The Games of TOJam 4: Part 5

Help a Cutout Garden in Bloom

Help a Cutout Garden in Bloom

After a long wait, we’ve finally been blessed with the 3rd round of TOJam 4 games!

This week, we’ve got Attention Shoppers, Bloom, Call of Foodie FiveI Think They’re INSECTS!!!, Light Cycle, Pipes In Space, Prison Quest, Scale Mountain and Gold People’s Choice Award, Category 5!

If you’re just joining us now, you should check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 of this series for more great TOJam titles!

Today, I’ll be covering Bloom, Call of Foodie Five, Pipes in Space, Prison Quest, and Scale Mountain!

Scale Moutain

Scale Mountain

Scale Mountain is an amusing game based around a character climbing a mountain and collecting gems, that emphasized use of a grappling hook mechanic, brought to you by Team Stinker (Alex Stittle, Kristal Stittle and Samantha St.Onge).

Scale Mountain is a tricky, cruel little adventure that’s surprisingly feature-filled. The game has several detailed stages, a large number of enemies, a fair spectrum of collectibles and several types of terrain with distinct characteristics. It’s really quite well put together. Each level of the game has it’s own unique challenges, which does a good job keeping the game fresh and interesting.

The games simple control system makes it quick to pick up; WASD to move, mouse to aim and click to fire a grappling hook, then WASD to swing, release or retract the grapple. The grapple is similar to those seen in other games, rapidly compared to the Ninja Rope from Worms. It’s a pleasantly strategic set of controls; while regular climbing is controlled, swinging is usually faster.

I’ve a single complaint for Scale Mountain, and it’s that the game is too slow. The frame rate is nice and steady, but climbing around is a snails pace faster than tedious. It’s not so bad for each level, but should you fail a level (and let me tell you, level 2’s yeti has a taste for blood) then repeating it is a real pain. Even should you learn a few tricks to scale up a bit faster, the camera doesn’t keep pace with the player, which I found left me sitting around for a while waiting for more of the level to appear. While I get the impression that the game’s pacing is intended to create more deliberate play, I really feel that it could be quite a bit faster.

All in all, a great showing — Scale Mountain is an addictive, fleshed out entry. While I can’t claim I’ve finished it yet, I intend to go back for another round to see how it end.



Team Codified (Milan Chotai and Mabbi) brings us Bloom, a very stylish ecological juggling act, that’s unfortunately incomplete.

The premise is a cute one — a lizard’s garden needs tending; switch between fertilizing, water and sun to keep the garden alive. Unfortunately, in it’s incomplete state, nothing you do seems to quite have an effect. It’s a cute idea that could be potentially a lot of fun. (It’s also reported that Bloom‘s team learned Flash during the Jam, making even this much functionality pretty impressive!)

The game isn’t for naught though. Bloom features a really awesome visual and animation style, that resembles paper dolls and magazine collage. The idea of cutting the game’s elements out of paper feeds back in to this style and gives a great meta-reality sensation. While Bloom may not work yet, it’s awesome style is very well presented. Hopefully we’ll see a finished version sometime in the near future.

Prison Quest

Prison Quest

Prison Quest, from Team Placeholder (Daniel Piacampo, Astro-Boy, Mark Cautillo), is a classically styled adventure game in the vein of games like Hugo’s House of Horrors, Space Quest and King’s Quest. It follows the adventures of a man buying frivolous things for his girlfriend.

I’m split on the graphics. For one; the game’s graphics are incredibly loyal to it’s historical influences. It looks like it really could have been an early 80’s entry in Sierra’s library. On the other hand, those graphics were never exactly a pinnacle of pixel art by any means, where everyone is orange and detail is optional. Ultimately,  I appreciate the authenticity, so it’s a plus.

Prison Quest carries many of the same problems we saw in Domesticity — while the game is very authentic to traditional play models of it’s predecessors, it’s also a good example of why the Adventure Game genre is virtually extinct; the game’s context and action words are an effective mystery — the challenge of the game isn’t in any particularly devious puzzles, but in figuring out the commands the game wants you to use. Often fairly intuitive actions, like ‘attack’ or ‘tackle’ robber don’t work — (In that case you need to specifically ‘take gun’), and in other cases actions that might make sense like looking under a bed (specifically one that the game describes as good to hide things under), just doesn’t work at all.

Quite a blast, I’m sure, for those with fond memories of classic adventure games, but I lost tolerance with it after several attempts to get anywhere. It just felt like each new area was an invitation to bash your head against a brick wall of literary literalism. Additionally, don’t type ‘save’; things went wonky went I tried it.

Pipes In Space

Pipes In Space

Pipes In Space, from Team Mushroom Monkeys (William Chau and Kelly Szeto), is a highly entertaining exercise in keyboard mashing.

The game features a large number of pipes that the player may direct as cannons, firing a variety of munitions at a variety of incoming… things. Pipes In Space definitely includes the widest variety of game element themes.

The games’ controls are interesting and intuitive, but not by any means easy to use; each row the keyboard, starting with ‘1’, ‘Q’, ‘A’ and ‘Z’ controls a kind of munition; and each column controls a cannon. You’re tasked with preventing anything from moving from the top of the screen to the bottom; anything that hits the bottom of the screen does damage to the player. Each of the ammunition types the player has access to have different properties; nuts and bolts are weak and narrow in aim, but plentiful, plungers that go through anything, homing water bottles,  and splash damaging bombs.

The premise is simple, but mastery of the game is not an easy task by any means; rightfully, the game scores you on survival time. My best is 16 seconds, which was a real challenge itself. The game itself is a real challenge just to handle, so implementing any real strategy is pretty difficult.

Despite the insanity of the controls, Pipes In Space still manages to be a fun distraction — you’ll delude yourself in to thinking you’re getting better, and then an hour is gone. Even then, I think the frantic, obstructive controls might be rethought to give the game a slightly more engaging challenge. Perhaps reducing the number of pipes to 4 or 5, so that the spare hand could direct the arrow keys, or keeping all the pipes, but reducing the rows so that you could more easily jump across columns, and use the arrow keys to aim and change ammo. Something.

Additionally, I find myself wondering how the game would do on a unified theme. While I like the randomness of all the different objects and characters (and they were fun to draw, too), the game might benefit from a more singular graphical set — guns and missiles versus asteroids and aliens; or maybe something less tired. But, it may be the randomly assembled bits and pieces which give the game it’s character; it’s not quite clear.

Call of Foody Five

Call of Foody Five

Call of Foodie Five, besides being an awful, awful pun of a title, is Team Adrenaline‘s (Adrian Ma, Jeffrey Ma, Rachel Ma, Jack Leung, Allan Lau, and Ryan Afaga) multiplayer DS third person shooter. It’s an interesting pixel-ly game that looks as though it could be a great game down the line, though it’s still incomplete.

The game features a faux-3D effect, with multiple levels of parallax that really look quite good, having the player toss food past tables and vending machines to take down targets on the other side of the room in a virtual food fight. There’s not a lot more to say, unfortunately — the play is fairly straight forward; fire and try to hit things on the other side of the room. Though, there’s no real aim, and movement is strictly left or right. The game is perhaps a bit too simple to have any real challenge or strategy.

The game’s biggest attraction is it’s multiplayer mode, which unfortunately is still incomplete. Indeed, even the single player mode doesn’t end gracefully — if you win in single player, the game just… stops. The control and frame rate seem a little jittery; they’re not quite 100% yet. Indeed, it seems Call of Foodie Five is ultimately still under development. Not a real shock — an online multiplayer DS game is a fairly ambitious task! And with all that in mind, Call of Foodie Five is a remarkable presentation. I think the team is steadily working to complete the incomplete features; I’m hoping to see a fully furnished final version, which I expect will be quite awesome.

Images in today’s post shameless stolen from TOJam’s site. Visit them!


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One Response to “The Games of TOJam 4: Part 5”

  1. The Games of TOJam 4: Part 6 « The Art of Game Says:

    […] The Art of Game Game Design, Theory and Practice « The Games of TOJam 4: Part 5 […]

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