Hands Off My Bird: Reset Generation

By Kieron Gillen on August 6th, 2008 at 11:39 pm.

So, I’m bouncing E-mails with Red “Trials 2″ Lynx. They’re asking if I’ve judged the Trials 2 compo yet - and I reply I haven’t, but will be sorting it out this week when I do the Champions one. And I ask ‘em what they’ve been up to, and they say they’ve just finished a new phone-game for the N-Gage, which can be played for free via browser against anyone you fancy. Oh – and Pocketgamer dug it.

So I figured I better go to the site and have a crack. And lo! – it’s some satirical-videogame collision between Advance Wars DS, Worms and ancient Tetris-as-Stronghold game Rampart.

And Dynablaster/Bomberman.

Which is the sort of random list of game names which makes me sound as if I’m having another one of my Retrogamer nervous breakdowns. But that’s a good thing, y’hear.

The basic game is… well, tricky to describe outside of handwaving. It’s a strategy game, with each of you playing a thinly-veiled parodic version of a videogame staple – like, say, the Plumber, which is basically Mario as reimagined by TF2′s design team. I’m especially fond of Level 50 Elf, who is a level 50 elf. As the Mario-riff would suggest, the main aim is to rescue the Princess from your opponents castle. This is basically done by grabbing it and legging it back. Essentially it’s turn-based Capture the Flag with Cleavage.

Except it’s not that simple. The turn-based nature isn’t a simple one-turn-other-turn thing. There’s different stages.

The first stage you’re given a Tetris-shaped block you drop on the map area. This basically creates the playing area. If you make lines, you create areas where your character is especially powerful. And any area is better than walking across places where there’s no squares. Dropping the shapes is done blind, so if all players drop in the same place, the overlapping squares explode joyously.

The second stage is the movement, where you move your character around and ideally grab the princess. Doing so – or picking up the randomly dispersed power-ups – stops your move, and in the latter case allowing you to apply what you’ve picked up (Like lobbing bombs and similar). If you move onto someone else, you have a little fight, with your energy bars being depleted depending on whose square you’re fighting on.

Also after you’ve taken your move, if your power-bar is maxed out – which you do by matching lines and picking up certain power-ups, you get an opportunity to apply it. Some of them do major twattage. Some of them blow up blocks. Others repaint blocks. Others allow a second, specialised, limited move – which is particularly handy when on the run with a blonde beneath your arm. This is a big chunk of the Advance Wars DS bit, by the way.

The Third stage is everyone gets to fire two shots of their bases’ cannons. They’ll bounce off any player and a completed-brick line, but are handy for picking off errant blocks and power-ups. Oh – and if two people both aim at the same area, the shells will bounce off each other, meaning it’s a way to defend an area you’re sure an enemy is going to attack. Except if you’re wrong, you’ve just destroyed what you were trying to defend.

And then it loops.

While the actual interaction is as simple as can be, the amount of stuff pilled on is certainly dizzying. If you don’t go through the single-player campaign and go straight into online battles, you’ll be sure to lose quite a few battles just through misunderstanding a rule, or not grasping some small part of it.

But, really, this is pretty damn nifty. Also neat. Also other vaguely 50s-sounding words beginning with N.

You can tell how unusual an approach it is to the mini-strategy game by the amount of space I just spent explaining exactly what it is you do – partially to explain why this is interesting, and partially to make sure anyone who follows the link and has a crack knows what the hell is going on.

I haven’t even mentioned its production values, which are impressively high for this sort of thing. Masses of voiced-samples, many of which if not laugh-out-loud funny are at least cute enough to make you glad they’re exist. The hyper-macho Halo-parody Cyborg is another cutie.

It’s brash, intricate, interesting and I think if you try it, you’ll probably like it.

Just stay the hell away from my Princess, you understand.

, , .

19 Comments »

  1. Damien Neil says:

    My browser is not supported.

  2. Dolphan says:

    I think this was mentioned in Edge a month or two ago. Sounds intriguing, will take a look at some point.

  3. Cooper says:

    Also, 8Bit Weapon (wiki, website & MySpace) – chiptune band extraordinaire have released the soundtrack for the princely sum of nought over at IGN.

    (And, no, I’m not band PR – just a geek)

  4. Jonathan says:

    Is it wrong that the only reason I play as green is because they have the brunette princess?

  5. Joseph says:

    This actually looks really cool. I’ll be sure to give it a try. I love games like these. Games that don’t just stray off of the beaten path, but actually completely destroy the old path, and then hack their way through the woods.

    But alas, I have not even played it yet.

  6. James G says:

    Talking of competitions, did you ever announce the results of the Sins of a Solar Empire compo? I didn’t noticed them, but they could easily have slipped past my radar.

  7. Dan says:

    I downloaded the demo to my N95 and have lost a few games online, but enjoyed it enough that I might be willing to shell out the £8 to play it on the move rather than for free at a desk.

    A couple of things about it, not mentioned above, which I rather like: You can play on even footing against PC players on your mobile phone (a world first?), and it saves a replay of every game played so you can watch where you went wrong, or see other people’s strategies.

  8. Ginger Yellow says:

    I’ve been playing it on my phone. It’s very addictive, but it could do a better job of explaining the gameplay. It took me ages to figure out how some of the special moves worked. Also, the tone is a bit dubious – there’s a lot of gratuitously sexist imagery. It’s hard to tell if it’s part of the pastiche of other videogames or not. Either way it doesn’t sit well.

  9. gulag says:

    Damn game tutorial won’t progress beyond dropping the first block. Am I missing something?

  10. Lorc says:

    The character designs really turn me off this. It looks like it wants to be parodying video game clichés, but just comes across as yet another example of those same clichés.

    Maybe it’s that the characters’ ancestry is too blatantly obvious – there’s no wit or creativity apparent. They’re not amusingly familiar archetypes or cartoons, they’re vaguely deformed photocopies. It just seems lazy.

    Game plays ok though. Shame about the pictures.

  11. brog says:

    I want to play this game. Offbeat strategy games are totally my thing.
    However, it doesn’t work. So much java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError. Thanks. Now my opinion of this game is very low.

  12. FreezerBag says:

    I liked this at first but I think the veil of parody may be too fragile. Still, it was a fun.

    @brog: I’d guess you have a older version of Java installed.

    Oh and is it my imagination or does Sonic (sorry, I mean Hedgehog) have a completely rubbish special power?

  13. Down Rodeo says:

    So I just went through the painful process of installing Java on a Linux machine to get the damn thing to work (to be fair I did need to install a newer version anyway) only to find that they only support IE 6 or later. That is BS, there’s no way I’m going through the horror of putting IEsforLinux on here again. I still get nightmares.

  14. sbs says:

    Word to the mother plumber!
    I liked the 4 Missions I played, it is a neat little webgame – I’m sure I will come back to it later. The design is charming in a goofy, strange way and the game is very playable.

  15. brog says:

    hmm, works in IE, didn’t in firefox. lame.

    the gameplay seems somehow unpolished. i think too much time was spent on sound and art and not enough where it counts. i like that there are lots of cool ideas crammed in there, i want to like the game because of it, but i don’t. the parody isn’t clever. also, the screen is far too small.

  16. Arathain says:

    I liked the game well enough, but I thought the design was pretty bad. Mostly the rampant sexism really bugged me.

  17. heliocentric says:

    fat princess had the same angle on “chivalry” never really found it offensive as princesses were bargaining chips. So surely in context its socially accurate.

  18. Colinmarc says:

    Holy shit this game is awesome