Flapperdoodle's Gaming Blog Ep. 137: THE PERFECT PLATFORMER! Ep. 17: Physics-Based Gameplay
Ya know Newton's law? Yeah, what goes up must come down? Yeah. Go down. To the blog. Now.
Sure, I hated the subject in school, but you gotta deal with it eventually. Today we are dealing with something video games aren't expected to deal with… realism. You'll see what I mean as you read today's episode of everyone's favorite show. The show that takes the best of the best in platforming and gives to you all in one fatal swoop! This is…
Yup, today we are gonna discuss something that takes skill to master.
Yes, physics BASED GAMEPLAY. I'm taking gravity, momentum, velocity, mass, acceleration, and those other blah-blah words you learned about in the 9th grade. Physics is not easy to do in a platformer. I'm not just talking realistic and non-floaty jumping, I'm talking about taking the idea of changing up our style of play, and adding a new mechanic to improve the gameplay. I don't care where it's placed, I don't care who I'm being, all I care about when it comes to this idea is that if it feels realistic and well done, I am content. So don't expect Halo, Half-Life, or Grand Theft Auto on this list. This is a list for the mechanic based in gameplay, not the mechanic due to an engine. With that said, let's discuss the better uses of this mechanic. We might even find some lesser known games, hm?
Yes, the name is weird. Yes, the game is so fricken awesome. Seriously, when I first heard of this indie game title, I just let it pass by me, but I finally got a chance to play this game, and it is seriously epic. You are Captain Viridian, and after a ship crash, the entire crew is scattered all around the VVVVVV dimension. So, you must find them all, bring them back to the ship, and figure out why you crashed in this horrid dimension. This game's main mechanic is that instead of jumping, you can change the gravitational pull, causing Viridian to go up or down. So, sometimes the rooms can turn into puzzles, and you gotta use this mechanic wisely to make your way through the Zelda-esque map: dungeons and all. But the game also incorporates other mechanics. For example, there are lines in some rooms that, if hit, will automatically change your direction. So this adds some puzzle elements to the game as well. It is incredibly hard at times to make it through the rooms at times, but I respect the game's design too much to get upset. I just love how there's no need to jump. It's just all so fricken awesome. It's so much fun to make your way through all of the rooms, just because the puzzles are so well crafted, and the gravity changes are just so well executed. Well done Terry Cavanagh… well done…
And Yet it Moves
Another indie game? Um… ok. So this one allows for a little bit more control over the environment. And Yet it Moves actually lets you rotate the ground you stand on. Now that is pretty awesome. You play as this paper-ish character as you traverse this really interesting world of cut-out design. As mentioned previously, the character can spin the actual world itself, thus allowing you to use various parts of the world differently depending how much you spin the world. Walls become the ground, ground becomes walls, and various obstacles can easily be avoided by doing a little spinning. But the fantastic thing is that gravity and momentum are always constant. You still will be walking on the ground, and a jump will always lead you to fall. This could suck very hard if done poorly, but the development studio Broken Rules does a very good job with this. Yes, you have to use this mechanic, but the game doesn't feel like it relies on it. It feels ingrained in the game. It's like jumping or running in the game, it becomes a reflex. And that's when you know a physics game is doing its job well, for sure. Besides for that, the look of the game feels very fresh. It's very paper-y, and not in the way Paper Mario does it. The game is literally torn up paper put on top of another piece of torn up paper and it looks remarkably new. Seriously, I have not seen another game (or at least I cannot remember) another game that does this art style. If there is, tell me. If not, it's awesome and this game deserves a crap ton of credit for it. I'm sure many of you haven't heard about this game, and it's a shame. Play it while ya still can.
Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2
Yup, I'm cheating. I'm putting both games on this episode! Now, some of you may not technically count this as a physics game, which is what I am pushing for here. But ya see, these two marvels of Mario gaming bliss do actually rely quite heavy on the weightlessness of outer space. Plenty of puzzles and levels have you flying around using this new concept to get through some of the stages. There's also plenty of segments with Mario inside of a bubble, and you must use attraction of the pull stars to make your way through stages, as you avoid to get hit. Sometimes, your bubble is much bigger and you actually have to blow it around to get where you need to go. And the games have plenty of items as well. The spring Mario in the original game has you thinking before you jump, every time. Sure, it's not the best item, but it does have physics implied. So does the Boo Mario, as his weight can affect how you move and how fast you can get to places in mazes in such. Plus… it was pretty awesome to finally become a boo. In the second installment, the Dash Pepper sped up the game. If you dared to jump (which not many people decided on doing according to my knowledge), you would be thrown for quite a loop. You really had to think about jumping if you were gonna do it. While the original did it more than the sequel did, there are tons of uses of gravity and weightlessness all over these two games. There's a ton of awesome gameplay in these two games, but the new space gameplay truly reinvented the 3D Mario platformer.
Oh boy man… oh boy. If you wanna see some brilliant physics incorporated into gameplay, check this game out. Quantum Conundrum is easily one of the most underrated games of 2012. It was an indie game that kinda just flew by, and nobody paid too much attention to it, and that's a damn shame. This game does a brilliant job of combining various concepts into one solid game. As you make your way through the Quadwrangle mansion, you must use a glove known as the Interdimensional Shift Device (IDS) to make your way through various rooms. The IDS can change the room to four different dimensions: the fluffy dimension turns every object ten times lighter than it originally was, the slow-motion dimension turns everything slower in motion thus giving you more ample time, the heavy dimension does the opposite of the fluffy dimension and kinda makes everything ten times heavier, and the reverse gravity dimension makes all objects change gravitational pull even though you are still clearly on the ground. All four of these dimensions must be switched through so that way traversing rooms becomes simpler. For example, let's say there's a pit. This pit can easily be jumped through with a simple box put in the middle. So, you could start off in the fluffy dimension and make the box easier to throw into the pit. Then, you can go slow-mo and get enough ample time to jump on a box and make it through. It's that intuitive. And the levels only get more and more advanced as it goes on. If you like Portal, Kim Swift doesn't disappoint with this new project, as it feels like a truly fresh and new. Let's hope for some kind of continuation of this conundrum.
And thus friends ends another episode of The Perfect Platformer! I wanted to get this episode out there before I worked on my bigger blogs because it was smaller and less to deal with. As I create and brainstorm more episodes, you'll see an Oscars blog from me and a Top Ten of 2012… somewhere down the line. Whenever that may be, expect it. See you all when those are posted. Ciao!
- Larry :)