Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ragdoll Invaders

Ragdoll Invaders is an extremely twitch-heavy game which manages to inject enough life into a relatively well-used concept to make for an entertaining experience.

The concept is pretty familiar, and pretty simple: Earth is being invaded by enemy ships, and you have to destroy them! To make it tricky, however, your character is a ragdoll that shoots bullets from its arms. You can't really control where each of the limbs points -- your movement only directly affects the head of the ragdoll -- so, while you're capable of shooting quite a few bullets, most of these will end up wildly off-target. Given some setup time, you can get a pretty good aim, but since you spend most of your time frantically dodging enemy shots, you'll rarely have this luxury. Meanwhile, the enemy ships are, as you might expect, horribly beweaponed, so you'll have to be quick to avoid being sliced in half by a laser, blown to pieces by a grenade, or killed where you stand (or, more likely, float) by some kind of energy ball. In fact, in an inversion of the way this type of game normally goes, you will probably die more times than the enemy -- the enemy ships are quite sturdy, and take quite a few shots to destroy (and the bosses even more than that), while one shot generally means that you're done for. (Your ragdoll can survive having an arm or a leg cut off, although losing an arm will correspondingly reduce your firepower, but most of the time you'll get killed outright when you take a hit -- the near-misses are less frequent.) Fortunately, extra lives are plentiful -- whenever you do blow up an enemy ship, it drops a heart which grants you can extra life, and the bosses give you multiple extra lives. (However, there's nothing more frustrating than killing an enemy ship and then in turn getting killed by one of its last shots, and watching the heart float past your dead corpse.)

There's only three types of enemy (plus the bosses), so the seven levels of the game basically consist of different permutations of increasing numbers of enemies that you face at one time. The bosses are also the same in appearance, although the weaponry that they field increases substantially over the course of the game. The sound effects are pretty basic, and the music, while thankfully long, is pretty mediocre techno.

Overall, the game is pretty challenging -- it'll definitely take you some practice before you get good enough to defeat all of the waves. Fortunately, since it is not too long overall (there's a total of 52 enemies, including all bosses), it's not too frustrating to get the hard badge, though it will require healthy doses of skill, luck, and fast reflexes.

Speaking of fast reflexes, however, brings me to the real problem with this game, which I alluded to in my last post -- the game is substantially easier on a slower computer. Ragdoll Invaders does push a lot of objects onto the screen, and even though it feels that each individual object shouldn't be that hard to deal with, you'll definitely notice the game beginning to lag on an older-model machine when there are a lot of objects around. I don't know if this is because the game itself is poorly coded, or just because Flash performance is poor when you're pushing a lot of objects; this seems to happen in a lot of games, but then again I'm willing to bet most of the code for these Flash games is not that great, so it's hard to say one way or the other. Anyway, playing on a slow computer can definitely give you those extra tenths of seconds that make the difference between victory and defeat.

Overall, this is a fun little entertainment, but they chose their length wisely; I don't think the basic formula could be stretched much farther without making this a very thin game. The speed issue is kind of a problem, but, as we'll see, it's hardly the only game on Kongregate with this problem to deal with.

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