Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights

15Feb/1814

I Hate Playing With Myself

This is the fourth part of The Ouroboros Sequence, a series on puzzle games.

In 2008, a recommendation on Rock Paper Shotgun led me to Cursor*10 (nekogames, 2008) in which the player has to make it to the 16th floor - but the player's life only lasts a short time. With each new life, the player is accompanied by the ghosts of their previous incarnations, working side by side to reach a common goal. If you need to click a box 100 times, it’s a damn sight quicker if a previous life is there to assist you with the clicking. It was the first time I’d seen this sort of mechanic, but unlikely to be a world first: Braid (Number None, 2008) released later in the same year utilised a similar mechanic.

But I’ve seen this design pattern again and again over the years in puzzle games. Today my mission is to explain why I hate it.

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2Feb/188

The Zen Lie

This is the third part of The Ouroboros Sequence, a series on puzzle games.

Spelltower (Zach Gage, 2011). It’s like the best word game, the best, I heard.

I installed it on my Android, gave it a spin. I had a good time. Briefly. Either my game was too short and unsatisfying or it was really long and taxing.

The last game I played kept going and going. After, I think, a couple of weeks, I made the call. I never opened the app again. The game died in stasis.

And I came to the sobering conclusion that maybe I didn’t want it to be so hard.

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24Jan/1822

The Box Impossible

This is the second part of The Ouroboros Sequence, a series on puzzle games.

After bouncing off Snakebird, I pondered the question: was it an objectively good puzzle game?

What does that mean - to be a “good” puzzle game? Perhaps it depends on what it means to be a "puzzle game"?

UH OH

I was starting to do that waht is gaem thing in my head. I didn't want to scribble down an academic definition citing power players like Roger Callois, Bernard Suits or Werner Herzog, but I sure wasn’t gonna let The Room or Monument Valley crash this party. You’re not invited.

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17Jan/1816

Head Meets Tail

This is the first part of The Ouroboros Sequence, a series on puzzle games.

It starts with Snakebird.

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11Jan/1818

Alone and Beyond Help

I tend to have brief, madly passionate affairs.

With mobile games.

The last affair I had was with Lara Croft GO (Square Enix Montreal, 2015) which I couldn't stop wrestling with over several weeks of commutes. On a difficulty curve, it was positioned around taxing-but-not-that-taxing which made it a pleasant diversion from the usual brainkilling puzzle fuckery of something like Cosmic Express (Draknek, 2016), a previous squeeze. But I was done with Lara and, after taking a break from commuter gaming, I cast around for something new. I embarked on Linelight (My Dog Zorro, 2017) and Cityglitch (mindfungus, 2017).

On a whim, I also picked up Six Match (Aaron Steed, 2017) after seeing it mentioned on Twitter. It looked like a garish lo-fi slot machine, complete with sounds like Mario hoovering up coins. I played a bit but it just... it just didn't do anything for me. Still, after becoming frustrated with the touchscreen controls of Linelight and finding I could only invest in playing Cityglitch for short bursts, I was forced to go back to Six Match to break things up a bit.

Today, Six Match is my new fling. And I want to talk about Six Match because its odd mix of mechanics induce an unusual emotion in the late game: loneliness.

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4Jan/184

When Good Luck is Bad Luck

Last year, I wrote a little on first-person stealth game ECHO (Ultra Ultra, 2017) about how its slow, undemanding opening was to my taste. I didn’t talk much about what happens when the action picks up, unless you happened to catch the end of the second Electron Dance Transmission.

I’ve now completed ECHO and find myself considering how I often squeeze through skill-based games with luck - and how I wish I didn’t.

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Filed under: Longform 4 Comments
3Oct/176

The Sleeping Palace

echo-opening

The big gimmick of ECHO (Ultra Ultra, 2017) is cited in every review, interview and video about the game: you’re trying to stealth and shoot and jostle your way through hundreds of opponents who all look like you and learn from what you do. But don’t go rushing in expecting the world’s best enemy AI - just a clever mechanic.

The big gimmick of ECHO that ain’t cited in every review, interview and video about the game is how long it takes to get to the action. It’s War and Peace long. It’s heat death of the universe long. But it’s not just long, it’s good.

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22Sep/1716

Atari Video Computer Soul, Part Two

I've been revisiting the games on my old Atari VCS. The first part was posted a couple of weeks ago.

atari-cartridge-boxes-2

The Atari VCS had a few alternative controllers: paddles, driving controllers and keyboard controllers.

The paddle controllers were based on potentiometers, effectively giant knobs that players turned between two extremes. The driving controllers looked identical to paddles except you could keep turning them without end and they were bundled with the one game they were needed for, Indy 500.

The keyboard controllers offered a matrix of buttons; they were used for just a handful of games including an educational Basic Programming, but the return on investment for the customer was low and these controllers died off early. The keyboard controllers were resurrected as a “touch pad” bundled with the VCS release of Star Raiders in 1982.

As a child, I wanted everything. We had paddles and driving controllers but never did get to experience the keyboard controller. I doubt we missed out. Good call, parents.

I’m not sure there’s much fun in emulating a paddle controller with modern hardware, so I was pleased to discover, buried amongst my VCS memorabilia, a set of working third-party paddle controllers I’d picked up in the early 90s.

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14Sep/1718

On Omegaland

omegaland-talos-principle

In the trailer, Omegaland (Jonas & Verena Kyratzes, 2017) looks like nothing special. Well, it looks like a nothing special Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, 1985) clone. But knowing the Kyratzes back catalogue, what the trailer didn’t say intrigued me more. It didn’t say why you should play this game. It didn’t say what it did different. It did nothing to really encourage you play it.

And, as you might expect in our postindieapocalyptic landscape, it didn’t really do big business and I don’t think I’ve seen it garner any attention on gaming websites. It’s difficult to share: uh, look, here’s a trailer from the acclaimed Kyratzes stable! It shows a brilliantly derivative game! More derivative than any other derivative game has gone before!

Oh of course there’s more to Omegaland than a Super Mario clone. It feels a bit Pippin Barr, but really long. A bit too long.

It’s not earth-shattering and you’re not missing out on the Mona Lisa of Games. But what are you missing? Why did I struggle with it? And why do I think the ending was the best bit?

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7Sep/177

Atari Video Computer Soul, Part One

This is an appendix to the Where We Came From series, suggested by Eversion developer @zarawesome.

atari-cartridge-boxes-1

In the beginning, there was the arcade.

In the arcade, you would find a platoon of brash, noisy cabinets, screaming over each other and pleading for your silver. They were more seductive than the penny fountains, one-armed bandits and claw machines, these coin-hungry bastards that understood addiction all too well. Sometimes it was better to find a forgotten machine alone in a café, with less competition from the environment; it could be what it was intended to be.

But the expense of an arcade lifestyle meant a console was destined to find a place in our homes and become our first videogame soul. For most, this was the Atari Video Computer System, known today as the Atari 2600. In 1980 my parents bought one and it was always referred to as "the Atari" until we sold virtually all our cartridges two years later to fund the purchase of an Atari 800 home computer. Then it became forever known as the VCS. I still think of it as the VCS.

We moved house recently and one of the boxes pulled out of storage contained the VCS. It wasn’t the original woodgrain VCS from my childhood but the later cheap-looking version, sometimes dubbed the Atari 2600 Jr., produced when Atari thought slapping their shitty silver branding on a thin plastic slate was the epitome of cool. This was a machine I'd bought in my student days when I wanted to recapture those past, ancient glories.

I decided to put the VCS through its paces again and see if the games were still fun - and what my children would make of them. In an era of Minecraft and Angry Birds, could square blocks still entrance? And would the machine even turn on?

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