Analysis: Rescue: The Beagles

Rescue: The Beagles, at 16×16

Nicole and Beagle

Nicole and Beagle

Who doesn’t want to save adorable puppies from evil corporations? And for free? Amazing!

Rescue: The Beagles is a great little freeware indie game, developed for the TIG Source procedural generation game competition. It’s a fantastic and adorable arcade style game that is quite accessible and can be quite addictive.

Rescue: The Beagles is a perfect example of how you don’t need to make your game very complicated to make it spectacular. The basic premise is this: there are levels which contain a known number of beagles (which are generally small, moving elements), and your goal is to collect all of the beagles in each level. The levels are 2D areas made up of  3 randomly generated planes, which you can move in between of, though not always freely. Additionally, the levels scroll automatically and are always moving.

The game follows simple, minimal controls, which are fairly intuitive. Up jumps, Down drops down, Left and right walk. If you jump up to another plane, you’ll grab hold of it and pressing up again and you’ll jump up on top of it. Double tap up and you’ll throw up a rope and climb up. You can also press down while falling to open a parachute to avoid landing damage. You can collect owls and fire them at enemies with space. Finally, Owls, Ropes and Parachutes are all limited and must be replenished by collecting items on screen.

The game has equally simple rules — you have lives. Touch an enemy, fall too far, or let a beagle walk off the screen: Lose a life. Lose all your lives and the game ends. Collect all the beagles in a level to move to the next level. Collect ropes and parachutes to supplement your limited supply. Points can be earned in a number of ways as well, such as collecting items, defeating enemies and ‘Flow’ requirements, awarded at the end of each level. Collect enough points and earn additional lives. There’s a few extra details in there, but that’s a fairly comprehensive breakdown of the game.

The meat of the game is maneuvering and collection. The player needs to quickly move between the three planes and try and collect all of the beagles; this means defeating and avoiding enemies, while trying to conserve items — running out of items or failing to move quickly enough can be fatal. While the game play gets increasingly difficult (more enemies, faster, more beagles to potentially miss, less forgiving level generation)  it only gains complexity from introducing newer enemies types, starting with ones that don’t move and ones that wander randomly, moving up to ones that chase the beagles, ones that chase the player, and so on.

Because of this, the game has a very shallow learning curve, making it very easy to learn the elements of the game, but taking notable amounts of time to earn the skill to properly defeat them. This is what’s generally known as ‘Easy to Learn, Hard to Master’, and is a well striven-for achievement for any game.
Rescue: The Beagles is also very interesting for it’s choice of flavor. Like the mechanics of the game, it’s flavor is fairly simple but excellent. You play as one of two animal rescuers who are trying to save some beagle puppies that an evil corporation wants to use to test cosmetic products on. So, bam, upfront, the game presents us with an easily sympathized political message in a cartoony format. I would guess that the majority of people are against animal testing for stuff as frivolous as cosmetics, which makes the game very easy to relate to, especially anyone who likes cute furry animals.

Beyond that, the game presents everything in a well cartooned style, and makes extensive use of retro design choices in pixel art and synthetic music. With the exception of a few choice sound clips, the game feels for the most part like an older arcade game. The low resolution graphics and the small color pallet both go well to maintaining this.

Perhaps one of the design aspects I respect the most in Rescue: The Beagles, is the player non-violence… and that brings us to how the mechanics and flavor come together. The game mechanics are straight forward. The game could have been abstract like 99 Bricks, or could have used any number of themes — the main character could have been a commando with a pistol, picking up ammo and saving prisoners of war while fighting guards and jailers. Or an alien monster collecting victims and killing the earth’s defences.

But it’s not. And that’s good for two reasons: Identity and Saturation, which are very hand in hand. Violence in games is a tad over saturated these days. Long-time gamers can recognized when Mortal Kombat and Doom were the most violent games could be, and there were few other examples on similar games at the time. Now, it’s pretty standard fare; everyone has super powers, big guns and martial arts skills, and violence itself no longer has much of an impact. So in that regard, Rescue: The Beagles earns points for being different, which reinforces itself as a unique identity.

So, with all of that — here’s some stuff to think about when playing Rescue: The Beagles:

  • How do the mechanics and flavor of the game come together to create the total experience? Is either one more primarily responsible for that experience than the other?
  • How would changing the flavor effect the experience? What if the game was reversed, about scientists recollecting the dogs for experiments and slaying activists?
  • How do the graphics impact the whole experience? How would it be different if it were all smooth line art? What if it was all rendered 3D imagery?
  • The game features simple controls. Could they be simplified further? Would the game be improved with more complicated controls?
  • Does the game’s non-violent concept reduce it’s enjoyment? Would the addition of violence make the experience better?
  • Since the game’s ultimate objective is a high score, how is your long term motivation for play affected? Would a story or similar concluding element to reach and ‘beat’ change that?

Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments below! And enjoy Rescue: The Beagles!

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One Response to “Analysis: Rescue: The Beagles”

  1. psilas Says:

    Wow,only just found this game and my god it deserves more recognition.

    It really does belong with the Cave Stories of gaming.

    Should be a commercial release its that good.

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