29 September 2011

Castaway: No Frills Thrills

Castaway Island TD is nothing fancy, in fact it's pretty much a by-the-numbers tower defence game.

As you may have guessed, the player assumes the role of a wide-eyed boy, stranded on a desert island.  Despite it not being his home, the boy has been asked by some kind of spirit to defend this island from invading monsters.  Actually it would have been more appropriate to call this game Castaway Archipelago, as the boy must defend a series of different islands throughout the game.  The player must defend the island with his highly improvisory woodwork skills, converting coconut palms into armed towers.  Inexplicably, these towers cost money to build.  Also inexplicably, the monsters dispense coins (and gems) when slain.  Apparently money does make the world go round, even on a desert island.

Vanquished monsters also drop gems which can be used to augment towers with elemental powers (fire, ice, lightning, et cetera).  The Spirit of the Island often grants new traps to the player as a reward for clearing levels.  Clearing a level entails enduring six waves of attack with the island's mystical crystal intact.

Presentationally, you'll find many more compelling contrivances for tower defence in games like Plants vs. Zombies and Ninjatown, but there is a surprising amount of polish applied when it comes to the game's interface and feel.  In my opinion, Castaway Island is a much smoother experience than Ninjatown.  When you consider the fact that Ninjatown is a full-priced DS title, and Castaway Island is a free, Flash-based game, this feat becomes that much more impressive.  There's a surprising amount of content on offer here as well, and a save feature for those with a login.

It may not be original; it may not dethrone Plants vs. Zombies, but it's hard to go past a free tower defence game that outplays some full-priced games.

Castaway Island TD is a free Flash-based game by Armor Games.  You can play the game here.

27 September 2011


Pale is a strange little exploration game.  It drops the player in pitch blackness, save for a red diamond in the distance.  Using the W-A-S-D keys to move and the mouse to look around, I started to gain an appreciation of my position/distance in relation to the red diamond.  Dropping a 'flare' of sorts with the 'F' key (actually, I dropped many, many flares) added another dimension - height - such that I could see the labyrinthine walls envelop me.

By far the strangest aspect of the title is the movement.  The player can only move towards the red diamond by walking backwards into it.  And so the player must maintain awareness of his position relative to the light and space around him to advance.  The diamond 'sings' with blue light upon contact, and then it's time to search for the next one.  It's a very interesting idea that challenges the obvious-ness of goals and visuals in other games.

It doesn't set the earth on fire, but it presents an interesting mechanic wrapped in an interesting idea.  I would definitely recommend tinkering with it for a few minutes.

Pale is a free Unity-based web game, designed and developed by AndrĂ© Berlemont and Brice Roy of One Life Remains.  You can play the game here.

23 September 2011

Sonic 4 talks the talk, but can it walk the walk? Can it even walk at all?!

I finally got around to booting up Sonic 4 on my Wii this morning, and as much as it pains me to say it, the game is nigh-on unplayable.  Prior to playing the game, I thought complaints about the game's physics were pedantic and manufactured, but there is something very off about the way Sonic walks, then runs.  It is as though there is an invisible gate held directly in front of and behind the blue-blur-to-be that is very suddenly lifted after several seconds of holding left or right.  Sonic seems incapable of walking at a normal pace.  It is as though he is walking uphill constantly.

Sonic's endless struggle for legitimacy.

The curious thing for me is how few of these complaints actually addressed this issue.  I remember many, many furious comments and even videos about the physics of jumping and landing, but walking?  The issue is so glaring it's all they should have talked about.  Perhaps I didn't help matters with a quick round of BIT.TRIP.RUNNER beforehand, but there is literally no getting past it for me.

What's even more curious was the rabid defence that followed, particularly from the likes of Destructoid's Jim Sterling.  The game is indefensible!  Platformers are all about running and jumping, and if you don't get that right, you don't get anything right.

If I had of known about this issue beforehand, I never would have purchased the game, but here's the rub: most Sonic fans are inarticulate and crazy, and most critics are not Sonic fans.  For once the vocal, rabid minority were correct and I couldn't stand listening to them.

Unfortunately this leads me to the most expensive possible conclusion: where Sonic is concerned, you just have to see for yourself.

22 September 2011

An Idea for the Inevitable Wii Fit 2.

I'm currently undertaking a "challenge" at work as part of my employer's health and wellbeing inititiative.  It's basically a competition to see which team can walk the most steps over a 10-week period.  Now, everyone in my immediate vicinity knows that I walk to and from work regardless, so they attached a pedometer to me and elected me their captain.  And it's actually quite surprising how many steps I do clock up during a weekday.  So each day we log the number of steps we have taken the day before, reset our pedometers, and get back to walking again.  Each step logged puts our team closer to a virtual goal on the map, which I guess you could say is the finish line if you didn't get to keep moving it once you've reached it.

Anyway, all of this business has got me to thinking about Wii Fit 2 and how it could function more as the fitness hub it's always wanted to be.  My suggestion would be to include a pedometer with the game.  The player would go for a walk around the neighbourhood, or to and from work, then log their steps in Wii Fit 2, putting them a little bit closer towards some virtual goal or other.  Players could join teams (or 'clans', if you will) and compete in online leaderboards, perhaps even in a virtual race around the world's equator (or to the moon!).  That way you're encouraging people to be active and go outside, but you're encouraging them to come back to the game as well.  It could encourage a sense of community between like-minded people, using individual play to work towards a common goal, in a similar fashion to Noby Noby Boy.  Sure beats the hell out of jogging on the spot with a Wiimote in your back pocket.

First Wuhu Island, and then the world!  Muwahahahahaa!!

I'm sure this could be applied to other activities as well.  I just think that if the inevitable Wii Fit sequel seeks to be relevant, it needs to work itself into our lives rather than try to distract us from it, in a similar fashion to Personal Trainer: Cooking.  And that means emphasising its role as a hub rather than the be-all and end-all of fitness programs.