Please release me: Rock Band iPhone, Small Worlds, Eufloria, LostWinds, Space Invaders Extreme

rbiphonef.jpgThis week has seen a number of excellent and much publicized and high profile releases -- Rockstar's conversion of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars from DS to PSP and Gearbox's post-apocalyptic co-op sandbox shooter Borderlands -- but no game has eaten as much of my time this week than a downsized iPhone version of a rhythm favorite. Rock Band [Harmonix/EA Mobile, iPhone] EA Mobile's downsized port of Harmonix's rhythm-standard enters an App Store dominated by clones and competitors (the Tap Tap series chief among them), and what sets Rock Band apart from the rest is a subtle but massively important distinction. With Harmonix's access to a staggeringly large library of original masters, the iPhone game is able to do what none of the others can: make the music itself reactive to your play. By comparison, Tap Tap plays as a transparent overlay on top of any given track: keep your hands away from the screen and the music cheerily plays on, unperturbed by your quiet failing. That Rock Band gives you its now embarrassingly too-familiar skronk on every missed note is key to sustaining the illusion that you're participating in the performance, even just by slapping a thumb onto a glass sheet.
The iPhone version, unlike Rock Band Unplugged -- Backbone's similarly excellent PSP version released a few months back -- only lets you play one instrument or vocal track at a time, which allows for RB's least publicized and surprisingly well implemented feature: in the absence of three additional people to play its Bluetooth-enabled local multiplayer, players can send out invites to Facebook friends to participate in asynchronous "band" play. With it, each of the 2-4 players complete their individual instrument on their own time, submitting their score back to the 'band' afterward, at which time a total score and fan-increase is tallied and push-notification submitted back to each, making you feel far more connected than you would expect from such an otherwise solitary game. Losing the plastic-instrument charade might at first seem a down-step too far for more casual players, but with its promise of a continually refreshed music library (its in-app music store already includes six two-packs of add-on tracks), Rock Band is a long, long overdue and essential musical addition to the App Store. smallworlds.jpg Small Worlds [David Shute, web] The week's other best surprise -- going off indie-circle buzz -- is David Shute's Small Worlds, a Flash game entered into the Casual Gameplay Design Competition hosted by free/web powerhouse site JayIsGames. Like so many indie efforts, the less said about the game up front the better: this CGDC's theme was 'Explore', and it's the play on exploration that makes Worlds so unique. Know, at least, that what it does best is take the iron-grip compulsion to 100% map screens in exploratory games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Metroid and bring it directly to the fore of the game itself, making it its own reward. If this seems too frustratingly vague, it's because the Small Worlds experience is short, sweet, and immediately available: don't miss carving out some 20 minutes of your weekend for it. Eufloria [Rudolf Kremers & Alex May, PC] Elsewhere, Rudolf Kremers and Alex May have finally released their Indie Games Festival finalist Eufloria, formerly known as Dyson. As you can see above, it's a game that'll feel familiar to any iPhone gamer that's taken part in the arcade-strategy planetary invasions of Galcon, but with a fantastically gorgeous ambient score (courtesy Brian 'Milieu' Grainger) and visual design that soothes you into and through its dizzying floral battles, it's truly in a league of its own. Find it either via the official homepage, or through its Steam release. LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias [Frontier, Wii] Frontier's platformer LostWinds marked the stateside debut of Nintendo's console downloadable service WiiWare, and its long-awaited sequel also marks the services 100th release, and arguably remains the best exclusive the service has to offer (sitting happily alongside 2D Boy's World of Goo and Gaijin's BIT.TRIP series). Still unrivaled in its split approach to Wii-mote and joystick play, the game gives you both direct control over its vulnerable child-hero Toku, who's helped through his journey by Enril, a spirit of the wind, here represented by the flourishes of your Wii Remote. Its Melodias sequel brings every bit of the quiet charm of the original, and adds new seasonal powers giving you the ability to turn frozen ponds to deep-diving pools and a 'cyclone' ability to help puzzle your way further into its world and should be on top of the weekend download list for any Wii owner. Space Invaders Extreme 2 [Taito, DS] Finally, this week also saw the stateside release of another highly anticipated follow-up with Space Invaders Extreme 2: Taito's retro-futurist re-imagining of its arcade classic, still one of the finest reworkings in game history (edging out even their own masterful iPhone re-invention Space Invaders Infinity Gene). Following down the same disco-dance road as Q Entertainment's cult-classic Rez, Invaders Extreme is classic play done up in techno-rave clothes, each shot contributing to the deep-thumping remix beat that runs underneath. Its sequel adds the still perplexingly devised 'Bingo mode', and remains as essential an experience as the first.


  1. Small Worlds is certainly one of the most wonderful things I’ve experienced this month. Thanks, BB! And many thanks to the creators, David Shute and Kevin MacLeod.

  2. Thanks for posting about Small Worlds, it’s wonderful!

    And the hosting site,, has been especially wonderful uncovering little jewels like this for years. Definitely a worthy and reliable bookmark.

  3. Small Worlds was great, but I’m frustrated by this one little nook in one of the “portal” worlds – a little nook behind a vertical conveyor that I just cant seem to get to. Aaaaugh!

  4. Small Worlds is beautiful. It succinctly captures the feel of the original Myst game with very few brushstrokes.

  5. Borderlands should come with a warning. Haven’t been this addicted to a game since Diablo 2.

    Also seconding the recommendation. If you like small quirky flash games they dig up a lot of them.

  6. Just a not about JayIsGames–and unfortunately its not positive.

    This site used to be great before it took off and while it still occasionally posts some gems, the vast majority of what it posts about now are either hidden object games, escape games, time management games or some variation of those.

    That in and of itself isn’t horrible, however they are all typically from the same publishers because those are the ones with profitable affiliate programs. You see, JiG has decided to focus on monetizing the site in a pretty heavy manner. Gone are the days of lots of random flash games that they scoured the web for. Now you just see demos with affiliate links to buy and ads plastered all over it.

    They even bought the URL because it was likely better for SEO purposes. I’m sorry, but what was once a great casual game site has become a complete sellout full of the same trash as all the others.

  7. To reply to the preceding post about JayIsGames, while I agree that the emphasis on an *extremely* limited range of similar games is disappointing, it does seem like those posts are limited to the weekend (for downloadable games that cost money: hidden object, time management) or Wednesdays (for escape games). My guess is that the number of quirky, interesting games posted per week has probably *increased* over the last few years. It’s just that there’s a whole lot more uninteresting stuff to weed through.

    Now, as for Boingboing and its cluster of websites, could I ask: has been more or less abandoned? This article here, it seems, wasn’t even cross-posted over there and it looks like there hasn’t been anything posted over there in at least three or four days. It’s disappointing, because Offworld has been one of the few places to consistently read intelligent articles about interesting games.

  8. Regarding JayIsGames: sure, they are monetizing the site, and I care little for some of the fare they focus on. At the same time, there is a _lot_ of interesting content. For one, they are organizing the contest that currently brings us Small Worlds, and has delivered in the past gems like Gimme Friction Baby, Sprout, Pieces or the Absolute Awesome Ball Game. For another, they are where I first heard about Spelunky or Dyson/Eufloria. I’m not buying their partner’s software, but I’m not keeping away from the site either.

    And yes, Small Worlds rocks.

  9. At the risk of sounding daft, I don’t get it. Small Worlds is definitely an exploration game, but what’s the point? Maybe I’m missing something, but though I did want to explore them at first, and some were neat to see (the snow world has a nice twist to it), I wonder if I’m missing something when I say that I don’t see the point. Does something special happen if you manage to explore every nook and cranny? Is the reward just uncovering the entire picture? If that’s it, then I wasn’t terribly impressed.

    The only thing I really got from this “game” was the sense of exploring just to figure out where I am and what I’m supposed to do. Unfortunately, I didn’t really figure out either of these things. Also, I didn’t “win”, unless winning is just completing the game.

    With so many people extolling the virtues of this game, could somebody please enlighten me?

  10. I guess I’m a huge wimp cause I cried a little at small worlds. Thanks for sharing it.

    This post never made it to offworld for some reason?

  11. @HaltingPoint, I totally get what you’re saying. Rumor has it they’re even trying to convince Flash devs to put JIG links into the games upon sponsorship in exchange for a review on the site.

    @Anonymous 10/25 18:10,

    @RevEng, it’s about the emotion you get from exploring in the game. The reward is simply the feeling of exploration and sense of wonder.

  12. Right, g.a.p., I read that last week, but if BB is phasing out offworld why is there still a link at the top in the new design? And until now the entries were crossposted.

    Oh, well

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