As the day of the next Independent Games Festival draws nearer, the finalists prepare for an incredible experience at the Game Developers Conference in a little over a week. On the other hand, we at DIYgamer are still sifting through the list. Last year, we began a countdown to the Independent Games Festival. The way this works is easy: we simply select games at random from the lengthy (301 total) list of IGF submissions and discuss what they’re about and how they play. For this week’s column, I played through two very different puzzle-platformers, Time Fcuk and the adventure-oriented Umbrella Adventure: The Castle of Cake.
Before starting this I want to emphasize that this is only meant to give you my impressions and perhaps that extra kick to try out some of the IGF submissions, whether they be these or any of the other 301. I assure you, you will discover that there is something unique about each and every game. And hey, if you’re lucky, some of them (like these) are even playable for free! All right, without further ado, here are this week’s picks.
Time Fcuk? More Like Mind Fcuk!
Okay, I’m not going to lie: I was automatically intrigued by Team Fcuk’s effort because of its title. And honestly, the game did absolutely nothing but fuck with me and provide for some good old fashioned platforming fun. The controls are the basic arrow key and space bar controls we know and love. You’ll find quite a bit to like in this pixelated puzzle-platformer. What separates Time Fcuk as a game is a combination of two game mechanics: the first is the layering mechanic and the second is the ability to carry and move blocks. The earlier reminds me of another IGF entry I played through, Color Symphony, while the latter reminds me of Block Dude (here’s the remake of the classic originally from Brandon Sterner in full-color Flash), a game that was part of the puzzle pack my friends and I downloaded in high school and loaded up onto our graphing calculators–which, by the way, how awesome are graphing calculators?
To elaborate, though, the Color Symphony mechanic I’m talking about is the ability to change the color of the environment, which unveils new areas and gets you past certain obstacles. This same mechanic is used in Time Fcuk and is labeled “layering,” but it also makes use of another mechanic by allowing you to lift and move blocks. There are also portals, the ability to walk upside down in certain areas, a completely different gaming mode which encourages you to “Enter the Unknown”–which I’m pretty sure randomizes and provides some extremely challenging levels. On top of all of these features, you have the “Explore” and “Create” modes, one provides challenges of all sorts with leaderboard support and the other is a level editor. Needless to say, Time Fcuk packs a punch and contains a ton of content for those willing to make use of it. You can play it on Newgrounds right here.
“Its a game about perspective and viewing both sides of the story from afar, its a game about blocks, platforms, drinking, high school reunions and work time fun.Time Fcku is a “puzzle platformer” about finding logic in irrelevance, its a 1+1=2 formula that will ask more from you after you leave it alone, its a community experience about communication with people who you dont like.”
You can have an umbrella and eat your cake too.
Umbrella Adventure: The Castle of Cake is also a platformer. Whereas Time Fcuk relies heavily on the puzzle side, Umbrella Adventure draws more influence from adventure games, filled with humorous dialogue to match. The coolest aspect is that the game is completely hand-drawn and hand-animated so it looks fantastic. I still feel color would have helped, but the greyscale provides an intrigue of its own. In more ways than one, the game reminds me of The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom by the Odd Gentlemen, whose game originally started out as a student project and turned into an XBOX Live Arcade hit published by 2K. First, you’ve got an umbrella. Second, neither game is in color. Third, in P.B. Winterbottom you’re chasing after pies whereas in Umbrella Adventure you’re attempting to get your stolen cakes back. Don’t get me wrong, though, by no means am I calling it a ripoff off because they’re actually completely different games and contain different types of platforming with Umbrella Adventure acting much less puzzle-centric. The game is entirely free and ready for you to download at this location.
While I enjoyed Umbrella Adventure for the most part, I had a few issues with the game. For one thing, it seemed too hard. I’m always up for a challenge but there seemed to be a steep learning curve. The first two cakes took me just a few seconds to get to; the cakes that followed looked to be impossible to reach. I don’t know if this meant you would come back way later in the game perhaps equipped with a new skill but I felt the controls and objectives weren’t explained adequately enough for me to know exactly how to get to the cakes. A help/hint feature would radically help this game. Other than that, however, the stylistic appeal–with its excellently hand-drawn animations, wonderful acoustic guitarwork and note-worthy sound effects–is undeniable. This certainly puts HiVE on my radar for future titles.
“Unlock the secrets of the Forest, explore the highest and deepest reaches of the map, and travel across land, air and water to solve the mystery of the theft of over one hundred delicious cakes, through a world brought to life by rich atmosphere, immersive soundscapes and detailed visual effects, presented in greyscale widescreen.”
That’s it for the week of March 1st, 2010. We’re only a week away, DIYgamers. Long live indie!