May 19, 2009

Originality FTW: 2 free indie games

I’ve lost all my bookmarks. As a consequence, I’ve lost many blogs that I’m not sure I’ll find again… As an added consequence, links to articles that jumpstarted my thoughts have been lost too… (UPDATE: found them with a little research, in fact :) )

There are 2 free games I’ve downloaded some time ago that I only recently found the time to play with. These are Eversion and Barkley Shut Up and Jam Gaiden.
I found Eversion through Chris Survival Horror Quest blog here [Also, go check his article on Game score vs game sales which is vaaaary interesting]
As for BSU&JG, it comes from here.

Eversion is a platform “save the princess” game cute as hell with a twist: on some parts of each level, you can use the Evert key to change somewhat the level, and gives you access to some parts. I’ll leave the surprise for now, but there will be spoilers later in the article with my thoughts.

Barkley Shut Up and Jam Gaiden is a RPG created with RPG Maker. You play as Charles Barkley, renowned basketball player in our world. But in BSUaJG, Barkley unleashed some years ago a Chaos Dunk during a match, which caused the death of millions of people, made basketball a forbidden game, and saw the lynching of quite a number of basketball players. But… Recently, an organisation unleashed a Chaos Dunk, for which you are blamed. It is time to change the world.

Spoilers and thoughts ahead, now. You have been warned !
One last time: [SPOILERS] !

Let’s start with Eversion. The Evert key changes the landscape towards a grimmer world. It starts cute, with bright colors, an innocent music, and so on. Then, the first time you hit the Evert key, the world gets a bit blander. Enemies don’t smile as much. The music isn’t so joyful. But clouds can be walked on, now, and so you can finish the level. Everything is fine, right?

Nope. It will only get worse. Monsters finally get hideous, additional hazards appear, the music gets disturbing, and then disappears totally, making you react to the slightest sudden noise (and there will be). Background turns to red. The text and score gets crypted. You get the idea.

The game itself is moderately difficult (very difficult for people like me who are bad at platformers), but you have infinite lives to plod through. You learn from your mistakes, and continue. Each level you finish, you can start from if you stop the game. So, it’s made to make you continue, and come back. Also, death is part of the equation, as some of the crystals you collect on your way are placed such as you can only suicide yourself after collecting them (or else, I’m really terrible at platformers, which is also a possibility).

Even if you manage to finish the game (took me an hour or so), it is not a happy ending unless you have found all the crystals in the game. Which requires a lot of going back, everting back and forth, and dying; yes, each crystal you collect, you get to keep, even if you die. And everting points being invisible until you step on them… Have fun, Explorers and Achievers !

What I find interesting in the game is that everything is aimed towards the mood and setting. You start with something you know (cutesy Mario-like platform) and see it turn into something very dark and disturbing. Which, as Chris says, may be the key to many successful horror movies or games. The Evert key, of course, the occasional details (In the 3rd or 4th world, hitting a smiling block is necessary to change the world and advance. The block’s eyes POP when you hit it…) but also the dark screen after each death. It starts innocuously (“Ready!”). Then, as you progress, you get a black screen with no words. Then a sudden “game over” (but you can still play), a “Ready! To die” and so on. Much thought was given on the immersion of the player, and the setting of the mood.

And… You can not stop wanting to see how far it will go, even if the game may be frustrating with its insta-death mechanism.

I didn’t get the happy ending yet, but sadly spoiled myself with youtube inadvertently. I won’t spoil you, though. I’m cool like that :).

I guess Barkley Shut Up and Jam Gaiden will wait for a later post !

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