Other than, perhaps, the racing game, there's no game genre so set in stone, so lacking in innovation as the sports game, which survives (and from a market standpoint, thrives) simply by modest tech updates and new player stats on a yearly basis. And there are really only two kinds of sports games; ones that simulate matches in vibrant 3D, and ones that simulate team management in a spreadsheet dressed up with a few graphics.
Which is why Simon Read's New Star Soccer series, of which this is the fourth, is so brilliant; Simon Read is doing something nobody else does. New Star Soccer is a life sim in which you control the life and career of a footballer.
Between is the latest full game from Jason Roher, done in his idiosyncratic style of OpenGL cross-platform and bit-wise read .tga files. The game requires you to play with a friend, and generally plays with your expectations of multiplayer interaction. At first you'll experiment with the controls, trying to get an idea of what it's all about, as you do you'll begin to create new patterns, building a great structure in a multiverse between dreams and waking life. As you do a sense of creeping solitude is fuddled by the strange adjustments to the landscape, things you did not plan, and the sense that the person you had to network with as a requisite for starting the game is lurking around like the Christian God or a more mischievous sort of invisble man, depending on the level of altruism. You then realize that Instant Messaging functions as both a philosophical sutra and a transhuman sort of prayer.
Somersault is a platformer, of a sort; each level is traversed from left to right, but extending above and below your entry point, with secret areas. Your goal is to collect gold and silver rings, while avoiding heat, water, and other dangers.
That sounds like any number of other games, but what's interesting, and unique, about Somersault is the UI scheme. You are guiding a bouncing ball, which you do by using the mouse to draw Pong-like paddles on the screen. Basically, when you click, you start a paddle at the point where you clicked; you drag to draw the rest of it. If you release the mouse, the paddle stays in place, but instead you can keep the button down and "swing" the paddle, Ping-Pong-like, to bat the ball. To guide you, a rainbow extends from the ball, showing its future path.
Asp is, fundamentally, an exploration of the limitations and advantages of AI opponents.
Each level, you control some number of 'alien' ship squadrons, opposed to some number of 'human' ship squadrons. Their AI is this: turn to the closest opponent and shoot. Your AI is different: move to the next waypoint set by the player, and shoot if the enemy is in the 60 degree arc of fire to my fore.
In other words, the enemy AI is actually superior, except that you get to set the waypoints. At least initially, before you get the hang of the game, the enemy is shooting, and destroying your ships, more often than the reverse, because they don't blindly move to the next waypoint, even when it's irrelevant, and always turn to face the next foe.
And yet, you do get to set those waypoints, and you know and can utterly predict the actions of the enemy AI (albeit looking too far into the future becomes increasingly difficult). Thus, if you are clever, you can out-maneuver them -- helped by the fact that, at least in earlier levels, you have superiority of force.
Asp is not a polished game; it's a student project, and it's entirely silent -- no music or sound effects, which are sorely missed. It does have a fair number of levels in a campaign game with a notional story attached -- but what's interesting, really, is the way it pits predictable opponents against only slightly less predictable ships controlled by the player -- the limits as well as the advantages of AI.
You could almost see this basic structure being elaborated upon and becoming a commercial game, with different AI behaviors for opponents and more sophisticated player squadrons introduced over time. But it's worth playing even without that for its originality and focus on one particular design issue.
I'm going to be honest: I don't remember most of the 80s. For most of 1985 and '86 I was totally crunked out on the white stuff -- breast milk. For those that do remember, I think you'll find the DROD RPG fitting. This game doesn't hold your hand, there are no context sensitive menus or automated interface processes. You will repeat entire sections, perhaps half of the game, several times as you try to puzzle out the details. It's a brutal game, a rewarding game, a game that is only as fair as you force it to be. Every decision must be weighted, manual saves are recommended on a frequent basis. You thought the other DROD games were challenging? They were! But this game is MORE challenging!
My usual reaction to Breakout/Arkanoid style games is "meh." It's one of the easiest types of games to code, and so there are scads of them out there, most of them very dull. I fired up Jardinains with the expectation that I'd be uninstalling it quickly. An hour later, I was still playing, with a toddler on my lap following the game avidly.
What makes Jardinains different can be summed up in one word: gnomes.
So, yeah, here at PTT! we tend to be game design snobs and think about games from a design rather than implementation perspective (I spit on your novel and original visual effects! pfaugh! brainless eye-candy!). Yet occasionally, you run into something and say: Sweet! What a cool technical hack.
Summer Session is from "Tycoon Games," but Hanako's logo is on it too, and it sure looks (and plays) like Georgina Okerson's work -- so, since there aren't any in-game credits, I'm going to assume it's hers. (Okerson also created Summer Schoolgirls, Cute Knight and Fatal Hearts.) In fact, Summer Session plays a lot like Summer Schoolgirls, redeveloped for boys. The objective here isn't to make friends, however, but to get a girl friend -- perhaps a minor difference, but one that adds a mild sexual frisson.
Playing Eschalon is a bit like slipping into a warm bath, at least for those of us who played computer RPGs obsessively in the late 80s. It's a tile-map, sprite-based, single-character RPG with randomly-rolled characters, multiple character types, and a bit of a story. Movement and combat is turn-based but if you hold the mouse button down, you move continuously in the direction pointed, so you can produce a quasi-action game, if you like.
Procedural generation is a process that allows games to create environments like levels or worlds on the fly by following a script or formula. Procedural generation ensures that every play of Dwarf Fortress and Spelunky is a unique experience, at same time saving developers from the need to hand-craft levels.
How to Host a Dungeon is a solo game in which you follow a script sketching and narrating a procedurally generated dungeon. You use random number generators (dice) to determine what happens to various groups that come to explore, expand (dig), exploit (mine), or exterminate.
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