Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tag: The Power of Paint

Title: Tag: The Power of Paint
Author: The Tag Team
License: Freeware

I have to admit I did not see the potential of Narbacular Drop. I played it when it was released as a DigiPen student project. Its graphics used a very dark palette. I remember falling into some hole and getting stuck. Completely uninviting. Luckily, Valve did see the potential, and the result was Portal, one of the best games of 2007. In fact, when I played Portal, I did not even recognize that it grew out of Narbacular Drop.

Learning from my past short sightedness, I want to recommend that people give Tag a try. I have to warn you that it has some rough spots. It is short and incomplete. The controls are a little mushy. The interface could use work. Do not play Tag expecting a finish product. Play Tag for the puzzle concept and hope that a really good polished game based it comes out some day.

Tag is a first person 3-dimensional puzzle game. The goal is simple enough: get to the exit. Your only tool is an unlimited supply of spray paint. The great puzzle concept of Tag is that when your character touches a painted surface, the color of the paint caused you to do something. For example, a green pained surface caused you to jump.

A bit more accurately, green causes your character to be propelled off that surface. In the above screen shot, by painting two parallel vertical walls green, you can jump up the walls. It is this sort of innovative thinking that makes Tag special. Note the nice in game hints. Or course, I need to switch to the green paint before commencing to paint that wall.

The two other colors are red and blue. Red surfaces cause you to speed up. Blue causes you to stick to the surface. The combinations yield some good puzzles which require some outside of the box thinking.

I could go into the faults of Tag, but that is not the point. Being student projects, all DigiPen games have huge flaws. This is a demo, and I think it is best to view it as a concept demo. Give it a play. I really hope it a complete game.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Title: Transmover
Author: Polygon Gmen
License: Freeware

It has been almost three months since my last blog entry. Part busy, part no a game has grabbed me in a while. The busy part has not changed, but this week the game Transmover pulled me in and game lock ensued. It has all the requirements for a great puzzle game: simple rules, simple interface, and some really good puzzles. Transmover is a flash based browser game. Normally, I bundle up three such games to make one entry, but Transmover deserves its own entry.

Transmover is platform puzzle game. The goal in each level is to first obtain the key and then make your way to the exit. You move left and right along platforms, climb up and down ladders, and can jump down, but you can only climb up one block or stair at a time. To obtain the key and then get to the exit, you usually have build staircases, similar to Swistakowy Kloplot. Unlike Swistakowy Kloplot, you cannot pick up and place blocks. Instead, by shooting green blocks, you switch positions with the block, called a "transmove". The arrows move your character; the awsd keys shoot. To build a staircase, you have to move to where you want a block to be placed and shoot a green block which is to your left, right, up, or down. Simple rules, but they lead to some interesting puzzles.

To make things interesting, there are several special blocks. Some blocks are green on certain sides. These can only be transmoved when shot from certain sides. The tan blocks can only be transmoved once. The red blocks are destroyed when hit with a shot from your gun. There are special opaque platform and wall tiles which you can shot/transmove through, but cannot run through. The spinning red and blue tiles rotate the direction of your shots 90 degrees. I may be forgetting one or two other special tiles. Each special tile adds depth to the puzzles without adding unnecessary rules. The game designer of Transmover choose well which features to add.

There are 60 levels, split in to three groups. The first 20 levels introduce the various rules and special block types. A simple description is given for each new block along with an easy level which features the new block. The remaining 40 levels make up the heart of the game. There are some really good levels. The level design and pacing is excellent. Kudos to the level designer. I really enjoyed working through the levels. It was a joy to play this game with many a-ha moments. The best feature is that you can play any level at any time. Why other puzzle games do not do this is beyond me.

The interface, graphics, and audio are perfect for the game.

There is also a level editor and over 300 levels available from other players. These are bit of mixed bag. The one and only improvement I would like to see in Transmover is some sort of rating system for these user provided levels, or maybe an "editor's choice" selection of the 50 best.

Any regular reader of this blog should do themselves a big favor and play Transmover, right now.

Sorry to be gone for three months. I will return to putting out a new entry every week or two.