physics

Amazing Alex

Full Review

Amazing Alex CoverI was never any good at The Incredible Machine. It was one of a handful of games available in my elementary school's computer lab, and it was the only one that stumped me every time. I knew the Oregon Trail like the back of my hand, and my SimCity could withstand any disaster, but the motors and pulleys and cheese-seeking mice never quite registered for me.

So it was with some hesitation that I downloaded Amazing Alex, the next game by the Angry Birds folks. It has all the friendly colors and streamlining of Rovio's money-printing slingshot game, but Incredible Machine's spirit clearly lives within. And I didn't think I had the Rube Goldberg skills to finish it.

But I did. I finished all 112 stages and collected the three stars in each. And it was the most fun I've had with my smartphone yet.

Fluidity

Full Review

Fluidity CoverThanks to the indie uprising, we have a heightened visibility for games that might have gone unnoticed just five years ago. A garage developer's labor of love can now share front page headlines with the AAA behemoths of the industry. Many fine media outlets even make a special effort to cover these smaller productions. Indie games have become the punk rockers of the industry, offering a lean alternative to overproduced AAA formulas, often with rebellious verve and spunk that resonates with us ninety-nine percenters (and at a price we ninety-nine percenters can afford).

But even in this new era, where the little guys yield as many pageviews as their big budget competition, an indie game needs to have some innovative hook or bombastic message in order to rise to the top. I can think of no other reason why Fluidity, a brilliant puzzle platformer with Metroidvania elements, has gone largely unnoticed. (Except that the game is marooned on Wii's invisible WiiWare digital distribution service, that is.)

It makes sense, though, doesn't it? So many indie darlings that went big had some kind of divergent aura about them. Limbo and Braid made their names with artsy themes and visuals that you just don't see in big money productions. The cheery brutality of Super Meat Boy, Magicka, and Castle Crashers upgraded them from mere mechanical joys to acclaimed game experiences. Fluidity, on the other hand, lifts its style and mood from airline safety manuals, of all things.

Fluidity [Video]

First Hour Review

Fluidity CoverI don't know why I've bothered registering my games with Club Nintendo these past five years. So many surveys and registration codes, and what have I received in return? A couple calendars, an LCD relic, and a set of collectors' pins. It's downright sad next to the free eReader that Sony sent me.

But times have changed, and this is the new, modern Nintendo! The bold new Nintendo of 2012 not only releases limited-availability demos and supports paid DLC, it actually puts up some worthwhile prizes for Club Nintendo members. Specifically, Club Nintendo now offers a small selection of downloadable games in exchange for the coins that you earn by registering Nintendo products. First party games only, but hey, baby steps.

Fluidity, a WiiWare title of some renown (called Hydroventure in Europe), was one of the games available in December for a fair 150 coins (it's no longer there, but you can only get it on the Wii Shop Channel for $12). The game received positive press and has whiffs of Metroidvania and fluid dynamics puzzles, so that sounds like a winner to me. I've played an hour: am I happy with the coins I spent, or should I have gone for the Mario Folder and Bookmark Set instead? I'd be the coolest kid in homeroom with those folders...

MotoHeroz [Video]

First Hour Review

Motoheroz CoverAlthough it's common to see a physics engine mentioned in the opening credits of current generation titles, games that are driven by calculated friction, momentum, and the like are still so rare. Trials HD is one of the few I've experienced that uses complex physics as a gameplay core, rather than merely governing how crates jump and limp bodies flail after an explosion. Tellingly, Trials HD is also among the generation's most unique games, a blend of platformer, simulation, and racer that make it impossible to define with current genre labels and difficult for new players to grasp.

Developer RedLynx appears to preserve that essence and curtail the frustration in MotoHeroz, a WiiWare title that replaces Trials HD's injury-prone dirtbike rider with durable, tumbling buggies. Trials's garage skatepark courses are also traded for platformer-adventure mainstays like forests, snowfields, and deserts. Strip away the Wii-appropriate aesthetics, however, and the game seems to be a kinder Trials romp, very much the approachable but deep physics showcase of its Xbox 360 and PC cousins.

I spent an hour bounding through the Story Adventure and climbing the leaderboards in some daily online challenges. Check out some of the footage pulled from that sixty minutes.

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