Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Badge Spotlight: colourPod 2: dimensionPod

Fear Not the Darkness (impossible, 60 points) -- Complete all 24 missions.

I'm going to kick off this series with what I think is one of the most underrated badges on Kongregate, but first a little talk about impossible badges. As the name suggests, these are awarded for some of the most difficult achievements on Kongregate (although, fortunately, not literally impossible), and they tend to draw a disproportionate amount of attention. While there are (as of this writing) only 44 impossible badges, a new impossible badge, or the possibility of one, is always guaranteed to get a lot of discussion. As a result, there's a lot of pressure to get the impossible badges as right as possible, and this, in addition to the fact that most games simply don't have a task which is really suitable for an impossible badge, has resulted in a gradual decline of the number of impossible badges on Kongregate. This is certainly fine by me -- given that the impossibles, not surprisingly, often require an outsize amount of time to complete, I would certainly prefer having them awarded only to games which are really a great fit for the impossible badge idea rather than trying to make a greater quantity of not-so-great impossible badges.

Given how people like to complain on the Internet, for pretty much every impossible badge on Kongregate, you can probably find someone complaining about it on the forums: it's too easy, it's too hard, it's too luck-dependent, it requires too much pixel-perfect positioning, it takes too much grinding, etc., etc. Some of these complains have some validity, but I'd say that probably most don't. The impossible for colourPod 2, though, I don't remember anyone complaining about, which is in many ways the highest compliment a badge can get! (Of course, part of this is due to the fact that it's one of the older badges on Kongregate, I'm sure, but even still, the impossible for Pandemic 2, which came out at about the same time, is certainly not safe from criticism.)

So, why do I think this makes a good badge? Well, first, a brief description of the game: at first glance, it's a pretty ordinary shooter. You control an immobile turret in the center of the screen, and enemies ("fragments") approach from the edges, and you have to destroy them from before they hit your turret. The fragments can appear in either of two dimensions, so you have to switch between the two dimensions (by pressing the space bar) to be able to hit everything. Colored fragments will also appear, and if you catch them on your "lens" (mounted on your turret opposite the gun), you will gradually gain additional powers, with different colors conferring different powers. As you have some control over the colors that arrive, choosing your colors wisely is a very important skill.

Anyway, this badge has what I find by far the most satisfying quality in a badge: at first (in this case, because it seemed that the badge was so dependent on reflexes, which, as I've mentioned, are not my strength), it seemed truly impossible. Then, I gradually got better, and it seemed attainable, and by the time I reached the end, it almost seemed easy; although, of course, that was an illusion -- it was still hard! It was just that I had practiced so much that made it seem easy. And in fact, there are plenty of places where you can improve your skill -- for instance, since the game only very gradually introduces you to the different color abilities, there's a lot to learn in which ones are best in which situations, and which sets work well together. The other area where I really found myself improving over time was simple -- the game demands that you be doing a lot of things at once, and sometimes it will exceed your ability to do everything (probably true no matter how good your reflexes are, but certainly true for me). But as I went along, I discovered the key was triage -- not necessarily trying to do everything at once, but learning which things were the most critical and which wouldn't hurt me too badly, and this skill was definitely something I could see myself improving at as I played through the game.

As you can see at the top, the badge requires you to complete 24 "missions" (the game's name for various achievements), which is also a quality I generally like in a badge -- I tend to prefer badges which require a variety of tasks rather than one extremely difficult thing. Many of the missions simply boil down to playing the game well, but there are also many which require you to use or not use a particular color or colors, which adds an interesting layer as well -- they get you to experiment with abilities you may not have used normally, so you really get a chance to see the whole game.

In conclusion, then, this is why I think the badge is a solid one: The game itself was good (obviously a necessary prerequisite), the badge requirements were challenging but attainable (and you could work to get better at it), it really felt like it rewarded your ability, and it provided a good variety of different tasks rather than being completely repetitive. In some ways, in fact, this is the badge I'm proudest of; it's not the most difficult or rarest, but being in a category of game that I normally do poorly on, the fact that I was able to learn, gain experience, and improve my play to the level where I could get the badge really gave me a positive opinion of the game and the badge.

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