Times travel times two and times of adventure (in more ways than one) are just some of what awaits you in this week’s edition of your best source (that’s our story and we’re sticking to it) for free gaming on the net.
OK fair warning, I board a plane tomorrow in order to fly out to LA and help cover E3 2012 with some other BT stalwarts. As such, for reasons you can hopefully imagine, that means we are doing another five game only week. Sorry, but I figure it is better than just outright skipping. I also cannot guarantee for sure there will be a column next week, though I fully intend to at least try, but I can promise that whenever the next column does occur (be it next week or in two weeks) we will be back to our normal length of ten games. If for no other reason than because so many amazing games have come out in the last few month that am I just aching to share with you guys. Anyways, that is then and this is (metaphorically at least) now, so lets get on with it already.
First up this week we have a game that on the surface appears to be just another platformer and yet in reality that is not the case at all. Oh to be sure there is platforming in the game, but there is also a lot more going on here. While the game might seem very one note at first, players will soon discover that things are constantly shifting and changing, with one surprising development after another just around the corner. Its a heady game that gets the most of out of its clearly deliberately minimalistic graphics and surprisingly in-depth sound design.
This is our second game in a row this week that both deals with time travel and nominally is a platformer, but beyond this the two games could not be more different. Whereas Undo the End is something of a thinking man’s platformer with all sorts of unique gameplay shifts and design twists built around the concept of time travel (sort of), Inspiration Dave is much more in the vein of Super Meat Boy or VVVVVV and uses time travel more as a flimsy justification for its action. It is also more straightforward, being twitch and reflex based, especially once you get past the early set of easy levels (How easy? Even I could beat them without dying). It just goes to show the wide degree of variety inherent in even the most meat and potatoes of game genres.
I do not tend to feature a lot of officially licensed games in this column. It is not because such games are by nature bad, because they are not (or at least not with any greater ratio than the rest of the free-to-play games out there on the net). Really, it is more because these games tend to get plenty of attention and promotion already by their very nature. Still, every once and a while one of these titles comes along (like the Perfect Strangers one from some weeks back) that is just too good for whatever reason not to spotlight here in the column. Such is the case with our next game. Based on the popular (and incredibly subversive) Cartoon Network animated show (off topic aside: and how crazy is it that the network with cartoon in their title now does enough live action programming I need to specify if a show is animated or not) Adventure Time, Rhythm Heroes is a relatively short but sweet rhythm based game that gets just about everything right. The gameplay is simple but well-designed and still manages to throw in some different twists from level to level, the graphics are dead on and feature any number of homages to both the show and video games in general, and the music (the heart of the game basically) is varied and catchy as all get out. Honestly, the only real complaint you might lob at this one (beyond it being Adventure Time themed if you are someone who hates the show and I do not really feel that is a particularity relevant complaint in the context of the game’s quality) would be length and even then there is something to be said for not overstaying ones welcome. Plus it is a free-to-play. One must have realistic expectations here. Even if you are not a fan of the show, check this one out. You might just be surprised by how much you end up enjoying the experience.
Due to the shortened nature of this week’s column, we have ended up with a lot twitch and/or action filled games (a trend which continues through with the MUST PLAY for this week as well) so I wanted to be sure to balance things out at least a little for those of you who are reflex impaired (or just looking for a change of pace even). And then I remembered that while I had introduced you guys last month to one Harry Quantum, private investigator, via his first adventure, I had been woefully lax in getting you all up to speed regarding the man’s second case (which involves a museum robbery performed by a thief wearing the costume of Mexico’s greatest wrestler: the one and only Super Burro). Well time for me to correct that great injustice by giving all of you the opportunity to help Harry correct a very different sort of injustice…
MUST PLAY OF THE WEEK!
Our MUST PLAY for this week is also another entry from the Ludum Dare 23 and it is truly nothing short of brilliant. Basically, it takes every level of the original NES Super Mario Bros. and turns each of them into a single-screen puzzle-platforming stage. At first this might sound like a reductive design approach, but in practice it ends up leading to a game that is simultaneously familiar and new. The little touches in particular, such as up to three stars being available to be earned in each level depending on the height at which players touch that famous flagpole or the bonus awarded if all coins are collected, also help to make the game a surprisingly addictive experience that also has strong replay value. One of my favorite tricks is when somebody takes the utterly familiar and turns it completely on its head to create something new while nonetheless still keeping the spirit of the original intact. No other game I have featured in this column has done better job (as good? Yes. Better? No.) of demonstrating this than our MUST PLAY for this week. Well done Johan Peitz. Well done indeed.