Sunday, January 6, 2013

Square Madness and Idle Idol Head

It turns out that one of the cool things that comes with tweeting your indie video games blog is the fact that occasionally, you get in contact with other indie game lovers or makers. In this instance, I got ahold of a dev by the name of Daniel Albu, who makes Flash, HTML5 and Android games. He has an extensive portfolio, as well as an impressive list of awards, but today I'd like to specifically discuss his recent HTML5 game.

Square Madness

I really enjoyed this game. Its design is simplistic, yet stylish. You play as a rotating black square, and your aim is to collect other black squares while simultaneously avoiding red squares. The smaller black squares, which are more difficult to obtain, give more points than the larger ones. As time goes on, the pacing of the gameplay gradually increases, but not to the point that it's ever terribly noticeable. It is well-paced enough that it is never fast to a stressful degree.

I actually found this game to be quite relaxing to play. One of the things I and fellow thisindiegameblog contributor B13 noticed was that it was easier and more enjoyable to play to avoid the red squares than it is to play to collect the black squares.

Case in point, I played to collect the black ones, and he played to avoid the red ones. My high score was somewhere around 1180. His, well...
Needless to say, he put me to shame.
If you continue to play this game long enough, you enter a sort of state of flow, meaning you can become completely focused and absorbed in the gameplay. The music and sounds were a nice addition, never too distracting or loud.

What I liked was that the game was simplistic enough that it didn't require a tutorial, but not mind-numbing in its simplicity. It's a good game to simply play, and since it's HTML5, it's very accessible. It's good to play if you're looking for a distraction, or if you're looking for something to help you focus.

Idle Idol Head

Firstly, I have to give bonus points (not that I give out any points at all, but you know) for the title.

Almost a year ago, when I played Journey for the first time, I had the pleasure of playing alongside fellow first-timer MrConkin. It turned out, when I did a Twitter search, that the user had a handle of the same name, and I've been following him on Twitter ever since. He also has a blog, where I learned he is a game developer. I don't mean for this to sound creepy, but I've been following his work ever since out of sheer curiousity.

Recently, I looked to see that he had posted Idle Idol Head up to Newgrounds, so I went over to give it a play.

The game begins with a quirky, fun cut scene with crisp, colourful graphics and fluid animation. You play as a deity named Moai, who is shorter than the others and wants to grow taller so he can ride roller coasters and get chicks. A character by the name of Rapa offers to help Moai. If he collects all the switches, shaped like Easter Island heads, Rapa will make him taller. And the adventure begins.

The character below Moai looks somehow... familiar...
You start out simply playing through levels to collect the switches, but then you can acquire other gameplay methods to help you collect different coloured switches. Once you collect all the switches in one level, you can progress to the next. If you manage to pass the level without dying once, you will get a star.

There are 30 total stars that you can receive in this game, and other than beating levels without dying, you can also perform tasks for other characters to
get them. Thankfully you can replay levels from the main menu, since Newgrounds saves your progress, so if you died on the first run-through of a level, you can re-play it to collect the star later on.

The gameplay consists of navigating Moai through a series of walled-in areas. You must avoid the walls, or else you will die. Running into just about any surface will kill you, though there are three different power-ups you can attain: flowers will turn you yellow and light your way, pools of water will turn you blue and also help you water plants, and fire will turn you red and help you melt snow. These different gameplay mechanics
contribute to the difficulty level of some of the puzzles.

In addition, the game has a gravity system that gives some weight to Moai as a character, and adds depth to the gameplay. He can be physically influenced by wind, allowing it to change his direction.

My favourite part about this game was the unique gameplay, coupled with its colourful style. The game was challenging enough that I was unable to collect all 30 stars on my first playthrough. Despite playing the whole game from start to finish, I still find myself wanting to go back to collect the rest. If I had one complaint about the game, it would be that some of the shout-outs to other games are a bit too obvious and break the fourth wall a bit. I liked the game's design and characters enough that having obvious shout-outs was a bit jarring. There's a shout-out at the final level, though, that was subtle and really well done. I won't say what it is, because I found it a pleasant surprise after playing through.

Both Idle Idol Head and Square Madness, interestingly enough, had similar styles of avoid-the-obstacle gameplay. It was by pure coincidence that I ended up reviewing them side by each, but they are satisfying for different reasons.

I have updated the blog a bit with a new link about "Funding the Dream" for indie games that need a little help along the way. Also, under "about thisindiegameblog", you'll find  a bit more about the blog, plus brief bios for B13 and I. As always, if there are any games you'd like us to play and potentially review, send them our way.


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