Arthouse Games
by ANONYMOUS IGF JUDGEFriday, November 30, 2007 [6:33 pm]

The art and sound are fantastic. It's nice to see this concept applied fully, as the basis of a platformer, rather than simply tacked-on as a gimmick. There is definitely a lot of style and charm here, from the "made with trixels" to the "enjoy the load" to the rest of the whole damn game, both content and presentation.

Now, the bad. The main problem with this game is that, despite how amazingly fun the concept seems, in practice it reduces to "run left/right until you're stuck, then rotate world 1-3 times until a path becomes clear". It's hard to say if this is an improvement on Super Paper Mario's "run left/right until you're stuck, then rotate the world (1 time)" formula.

Maybe I'm stupid, but the full 3D world is too complex for me to figure out or plan a route, even using the nifty right-stick camera. This means that instead of solving puzzles, I'm basically just pressing a button until I see a solution.. and it's hard to see how this could be resolved.

The end result is that the whole rotating-of-the-world element doesn't add a lot to the game, which reduces the fun-ness to the platforming part.. which is only okay so far (probably due to this being a first introductory world and there not being many objects/enemies/etc).

Historically, games with terrific style but only okay/bog-standard gameplay tend to do well (*cough* Darwinia *cough*).. I really hope you win the graphics and sound categories, but the game itself is only.. is "luke-fun" a word? Let's say "medium-fun".

Still, it's about 9874264x better than 99% of the games on "Xbox360 LIVE! Arcade". Yes, that's actually how you have to write it. sigh.

Basically, you should just beef up the platformer elements: add some abilities or other game mechanics (see Lyle in Cube Sector, The Underside, Cave Story, Darkside Adventures, etc), and/or enemies and objects to interact with. Given the current design it seems like almost anything you make will be charming and brilliant.

If you don't want to get rid of those delightful trixels, you need to find a solution which works a bit better.. maybe you could construct the world in 3D but let the game handle the rotation automatically.. sort of like in NiGHTS on Saturn: the player comes to the edge of a cliff, and the game rotates the game world automatically. You could still do weird 2D/3D stuff where the player is running around the 4 faces of a building, except this way the player would really just treat it as a normal 2D game with the rotation being handled automatically. It wouldn't necessarily only have to be an "effect" either, there could still be some meaningful mechanics since altering parts of the level in one view (destroying/adding blocks, etc) would keep them altered when you approached it from a different angle -- the difference is that the player would be changing the angle by moving left/right in a designer-guided way and letting the game rotate the world, rather than manually rotating it. Manual rotation just seems to lead to "when in doubt, just rotate to see if that helps, THEN think about a solution"-itis as present in SPM.

To me the auto-rotate seems like it would be a lot more fun, as currently the rotating thing just interrupts the fun parts of running and jumping.. aaaand since the rotating is really not puzzle-y or involving (and is quite reminiscent of the good old "try every possible combination to solve the problem, as there's no way in hell you'll solve it by thinking about it" found in adventure games, see,522 ) automating it won't really take anything away from the player.


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