Flashy Friday: Vol. 3
This week, I’ll be taking a look at a recent indie hit, a game that launched a thousand YouTube videos, and a classic well-suited for the winter season. All three are great time-killers in their own right.
Sarah’s Run: Escape from Capital Evil (December 2010)
Released as a preview version, Sarah’s Run is a 3D platformer/puzzle game by indie game designer Sophie Houlden. As the lone prisoner of a futuristic dungeon, you must time your double jumps and utilize the power of anti-gravity shoes to unlock a number of doors and finally escape.
The barebones story takes a backseat to the very engaging parkour-inspired gameplay. You’ll be jumping around and running up walls with blazing speed through the ten increasingly difficult levels, which are all very intelligently designed.
The controls are fairly simple, and you’ll see occasional hints graffitied on the walls. The extensive Options menu (accessible by pressing Esc) allows you to reconfigure the controls for either a mouse & keyboard setup or even a gamepad. Two costumes for your character are available from the start, and I am sure there will be more to unlock in the final version. A touch of cel-shading helps points of interest stand out from the relatively sterile environment.
Overall, this is a top-notch game that shows off what the Unity game engine can do. You may play Sarah’s Run on Kongregate or ad-free on Sophie Houlden’s website, where you’ll also find a development blog detailing the extensive thought and effort that went into the game.
QWOP (November 2008)
QWOP made a big comeback this past year as an Internet meme, and it’s not hard to see why. The premise of the game is fairly simple but hilarious when set in motion. You are an athlete participating in the 100 meter sprint event at the Olympics. The Q, W, O, and P keys control the runner’s thighs and calves.
As a ragdoll with legs effectively made of string cheese, your feeble attempts to input anything resembling actual running will undoubtedly bring tears of laughter to your eyes. The quirkiness of the controls might be infuriating at first, but it’s by and large the hook of the game. The pain of falling over backwards repeatedly in awkward body positions only makes the final victory that much sweeter.
If you’re not feeling quite so masochistic, you can check out numerous viral videos of QWOP on YouTube. Among the highlights are user penguinz0’s playthrough commentary (with over two million views) and a demonstration of ‘How to Dance to Dubstep’ QWOP-style.
Winterbells (December 2006)
Given the freezing weather recently, I felt it was appropriate to review Ferry Halim’s Winterbells. Reserve yourself a good chunk of time before you start this game; it’s that addictive.
After an initial click to launch your little rabbit character, you must guide it towards the bells placed throughout the wintery night sky. Each successful contact with a bell responds with a satisfying sound effect and a number of points added to your score.
You must balance risk with reward as your rabbit can only hop a certain distance before free-falling. As your rabbit and your score reach astronomical heights, the bells become scarcer and even shrink in size, making it harder to string hits together. There are also some enticing birds flying about that will double your current score upon contact, but one misplaced hop will send your poor rabbit back to the bottom.
With the pleasant sound design and the smooth controls, Winterbells makes time fly by. If you are a fan of the popular mobile app Doodle Jump, you’ll definitely love this game.