The Trouble with Robots is a sort of single-player, sidescrolling trading-card game, with something of the feel of tower defense.
The backstory is that a flying saucer has landed in a fantasy world, disgorging innumerable robots. In a series of 20-something levels, you control armies composed of peasants, elves, centaurs, and the like against robots of diverse types.
Before a level begins, you select 5 cards from those available to you -- only a few choices are available at game start, but other cards are unlocked during play. There are multiple waves of attackers within a level; each wave, you are dealt new cards. Energy to play them recharges over time; you can use surplus energy to trigger lightning bolt attacks on individual robots, which means that, unlike so many tower defense games, you do still have things to do while attacks are ongoing.
The original Caveman Craig was released back in 2008, and apparently the Andrews brothers have been extending and refining it since. The basics of the new game are the same as the old. Unlike the RTS norm, you have an avatar, the eponymous Craig, and newly created cavemen must be taught how to perform their tasks -- killing dinosaurs, harvesting berries, returning them to the cave, transforming them into food.
The new game has a larger variety of dinosaurs, as well as accomplishments and system that lets you buy useful things with XP (including the mammoth shown in the screenshot above); it also has an element the previous game lacked -- actual combat. In most levels there are multiple opposing tribes, and when you feel ready, you gather your hunters and fight them, defeating them by destroying their totem.
Dust is a beautiful and odd little game, and is, unsurprisingly, a student showcase finalist for the 2012 IGF awards.
It's a sort of sidescroller, in that motion is left-to-right, along a linear path, but the gameplay is not what you'd expect from a typical sidescroller. You are a moth, hovering in the air, and move with WASD; you are trapped in an attic, and can see the moon glowing outside. As you move away from the window, the game teaches you that you can revive dead moths if you get close enough to them; they then follow you about, and can push objects. Sometimes, you need them to do so to move obstacles out of the way; other times, you need them to push an object into a cobweb to clear a path. Movable items are marked with numbers, indicating the number of revived moths you need to move them.
Okay, I could be totally wrong here, and I invite correction, but if I'm right, we have our first real indie social game hit.
Stick Run is by Otto Manuel, who has done a series of Flash-portal games, some of which are pretty good, like StickCombat.
Stick Run is a somewhat frustrating sidescroller with, really, only two buttons; jump and crouch. You move automatically left-to-right, and must avoid obstacles in your path. Anything you hit is instadeath. In some cases this is tricky, e.g., jump too soon and you hit an upper obstacle, but not soon enough and you hit a lower one. Graphics are stick-figure primitive, gameplay is fast and brutal, and the music (unusually for social games) does not suck.
Solipskier was a 2011 IGF Finalist -- in the mobile games category, and it is available for iOS and Android, but there's also a free Flash version you can play online.
It's a rapidly-moving sidescroller in which you "draw snow" that a little skier skis on, gaining speed on downslopes and losing it on upward ones, doing jumps if you draw a steep upslope. If you lift the mouse button (or your finger in the mobile touch version), the snow goes away -- which is fine if your skier is jumping, as he then does 'tricks' for additional score points, but not so fine otherwise, as he will then plummet to his death (game over, obviously). More...
In Ulitsa Dimitrova, you play Pyotr, a seven year-old homeless boy in St. Petersburg. The graphics are stark pen drawings, the music an annoying recorder tune. You are a chain smoker, and need to obtain cigarettes. You can break the Mercedes medallions off cars and sell them, and smash shop windows to steal stuff, as well as beg passersby for money. You can also encounter your mom, a prostitute, who will give you some money in exchange for booze, as she is an alcoholic.
If you fail to keep going, you get tired, have a nicotine withdrawal fit, lie down, are covered with snow, and die.
Once the transgressive nature of the subject material is experienced, you realize there's really nothing much to this game; no progress, no strategy, nothing but repetitive experience. As a game qua game, in other words, it sucks, really.
The sadness of its subject material is worth exploring; this is obviously not an emotion much explored in games. Yet it's notable in another way; this is not a game with remote commercial potential (nor is it intended to be such), but it is actually well suited to a particular ecosystem that has not existed in games until recently: It works very well in a festival setting. In such a setting, there are a bunch of games on a bunch of machines, and you move from one to the other. A game with depth that might take some time to get into does not shine here, because few will devote more than a few minutes to any title. Contrariwise, a game with shocking subject material and an unusual visual style will gain considerable attention, and the fact that there's no more than a few minutes of gameplay is irrelevant, since nothing will get more than a few minutes of gameplay.
e7 is a moody little Flash game that I call a platformer in the tags above, but if it is one, it's an unusual one. You play a little half-disc in a blue-and-black landscape in a sidescrolling view, and your objective is to get to the end of the level, which in typical sidescroller fashion is always to your right. The ground level deforms oddly as you move, which you do with left-and-right arrows; and while you cannot jump in the conventional platformer sense, you can (in most locations) create a pit where you are located by pressing down-arrow, then release the key to bounce yourself upwards as the terrain recoils.
Developed for a TIGSource contest, Sandy Evolution is a classic sidescrolling shmup with many of the tropes of the form, particularly enemies that attack in predictable patterns, but with a curiously organic yet starkly blank look. Just one level and a boss at present, though the developers say they may take it further, it has, despite the hoary nature of its genre antecedents, a fresh and appealing feel.
Ferry Halim has, over the years, produced some of the most polished and most pleasant Flash games imaginable -- 'casual' in the sense of highly accessible and not particularly difficult, but typically using a handful of mechanics that you'd normally think as non-casual, and often with one little twist on the mechanics.
Drifting Afternoon is typical of his ouevreoeuvre, a brief little game with graphics that remind me of the illustrations of Tasha Tudor, and a score that would not be out of place on an easy-listening radio station. You play a cute little animal bounding through the grass and leaping atop floating pastel balloons. Everything is done with the mouse, with left-click triggering a leap and the direction of the mouse pointer from your critter determining the angle of the jump; you earn points by leaping atop balloons, and more by leaping over intervening ones.
As is usually the case with the games at Orisinal, it produces a curious sensation of serenity and pleasure.
Inventory Tetris is a quick joke, and perhaps you don't even really need to play it to get the joke, but the joke is good enough that it's worth noting here.
You've undoubted played any number of games where your character's inventory is, in essence, a square grid, and you position items on the grid -- what you can carry limited not be weight or some other consideration, but by how much you can pack onto the grid.
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