Friday, 27 May 2011

Experimental Review: Music Catch

I typed this up the other day when I was thinking about applying for the position of Joystiq's UK Editor. Admittedly being an editor might imply some skills I probably don't have, but I thought it was worth a shot. 

I never applied. I decided that I probably didn't want to be a games journalist, for lots of good reasons. Anyway... here's the game Music Catch they wanted reviewed in under 300 words. Below's my review! Why waste it?


It’s always wonderful to come across a game where the rules can be explained in about 3 sentences which take up no more than 20 seconds of your time.
The game is pretty simple: drag your cursor around the screen collecting shapes which spew out in plumes like seed from coral reefs in time to the music. The louder the track, the more violently the shapes erupt forth. Yellow shapes grant you point multipliers and make your cursor bigger while the red shapes (typecast as usual) steal the boons given to you by the yellows. 

Unlike Canabalt, one of the eternally great 30 second thrills, Music Catch’s attractiveness is hampered by its dependence on Music. That catch is well and truly in the title.

This is a game of 3 minute thrills, and the quality of which is really going to depend upon your familiarity with the track. When do I need to hoover up the points? When do I need to shrink back from the fanfare? It’s all too much like a musical Pac Man, as you greedily gobble the spirits of the tune, but the power pill has been put into the hands of the conductor!

While this powerlessness can be a bit frustrating, it works well with the risk reward process. High fat yellow multipliers engorge your cursor, increasing the number of points you can collect, but making you more vulnerable to the low-fat joy stealing red shapes.

As your cursor grows, and its multiplier swells, your instinct is to protect what you’ve got. Don’t let those nasty reds distribute your multiplier to the masses! Cling to what you’ve got! Of course that is exactly the point at which, like some bloated bumble bee you must plunge into danger, collecting the nectar of the notes.

Throughout the online version, I found myself wishing for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Enough of this piano warbling! When will the guitars kick in? But then this is, or perhaps should be, a 30second thrill.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Dirty Words

If one more game called [Super First Strike]: Armageddon [Reloaded HD] gets released I am going to campaign for some EU regulation in gaming nomenclature!

Does your game genuinely seek to recreate an officially sanctioned image of the Armageddon as outlined in a religious text, or is it just a series of loud explosions with men shooting one another? No armageddon in the game, no armageddon in the name. See it's simple, no?

Once we get over that Mount Hyperbole, we still have to cross that great expanse of water filled with the tired names of every game that ever featured the words "Super", "Hyper" or "Ultra", let alone, and God forbid, "Pro".

Who is going to buy Super Apocalypse: The Reckoning? Even were that an apt name for your game it's just so tired. I actually fell asleep while typing it. Pro Super Apocalypse is an almost fatally boring title! You could kill men with it! And that's before we've decided to slap Cataclysm, Evolution or Reloaded on the end of it!

Nonetheless nothing is quite as bad as prefixing your title with the word "Battle". Battle: it reeks of mediocrity. "Battle" is like the plain brother of the salacious "Babes". I've never yet encountered a game which tolerates the company of either in its title that has persuaded me to part with cold hard cash for it. As if Battle Robots were somehow slightly less boring than just Robots. Bring on the Battle Apocalypse! Or better yet Cataclysm Babes!

I've been scanning over the 2010 list of video games and just noticed a few trends. Perhaps based on which publishers might not want to use these tired words in the title of the next AAA game. Unless they want their title to sound like it belongs in the bargain bucket on the day of its release.

To protect your sensitive feminine senses I've added my own suggestions to spruce them up, so that like me, you don't just become weary and depressed before you reach the bottom.

Battle for the [Mystical Mana Fern]
Battle of the [Potted Plants]
Battle [Nappies]
Lord of [The Battle Nappies]
Last of [The Air Guitars]
Lost [Trout]
Hope of [Historians]
Guardian of [Pure Mathematics]
[One One One] Zero
[All Star Enema] Reloaded
[Dodo] Evolution
[Player A] vs. [Player B]
Pro [Extreme Laser Eye Surgeon]

If I may, a small word in your ear. None of the above are actually terrible, nor is it necessarily silly to use the word Armageddon in the naming of your game, but what's the point in doing it when everyone else is doing it? Why wear these words and phrases out until like tired voters they barely register?