My 5 “Star” Platform game reviews
For one of our briefs we have been asked to do our own 5 “Star” reviews on an interactive media product and grade them using our own generated criteria.
I’ve decided to review 5 Xbox live arcade platform games, the reason for this is because I’ve wanted to play some of these games for a while and this gives me an excuse to buy them. I probably won’t complete the games because that will be quite time consuming so I will just play each game for about an hour and this give my opinion on them. I will be reviewing my games using the following criteria:
Gameplay – Probably the most important whilst reviewing a game, how fun the game is to play and how satisfying the experiences in the game are.
Graphic’s – Not always important in platform games as some of the best aren’t always the best graphically, I will be judging the graphics on how pleasing the game is to look at, how good are the character animations and the backgrounds.
Re-playability – Is the game worth going back to a replaying again? Does it have exciting and different multiplayer? Is there extra content after completion? I will take all this into account whilst judging games on re-playability.
Controls – I will be judging the controls on how easy they are to use and get the hang of, I think this is important because a lot of platform games need to appeal to casual gamers.
Audio – How good the soundtrack is and how good the sound effects are. Games will also be marked down if the soundtrack gets annoying after a while of playing.
Overall – Then I will average out the scores of each criterion for each game and give them an overall score using my arcade controllers (In previous post) instead of stars.
The First game I’m reviewing is Splosion Man which is a 2.5D platformer game. It was developed by twisted pixel and released in 2009.
You play as splosion man, who is a science experiment gone wrong and has escaped from his captivity in the fictional big science laboratory. You are made entirely from explosive material and your goal is to escape the facility to freedom by exploding through the place destroying anything in your path.
When you first load up the game and see the initial 15 second intro cut scene you know that the game is going to be a bit insane. With splosion man making some crazy noises and escaping a laboratory and then blowing up a scientist, sending random bits of meat everywhere, you can see that the game doesn’t take itself too serious which is a good thing.
So after you’ve seen the little intro, you get too the menu screen, it’s a very simple and easy menu to navigate and you don’t need to look for more then a second to find what you want which is always good for the impatient gamer.
Once I started playing the game I noticed there was no tutorial level or anything you just jump straight in. This is made very easy though by the simple controls, all there are is move left or right with the analog stick and the A button to explode. The explode doubles up as a jump and an attack, you can explode 3 times before you need a little rest to recharge, so if you explode once it’s a normal jump, twice a double jump and three times a triple jump. And if you explode near one of the scientists trying to stop you escaping he will explode into chunks of meat which is very satisfying everytime. You can bounce from wall to wall using this, and a lot of the gameplay is spent bouncing from wall to wall. In addition to this another key gameplay mechanic is that there are different types of explosive barrels that give you extra jump distance so that is varies it up. It is defiantly a proper platform game as a lot of the time you are running and jumping and needing quick reactions to complete levels, an example of this is when the level is flooding and you have to jump from platform to platform very quickly before the water reaches you. But it’s not all about reaction speed, they also throw a lot of challenging puzzles at you as well which really make you think. Putting these challenges to you are the wacky scientists that created you, some of the things they deploy to stop you are robots, laser turrets and a variety of traps.
At the end of each level you will get a score which is based on how many scientists you blow up, how quickly you finish the level and how many cakes you collect. The cakes are the collectables in the game because apparently splosion man loves cakes.
With the game getting more and more difficult the further you get into to it there is a cool feature where you can take the coward’s way out and skip to the next level, which helps if you’re getting frustrated. The camera is constantly changing angles and the way you view splosion man which keeps things interesting and gives you some good perspectives. If you get bored and don’t enjoy the 50 single player levels you can play multiplayer which gives you a completely different 50 levels that you can play in co-op with 3 other players.
Overall I was very impressed with the game for the time I played every level throws different challenges for the player to overcome and it does a good job of not getting repetitive. Add that to the humour and personality of splosion man gives you a very good platform game. You know it’s an impressive game when you keep forgetting key features of it because there is so much too it.
The Adventures of Shuggy
The second game I’ve decided to play and review is the adventures of shuggy which is a 2D puzzle platform game which was developed by smudged cat games and published by Valcon games.
The game starts with a little storyboard opening cut scene to set up the game, which is quite a popular way to start a platform game it seems. It shows shuggy the vampire who has inherited a mansion from his Scottish grandfather but its haunted and in order to live there he must clear out all the unwanted monsters.
The menu system is very simple and pretty similar to splosion man and I expect most platform game menus to be like this, with just a list of each gamemode and the help and options. But there is another menu of sorts where you run around and pick which door you want to enter, it’s like an in game menu. And on this in game menu there is a little tutorial where it just tells you the buttons. But the controls are very simple all you do is move left, right and jump. There are 5 different levels to the mansion you start in the dungeon and then there is the boiler room, gallery, graveyard and the clocktower. Each level has multiple doors you have to enter to collect keys in order to get to the next door which may seem repetitive but in each door is a different challenge. All the goals in each room are the same, you have to collect all the gems in the room and then you get the key, simple. But the way you get them is completely different. So many different gameplay mechanics are involved for example, one level might have loads of gems in but no enemies so you just have to collect them all, one level may have one gem in but you have to rotate the full level and make the gem get to you, another level may have multiple enemies you have to evade to collect the gems and there are many more then this. This keeps the game fresh and new because each room is a different challenge. One thing about the game that was a little frustrating is that there is no checkpoint system, if you collect most the gems and then die you just have to start all over again and I found myself dying quite often.
The game features over a hundred levels and for most of them the player can see the full level on the screen. It also has 2 player co-op and an extra 36 levels for that and competitive multiplayer as well.
The game itself has a quirky little cartoon art style which does the job and I thought it was pretty good with all the variation in levels. It only costs 400 Microsoft points and for the amount you get with game it’s defiantly worth it.
Spelunky is the next game I’m going to review and it’s an action-adventure 2D platform game. It was created by Derek Yu and was released on Xbox live arcade in 2012.
Spelunky’s menu is again pretty much exactly the same as the previous two games. If you pick the normal adventure mode which is kind of like the story mode, it lets you pick your character to play with. So there is no real story line attached to the character, you can pick the main guy who kind of looks like Indiana Jones or a variety of other characters. After you’ve picked your character you go in to a tutorial level where you learn a bit of the brief story to the game so you know what is going on. It basically tells you it’s a magical cave that holds lots of treasure and that if you die you go back to the cave entrance, so it’s pretty straight forward. The tutorial is defiantly needed in this game because the controls aren’t as simple as some platform games are, you can sprint, jump, whip enemies, throw bombs, throw rope and many other things.
The aim of the game is to explore the caves and tunnels and find as much treasure as possible whilst avoiding death. You can die in many different ways on this game like falling, spike traps, snakes, bats, spiders etc. But you can kill some of these enemies using your trusty whip or throwing a bomb. If you do die though you have to start from the beginning again which makes it a very punishing game and makes you cherish and value every time you make progress. You can’t see all of the level on your screen but it’s not a platform game where you go from start to finish in a straight line to the right, it’s more of a square map you can explore. But the levels are randomly generated so every time you die and start again you get a completely different level which makes it not repetitive but makes it more difficult because you don’t know where to go. The further you get into the game the better treasure you can obtain but obviously the enemies get tougher and the traps more devious.
The game features local co-op and multiplayer death match but no online play over Xbox live so you have to be on the same console which is a little disappointing. The game also has a level editor so players can design levels and share them with friends if they want too. The game itself looks a lot like the adventures of shuggy because of the little characters and with its specific art style.
Overall I think spelunky is a very good game and the main reason for this in my opinion is the randomly generated levels so it always gives you something different. It is priced at 1200 Microsoft points but that’s because of the popularity of the game.
Super Meat Boy
The next game I’m reviewing is super meat boy it was designed by Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes and developed by team meat. It is the successor to meat boy and was released in 2010.
Super meat boy is defiantly a proper platform game where all you do is run, jump and stick to walls. The menu is the same as all the other games I’ve reviewed so far where they are just the gamemode’s and options in a list. Pretty simple story to this game you play as a small red cube of meat that has a girlfriend called bandage girl and you must save her from Dr. Fetus who has kidnapped. The first thing you notice about this game is how it looks like a classic arcade game with the art style and menu layout, reminds me a lot of Scott Pilgrim vs. the world. It’s a really cool look and seems like what they where going for was a simple but not easy retro game, it even has the insert a coin like an arcade game would at the beginning instead of the press start button. Once in the game there are some instructions for the buttons which are very simple just left, right, jump and sprint and then you start, it’s very fast paced and you fly through the first levels quite easily. But then it starts to get more and more complicated and makes you think more about what you need to do. The goal of every level is to save bandage girl but every time you get to her Dr. Fetus kidnaps her again and you go on to the next level. The main gameplay mechanic is that when you jump to a wall you stick to it a slowly slide down it, if you keep jumping you keep getting higher and higher. It’s a very tricky game that takes split second timing and reactions to be good. Stuff starts getting added to kill you along the way like saw blades, crumbling blocks, lava and many other things.
If you complete a level with an A* grade you can play it in the dark world which is a harder version of the level so adds to the re-playability factor. Once you’ve completed a certain amount of levels in a chapter you can fight the chapter boss and if you defeat it you unlock the next chapter which will be a different type of area, for example the first chapter is the forest. It also boasts over 300 levels to play but has no multiplayer. A really cool feature that I had to include is that you get to see a replay at the end of each level and you get to see all your attempts at the same time so you see multiple super meat boys on the screen at once which is pretty cool.
I think that super meat boy is a very good game, it’s very simplistic in nature and I really like the retro feel to it. It’s also got a very good soundtrack and the squelching sound of meat every time you move.
The final game I’m going to play and review is probably the one I’ve been looking forward to the most and that is Limbo. Limbo is a puzzle-platform game developed by the independent game developer’s playdead and it was released in 2010.
As soon as you load up the game you get the eerie atmosphere of the black and white main menu screen and the faint music in the background. It’s another simple menu screen though with the play button and the help and options. So when you start playing the game you are a small boy laid in a forest, then you get up and you can start moving around. There is no text, no dialog and no explanation who the boy is and how he got in this dark forest, but after your head flies off after landing on a bear trap you know you need to get out of there. The game is fully in black and white with no colour what so ever and the background sounds are very quiet so when you move all you hear is your own footsteps which add to the atmosphere. The controls are simple it’s left and right on the analog stick to move and B is the action button. The actions are often moving things to jump onto to get to hard to reach places or moving traps out of the way.
I really enjoy the slow natured gameplay of Limbo, it’s a game about thinking and solving puzzles and you really have to survey your surroundings carefully rather then quick reactions and speed runs. And even though you tend to die a lot before you figure the puzzle out it doesn’t get frustrating it just makes you more determined to figure it out. An example of this is I walked up to a box near some water and I thought the box must float across if you jump on it at the right angle, I died about 15 times before I realized I had to drag the box back to climb up a tree. I think the animations are really good as well, the movement of the boy and something as simple as moving a box looks really good in this game. But the best animations are when you die and you get to see them a lot. This is a really unique game and even with no NPC’s to interact with and no dialogue it’s still a really interesting game and you want to know what happens.
Limbo doesn’t have any multiplayer but I don’t think it needs it really because you get hooked to the single player, it does have a leaderboard system so you can compare how well you do against your friends.
Overall I think Limbo is an amazing game, it’s just so atmospheric and original but also has the challenging puzzles that make you think. Even though it’s a short play its well worth playing.
1. Splosion Man (4.7)
2. Limbo ((4.6) Personal Favourite)
3. Super Meat Boy (4.4)
4. Spelunky (4)
5. The Adventures of Shuggy (3.7)