Archive for October, 2008

World of Goo

October 15, 2008

World of Goo is a physics-based puzzle game, a sequel to the freeware Tower of Goo experimental game. It plays something like a cross between the Bridge Builder/Pontifex games from Chronic Logic and Lemmings; imagine constructing a bridge a piece at a time from living creatures and trying to shepherd all of your construction materials into the exit gate to complete the level. The game is charmingly and slickly presented in a cartoon style and has some great music, some of which is reminiscent of the Michael Nyman’s excellent score to The Piano.

The demo features the first of the four chapters from the full game, as well as the online high score mini-game. The twelve included levels will take around an hour for the first run through; some of them will probably require several attempts. The difficulty is never an issue though, there are multiple paths through the demo and you can skip failed levels if you really need to. By the time you’ve finished most will seem quite simple in retrospect, although first time through a few had me pausing and staring for a minute whilst thinking how to approach them – an excellent sign of originality. The fundamental mechanic of the game doesn’t change as you progress – the triangle is the strongest shape in nature, so you build a lot of triangles – but the use you put those triangles to is mixed up with every level and new mechanics are introduced rapidly, moving you from a basic goo blob that can make two new connections to lighter-than-air and detachable goos. The demo is highly replayable, the physics tends to lead to messy and organic solutions that you can always go back to and improve. Each level has a completion target and an extra, very difficult advanced target that usually relies on exploiting some twist in the mechanics. In addition to picking up the advanced targets you’ll want to ensure you’ve got as much goo as possible to the exit to use it in the high-score mode. Instead of just recording the amount of material you escaped with the demo gives you access to all the goo you’ve saved and tasks you with building a tower with it, and the height of that tower is your high score.

The demo has unusual tactile qualities – at first it’s a bit annoying that when you pick up a bit of goo to move it you have to take it around any obstacles (and can accidentally kill it if you drag it into a hazard) and some levels require speed and precision clicking that are more FPS than puzzle game, although there’s an auto-aim. However, once you start working out how to exploit the physics you’ll love it. World of Goo is a unique, deep, replayable, and thoroughly great demo that will really grow on you. Everyone should play it. It absolutely deserves to be GameDemoReviews’ first 3/3 demo.

3/3 – Drop what you’re doing and play this

Tech Details:

Size: 30MB

System Requirements:1.0 GHz CPU, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 9 graphics card, 800×600 screen resolution (locked, i.e. no widescreen mode or higher resolutions available) Windows XP/Vista (Mac, Linux versions in development)

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GameDemoReviews in review

October 4, 2008

After two years, 11 demo reviews and a couple of news posts we can come to some conclusions. First, we aren’t very diligent: averaging about 4 words a day – and I hope no-one was waiting for that Micro Machines review we promised in our first post. Second, most demos aren’t that good: we have two 2/3s, eight 1/3s and a zero. Third, not many people are paying attention; despite a fair amount of “how do I know if this demo is worth a 1.5 GB download” comments in places like Rock Paper Shotgun most of the traffic this site gets is people looking for system requirements. Also, not updating for 18 months apparently does something pretty nasty to your search engine ranking. Oops.

So, it’s time for a change. We’ll keep on throwing up demo reviews of games as and when they catch our attention, but we’ll be adding a new format (maybe even two) that ought to address at least some of the problems we’ve had so far. Probably not the diligence problem though, so make sure you have a free half-hour some time in 2011.

Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People: Homestar Ruiner and Strongbadia The Free demo round-up

October 4, 2008

The first thing you need to do is go to homestarrunner.com, watch a flash video, and see if you can stand the voicework. The regular-guys-doing-silly-voices style has a strong potential to grate so hard that enjoying this would be impossible. SBCG4AP is a point-and-click adventure in the classic style, but cut into smaller slices and presented episodically; this is why we’re reviewing the demos of the first two episodes here together. The tutorial, identical in both, is laugh-out-loud funny, particularly where Strong Bad turns his “wit” on the player. It’s a controlled micro-adventure-game, which keeps the pace up, an essential for laughs. The gag density is lower in the later game sections and more fall flat, but there are still good lines and funny moments like Strong Bad checking his email and the included mini-games, one of which manages to be a mash-up of Double Dragon and Brain Age.

The first demo, Homestar Ruiner, follows Strong Bad’s plan to mess with his friend, Homestar, by beating him in a race. There are several locations and characters, but there’s a worrying hint of familiarity already as some of the motifs seem re-used from Telltale’s Sam and Max games (the phone, the shop). The second demo, Strongbadia The Free, admirably mixes up the conventions in the first demo. It starts with a fairly simple escape-the-room section where Strong Bad has to bust out of house arrest, and then moves to a pastiche of a strategy game: every game location has seceded from the tyrannical King of Town and must be won over (via point-and-click interactions) into an alliance to defeat him. The demo ends as you take your first country, meaning that the setup and exploration of the country map is where you’ll spend most of your time, rather than in puzzling.

The normal adventure game niggles are all present and correct in both, there are vital items that look like incidental detail, there are puzzles that make some sense in retrospect but can only be solved by a real leap of logic, and you’re wearing boxing gloves yet have to engage in elaborate machinations to get past people rather than punching them, which might be your inclination if you get frustrated by any of the above. The hint system doesn’t help much, tending to state the obvious rather than give clues about the more difficult puzzle aspects. Neither demo lets you save, although both can be completed in one sitting without too much trouble.

Neither is a stunning demo, but if you like Strong Bad or adventure games both are worth adding to your inventory.

1/3 – For fans only

Tech Details:

Size: 70 MB, 110 MB

System Requirements:1.5 GHz CPU, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB DirectX 9 graphics card, Windows XP/Vista