Saturday, August 02, 2008

Typing Ninja Hunter

Typing Ninja Hunter is, as the name might imply, a typing game. That alone probably scares a lot of people off. But not me! I love typing games -- I played quite a few in my youth (none of which I remember, but all of which revolved around the basic concept of "type quickly to destroy these bad things"), and they're certainly a large part of the reason for my typing skills today. So believe me when I say that my bitter disappointment with the game stems not from the fact that it's a typing game, but from the fact that it's a bad typing game.

So, the basic gameplay is not particularly surprising -- hordes of ninjas come at your temple, each with a word conveniently positioned above them; typing the word will take out the ninja. The basic ninjas just run toward the temple, but as the game goes on, ninjas with different powers arrive, and you have to kill them before their powers activate, or else you'll have to do even more typing. The words are generally four letters (though some harder ninjas have five or even six letters), and the word selection is kind of strange -- there are a lot of ordinary words, but also a few really strange words like "xyst" and even a few outright offensive words like "kikes". I don't know how those managed to slip by -- there's really no need to include them in a game like this. Anyway, as you correctly get words, your power bar increases, and when it fills you have the option of unleashing one of three different powers. Enemies come in waves, at the end of which are bosses, although there is also a survival mode in which enemies just keep on coming.

Now, the first problem is simply that the game is too easy. Now, of course, I'm an exceptional typist, but even on hard mode, there isn't much of a challenge. To amuse myself, after reaching the high score I needed to get for the last badge (which was on hard mode), I tried playing the game one-handed, and I still managed to rack up another 30,000 points or so before succumbing. I understand that the game needs to remain accessible to people of all skills, and that's fine; the way to do that is by making the game gradually harder until even unbelievably good typists can't handle it. But here, the difficulty ramp seems to stop and flatten out long before it should (well, really, it shouldn't flatten out at all). I have no doubt that (at least in survival mode) the only thing limiting how long I could last is boredom.

But the other, vastly more infuriating thing about the game is the aforementioned bosses. You see, in order to beat the bosses, you don't have to type at all -- you just have to press arrows at the right time when they're displayed on the screen, or sometimes just hammer arrows as quickly as possible. This isn't typing! It's an entirely different game, and one which requires an unreasonable degree of precision. On a fast computer, the game will occasionally fail to recognize your keystrokes, but you at least have a fair chance of winning; on a slow computer, though, it seems like 90% of your arrow presses simply disappear into the ether, making it essentially impossible to clear the game.

The graphics are not bad, though the game does something weird with your cursor which makes it flicker constantly when not in the Flash frame, so you can't leave this game on a background tab and go to do something else. The background music gets pretty annoying pretty quickly, and the sounds are mostly just generic people-getting-killed sounds.

Anyway, I would enjoy immensely seeing a truly interesting typing game on Kongregate, but this really isn't it. Making the bosses a real typing challenge rather than simply a test of reflexes would go a long way, as would working on the poor performance issues, but what I'd really like is a game that challenges me, and this game totally fails on that score.

Friday, August 01, 2008


Rings is hard to explain. I suppose it's best introduced as a cross between Tower of Hanoi and Tetris. You have a playing field with six circles surrounding a center circle. New rings appear on the center circle, and after a short amount of time, they will move to one of the outer six circles (you know which one they're going to move to). The rings come in four different sizes, and if ever a ring moving from the center circle moves onto a smaller ring, you lose. When you successfully complete a stack of rings, it disappears, and completing a certain number of stacks will advance you to the next level. This description probably sounds at least a little confusing, but it's quite simple once you actually start playing.

Not surprisingly, the most frustrating aspect of the game is the randomness -- sometimes, the game will just keep not giving you the ring that you need. It does seem like the game is nice enough to never completely screw you -- there's always some legal moves you can make if you're fast enough -- but obviously some times you'll be luckier than others and not have to work very hard to complete the level, while other times you will have to do a lot of frantic moving or accept a lot of subpar stacks. The other problem is simply that the game doesn't change enough -- maybe at the higher levels the time you have allotted before the center ring moves gets a little less, but I didn't really notice it. Some more pronounced changes to the difficulty (adding more types of rings? decreasing the time more strongly?) would do a lot to make this game keep my interest.

There's no background music, which makes the game feel a little sterile; the rings are brightly colored, and the sound effects are not bad, but they also don't add that much to the game. Overall, this is a neat concept at its base, but I feel like there just isn't quite enough done with the basic idea to make it into a game which is engaging for more than a little bit of time.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Fancy Pants Adventures

The Fancy Pants Adventures is an utterly charming platformer. It doesn't have anything particularly new, I must concede, but it is so well executed and thoroughly whimsical that it is still a joy to play. The only disappointment is that it's a relatively small game, and when that's the worst I can say, you know it's a good game.

The game will look and feel instantly familiar to anyone who's played a Mario game. Sure, you have Fancy Pants Man instead of Mario, squiggles instead of coins, and patrolling spiders instead of Goombas, but the basic scheme is pretty much the same. In some ways, it is more in the spirit of the old 2D Mario games (down to the control scheme where up arrow is used for entering doors, while a separate button on your other hand is used to jump, which in some ways feels downright archaic), but there are touches of newer Marios as well, as can be seen in Fancy Pants Man's backflips and wall jumps; also, your character has a life bar, which can be replenished by collecting more squiggles. There's even a little bit of Sonic in Fancy Pants Man. Like I said, there's a lot of familiar elements.

But what makes this game still fun to play, even for someone who's spent countless hours playing all sorts of Mario, is the attention to detail. The artwork is lovingly hand-drawn, and the animation is excellent. The level design is solid -- there are three levels, with two little transitional levels in between and the final boss at the end, and each is enjoyable. My only complaint is that it doesn't actually tell you what level you're on, so if you're not paying close attention it's easy to lose track of how much you have left. Each level is pretty short if you're just aiming to get from beginning to end, but there's some other things scattered about -- you can find trophies, and there's also a hidden feature, as well as a few coin -- I mean, squiggle -- rooms. Overall, the levels do a good job of keeping you entertained; there's usually something else to be explored or optimized, but the game doesn't frustrate you, either.

The music is also excellent. To repeat an all-too-familiar complaint, the loop is a little short, but it's good music, and there are a few different themes (there's separate music for the transitional levels, as well as the final boss) so you don't get completely tired. Anyway, it's perfectly appropriate for a light little platformer like this.

Like I said at the beginning, this is not a particularly long game (even if you're looking for all the trophies), nor is it a particularly difficult game (though achieving the speed required to get the hard badge will require a bit of practice), but it is still a lot of fun to play. It's a game I would have no problems recommending to anyone, partially because it's not horribly violent or bloody or gory like so many games you'll see on Kongregate, but mostly because I can't imagine anyone not enjoying it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Turkey Fling

Turkey Fling is a very simple game: you launch a turkey into the air, and you try to keep him aloft as long as possible. Clicking the mouse will flap his wings, but you need to collect corn to keep your power up, otherwise you'll run out of energy and not be able to flap. Below you is an infinitely long dining table with plenty of hazards for your poor turkey to fall into should he run out of upward momentum.

My first time, I tried to play this like Hedgehog Launch and failed miserably. It was only when I realized that you wanted to launch the turkey (mostly) horizontally that I was able to succeed. Once you do that, it's not a terribly difficult game; you just click at the right time. I got the single (medium) badge without very much trouble at all.

The graphics are amusingly cartoony, and your poor turkey looks awfully terrified. There's no background music, but the sound effects are decent. A single play of the game doesn't take up very much time anyway, so there's not very much time to get bored. Overall, this is kind of your classic very simple Flash game: a useful time-waster if you have a minute or two, but not really worth playing much beyond that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Snowman Attack

Snowman Attack is another survival shooter game, and there's really not that much to differentiate it from all the other members of that genre, so most of what I could say is pretty much covered in my review of The Endless Zombie Rampage. This particular game comes in the flavor of top-down, fixed turret, but other than that it bears pretty much all of the hallmarks of the genre.

One nice thing is that (as the name implies) you're fighting snowmen with snowballs, rather than spilling zombie blood and guts all over the place, making this game a somewhat kid-friendlier example of the genre (also cleaner; the zombie games always seem to end up with the ground coated with blood, whereas here the snowman remains blend into the ground nicely). One annoying thing is that the collision detection seems to be awfully sensitive -- there were a lot of times where I thought I scored a hit and the snowball went right on by.

The music is not very good -- it seems kind of inappropriate to the setting -- and is rather repetitive. The sound effects are pretty generic, and the art is definitely on the simplistic side. Overall, this is not a particularly impressive example of not a particularly great genre. Though the game does get points for the Calvin & Hobbes reference in the badge name, there's really not much to recommend it beyond that.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Grid16 is a collection of minigames, much like Four Second Frenzy (review here), and like Four Second Frenzy, it is brought to you by the prolific jmtb02, which means that you'll see a well-polished game with not necessarily particularly deep gameplay. (Unlike Four Second Frenzy, however, in which each game has its own separate designer and hence separate aesthetic, here all the games are designed by jmtb02, which gives the game a much more unified feel.)

The basic gameplay concept is very simple: one out of the 16 minigames starts, and you play it for a few seconds. If you survive, you are switched to a different minigame; if you fail, then that minigame is removed from the rotation. When you've failed on all 16 minigames, the game ends and gives your rating in three different categories of game skills, which is kind of neat. As you go along, the speed multiplier increases, making the games considerably more difficult. Grid16 doesn't even give you the courtesy of flashing an instruction before starting a game; you're plunged right in, with some text of varying helpfulness scrolling along the top.

The main problem with Grid16 is that it has the reward system backwards. Games that you're bad at you will get quickly eliminated in, meaning that you don't get much of a chance to improve in those games. This is especially frustrating when you don't even see a minigame until the speed multiplier has already been cranked up a few notches, giving you even less of a chance to survive your first time. (The minigame selection is always random, so you may see one minigame several times before you see the first appearance of another.) Conversely, you can do well by being proficient in only a few games, since once you're down to just a few minigames left you'll just keep getting those. In the extreme case, you could probably just practice to be really good at one game and ignore the other fifteen entirely. This kind of defeats the purpose of having so many minigames, really. The other flaw is that one of the games is bugged -- at least in some Flash versions (it works fine on my home computer, but not other computers), it's possible to fall through the floor, which makes the game awfully easy. One other thing to watch out for is that each minigame always picks up from where you left it off last time, which can be surprisingly frustrating -- you can't just plan to survive for your three seconds (or however long it is), but always have to be thinking ahead.

As befits a jmtb02 production, the production values are solid -- the graphics are simple but clean, and the music is nicely intense, but there is the occasional typo. This is not an easy game -- even getting the easy badge is not quite trivial, and getting the hard badge is exceedingly difficult. Unless, alas, your computer is slow, in which case it's much, much easier. Overall, while I generally enjoy the minigame concept, the fact that I really don't get to enjoy the whole game but just end up playing the same few minigames repeatedly is kind of a disappointment, so I wouldn't rank this quite as highly as Four Second Frenzy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

IndestructoTank! AE

As you might be able to guess from the name, IndestructoTank! AE is a sequel to the previous game in the IndestructoTank series, Indestruct2Tank (review here), reprising the preposterous premise of previous IndestructoTanks with new, spruced-up graphics. (No matter how much I want the "AE" to stand for "After Earth", it only actually stands for "Anniversary Edition", however.)

Anyway, the gameplay is basically the same as in Indestruct2Tank: you have this invincible tank, but it will eventually run out of fuel, so you have to get passing enemies to drop bombs on you, which you can then use to boost yourself into the air and destroy them. Graphically, clearly a lot of effort has been put into the game to make it look much slicker -- the somewhat simplistic style of Indestruct2Tank is completely gone, replaced by an attempt to make it look more realistic. I don't really have a strong preference either way. Somewhat inexplicably, though, the screen size is smaller (maybe the more realistic models didn't scale up well?), which is kind of annoying. Also, enemy aircraft now fall to the ground when you destroy them, rather than just blowing up in midair, which is nice but can clutter up an often already confused screen. The music and sounds are the same as previously, though. The game also feels somewhat faster, which can be frustrating -- it's a lot easier to miss enemies -- but definitely helps to reduce the dead spots that plagued Indestruct2Tank.

IndestructoTank AE actually eliminates several of the gameplay modes from Indestruct2Tank. The story mode is entirely gone, which is a shame, because even though the plot was ridiculously terrible, it was still a nice contrast to the sameness of regular mode. The ability to select different difficulty levels for the regular mode is also gone, which is also kind of disappointing. In its place, there is "quick mode", which appears to be pretty much the same as regular mode except that you start with more enemies. The one new addition is a co-op mode, where the enemy has missiles that can destroy the IndestructoTank (hey, wait a minute...) and the other player has to use the mouse to shoot them down before the IndestructoTank is killed. This is kind of a neat idea (you can also play both roles yourself, but it's not easy), but the problem is that the balance is totally off -- in the later levels, you get so many points for shooting missiles that you don't need to really do anything with the tank except not get shot by the missiles. So, points for the idea, but it could really benefit from better execution. Speaking of points, the point formula has been changed radically from Indestruct2Tank -- in Indestruct2Tank, a combo of length n was worth 10n + n2 points, meaning that long combos could bring in huge numbers of points. However, in IndestructoTank AE, they're only worth 11n + n2/5 points, so the larger combos are worth a lot less (and hence there's less incentive to try to go for them). I'm not quite sure what the point of this change was.

Overall, while the central gameplay theme is still entertaining for a while, the limited play modes mean that this game occupied me for less time than Indestruct2Tank. Still, I was glad to play it -- I actually played and finished it before badges came out, so when they did come out, I instantly got badges. Always a rewarding feeling.