Monday, April 20, 2009

Casual Encounters.

I haven't had the attention span to play anything extremely involved lately. A game that I've probably spent the most time with in the past two months is Blush, a web browser-based game by Flashbang Studios, a neat little company that I admire. They make fun, casual games like Jetpack Brontosaurus and Minotaur China Shop. While their past games have concepts and names that I like, the way that they control has always sort of bothered me. Too floaty and imprecise for my tastes.

A few months back, Flashbang brazenly announced to the world that they planned on bringing out a new game every two months for the next year. The game that I've been playing is the first in this series of releases. Blush is a game where you are a squid. You swim around, lashing out at other sea creatures with your tentacles. When you destroy a creature, it leaves a cloud of eggs. The goal of the game is to destroy creatures, stick their eggs to your tentacles, and occasionally deposit eggs at one of the glowing collection nodes. Doing so earns you points. You have four minutes to do your thing.

The game, despite the description, isn't nearly as goofy and purposefully awkward as many of the studio's previous games. It takes advantage of and improves upon the floatiness that once frustrated me. A fun thing that happens in game design is to come up with a verb and create a game or part of a game that is an embodiment of that verb. In the case of Blush, that verb is swish. The way that the soft-but-vibrant visuals, smooth mouse movements and swaying music work together is very well done.

It may seem very simple at first, but as you proceed, collecting precious glowing eggs, the game becomes more interesting. It becomes a challenge to manage your tentacles, which grow as you deposit your eggs at the collection glowies. Also, the better you do, the variety of creatures you encounter increases. These new creatures introduce risk, as they intermittently flash a defensive yellow, at which times your tentacles will break off if they come into contact. This introduces an element of strategy and necessitates quick movements.

My only real complaint about the game is that, as much as the "earn points in a given amount of time" thing increases the excitement, I wish that there was an unscored game mode that allowed me to float around as long as I liked. I found that the gameplay relaxed me, but the demands of the score meter and time limit were coaxing me into a competitive, excited state. I felt like I was being pulled in two directions.

Try out Blush. You might need to install a weird flash plugin-esque thing, but the game is well worth it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those are the two flaws with Flashbang: slippery controls and time limits.

I wonder if the time limits they use are there for a commercial reason or some deliberate technical cap.