Category Archives: Games Played

Thoughts on Games I’ve played as a consumer

depict1 and Robot Unicorn Attack

Two games to discuss tonight, go!

First up is depict1, a platformer that’s also kind of a mind trip. It’s full of smiley surprises, and it has a subtle way of playing with our natural instinct to trust and listen to the tutorial man. In a way, it probes something deep down and makes me a little squirmy, but just barely, and not enough to decrease how enjoyable the game is.

The trick is not to get frustrated by its initial premise and the search for controls. Just check the readme file, it’s not that big a spoiler.

Secondly is the ever-popular Robot Unicorn Attack (short ad before the game). Now, I thought that Canabalt was pretty clever, what with its procedurally generated courses and all, but I played it like 2 or 3 times and then shrugged it off. Robot Unicorn Attack, on the other hand, I can’t stop!! The music! The rainbows! The sparkles! I cannot resist their juiciness!

It just goes to show how important the theming and aesthetic wrapper of your game can be. (For those who don’t feel like playing them or don’t have the time, here’s the spoiler: it’s the same game).

Also, I want that song, surely that song has to be in downloadable form someplace by now, right?


Today’s favorite of the Gamasutra weekly indie game pick is Sheep, a game where you are a sheepdog herding sheep! Well, sort of.

See, in this situation, the sheep chase the dog instead of the other way around.

Regardless, I found it had a few nice little twists on game mechanics that I’m used to. For example, the rams will hurt you if they touch you, so you have to keep away from them. But you are still leading them, so you can’t let any of them die by falling into water or getting caught by the wolf.

I don’t think I’d ever played a game before where you have to preserve and keep safe the thing that is chasing and trying to hurt you. I’d like to explore that idea further!

There are a few quirky things about the game, such as the difficulty ramping being a little sporadic (I found the hardest levels to be sprinkled throughout, rather than each level being more difficult than the last). Regardless, I found the interaction to be fresh and fun, and the music was nice in all of its midi-ness.

It’s very short, so give it a try!

Defend Your Honor

I post links on twitter a lot to various short indie games that I like, but I’m trying to get into the habit of making more thoughtful journal entries on them (like I did for Continuity).

Today’s game of choice is Defend Your Honor, a Flash fantasy-themed tower defense game. I went into this one cautiously, because I’m generally not a huge fan of tower defense games.

This one, however, was great! It has a silly story and a rudimentary but appealing art style, and the music is quite enjoyable (the theme that plays when you’re out in the dungeon picking out which door to go to is delightful and addictive).

I think the theme wrapper of the game as a sort of classic, D&D-style dungeon fantasy adventure helped hook me in. The units you control are quite simple, and the battles themselves are relatively short. I never failed a battle more than twice, but there were plenty of close calls that made me feel clever and kept things interesting.

Having the meta-game of getting the keys and statues to progress through dungeon rooms really helped to break up the pacing, as tower defense games I’ve played in the past have exhausted me with their format. Plus, having the units be introduced to you as characters is a nice little tie-in, but they didn’t overdo it by trying to over-explain things (like how you can buy multiple units of what appears to be a single character). The lightness and crudeness of the story makes this tactic acceptable.

I played through the whole thing in an evening, but it does save your progress. So, if you’ve been “meh” about tower defense games in the past, give this one a try. It’s quick and fun!


If anyone’s been following my tweets recently, you’ll notice a fair amount of the recent ones were about an awesome little web game, Continuity

This game is a combination slider puzzle, maze, and platformer. Basically you move the tiles around to arrange the space for your little guy to traverse. You can’t move between two panels if their walls (or floors or ceilings, depending which direction you’re trying to go) don’t match up. Get the keys and reach the door, pretty simple, but a very elegant game.

Continuity demonstrates something very strange that happens when you inject simple movement interaction into the main stop-and-think puzzle solving part. It does delightful things to the pacing! It’s as though the simple act of moving your little guy is a reward for how clever you are for solving which panel to put where. It also helps break up the heavy thinking in the later, more difficult puzzles – just work at finding one piece you can match up, and getting to move there is a reward. The platforming is very mild, even in the later levels, but you do eventually have to do tricky things, like jumping up into a panel, then pulling out and switching out the one you’ll fall into.

It also makes beautiful use of the music to communicate which mode you are in – puzzle slidy mode, or move-your-guy mode.

The other thing it does really well is ramp across all of its levels. Every time a new tricky mechanic is introduced, you face an extremely simple level where just that mechanic is involved, so it’s very clear you will have to use that little trick in the upcoming levels.

Lastly, I love that there is no formal instructions in the game. You figure out what you’re supposed to do and how to move by the constrictions of the first level, and then you’re all set for the rest of the game.

I beat the last level today, and of course yearn for more. I’m very curious about the process these guys used to design their puzzles – if they had a step-by-step method or if they were something more reverse engineered. Puzzle design is something I take for granted.

Anyway, I hope you try it out. Enjoy!

More on Uncharted 2

Josh: So, which is better? Uncharted 2 or Arkham Asylum?
Me: Hmmm, it’s a tough choice, but I’m going to say Uncharted
Drake: I don’t think so

In spite of Nate’s humorously-timed modesty, it is true. Both are amazing games and super fun, but I’m gonna name Uncharted 2 as the winner because of being an original IP.

Now, I could talk about all the mechanics that make this game wonderful, or its amazing character and story development, or I could speak of its touching amount of polish. Many elements of the game are blogworthy, but you can probably read about all those elsewhere.

Today, I will instead talk about how appreciative I am of the design of the main character, from my perspective as a lady.

Now, note that as a girl into games, I’m used to being subjected to character design aimed to please the straight male demographic. Many a time I have rolled my eyes at the stock shape that most girl characters seem to take, and the attention to detail in the realm of boob physics. At the same time, male characters also seem to be designed for the straight male demographic, because apparently straight males fantasize about being large and unattractively bulky? I don’t pretend to understand.

I long ago accepted this quality as the way of games, and moved ahead with my life.

But at long last, ladies (and gay men), we have been given a piece of eye candy unto ourselves! Surely those Naughty Dogs must have made this character for us, and I am proud of whatever research into the straight female/gay man market they did to finally come up someone that we could gawk over.

Sure, sure, they made Chloe to appease the straight males, and how the straight males latch right onto her. They don’t seem to mind that the main character has been given to us. It’s a win situation for everyone involved!

Also, butt!

Even more, it has perhaps helped bridge the gap between the sexes. For example, I was always a little bit baffled when my male friends preferred hot and scantily clad women to use for their avatars. I would make male avatars, sure, but never from the perspective of them being attractive. But now, with Drake as my default Multiplayer skin, I understand!

And so, thank you, Naughty Dog. Thank you not only for making the best game I’ve played so far, but for creating a fictional character who is easy on the eyes for the…uh…more neglected gamer demographic.

Uncharted 2: A first look

I just played the first bit of Uncharted 2, and made this tweet: “Uncharted 2 has the best acting and dialogue I’ve ever seen/heard in a game. EVER.”

However, I feel I need to clarify my point. Seeing as I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that all voice acting in all games is going to be shitty, regardless of how good the game is, such a compliment seems meaningless without qualifiers.

So, here is a better metaphor. You know the L-Curve, right?

Now, instead of family income, pretend that graph is for “quality of voice acting in games.” The majority of the football field encompasses “all games.” The last stack there at the end is Uncharted 2. You’ll have to zoom out several times.

There, I feel like my comment has been qualified.

Fat Princess

So I downloaded Fat Princess tonight and gave it a whirl, and it had its pros and cons.

Overall I’d say it was enjoyable to play, especially since Josh and I worked out a system for playing through the single player story. I really enjoyed resource collecting as a worker, and he enjoyed fightin, so I’d resource it up in the beginning of the battle and upgrade the units, and he’d do the fighting necessary to finish it off. It worked out splendidly and was quite fun!

There are some things about the game that are very hard, as though they didn’t get enough noob-testing in. We gave up on the lava level after trying again and again to make some headway and failing each time. I feel like it’s the kind of game which, especially in online play, can end up being like old school Alterac Valley, in an endless stalemate. Though, even in the long games where little was made towards the end goal, I still noticed a lot of little gains and advances and retreats going on throughout, so that was pretty cool.

I was actually surprised at how little the Fat Princess gag actually comes into play, as most of the time is spent as different units – gathering resources, capturing holds, killin dudes and whatnot. The time for actually capturing the princess seems very short and swift, regardless of how many people it takes to carry her. It didn’t feel like the focus of the game, but I guess the gimmick helped sell it a lot more than a generic capture the flag theme.

Anyway, I loved the ease with which you could change units, and the theme of putting on a new hat makes you a new unit was delightful. I also loved that each unit is rewarded with points for doing its job, so the worker is rewarded for cutting down trees and mining ore. It helps make those players feel valuable and rewarded.

In the end, I feel like I would like to finish the story mode for this, and like it’s the sort of game I may drop into online play for now and again. Once you understand all the units, it’s easy to pick up and get going, in a very “Castle Crashers” sort of way. I’d say it’s worth a try for sure.