here,

I am one colorless pixel block amongst many, but I have fallen out of the flow. My only purpose is to collect errant yellow blocks while avoiding my colorless brethren who are sliding past at varying speeds and lengths. Quite fun actually. I do suggest you try it.

Click To Download The Trial of DataStream

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Snake Man

Ah Snake, That most classical of the classics. Xbox Live Indie games has not been wanting for its lack of snake clones since its inception back in November of 2008.

Snake360 was released 8 days after the service launched. I know this after a few seconds of use of what I think is a very powerful tool for the Xbox Indie Searcher, the filter. In the past I used that official game list over at the MS Apphub but its interface was horrid and it did not allow me to filter how I wanted. The funny thing is that has always been in the vanguard when it comes to sorting and displaying XBLIG.

Coming to the point of this post,

Snake Man is in my opinion the cream of the cream when it comes to snake clones on the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace, the filter mentioned above lists 14 games that can be found by using the keyword Snake. One of these is a Silver Dollar abomination that has nothing to do with Snake but is listed due its title "Murder on Snake Road" And two are quite similar, Snake 360 mentioned above and Snake 360 lite. I have strong opinions when it comes to my Indie Channel, I feel that lite releases have no place.

So according to the filter, 12 Snake games. I feel that this number is a bit low.  Undoubtedly there are some snake games that do not list the word Snake in either their title or description. This is no cause for alarm, all that is needed of the filter is the addition of user generated tags, something that I hope will be implemented shortly.

Oh yeah, if you haven't already tried Snake Man I suggest you do, it is surprisingly good. It's retro inspired feel and progression style leads the player towards the do a little better next time mentality, which is the hallmark of the classics.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cuckoo Crack

"Is this that angry birds for the Xbox?" She asks.

"No." Although the aesthetic is quite similar.

Cuckoo Crack, recently released through the Xbox Indie Marketplace can probably trace its origins to Defender, although in Cuckoo Crack, we are only given two options for control of our bird, The left trigger, which when pressed translates to a flapping of our bird's wings, giving the Cuckoo an upward thrust. And the right trigger which causes our bird to "lay" an egg. Lay enough eggs in the seemingly infinite number of nests and advance to the next round.

A game such as this is made or broken on the strength of its artistic sensibilities and sound effects. Cuckoo Crack delivers on both fronts. I must admit that pulling off a triple lay in the same tree, results in a most pleasant, "ping, ping, ping" to eminate from my speakers. To me, the most satisfying feedback in the game. The looping background music, although not too grating is easily muted by a simple press of the Left Shoulder Button.(note to devs: If you find yourself with an unused button when your game is nearing completion, consider turning it into a volume control. Your gamers will thank you for the option.)

Once I got the hang of the physics involved,  internalizing the rate of egg drop calculated against the speed of horizontal velocity, I found myself completing the game's 5 levels in about 15 minutes. The game then asked me if I would like to play again, I did click yes but did not notice any change in the difficulty or speed for this Challenge round level 2 so I simply quit the game. It's probably a good thing that I did.

Cuckoo Crack makes use of multiple scrolling backgrounds, all scrolling at various speeds. When this scrolling stopped, the room began to scroll. The motion aftereffect from Cuckoo Crack is intense. If you're sensitive to this affect, you might want to give Cuckoo Crack a try just to experience it.

As I mentioned there are 5 levels in Cuckoo crack, but only two types of challenges, a score challenge where you are asked to rack up a score by laying eggs, and an egg laying challenge, which requires a certain number of eggs to be laid in a certain amount of time. Both types of challenges come with a timer of 3 minutes.

In the later levels, the game speeds up about every minute or so, It might actually speed up based on score or by number of eggs laid, either way, the fact that the game scrolling speed does speed up is what's important here. If the developer had an easy to find weblisting, I would have asked why an infinite mode was not added to Cuckoo Crack, where the player can simply play for as long as they would like, as long as their reflexes could keep up with the increases in game speed of course.The after effect might be interesting as well.

And I have now spent quite a bit more time on this review than I actually spent playing the game, so I must stop.