Tomorrow the GDC adventure begins! Pictures and updates soon to come!
Today I played an iOS game called Little Amazon, a side-scrolling runner game.
Initial Impression: The art style of Little Amazon quickly drew me in and the Jungle-like music matched it well. The games introduction sequence was quick and got me right into the action.
Splash: During the introduction sequence, the player is introduced to Splash, a friend of the forest who will helps the player respawn if they get into trouble during their run (more information below).
I found it interesting to introduce a mechanic to the player as a cutscene and through an NPC.
Gameplay: The gameplay of Little Amazon is a runner type game with Lily, the main character, constantly running toward the right of the screen. The player is able to control Lily through a held jump button on the bottom right side of the screen and a magic missile button on the bottom left side of the screen.
The buttons are appropriately sized and don’t interfere with the gameplay on the screen. The jump button can be held to change the height of Lily’s jump, giving players a sense of skill as they progress through the level.
The magic missile attack felt a little off from where I thought it was going to hit, but overall it was useful and straight forward to use.
Respawning: When the player finds Splash, they get one free respawn as show below. Sprite will carry the player past all major obstacles before putting the player down. Overall, this system works well, although I did get lucky a few times and go over 100 meters because of how many enemies were on screen. I’m not sure if this was intended, but it was one potential “bug” which happens to help players.
I enjoyed the respawn system because it adds another subtle dimension to the runner genre and melds well with the theme of the game.
Missions: As many popular games have been implementing well, the mission system is an easy way to give players more challenges without implementing any more mechanics. The mission system in Little Amazon introduces a few challenges that I didn’t initially notice as the player. Specifically, it introduced the concept of waving to animals (shown below), and of challenges like avoiding enemies at the last moment.
Animals: The animals were a subtle addition to levels that gave the world an extra layer of depth and charm. I liked how they spoke little sounds to the player as to say hello, and it was nice to see the missions which promoted interacting with them.
End Screen:When the player fell and their run ended, the end screen below appeared to show your progress. I found it interesting how the ability to unlock a new route was directly linked with how much the player had run overall. It was a nice experience system which made me feel like I was always going toward a achievable goal.
The coin collection system associated with the end screen was also visually represented well, but I would have liked to have them show me exactly how many coins I got for each size coin (even if I could have figured that out on my own).
Shop: Little Amazon uses its in-game coins wisely through a shop which allows the player to upgrade Lily and her abilities. The standard abilities are ones like increasing her jump height or her missile strength, but some abilities also seemed to be completely different, unlocking new ways to play the game.
I haven’t been able to unlock any of these yet, but I expect they will add even more dimension on the simple interactions of this runner genre.
Overall, Little Amazon was a well made game and one of my favorites for the recent games I’ve played. It may not do anything different than it’s competition, but for a free price tag, I think it’s worth a download. Be wary of it crashing as many other people have been posting on the app review wall.
Today I found an interesting, Indie, minimalism game called Blip, which was free from its normal 99 cents. I’m a big fan of minimalism games, so I wanted to see how Blip approached the minimalism style with its gameplay.
Blip is a game where you control a small cube by moving left and right, with the goal of collecting stars placed throughout each level.
Initial Impressions: The background music from Blip was initially fitting for the atmosphere of the game, but quickly clashed with the in-game sounds during gameplay. Both the music and the sound effects were fitting on their own, but the sound effects felt lost in the background music because of the similarity in tone. The game started with a 5 part tutorial (detailed below), which was well designed and helped introduce each mechanic while maintaining a sense of flow.
Level one introduced the controls of the game, pressing buttons on the left or right to move the cube. The controls were very simple, but I found them to be counter-intuitive at times due to their implementation.
For example, if I was holding left, but then pressed right while still holding the left button, I expected to either stop (having two opposite velocities canceling out) or have the right button toggled for when I released left. Instead, the right button in this example wasn’t registered at all, causing the me to stop when I released the left button, instead of going right.
Level two introduced collecting stars to advance the player. Simple and short as a tutorial should be.
Level three introduced the mechanic of falling bridges, which is important because of how prevalent they are in the future levels (as the picture on the right shows). The concept overall is intuitive once players see the bridge falling for the first time.
Level four introduced a trampoline mechanic, showing the player that they could use it to jump. Because the cube can’t jump on its own, this becomes a very important mechanic to add, giving the game additional depth and another interesting tool for the player to use in future levels.
Level five introduces moving obstacles, in this case, a spike that moves up and down. The puzzle isn’t difficult, but requires patience to complete without dying.
After the tutorial levels, the player is rewarded with a bonus level to practice their trampoline skills and potentially gain 3 additional lives. I found this to be especially rewarding because it came right after the tutorial. The additional lives were a nice boost and the difficulty of the bonus level was easier enough to finish with 5 seconds to spare.
I continued to play till around level 20 and the game as a whole was quick and engaging. I found the mixing and matching of the mechanics above to be interesting, but with some potential that wasn’t being utilized (but maybe it is in the remaining 40 levels). The reason I say this is that some puzzles felt completely disconnected with the ones in that set of 5 (a bonus happens every 5 levels), such as a trampoline only level falling in between a levels which introduce elevators.
For free, this game is definitely worth a playthrough, but at 99 cents, there are other titles I’d purchase before purchasing Blip. Even still, if you like something simple and quick, it could be worth checking out.
Continuing with the iPhone play, I downloaded a game called 真・三國無双 SLASH, which highly resembled Dynasty Warriors in its example photos. After a little research to find the Kanji, turns out it is Dynasty Warriors.
Advertisement Trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rq1gykXt3bg
Initial Impressions: Do I need to say more?
After 20 minutes of loading, I finally got to the title screen. Then another 5 minutes with a GREE account activation. I don’t know why anyone would wait through all that to play something (unless they were quite the Dynasty Warriors fanatic).
Before knowing that this game was Dynasty Warriors, the brief cutscene to explain some of the backstory (which was all in Japanese), seemed to resemble the classic three factions of the Dynasty Warriors franchise.
I created my character below, getting an array of choices for the face, skin tone, hair style, hair color, and team color. The process felt a little like a really limited version of a Sims editor, but at least it was intuitive to do without understanding Japanese.
Finally, I got to play. I entered a map and began tapping around, targeting enemies nearby and beginning to do basic combo attacks. The camera was a little shaky and it was difficult to walk around without accidentally attacking a group of enemies. I couldn’t really tell what my objective for the level was, so I sat around a bit killing the endless waves of seemingly harmless enemies. I checked out the map on the top right, which zoomed the map in, and pressed the settings tap, which had a few options for sound and one to turn shadows on or off. Then I noticed the orange button on the bottom left, which had now become lit up.
I pressed it and started to do a combo attack (as in any Dynasty Warriors game). Unfortunately, it was really hard to aim who I was hitting with it and even the targets I had selected would only get hit if I continuously followed them with the camera.
I continued to play, but didn’t receive any advice about changing up my attacks, or what to do to continue. I eventually reached a temple where I killed 10 enemies and the level ended, giving me some type of reward and a screen that seem to say I leveled up.
From there, I reached the menu screen for the first time. I had a hard time understanding it because of the Japanese text, but I tried to use the symbols as references for what each one stood for. My guesses from left to right -
Tent - I don’t remember what the tent did, but I didn’t really know what it was.
Swords - I thought correctly that this menu was for starting a new battle, which it does as shown by the picture below.
Tile * - I wasn’t sure what this one was and was afraid to click it in case it asked me for anything about in-app purchased in Japanese.
Coin - I feel like this would be the one that resembles in-app purchases the most, but I didn’t try to touch it either.
Hammer and Stone - I think this is where you upgrade your equipment, which is shown to you right before you enter battle.
Leaderboard - This one was identifiable as a leaderboard.
I played a few more rounds, trying to figure out where to go to finish the levels, but having limited success because of the Japanese. I watched the YouTube video Trailer between my battles and saw that the game was about swiping in different directions to do different combos. I went into the game and tried doing so, but with limited success. The games controls were not responsive enough to feel like every swipe made a different. I would occasionally get a combo going, but wasn’t sure if it was from swiping up a few times, or from swiping sideways, or from just tapping.
Overall, while the language barrier may have hindered my progression in the game, the lack of visual tutorials for swiping and finicky controls ultimately made me want to put the game down and walk away. I felt the game would have benefited more from being played horizontally than vertically because the swipe motions would have felt more natural and the screen could have been better utilized. Also, the advertisement (link at the top of the page), seems to portray it’s going to be played horizontally, but the actual game is not, which is an interesting observation.