Month: March 2015

Final Appropriation: The Last Monopoly

Goal: Be the first player to make a single trip around the board.

Rules: Each player chooses a piece, and then rolls a single die to determine their starting money. The player receives money equal to their die roll multiplied by $150. After this, players roll single die rolls to move. If they land on a space that requires drawing a Chance or Community Chest card, the player draws the card and does whatever the card requires of them. If the player lands on a space with houses, that means the area is occupied by zombies.

These spaces, using the MyMonopoly edition, allow for the user to place pictures on tiles, replacing the standard art. These tiles contain which zombie the player encounters, as well as the total zombies and the requirement that the player must pay. The player rolls the die, and if they can roll 4 or higher, they get to keep half of the money they would otherwise pay. Additionally, if a player lands on a space where another player is, the two players can either roll against each other, with the winner taking half of the loser’s money, or agree to not attack, and each of them will lose one quarter of their money. If a player loses all of their money, they are eliminated from the game.


Artist Statement:

The game looks to draw parallels between the corrupting influence capitalism has on people with the perils and dangers of a zombie apocalypse. The journey around the boarddescribes the theme that when one struggles to survive in the apocalpyse, they often lose their humanity, while also showing how businesses often have to use cutthroat, aggressive tactics to beat their competitors and climb the social ladder. In the apocalypse, survivors often fight and kill each other to take their resources, represented by the players rolling against each other. This parallels businesses often taking the majority of a competitor’s customers after beating them in competition. The tiles are hidden until the player lands on them, leaving a sense of suspense in the player that is needed in a game about surviving the apocalypse. The game should leave players feeling tense and distrusting of each other by the end of the game, as well as a feeling of dissatisfaction with possibly suffering unforeseen consequences.a

Show and Tell: Desert Golfing

Desert Golfing is a 2D mobile game with one simple mechanic: a golf ball is on the left side of the screen, and the player must drag their finger to swing the ball into a hole on the right side of the screen. The geometry of the course is randomized simple hills, slopes, and valleys. If the ball goes off the side of the screen, it gets reset. Once the player gets the ball into the hole, the screen slides to the left, generating a new hole for the ball to land in. This is endlessly generated, with the player’s score increasing with every hole. That’s the entire game, this one simple mechanic. So why do I keep playing it?

Within five minutes of playing, I could tell that I had seen everything Desert Golfing had to offer.  The next hour I spent playing confirmed this. The Game has a simple aesthetic, with the sky being a solid light orange and the ground being a solid dark orange. The only other objects are the golf  ball and a small flag denoting the hole. The game looks so simple, and this is reinforced by it’s loading. When the player loads the game, it takes them right to the level where they left off. No splash screen, no menu. There’s no music in the game, and minimal sound effects for hitting, bouncing, and respawning the ball. It almost seems as if the game is a prototype instead of a full release, since it’s just a single mechanic, constantly generating new levels to play with that mechanic. But the act of swinging and watching the ball follow your trajectory against the irregularly shaped terrain is compelling enough that the simplicity of the game becomes an advantage. This game is about shooting a ball into a hole by dragging your finger, and it strips away everything to deliver that distilled experience.

The game crashes often on my phone, but due to the ease of jumping back in, that’s not a huge issue. Additionally, the sound effects can become a little grating, but since most mobile games are played with the sound on silent, this isn’t a huge issue either. Overall, Desert Golfing is a great game that utilizes it’s simple mechanic with endlessly generated terrain to offer the player constant new challenges to keep the game entertaining.

Flower Power

I want to place flowers all over my town in Animal Crossing.  There’s an unspoken rule that players of Animal Crossing don’t destroy other players’ flowers.  By placing flowers in busy locations or areas that players want to run through, it restricts the movement ability/speed in those areas.


I want to see how players move in my town with flowers all over the place.


Goal: Have the closest magnet to the target without connecting to the target.

Rules: Two player take turns sliding magnets towards the goal from across an agreed distance. You are allowed to slide magnets into other player’s magnets or into a position which blocks the opponent’s slide.

The Game:

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Artistic Description:

The game has the players explore the interactions between the game pieces. They have to experiment with the range of sliding the magnet, along with how close they can get to other entities without attaching to them. Through experience and strategy a player can excel at this game. The concept of play is fairly simple, with few rules so that the players can try to win creatively using the properties of the game pieces. “Magnets” is all about player experimentation and how they apply their findings.

Invisible, Inc.

Invisible, Inc is a strategy stealth game designed by Klei Entertainment. The Player chooses two squad members with different abilities to take on different missions for a spy agency. The objective of each mission is to begin and end a level while attaining as much intelligence from the level as possible. Levels are room-based and a player must move into a room before being able to see what is inside. The player’s turn consists of actions like moving, attacking, hacking, etc. The player must use stealth to avoid guards and set traps or distractions to get them to move from areas that they are patrolling. Guards that are knocked out must be hidden to avoid detection by other guards.

As the levels progress, the Alarm level increases with each turn. As the Alarm level increases, the guards become more difficult to deal with. Any loud actions like gunshots or other fighting will increase the alarm levels faster.

The whole game takes place over the span of 72 hours. The player must complete missions to gain weapons and other items, but must factor in travel time to each mission and how long they spend in each mission.

The game is fun to play. Action ramps up fairly and the overall theme is pretty cool. The only real complaint I had came from the camera controls. At times they felt wonky and prevented the best view, but that problem wasn’t too horrible to deal with. Picking different strategies is also a lot of fun. I spent a lot of time trying to decide whether or not I wanted to keep my agents together or divide them so that I could cover more area.


The Talos Principle is a game which prominently features solving puzzles, exploring a narrative, and traversing a series of sandbox environments which are, in my opinion, populated fairly densely by greco-roman architecture, futuristic machinery, and the occasional late-1990’s era computer terminal.  A major theme in this work is the philosophical examination of humanity by comparing humans to machines in various contexts.

A comparable game that comes to mind is Portal, purely from the mutual focus on puzzles and narrative, as well as the environments; which seem to be designed in such a manner as to draw attention to their clashing elements.  One difference I find particularly notable is that the narrative in The Talos Principle is delivered primarily via text logs, with the vocal narration playing more of a secondary role in terms of story delivery, instead serving primarily as a means of conveying goals that the player should seek to accomplish.  In comparing this particular aspect to another game, I feel Bioshock in particular has similar elements.

As for a description of the actual gameplay, it is fairly bare:  basically, you solve a bunch of puzzles with various gadgets to unlock more puzzles, which you then solve until eventually it runs out of puzzles.

Shoveling all Night- IGF Tell and Show

You want to know what my favorite chore is? Shoveling. I just love shoveling. The heft of a heavy blade swinging into the earth, sinking even deeper in as I press it down. The rewarding thrust of loosening dirt as I twist it into a fulcrum made out of my muscles. The relief I feel as a clod of dirt launches into the air, a gaggle of gems spreading out in its path.

I am, of course, referring to one of the key mechanics of the game Shovel Knight by Yacht Club Games.

Shovel Knight is retro-inspired game that takes place in a bizarre and lively world, complete with apple-fish deities and witches that are literally trees. It uses a rather traditional control scheme with two face buttons and a directional pad serving as the player’s main method of interaction. Each level is a side-scrolling expansive map filled with secrets, lore and the occasional treasure seller. Each level ends with a boss fight, and, upon winning, the player will be able to choose the next level through a world map. In an indie scene dedicated to both innovative concepts and old-school nostalgia, Shovel Knight falls firmly in the latter. It lifts the elements that worked for many NES properties and finds familiar but surprising ways to iterate upon them.

The key to Shovel Knight’s freshness is the player character’s shovel. The character’s gameplay revolves about this shovel, acting as the hero’s main method of attack, propulsion and, you guessed it, shoveling. The Hero of this story deals with a host of Knights with similar commitments, each one having a defining weapon or characteristics that defines the manner in which they act. This gives the game great variety and makes each level more enjoyable, as there is usually an artifact that allows the player full access to the level.

These artifacts are varied and unique, most draining from the player’s mana with each use. Each one changes the manner in which the character moves, be they helicopter boots or a jet-propelled gauntlet that launches its wielder ahead, consequences be damned. They add an extra layer of depth to the game’s large dungeons, unlocking new regions for Shovel Knight to dig into. The real key to the level design, however, is that the player does not need to rely upon the artifacts to beat the levels.

Shovel Knight also has a story. It is not strikingly original, but where it does succeed is in its theme. The hero suffered a lost before the start of the game, one that continues to haunt him. This element of the story is rarely, if ever, discussed. It instead allows the player to act through the fall of his comrade multiple times through dream sequences. When the character does speak, he normally does so to take a pacifist approach or beseech to his enemy’s better nature, normally resolving by the end that things always end in violence. The gameplay is centered around a very mundane object, a shovel, but it accomplishes a lot of depth through the handling of its world. Additionally, the game takes a different approach to character death. When the player falls in combat, or more likely drops down a misplaced pit, a portion of their earnings is depleted from their counter and is left where the character died in a flying pouch, awaiting the player’s return. This removes the frustration of a game over, but the amount of value those gems have is remarkably important. This adds further emphasis upon the controller to guide their avatar through the game.

It is here that we come to the most crucial aspect of metroid-vania sidescrolling adventure title- the controls. Shovel Knight is a very tightly knit package. The character’s weight, their attacks and their stops feel very fluid and interlinked. The physics are readily perceptible and easy to work within. The levels require very precise controls, and thankfully the gameplay feels matches the necessary requirements.

Shovel Knight is available on PC, Wii U, 3DS, Linux, Mac OSX, and, come April, the current family of Sony Playstation products. It was backed through Kickstarter, and was produced by Yacht Club games. It was finalist in the Excellence in Audio category at the IGF awards, and was an Honorable mention for the Seumas McNally Grand prize.

I highly recommend it if you enjoyed Duck Tales. You can use your Shovel as a pogostick.

Its quite entertaining.

IGF Finalist Show and Tell – “Lumino City”

Lumino City is a point and click puzzle adventure game. Released December 3rd, 2014, this game features some very intriguing little puzzles with fun gadgets, and the absolute BEST art style. While I’d found out about this game several months ago, I had not been aware it was out. It is the sequel to the puzzle game Lume, (available on iOS)

The story is very simple: your (Lumi’s) grandfather, the Handyman, has been abducted, and you must go to Lumino City to try and figure out what has happened and where he is. The city is having troubles with power and whatnot, though, and it’s up to you to fix things to progress.

About this city: Remember that art style I mentioned before? The BEST one? It really is. Think a cross between 50’s kitsch and Little Big Planet. As a fan of papercraft projects, this game made me gape the first time I saw a trailer for it. Lumino City is an actual miniature cardboard city. State of Play Games created a full environment out of cardboard, paper, and hand-wired electronics, then photographed and videoed everything to bring it into the game environment. The effect is astounding; I am going to link images here, here, and here, but you really have to see it in action to believe it. I was seriously impressed at how meticulous they were at building the set, and every detail just adds more and more depth to the experience.

The gameplay itself is a point-and-click adventure game with puzzles. Through drag-and-drop mechanics mostly, you can build circuits, place gears, and collect items to use in your journey through Lumino City. The puzzles are joyful in their solutions, the feedback is clear, and they’re just challenging enough to make your brain work at it while not being frustratingly impossible. Further, while I didn’t look through it, according to the Steam Community, the “Handyman’s Guidebook” your grandfather leaves you before he’s abducted contains tips for every puzzle in the game, though there’s also a lot of other stuff in there to decode.

All in all, for an indie point-and-click puzzler, this is top-notch. I definitely believe it deserves to be in the finalists for Excellence in Visual Art, and honestly, I could see it spawning a whole new generation of papercraft game assets.

If you’re interested in playing through this adorable game for yourself, it is 30% off until March 15th on Steam.

IGF 2015 Finalist: This War of Mine (Dibs)

This War of Mine is not what you would call a fun game, but it is one of the most compelling experiences you’ll have for some time. This War of Mine is the story of people, innocent civilians, trying, and often failing, to survive in war torn country. Playing a game like Call of Duty or Medal of Honor, it is easy to forget that those chest high walls, and deserted cities used to be peoples homes and lives, This War of Mine works to remind you of that fact.

At it’s core, the game is a 2D survival/scavenging game. You start out in a rundown house with a few survivors, and have to quickly get to work find food, fuel, medicine, and anything else you might need later down the line. You can add more survivor to your party, and upgrade or add to your house to keep it running smoothly and safely; however, you’ll quickly find that there is a finite number of recourse, and most of the time your survival comes at someone elses expense.

While in many games with a morality system, you are free to kill, loot, and desecrate to your hearts content as long as you’re killing, looting, and desecrating the right people; in This War of Mine, there are no “evil people” or “good people” there are only people. If your survivors are starving you may need to steal it from someone else home, and as a result your character might begin to lose moral because of their actions. If the house you’re robbing is home to a family who you must then kill in order to save yourself, not only will your character become depressed, but you, the player, will feel the impact of your actions. And if your character becomes depressed, they may turn to drugs in order to forget what they’ve done.

This War of Mine is an amazingly game, and you are unlikely to find a game like it anywhere else for a long time. If you’re sick of what you perceive to be the glorification of violence in games, or believe that you’ve become desensitized to the struggles of others, This War of Mine might just be what you need.