Bunni, like Triple Town, is a Dan Cook design (in this case with Andre Spierings), but the gameplay is quite different, though the graphics are equally cute.
It is, at its core, an aufbaustrategiespiel, that genre of builder game more popular in Europe than the US, and typified by the Anno series -- but, of course, vastly stripped down and simplified for a casual game audience.
You are a sort of bunny-king; at game start, you're given a bunny house, a forest, and a lumbermill, and instructed to place them, then put your bunny in the lumbermill. It starts to produce wood. Then you receive your first store, which allows the purchase of additional houses, lumbermills, stone hills, and quarries; wood and stone are, obviously, the main resources of the game. You must also plant flowers to feed your bunnies.
Make No Wonder is a pleasant little game of exploration and crafting, set in a wilderness seemingly patterned on the developer's home of Newfoundland. You start with a handful of resources -- enough with which to build a campsite -- and others are scattered about the map, which is obscured except for the immediately surrounding area.
Quite a lot of different things can be crafted, but recipes are revealed only when you have the necessary resources Discovering them is part of what makes the game interesting, of course -- exploration not only of the map, but of the parameters of the system.
Minicraft was made by Markus Persson of Minecraft fame for a Ludum Dare competition. With NES-level graphics, it is essentially a crafting game with a sort of action-adventure resolution.
You begin with a weak weapon and a workbench in an algorithmically generated world. While you can kill enemies if they start near by, your main task at start is to chop down some trees (with your bare hands, evidently) in order to get wood to craft wooden tools. When you have a pick, you can mine hills for stone and the occasional coal drop; shovels can be used to dig for dirt or sand (depending on terrain). Hoes prepare ground for planting, and sometimes this drops seeds which you can plant. In some hills are stairways leading down to an underground, where iron and gold ore and gems can be found.
Over a year ago Greg reviewed this game in its earlier form and criticized it for being aimless and gameless, now the aim has been given, and it's a bull's eye hit. I watched the crafting/build-a-house tutorial and I was compelled to go buy the thing for 10 EUR or $14 (if only I had waited for yesterday's brief dollar rally I could have saved a buck). If you click through on some of the other videos, such as a scale replica of the Starship Enterprise ("it's actually pretty fucking big") or the planet earth, and so on. But that was old Minecraft, the paidic Minecraft, a game has since been added, and what a game!
This is the most fun I've had playing a game all year, hands down. It rewards every creative impulse, and these impulses are now structured. A crafting system has been introduced, instead of just placing blocks as you will, there is a resource hierarchy with its attendant, diminishing fractals of probable availability. For example, wood and stone are plentiful, with the prior you can make a wood pick to harvest the latter, then you can start building all kinds of tools and a home. You'll need to the stone pick to harvest coal, fairly abundant if you dig 10-20 blocks down, and iron, which is harder to come by. A stone smelter with some coal will allow you to refine that iron into pure bars. With an iron pick you'll be able to harvest the occasional gold ore, which really is pretty useless other than as a monetary instrument (as of this version central banking has not yet been simulated) as well as slightly more common bloodstone that you can use for setting up wire-systems capable of rigging mine cart tracks or calculators, and diamonds which make for the best gear.
To give some constraint, you have health and every several minutes night will fall and unleash undead who plague the land, giving a bright engineering fantasy a nice compliment of survival horror ala LEGO. Somehow, ugly, blocky zombies scared me more than normal mapped ones in Resident Evil perhaps because using a door to make myself safe involved two cumbersome clicks with a move-and-turn in the middle, instead of a single button-press. There's a combination of chill and chill that you may experience as you look down from your lofty castle and see fields full of shambling undead, so distant, enveloped in the mists, safely away from you, insulated by some manifestation of your will and design. Then when day-breaks you'll begin again; what at first is a desperate venture toward survival becomes a triumphant cycle of mastery, after all, you've got access to your own private mine built into your house, and you may be tempted to build a tower to heaven as well. These vertical pursuits will keep you busy at night until you forgot about the whole evil-curse dynamic, save for the moaning sound effects you hear toward the surface.
The game has a tremendous amount of potential for new objects, more focused macro-objectives, social features, and most of all: whatnot. But as it is, it's a great value, especially for those who relish the petty joys of manipulating ambient systems and trying your luck for novelty, digging through aimless stone until you stumble onto an underground river-vein, all procedurally generated, and fight your way through it, digging a short-cut back to the surface, and maybe building some kind of landmark to offer reference on the return. The kid in you will learn engineering again, and if that doesn't make sense then you haven't been playing much.
In my first game I made a petty house and then decided to dig straight into the earth, stumbling onto a deep cave. The cave had a monster spawner, after many respawns I managed to destroy it, finding some diamond and gold. But woe, I dug some more and lost it all to the lava. My second game had a more hilly environment, I picked the biggest one and built a little fort on top, dug myself a garbage chute in the corner with an exit out the side of the mountain, and then built stairs around this chute that lead to a branching mine. Then I built a spiral stair to the highest level that you can build on, and started building a sky-path over the map, risking death with each edge-strafe to place another row of stone plates, before realizing that I was wasting my time (it took me that long). My third game was more of a land-o-lakes, where I built a multi-basement home into a steep cliff on some water-front property; I placed soil on the roof of my little workshop and then built a path out to a tree growing off the edge of the cliff, I then built a multi-story house on top of that tree with another roof-top path back to the newly grow trees off the roof of the original structure, upon which I built my master bedroom. Below my third basement, with another door leading out to a private marina where I kept my boat, I started mining, which is another enterprise in itself.
I'm telling you, this shit is the geeky male version of girls decorating their virtual pets on Facebook, it's the same kind of self-expressive vanity, but to the exponent of physics and engineering. It's grow-and-show to the power of power tools.
Not surprisingly, the sheer torque of possible agency in this game has translated into tremendous sales success. For having the audacity to charge 10 Euros, the game's creator has single-handedly amassed over 6 million dollars in revenues that he's reinvesting a bit of into a new game studio, which will support this game and a new one. Your purchase acts as a sort of investment in this company, as you'll get free updates on all future versions of the game. As far as I'm concerned, this is game of the year 2010.
When I dream I sometimes create the story as I'm playing in it, and new scenes and characters are spun out, blurry as I meet them, crisper as we fight, dance, make love, explode, or simply have a surreal conversation. Sometimes I meet people I'd known before who have left me, or who I have left, or who I never met, knowing or at least hoping that they are, at some level, meeting met as well, in their dreams. And now Jason has turned the collective unconscious into a game.
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