Archive for April, 2009

Indie Review – Puzzle Farter

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Introduction

Puzzle Farter is a 2D platformer created by Pet Tomato in which you have to help a character with a goldfish for a head navigate through each level to reach the exit door. How do you do it? By propelling him through the air with gravity-defying flatulence.

That’s right. You fart to fly.

I’d love to say that I am above immature fart jokes and the fact that you pass gas to pass levels didn’t factor into selecting this game to review, but then I’d be a liar. There’s a lot of crude potty humor in games out there, but most of it is done poorly. Puzzle Farter does it right. I’ve played dozens of times already, and I still snicker every now and then when my character cuts a big one trying to launch himself to a high platform. The game humorously incorporates toilet humor in a thematic manner that fits in the game world without making it overly gross or disgusting.

Puzzle Farter - Main Menu

Puzzle Farter - Main Menu


Gameplay

Juvenile theme aside, the game itself is expertly-crafted. The physics have been tweaked to perfection, and the controls are simple enough for anyone to grasp quickly but still allow for a large range of motion. Press up once to jump normally, then press up again while in the air and hold to fly. Right and left arrows dictate horizontal movement whether on the ground or airborne. That’s it! There are no special attacks, no key combinations, no complicated instructions to think about. Just move, jump, and fly. You only get a few seconds of total flight time before you run out of gas (literally) and fall to the ground, so you can’t fly endlessly. Your supply recharges quickly however, allowing you to get back in the air almost immediately after touching the ground.

Along the way you’ll be required to navigate through a maze of platforms that get increasingly complex. You’ll encounter five different enemies that will up the challenge quite a bit as well. Touching an enemy or something it attacks with results in losing a health point. You get three health per life and three lives per game, though there are some extra life power ups scattered throughout the levels. If you lose a life on a level, you have to start that level over. This structure forces players to get through every level with no more than 3 hits, while allowing them many more than 3 cumulative hits over the course of the entire game.

Puzzle Farter - Gameplay

Puzzle Farter - Gameplay


Level Design

Puzzle Farter really shines when you examine its levels. The first couple levels are built in tutorials–there aren’t any enemies so you can take all the time you need to get the hang of the flying mechanic without fear of failure. The levels then slowly introduce easier enemies first in simple-to-avoid positions, followed by more and more complicated level and enemy setups. Soon you’ll be dodging fish on stilts and spiked sea anemones while flying up through a maze of paper airplanes thrown by kitties in jars. The difficulty curve ramps up very smoothly and the challenges increase proportionally to your skill level as you progress. That’s not to say you’ll likely beat all 50 levels on your first attempt, however. Getting through the entire game is no small feat, and once you do that Pet Tomato has another 50 levels waiting for you in the “New Levels” selection at the beginning of the game. They should have been called “Brutal Levels” as these will really put your methane-powered acrobatics to the test.

Room For Improvement

One minor quibble is that it’s not immediately apparent that you can safely land on the frog enemy’s tongue. You have to avoid the tip, but the middle part of the tongue is safe. This goes against every other enemy behavior you learn in the game, and it was only after I had beaten the entirety of the first 50 levels that I accidentally discovered this fact. Boy, would that have made some of the previous levels easier.

Conclusion

Puzzle Farter is flawlessly executed and really shows off the game development expertise of the creators, especially level design. The cute, cartoony art style and fantastic sound design compliment the game perfectly. Puzzle Farter is a joy to play, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a fun casual game and a good laugh.

Indie Review – Tone Matrix

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Tone Matrix is a really nifty little Flash app that lets you compose an awesome-sounding synthesized music loop in real-time using a giant grid. The x-axis represents timing. There’s 16 equal increments of time, giving you 4 beats at 4 notes per beat. The y-axis represents pitch, with each tile being a different note on a pentatonic scale. For those of you who don’t know what that is, basically it means no matter what combination of notes you play they sound good with each other. I’ll let the wikipedia link explain it in more detail if you are interested.

I know it’s more of a toy than a game, but these kinds of projects frequently lead to really nifty ideas being adapted in games. Just browsing through the comments I saw some people mentioning various games (Tetris, etc) that would benefit from an added mechanic of something like this. I know I was mesmerized by Tone Matrix for a good solid hour, and I’ll show most of my friends. It’s fun to draw a picture of something with the matrix and see what it “sounds” like. Thanks again to Scottae for sharing this.

TONE MATRIX URL: http://lab.andre-michelle.com/tonematrix

Google Reader Is Amazing

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

If you’re like me, you have a lot of websites that you want information from each and every day. If you’re even more like me, you don’t have nearly enough time to read it all, and it’s a pain in the butt to remember which ones you’ve already visited.

Enter Google Reader. A few months ago, I was a schmuck who manually visited about 10 or 12 gaming/Flash/funny websites daily to see if they had any updated content. A friend introduced me to Google Reader, and it literally changed my online life. Google Reader performs the extremely useful service of aggregating all content from the web sites I frequent into one easy place. It’s especially useful because I don’t have to visit the sites to see if there is new content – Google Reader keeps track of which items I’ve read and marks the others unread just like emails. I already had a Gmail account, so it was a cinch to setup my Reader account by simply clicking the “Reader” link at the top and logging in for the first time.

Any website that has an RSS feed or something similar is easy as pie to add to your Google Reader. Simply press the “Add Subscription” button in the upper left corner and type the main address of the website.

In fact, why don’t you sign up right now and add my blog to your Google Reader? :) Simply press “Add Subscription” and type “www.georgeskleres.com” in the pop up that appears and press “Add”. Then you’ll see Game Dev Overload in your list and be happy knowing that any time this blog is updated, you’ll know immediately. :)

There’s a GDC Canada?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

I opened one of my daily Gamasutra digest emails yesterday while catching up from not having read a week’s worth of them at the GDC, when I was suddenly intrigued by the ad at the top. GDC Canada? I’ve never heard of such a thing, but it piqued my interest so I followed the link: http://www.gdc-canada.com/.

Wow! That’s pretty cool! When I visit websites, I almost always ignore the top and sides because most websites reserve those spaces for ads, and I HATE ads (unless they are making me money in my games). But now I see that there’s a whole bunch of GDC events that happen all around the year. There’s five in all – the main GDC, GDC Austin, GDC Canada, GDC Europe, and even GDC China! I knew about the first two, but the last three are new to me. It looks like they all have volunteer opportunities as well!

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have an absolute blast when I volunteer at the GDC in San Fran every year. I also serve as the volunteer coordinator for SIEGE Con in Atlanta. If these other conferences are even one tenth of the fun of GDC, I would have a blast AND get even more networking opportunities. Plus, I’ve always wanted to go to Europe. Can we say “business trip?” :)

If any of you readers out there have attended or volunteered for any of these additional conferences, please post a comment and tell us about it. These seem like fantastic opportunities, especially for those students in Europe and Asia (and maybe even Canada) who can’t afford a plane ticket to the US for the main GDC event.

IceCream – Open-Source XNA 2D Engine

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

OFFICIAL SITE: http://icecream.epsicode.net/

Well, now this really excites me. Not only is IceCream a nifty little 2D engine for XNA games, but it comes with a convenient authoring tool called Milkshake! To quote from the site, “This editor allows you to easilly design all the elements of your game, from the texture selection to game object’s components edition.” That’s pretty darn cool if you ask me! Looking at the videos they posted, it reminds me of the in-game editors I’m used to from games such as Warcraft 3 and Unreal Tournament 2004.

This puppy hasn’t launched yet, but I am eagerly awaiting it’s release. Anything that makes XNA development easier, especially by turning it into more of a drag-and-drop or selection-box kind of environment, earns major kudos in my book. Go check it out. I think this one will be well worth the time.

Enjoy!

– George