I’m just a little bit OCD about some things. One of those things is my freeware game collection, which I’ve maintained since about 2006.
On cold and lonely nights, you can almost hear them murmuring and whispering to each other.
When I first started it, all the games were put into star-rating folders, from 1 to 5. That worked well when the collection was small by virtue of my dial-up internet connection, but then I got ADSL and started downloading far more games. Three problems arose:
1. Why keep the 1 and 2 star games? Aside from classics like Janitor Joe1
, most of the contents of the lower-rated folders were pretty bloody awful. Now, having dial-up and waiting an hour for a 6MB download gives you this odd sort of Stockholm Syndrome to the files you do manage to download – sure, I’d say, that game is crap and that installer is out of date, but I can’t
delete something that took that long
to download! It would just be wrong.
2. What’s the difference between a 3 star and a 4 star? A 4 star and a 5 star? A 2 star and a 1 star? I’d play a game once, decide on a star rating, and then just dump it in a folder. Sometimes I’d come back to a lower rated game out of sheer boredom, play it, and discover I’d been too quick to judge it the first time. Shuffling games around as my opinions about them changed became a little tiresome.
3. I literally had to play every game and decide what it’s worth in comparison with every other game before putting it in my collection. Who has time for that?
I think this it was this games collection that gave me a deep antipathy to star rating, percentages, and all the rest of that. The idea of rating every game on the same scale, in my mind, leads to ludicrous comparisons like “Half-Life 2 is better than SimCity 4” that have no place coming out of the mouths of anyone older than ten. As Film Crit Hulk2
often says, the discussion of worth is the most boring one you can have about a work of art.
Long story short, I switched to organising the collection by genre instead of rating, as you can see from the screenshot. It’s very possible that the switch was made less out of a principled stand against ratings and more out of sheer laziness, as reflected in the ever-growing size of my “Unsorted” folder (it’s got far more games than my “Unrated” one ever had). Even the relative ease of grouping things by genre instead of having to rate them has proven too much for my powerful laziness.
Which brings me, at last, to the point of this blog. I’m going to be playing everything in my Unsorted folder, in moreorless alphabetical order, until such time as it is empty. And I’m going to be talking a bit about each one – I hesitate to use the word “review” because I’d rather ramble than make a structured attempt at evaluating each game’s every strength and weakness and identifying the kind of person who may enjoy playing it.
Entries will be sporadic, but hopefully not too infrequent. I may talk about just one game in some entries, and do multiple games in others. It all depends. Mainly I’ll just be trying to make this fun and interesting to read.
Let’s get started.
1 – Worth a play for that a capella theme song and the death scream.
2 – I discovered this guy’s writing sometime last year, and man oh man do I love it. If you can learn to love the ALL CAPS and Hulk-speak (or if you use Stylebot), he has a lot of articles very much worth reading for anyone interested in film and indeed narrative in general. A few of my favourite articles of his include cinematic affectation, the three-act structure, the Hero’s Journey, plotholes, tangible details and South Park.
bills itself as a “gravity-assisted action adventure”. It’s made in Adventure Game Studio by Technocrat, the author of the sadly unfinished Technobabylon series
of episodic adventure games.
First impressions aren’t great. On the wholly subjective side, this game uses the Z key, and my laptop’s Z key is annoyingly unresponsive (I’ve even idly considered switching to Dvorak). Not going to fault the game for that, but I am going to fault its tutorial for telling me I’d done a great job destroying the target and that all I needed to do now was return my probe to the ship when I’d actually destroyed the target with an accidental kamikaze attack, and was thus unable to do any returning whatsoever. Never underestimate the stupidity of your players.
On the other hand, the game has a nice look to it, the music works well, and I think I might actually have fun with it if I can ignore the bugs and signs of rushed development such as “New label”. In fact, indie games being what they are and my game collection being what it is, I should probably download the new, fixed version of this game that no-doubt exists. Lesson learnt.
The download’s on GameJolt. Does anyone else really hate those “Your download should begin in X seconds, if it doesn’t click here” things, or is it just me? I think I’d like it better if it only gave me the option of clicking there. At least then I wouldn't have, in my impatience, ended up with three copies of this game cluttering up my download folder.
There we go, done. Apparently this game was released in March 2010. If I’m correct in saying I had a buggy early release of it, then 1st Drop
has likely been sitting unplayed in my unsorted folder for over three years.
Hmm... bug’s still there. Oh well, I tried. Let’s just ignore it and push on.
1st Drop is a game where you land probes and then have them plant and destroy targets, which is a little unexpected considering it was made in Adventure Game Studio. There’s something delightfully creative and bizarre about games that subvert the stated purpose of what they’re developed in. Adventure Game Studio has a fair few pretty decent ones, such as Yahtzee’s action platformers
, stealth platformer
and space sim
. As someone most familiar with Game Maker, it seems odd to me that anyone would choose to make a game like this with AGS, but if all you have is a hammer... well, a blue cup makes a pretty flexible hammer. It’s not like the creator’s trying to make Tetris on the Z-Machine
And yet... there are weird pauses after you click past the tutorial messages that come up. You can get the default AGS action bar to appear at the top of the screen when you move your mouse up there. You have to click away tutorial messages in what is otherwise an entirely keyboard-driven game. Yahtzee’s platformers made sense in AGS because they were narrative driven and got good use out of what that engine is good at, but this, this really doesn’t. If you’re going to abuse your dev software, make sure you polish that abuse until I can see my grandfather’s reflection in it.
Maybe I just suck at games, but I can’t manage to dock my lander with the flying thingie and get past this tutorial level. If I’d made this game, it would use the mouse for movement, and not just because that’s my latest craze3
. There’s someone out there who loves the challenge of finicky manoeuvring with the arrow keys, but it’s not me.
Into the “Other” folder with you, 1st Drop. You’re not an adventure game, not quite an arcade game, certainly not a SHMUP, and, I’m afraid, not my idea of fun either.
3 – More on this later. Development is going well, thanks. And yeah, it’s one of those games I was making a billion years ago resurrected. I really think I can make this one work.
Next time: 15 Minutes
, apparently also made in AGS. Let’s hope it’s actually an adventure game!