[developer] Paperbox Studios
[release] Early 2016
You know what I love? Level editors. We spend so much time subconsciously, or explicitly, critiquing the game spaces we navigate; this bottleneck meant I could deal with more enemies, this jump was long and I had to time it well. Remember Adventure Construction Set? I spent hours making spy mysteries for my dad. He actually played them, too. The only thing about ACS was, there was a massive time investment involved if you wanted to make something good.
By contrast, The Incredible Machine challenged you to design wacky solutions to problems like, “put the ball into the box,” and test them immediately. If your weird contraption accidentally blew the ball off stage, you would see the problem and then address it. But, TIM’s gameplay was entirely creation. Once you pressed play, you had to watch passively as cats and toasters did whatever it is cats and toasters do.
Shapeway is the platformer you solve by first organising the last several blocks of your tiny level into place, then seeing if your design works by jumping on it. If you place a block that will shatter, you may not be able to wait on it. You may need to do so to avoid the circular saw, attached to the block you placed next. Whether or not you are good at platformers will also influence how many blocks you place, with less providing unlocks and trophies.
Possible routes are endlessly flexible, though you may start to get a feel for optimal placements. If I have one criticism, it’s that there isn’t a penalty for failure as you test your levels, Finding a solution on your first try seems important, somehow. But, as Technical Director, Peter Mandile, tells us, “To me, the most important thing about Shapeway is learning through trial and error,” and it is certainly this balance of build and play that sets the game apart among PAX 2015’s many platformers
[developer] Giant Margarita
[release] mid 2016
When I received a pre-PAX email from Giant Margarita about Party Golf with the tagline, “Less Golf, More Party,” my first thought was, “If you have to sell your game by promising less of its core concept, you’re doing it wrong.” I suppose golf games do have a reputation for being boring. This experience, however, is genuinely more like playing non-lethal Scorched Earth (I know, another Scorch comparison) while trading napalm for glitter, nukes for fireworks and setting hills to flashing lights, than actual golf.
It’s 2D and you simply aim and fire your ball at the same time as everyone else. If yours gets knocked off its carefully planned trajectory, well that’s a valid strategy on the part of your opponent. Each round, scores are tallied based on a customisable formula derived from quickest time, least shots, closest to hole and shortest journey. It has its chaotic element, but I felt as if my skill noticeably increased with practice.
Of course, if you get frustrated, you can mess around making balls enormous, extremely bouncy and eggular, to explore some contrasting physics. Is eggular really a word? Shoosh, Meghann, no-one likes “that girl” and this is a party, after all. The many options for size, weight, spin and shape of your ball only scratches the dimpled surface of options available. You can characterise AI opponents as thoughtful, twitchy or angry, for example. Well, humans too, I guess.
Party Golf certainly drew a crowd at PAX but it’s really the abundant and flexible gameplay options that will make you want to bring it home. Although early in development, the idea that you can choose precisely how you want to play underpins design. Lead Designer, Ian Lewis, adds, “We have a preset mode called "Davids and Goliath." It’s one beachball versus a bunch of tiny ball bearings.” You could totally get a ball bearing to the hole first, with careful placement.