Saturday, November 05, 2005

Kiki the Nano Bot

Title: Kiki the Nano Bot
Author: Thorsten Kohnhorst
License: GNU Public License

Kiki the Nano Bot is one wonderfully tough puzzle game. This is a true 3-dimensional game which really twisted my thinking at times. You control Kiki as you move through a 3D world which kind of looks like an empty holodeck. You can move, jump, shoot, and push objects. When a pushed object has nothing below it, it falls. Here is the tricky bit, the direction of gravity depends on the current orientation of Kiki. This results in some fascinating puzzles and really stretches your mind.

In each level, you have to activate the exit (the faint yellow cube at the top of the screen shot) and then get to the exit. Activating the exit, if not initially activated, usually entails shooting some switches or getting power to the exit. You have to figure how to gain access to the switches and exit. This entails pushing items around, keeping careful track of when things will fall and in what direct they will fall.

There are only 23 levels. The first 10 or so introduce you to the game and various objects. Even some of these introductory levels are tough. This is a very spatially disconcerting game with a fairly steep learning curve. It is easy to get all turned around. The remainding levels are hard. For several of them, I had to take a break and come back the next day with a fresh mind. But, none of the levels are unfairly hard. It is just that I was not used to thinking in 3 dimensions.

Just as I was getting comfortable moving in Kiki's world, the game ended. This would be an amazing game with 100 levels. I sense that there is more depth to the game than is explored in the 23 levels. There is no formal editor, but the levels are stored in a Python file Looking at the file with a text editor, the syntax becomes clear to any Python programmer. Hopefully, someone someday will produce a bunch of levels for us.

One hint: there is help for each level. Hit ESC and move down to Help in the menu. A screen with one or more pages of level specific information will come up. I do not consider looking at this cheating.

Kiki the Nano Bot was developed as a contest entry for the uDevGame Game Programming Contest 2002 sponsored by iDevGames. Sadly, all the results on their web site seem to be missing, but Kiki did win "Best Overall Game". Another contest is currently in the works. This a Mac contest, but hopefully, many of the good games will get ported to the PC.

Finally, last Summer there was another game programming contest sponsored by The Game Creators. This one was for puzzle games only. Some of the better games from this contest are starting to show up various places. A list of the contest entries is in their July 2005 newsletter. The contest results are in the August 2005 issue. All of these game are a little rough around the edges, but several show some original puzzle gaming ideas.


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