Another great game review from Greg Costikyan and his Play This Thing! blog: this time, it's the 2010 IGF China Best Game winner Sugar Cube, a platformer with a novel and ingenious (and addictive!) mechanic:
At various points on the level are hidden items -- often platforms -- that are revealed, and switch "on," only when you pass through or near them. As you move about, the four squares immediately around you are tinted, and show the hidden items. Frequently, there are small "lights" on the screen that show the hidden items, in ghosted form, until turned on; but often, items are revealed only when you activate them. Finally, by holding "shift" while jumping, you can prevent items from "flipping" from active to inactive state.
The result is that each level holds surprises, and you have to learn how to time and use activations to get to the level end (represented by a door); sometimes you want an item to flip to inactive state to get through its location, while often you want to turn it on, to provide a location or item you can use.
Snowball is Pixeljam's Flash take on a computer pinball game, and it's an incredibly fun table. I intended to play for a few minutes to try it out and got sucked in for an hour. Snowball is simultaneously very true to the spirit of physical pinball while managing to deliver a board and several mechanics that would be nearly impossible to create in a mechanical game. The vertical scrolling mechanism is also a nice way of transcending the constraint of the usual landscape aspect ratio in computer displays.
"Let's Play: Ancient Greek Punishment" is a series of 8-bit Flash games based on the punishments visited by the gods on various naughty ancient Greeks: Sisyphus, Tantalus, Prometheus, Danaids and Zeno. There's something particularly awfully wonderful about rapidly pressing the G and H keys to writhe in agony and dislodge the eagle that is devouring your liver.
Bastion, the popular action RPG noted for its fantastic art and narration, is now available to play in-browser through the Chrome web store. It's built as a HTML5 app with the Native Client SDK, so Flash is not required—even if a browser that automatically installs it is.
Montblanc held a one-second film competition. The videos are really very good, even if they're embedded in a genuinely obnoxious Flash blob that superimposes a watch-face over them. Better to watch the Vimeo version.
Ars Technica has an in-depth review of Glitch, the whimsical, free-to-play game from Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield (we've written about Glitch here before) and his new company, Tiny Speck. Glitch uses whimsical, cooperative tasks to produce fun and delight, rather than combat:
Tuning the quests and interactions to provide the right level of difficulty and reward was complicated. In beta testing, the development team found that while singing to butterflies was repetitive and boring, people would still sing to butterflies obsessively—because it provided small but guaranteed amounts of experience. The devs tried to balance this by making singing to animals cost energy, but then players simply farmed huge numbers of girly drinks (which made animals interactions cost no energy) and continued to grind the same thing again and again. The girly drinks were then nerfed, and people immediately complained.
"We realized that if we incentivized things that were inherently boring," Butterfield told me, "people would do them again and again—it showed up in the logs—but that they would secretly hate us."
Player housing is implemented, with an apartment-style design that lets anyone have their own home without cluttering up the landscape. You can decorate your home and grow things in your own garden on the patio. Unlike many games, in Glitch it does not take long to save up enough cash for a place of your own, though making it look less than spartan will take considerable effort.
Funny little touches to the game litter the game. For example, getting the right papers to let you purchase an apartment requires multiple trips to the Department of Administrative Affairs (Ministry of Departments) where you spend much time in a waiting area while bureaucratic lizard men play Farmville on tiny computers.
Play This Thing reviews Megamash, a weird chimeric Flash game that combines several kinds of play and requires players to figure out how to use the mechanics of each genre to solve puzzles:
At first, it seems like a simple platformer in which you play a bunny collecting carrots and avoiding enemies. But half-way through the level, you pass through a barrier into a sidescrolling shmup, and become a spaceship shooting aliens with the space bar.
In otherwords, the game is actually a sort of mashup of seven different games, and you pass from one to the other over the course of a level. And indeed -- this is the clever part -- you often need to do something in one "game" in order to advance in the level. Thus, in the rabbit platformer, a crate you need is surrounded by impenetrable blocks; but when you fire across the shmup/platformer boundary, the bullets turn into falling fireballs, which obliterate impenetrable blocks, freeing the crate you need.
Glitch, the whimsical free-to-play MMO game from Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, is now open to the public. Glitch's developer team includes Katamari Damacy creator creator Keita Takahashi, and is as filled with delicious awesomeness as you could possibly hope for. They're overwhelmed with signups, so it might be a few hours before you're confirmed, but they're taking new players and putting them in a queue.
Glitch is a web-based massively-multiplayer game which takes place inside the minds of eleven peculiarly imaginative Giants. You choose how to grow and shape the world: building and developing, learning new skills, collaborating or competing with everyone else in one enormous, ever-changing, persistent world.
For starters, it's all one big world. Which means everyone is playing the same game and anyone's actions have the ability to affect every other player in the game. It also involves very little war, moats, spaceships, wizards, mafiosos, or people with implausibly large muscles. Also: we have egg plants. Egg plants make it very different.
What does it look like?
We comb the internet every single day looking for fresh and original visual styles. The look varies as you travel around the world, from psychedelia to surrealism, Japanese cutesie to hypersaturated pixel art, classic cartoon to contemporary mixed media. We love awesome illustration and animation and part of our mission is to find the best of the best and bring it to a wider audience.
Los Angeles Times: "Most commercial-grade poultry feed today contains an arsenic-based pesticide. Like the Victorians, farmers use the poison because of its ability to improve appearances -- in this case because arsenic's potent effect on blood vessels makes the chicken and turkey we buy look pinker and therefore fresher."
Meet the newest recipient of a special Pulitzer Prize citation. Damn right. I love this music. It reminds me of my Great-Granpa Frank and Granma Rosella, who'd be frankly tickled to hear Hank Williams won a Pulitzer.
Plus: Special bonus cameos by June and Anita Carter! (Also, Stealth!Roy Acuff. Thanks for pointing that out, Suburbancowboy.)
(Tip of the—wide-brimmed, natch—hat to Greg Mitchell for finding this footage. Fabbo!)
Young adult author Lorie-Ann Grover sez, "In 2008 and 2009, readergirlz, GuysLitWire, and YALSA orchestrated publishers' donations of 20,000 new young adult books to hospitalized teens across the country. For 2010, If I Can Read I Can Do Anything has joined forces with these three organizations to drop over 10,000 new YA books, donated by publishers, into the hands of teens on Native Tribal Lands. Nationwide, librarians, over 100 YA authors, YA lit lovers, and teens will drop YA books in their own communities on April 15th, 2010, to raise awareness for Operation TBD 2010 and Support Teen Literature Day. They will participate further by purchasing books from the TBD Powell's Wish Lists during National Library Week. Purchases will be shipped directly to enrich one of two Native American libraries. Everyone will join an online party that evening at the readergirlz blog."