The Games of ToJam 4: Part 8

Nothing is insignificant in Scale

Nothing is insignificant in Scale

At long last but not least by any stretch, we’ve got Flip the Beach, Lockpick, Swine Flu Apocalypse, and the winner of the People’s Choice Award for Best Use of Theme, SCALE.

If you’re just joining us on these reviews, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7!

Flip the Beach

Flip the Beach

Flip the Beach from Team Invisible Ninja Squid (Andrew Brykcznski, Alex Bethke, Andrew Traviss, Miguel Sternberg, Parrish Ziganian) is the most EPIC pinball game, possibly evar. Storm a beach with your tank and take out the enemy, pinball style.

It’s a simple, straight forward pinball game with a excellent rendered theme, and a mechanical twist: you’re steering a tank, which is armed with a (mouse aimed) cannon, and that comes with recoil.

I’d been really looking forward to trying Flip the Beach — I saw it a number of times at the Jam, but it was always accompanied by a line. It’s excellently put together and quite a strange experience, though it is plagued with a number of tiny mechanical troubles. I found most of my games ended with getting stuck on the peak of a ramp or similar structure, out of ammo or otherwise unable to dislodge myself — the game could use a ‘bump’ key for just that sort of occasion.

Also; it was the repeated promise through the Jam that the shooting mechanic would let you move a little more deliberately than what you normally see in pinball, but my experience was that the cannon’s recoil was generally trivial — the cannon instead made for an excellent way of obliterating multiple targets at range, but little else.

Flip the Beach is an excellent, rich production, both entertaining and original; it’s by far one of the best pinball games I’ve ever played. I feel that there’s some room for improvement — not surprising for anything produced in the three days of TOJam — but it has no trouble overcoming whatever gaps it has in it’s execution.

Swine Fly Apocalypse

Swine Fly Apocalypse

Swine Flu Apocalypse from The Procrastinators (Ahad Habibulla, Andre Martelli, Darren O’Shea, Sid Ally and Matt Hammill) is a fun, straight forward arena shooter game. It’s a little inexplicable and a little unpolished, but an excellent outing for a group of TOJam veterans.

The premise is simple — you walk with one stick/pad, shoot with the other, (and let me say, I REALLY appreciate that they included alternative controls beyond XBox controller) there’s no ammo, just health and a lot of zombies. Effectively, you play until you die, aiming to get the high score in kills. If you get touched, you lose a life, lose them all and die.

Now, while fun, Swine Flu Apocalypse is filled with little gaps and bugs — there’s a bunch of power ups, but most don’t seem to have any use or purpose. The game doesn’t really reset between rounds. Zombies ‘pop’ out of nowhere without warning, which I found was the most common form of damage.  Boss Goats sometimes spawn, then vanish. And it has the usual problem of no sound.

All that aside, Swine Flu Apocalypse is fast paced, simple and entertaining. While not a completely finished product, it’s a great little rough piece which with some effort could be quite excellent.

Lockpick

Lockpick

Andrei Petrov brings us Lockpick (with some help from Barry Rowe), a game that implements a clever input/output scheme to bring a new and unique game idea. Players are required to pick their way out of handcuffs by using a control stick to play with the tumblers of the lock, using the vibration of the controller to sound out the lock.

Unfortunately, it’s a game that requires an XBox 360 controller to play, and despite my best efforts to get my hands on one (even over my… notable break from reviewing), I haven’t gotten a hold of one yet. I’m gonna have to do a special TOJam review follow up on these 360-controller games so I can paint the whole picture.

At the very least, the idea is exceptionally cool, and the implementation makes sense and sounds simple enough. Even as a proposal, Lockpick sounds pretty awesome, and would make for a great supplemental mechanic in a larger game.

Scale

SCALE

Finally, the People’s Choice winner for Best Use of Theme is SCALE by Team Awesome (Andrej Karpathy and Daniel Lister) is a game that simple in the best way possible, where you control a ball inside a maze and try to roll your way to the end goal.

More than any other game at TOJam, SCALE took the theme of scale to the limit. The central mechanic in the game is the ability to change the size of the sphere relative to the maze. The ball remains the same size, but the maze changes around you. This means that in many cases, dead ends conceal impossibly small areas, and some puzzles can be overcome by impeccable control or a careful application of size-changing (and in a few cases, a little bit of both is necessary).

There isn’t a lot more to say about SCALE. It’s controls a smooth and comfortable, and work exceptionally well with the game’s physics (a Python variant of the Chipmunk physics engine, as I understand it).  In fact, there were only two blemishes to the experience for me: I got a little mixed up installing Python and PyGame (which is all my fault — it’s honestly not even tricky), and SCALE ends, but nothing happens at that point.

I could complain that the graphics were plain or that it lacks music but SCALE does just fine without them. It’s a very pure approach to an interesting concept, and it’s executed flawlessly. I even spent a while trying to find bugs or break the game, but it was airtight. The whole package is nice and clean — it’s easy to see why it won Best Use of Theme for it’s mechanics.

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 8”

  1. www.Frv.Li Says:

    A great article, & one which players such as me enjoy reading week in & day out!

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