Hip To Be A Square: The Walls Are Not Cheese

By John Walker on September 7th, 2009 at 9:31 pm.

I bet they are.

I adore how little graphics eventually matter. Of course at first good graphics can be such an enormous pleasure, so breathtaking, and can add a great deal to the experience of playing a game. But in the end, mechanics always wins out. Quick example: the recent Prince of Persia game. Utterly beautiful, but I couldn’t care less after an hour of that tortuous tedium. Opposite example: The Walls Are Not Cheese. You control a square who fires squares at other squares. There’s about eight colours in the whole game, and it’s compelling fun.

Your purple square fires pink squares at the world. These are used to either destroy “monsters” (blue squares) to to erode the scenery, which we’re assured is not cheese. As you destroy it, and indeed as enemy squares fire back, debris is created which you scoop up by holding Shift. This refills your fire power, which becomes essential for finishing levels.

Evil blue squares.

The goal is to reach the larger blue square and destroy it, which brings you into the next level, until rather sadly the game seems to just sort of stop. However, before you get there you experience some really smart ideas. My favourite aspect of the game is the danger of vacuuming up the debris: when holding down Shift to pull it all toward you, you also draw in any enemy fire. So if a shot has disappeared off screen but not yet hit anything, it can suddenly come swooping back in demanding quick reflexes on your part. It also leads to some excellent forehead-slapping deaths as you forget and suck all the murderous bullets toward you in the stupidest way. Firing also causes propulsion, so jumping and shooting can often lead to other interesting mishaps.

It’s a very smart idea, very well delivered. If only it were longer. It would remain satisfying to play for quite a while without needing to introduce any new gimmicks, but comes to a close all too quickly, probably as a result of its being developed for a competition, in this case Ludum Dare.

It plays in a browser, and is well worth your attention.

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35 Comments »

  1. nabeel says:

    There are some other nice little games submitted to that challenge, I recommend that people look through the rest too. Beacon is pretty cool.

  2. CMaster says:

    Interesting fact – you can shoot through the lava and then fall out of the level, getting yourself completely stuck.

    Yay?

  3. Sir Digby says:

    Hmmm, the sticky key bug that flash has comes in useful here.

    Hold down shift, then switch to a different tab, then return – flash’ll think that shift is held down until you press it again.

  4. Badly Drawn Rod says:

    Agree with nabeel about Beacon. Superb little game.

  5. CMaster says:

    End is on the hard level with flying lava that I eventually solved by tunneling to the exit? Follosws up with extreme bugginess?

  6. superking208 says:

    By the sheer coincidence that I watched American Psycho today, I understood the Huey Lewis reference.

  7. Kua says:

    What the freakydillo. I was thoroughly enjoying this only to have my block go into permanent left. Far left. That’s one fascist purple box. Sigh.

  8. Kua says:

    Okay fixed. I love how the hoover sucks in the blue bullets – gets me every time. This is quite delightful.

  9. Tom says:

    I’ve always thought that. How much graphical fidelity do you really need to either make a fun game or tell a compelling story?!

  10. Blast Hardcheese says:

    Anyone else kill enemies with their own projectiles?

  11. airtekh says:

    Delightful.

    As John says, another triumph of gameplay over graphics.

  12. A Delicate Balance says:

    I got some lockup at some point after playing quite a few levels, it just put me in a yellow room and I couldn’t move even when I cleared around me.

  13. R-47 says:

    yea i got to the same point don’t know what to do

  14. Dracko says:

    Tom: No excuse for inconsistent or ugly graphics, though. Graphics are always important to the final package, if only so you can tell what you’re doing without it being an eye sore.

  15. TheArmyOfNone says:

    This was a lot of fun! (So was beacon!)

  16. John Walker says:

    superking208 – Actually I was more thinking Sesame St:

  17. Thingus says:

    I think that graphics are handy, but can’t substitute for decent gameplay. They’re a nice feature, nothing more.

  18. PleasingFungus says:

    That was quite amazing.

    Though the ending, such as it was, was a little odd.

    Did anyone else notice that even the little brown particles had a physics model? You could make them form orbits around you, and/or go shooting off at high speed. Excellence.

  19. Lunaran says:

    One of the first things I tried to do was metagame my way out of doing what I was supposed to do, and quickly found that tunneling with shift held down kept me at full ammo.

    We need more pixel physics games like this and Zombies, Bloody Zombies.

  20. Bhazor says:

    Reply to Lunaran

    Then I must recommend Powder Game
    http://dan-ball.jp/en/javagame/dust/
    One of the most engrossing little toys (theres no real goal or structure so it’s much more toy than game) I’ve ever played.

  21. TCM says:

    I’m still boggled by your hatred of the recent PoP. To me, it was a natural extension of Sands of Time’s primary concepts, and remained consistantly fun, fair, and interesting throughout.

    But, you know, people have opinions. >_>

  22. TCM says:

    Right, because there is a huge difference between “rewind time to point when you are safe” and “automatically be taken to a safe point” when you die.

    I played both games again within the last month, there’s very little difference between them.

  23. bonuswavepilot says:

    @Kua: isn’t fascism more far *right*? Y’know, all nationalistic and authoritarian and such…
    In other news; amazing how entertaining blocks can be. Bit hand-switchy on my lappie’s key/mouse configuration though.

  24. Gabe says:

    “Save the green dots with your fantastic flying red square!”
    “Swing from green dot to green dot with your red square monkey!”
    “Smash the green dots deep inside the mysterious red square!”

  25. John Walker says:

    TCM – While I’m clearly not arguing you’re wrong to like the new PoP (you are), I don’t see how you can argue they play the same. Even if I thought the recent game were the best thing ever, I’d still recognise that the mechanics are *wildly* different. SoT is a platform game, PoP is a QTE game. The former requires you to seek a path through exploration. The latter requires you to hit X as you go past things on a long corridor. Then the combat – SoT is a third-person action fighter. PoP is a 3D Mortal Kombat. They are so completely different, and it baffles me that people see any similarities. (Never mind that of COURSE rewinding time yourself rather than having it done for you is of massive significance when it comes to playing a game.)

  26. Cooper says:

    Lovely little gem.

    One problem: It’s deeper than 600 pixels. So no good for my netbook.

    Fail.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    I’ve got the same thing as A Delicate Balance and R-47. Everything is (not) cheese with my block in the middle of it. Clicking just causes another smaller block to appear which can be moved around my block in a circle with the mouse. My block can’t be moved. Is this intentional? I assumed it was the odd ending people are talking about, but it seems more like a bug.

    Was enjoying it up until then.

  28. John Walker says:

    This is the disappointing ending to which I was referring. Seems to just get there and stop.

  29. Cutman says:

    Sometimes I think the purposeful lack of graphics can make some people enjoy a game even more. Which is sad to me. This is your average platformer game. Not great, not bad, but I can’t help but think that since it lacks graphics, people tend to place it higher than other platformers.

  30. Owen says:

    that’s REALLY good

  31. Namos says:

    This really reminds me of Liero, in the pixel destruction, recoil jumping and shooting stuff parts. Alas, there is no awesome ninja rope and crazy weapons.

  32. Jeremy says:

    Did anyone else just create paths to avoid all the enemies? I felt like it was somehow cheating to just carve my way to the boss and end the level.

  33. drewski says:

    Not very laptop friendly, unfortunately.

  34. Jae Armstrong says:

    I’m going to have to throw my hat in with TCM. I loved PoP. And that’s odd, because my tastes usually run to slow burning, byzantine strategy games. Games where choice is legion and goals are vague, if they exist at all.

    There are no substantative choices in PoP. The goals are clearly defined. What I liked about PoP is that it was exaltation in motion. Motion as prayer, if you’ll permit me to be flowery.

    I’d compare it directly to N, in fact- although N is much better.

  35. Sparky says:

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I apologize for the various bugs and tuning issues that people have encountered. Just to clarify, this is more a prototype than a full game. I might be interested in making a proper game out of this at some point, but likely not for a while because I’m currently working on other projects.

    The visuals grew out of an effort to make the game look pleasing (or at least less nausea inducing) within the time constraints of Ludum Dare. It’s not a statement against quality visuals. Actually I’m a visual artist first and a programmer second :)

    Blast Hardcheese- ha, I’m glad you found that. Killing enemies with their own projectiles was a later addition to the mix.