In a world where DIY is more than just an ethos, the success of Terraria is both unprecedented and remarkable. With no press, no promotions team, and a team of four developers, Terraria has sold close to 500,000 copies in the past month, 50,000 of those on the first day. Their only press? Minecraft developer Notch mentioned the game several times on Twitter. Since then, Terraria’s popularity has been skyrocketing day by day, becoming one of the great software hits of 2011.
Improperly characterized as a 2D Minecraft clone, Terraria has the dungeon style of Castlevania, Minecraft’s house building, and exploration of Metroid. Worlds are randomly generated with complex cave systems, underground lairs to explore and the characters resemble Final Fantasy 3 sprites. With no storyline and little instruction, you can start out building basic gear and a house. After mining and killing ridiculous monsters, you can build such awesome swag as jetpacks, lightsabers, and ray guns. Hours can be spent building the ultimate mansion. Days can be spent digging your way to Underworld and finding its untold treasures. And just when you think you are the king of your castle, Lovecraftian monsters (Eyes of Cthulu, to name one nightmarish horror) will invade you mercilessly until you beat back their invasion. And after that, it’s back to digging, exploring, and crafting your way to the top.
So grab a few friends and a pickaxe, Terraria can be purchased on Steam for $10 USD. What are you waiting for?
Stacking is a funny little game released this past February for XBox and Playstation’s live networks. I’ve delayed on posting it for the past month or so, as I played the game through and really examined it for gameplay and aesthetics. I was pleasantly surprised by all aspects of the game: it’s simple, it’s fun, and it’s more complex than you would imagine.
The game has two things going for it: the story and the style. The story follows the Blackmore family, a working class family during the Industrial Revolution. The family (namely, the children) are kidnapped and enslaved to work in coal mines by the evil Baron, who is propagating a child labor scheme. However, little Charlie Blackmore–the smallest of the Blackmores–was untouched by the Baron due to his small size. Now, Charlie has to fight for his family!!
Good, right? I mean, it’s okay. The glory of the story is that it lends itself perfectly to the style of gameplay, which is what makes Stacking so genius: every character is a Matryoshka (“Russian Nesting”) doll! Charlie, the smallest nesting doll, has to maneuver his way into bigger dolls to become the person and take on their talents, which are used to dupe others, open doors (literally and figuratively), and solve challenges. Each person (or doll?) has a unique talent, be it the ability to seduce men, punch people in the face, blast their obscene flatulence, or even cry loudly. All of these characters are used at one point or another to advance the game and, when you defeat the game, can be used to annoy the other characters (via the dolls “Hi-Jinks.” a character’s traits being used to engage or enrage other characters).
Aesthetically, Double Fine–the production company behind the game–paid great attention to paint the world and story inside of a “silent movie” type of world. All of the story telling moments are done through old film reels with piano playing. All dialogue is written on cards, a la silent film. The only problem with this great motif is that it can sometimes take FOREVERRRRR to get through a storytelling moment. Regardless, it is a great device.
Furthermore, Double Fine did a great job of creating the world the characters live in. Because nesting dolls are only–I don’t know–five inches tall at their biggest, the world around them is composed out of repurposing common household items into proportional environmental decor. An example: a chandelier in the game is made of out illuminated pasta noodles. Little items like this proliferate the game, catching your eye whenever you enter a new room.
Stacking is a fun game that I definitely implore you to check out if you have an XBox or Playstation. It’s fun, it’s quirky, and it’s definitely one of the best games–if not the best–of the first quarter of 2K11.
iPhone games are a dime a dozen. But, good, attractive, smart, challenging, and fun iPhone games? A little hard to come by. Thus, we at The Fox Is Black have taken the time to sift through many, many games to give you what you want: the best three games you could ever pleasure yourself with on a phone.
Colorbind is a beautiful, fun, and simple game. The gameplay involves placing a ribbon or ribbons over dots, kind of like a dainty, pretty, adult version of connect-the-dots. As the game progresses, the patterns get more and more complicated: overlapping ribbons nullify dots, symmetry demands your attention, and one small turn may screw all your connections. The game can be very, very hard and frustrating, but do not fear: when you unlock one level, you unlock three other levels. In terms of functionality, the game is extremely minimalistic and simple: the design is simple, the look is simple, the game is simple. If you don’t want any bells and whistles, want a good game, and even want to listen to your own music as you play, do yourself a favor and drop $1.99 on Nonverbal’s Colorbind!
Edge is one frustrating game. It’s very hip and it is very hard and highly lauded by even Apple itself. Gameplay is easy: you have to push around a neon cube around a Q-Bert inspired landscape toward the finish, but must collect tiny neon cubes in the process. As original French house music plays, you must push your cube up stairs, balance your cube along moving planes, and even turn into a tiny cube to climb up walls and push buttons. The game is a hoot and so visually tasty. I’ve played this game on and off for almost a year now, where I have learned–although I love it–it can simply be too hard and too frustrating to burden yourself with: when you are mad at getting only D scores (ahem, the lowest score), take a break from the game!
Note: I also highly, highly, highly recommend you checking out Mobigame‘s other three games, all of which are spectacular as well! You can also get this game for iPad and–likely–have a better user experience.
Osmos has to be the prettiest, most delicate looking game with the most exciting and unique gameplay experiences I have ever witnessed. Like the aforementioned games, this too involves moving an item around to capture smaller items. However, what Osmos does with gameplay is something neither Colorbind nor Edge achieve: it truly challenges and rethinks playing a game with your fingers on a touchscreen. The other two games–and 99% of iPhone games–could be played on a computer or X-Box or Playstation or Wii, but Osmos is uniquely iPhone or, better yet, the iPad. With many worlds and challenges to face, Osmos provides a wonderful time for you to try to “become the biggest” orb with plenty of ambient music to keep you going. Run–don’t walk–your fingers to download this $2.99 treat!
In closing, of course these three games are a few of 984209837023981209390247502394203 other iPhone games out there and, yes, those could have very well made the list. Thus, I would throw in Awesome Solitaire, Muddled, Push Panic, Trainyard, Pathpix, and Plants Versus Zombies as honorable mentions. Have a game you love and don’t see it here? Please leave it in the comments as I’m looking for new games!
Video games can be art and art can be video games, but rarely are either regarded as such. You don’t play a video game, enamored by its beauty. And, if you do, you are probably losing the gameplay. Video games are rarely written up in Artforum and art is rarely written up in IGN. The two worlds do not collide and do not seem to have a reason to, beyond the limits of the tangential video art world.
Limbo, an Xbox Live game released last summer, straddles this line. It is a video game, but it also is an incredibly deep artistic thought. The game plays simply enough, side-scrolling in 2D with only two “moves” (jump and push/pull) that you must discover for yourself. The game is “trial by death,” if you will. The story is simplistic and is not really explained: you play as a little boy who is just roaming through a dark, dangerous world searching for something. You deduce from the name that he is in a purgatory of sorts, which manifests itself as many different demons. There are many puzzles and “challenges,” but it being so simultaneously basic and difficult makes it a gamer’s delight: good gameplay, good story, good visuals–and nothing is ever explained.
In terms of artistry, the game–literally–feels like you are manipulating a melancholy, minimalist, monochromatic animated painting. It’s a dark cartoon-like version of a German Expressionist film. Created by Danish independent game studio Playdead, Limbo is the brainchild of Arnt Jensen, the game’s director. Through ups and downs over creative control, the group decided to ensure that the product was exactly how they wanted it–not Microsoft, not IO Interactive. The result is magnificent: a stoic, dark meditation on the search that befalls us in the afterlife. In this case, the search for answers and meaning underlines the ultimate goal in the game, which is stated in the tagline: “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters Limbo.”
No one actually knows what limbo or purgatory or “the in-between” is like at all. But, if it is actually like this, then I guess we have a beautiful, puzzle filled, black/white/gray pre-heaven to look forward to.
Mondays may be a relief for workaholics, but most of us are trying to disguise the fact that we either didn’t have time to shower this morning or that we’re still drunk from last night. So while you’re pretending to work, why not exercise your visual acuity?
I found online versions of the Munsell Hue Test posted a few differentplaces, but either place you take the test, it’s not as easy as it looks. The game involves putting lines of colored tiles in spectral order. The distinction between tiles is harder for some than others, especially if your rods and cones are still sleeping. But if you can prevail against eye fatigue, hereditary eye disease and the watchful eyes of bosses… then maybe your week is looking up.
In an effort to lift your eyelids this Monday, I am directing your shortened attention span to the eyeballing game. Developed by a woodworker for his friends, the game consists of a series of tasks intended to determine how accurately you can eyeball things. It would be interesting to know how designers fared compared to non-designers, and how designers fared against each other: are graphic designers more precise than architects? Do fashion designers shame industrial designers? My average is 3.91… neither fantastic nor shabby. How’d you do?
What word describes the feeling you get when you look back on bad design decisions you’ve made in the past? You think: “Did I really think it was okay to use a photoshop filter on top of fully saturated cyan verdana type?”
Moments of insight are always a little suspicious. Maybe this is because I grew up in the Bible Belt and heard stories about dramatic revelations almost incessantly. But there was a moment in my second year of college when I saw the light and realized that everything is designed. This is probably one of the biggest eye-openers I took away from architecture school that literally changed the way I perceive things. And not just the objects that surround us that are explicitly designed, but also ideas and language around those ideas are cleverly and critically constructed. Which is really a long way to say: I like to make up words.
Verbotomy is a place for people who also like to make up words. It’s a daily competition to create a word for some gap in language. For instance: What do you call folks who Googles themselves? What should you call congratulating a woman on her pregnancy only to realize she isn’t pregnant? Anyone can submit words and anyone can vote for their favorites. I do this almost every day and I enjoy doing it. Maybe you will enjoy it too?
A few weekends back I said I was going to try and put up more games on the weekends for those of you in need of some mindless entertainment, but unfortunately finding rad games isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. But thanks to the tip of a reader named Taylor Carroll I was pointed in the direction of a game called Mogo Mogo.
Mogo Mogo is about a civilization of people called Mogos, who work all day and night doing manual labor to survive. You play as Bogo, an inventor who dreams of helping the Mogo’s lives better my making some tools to ease their burden. He has a Newtonian moment when a fruit falls on his head and he’s sent into a dream world to find the invention that will help his people.
The game is a series of puzzles which definitely start to get harder as you go. As I’m writing this I’m on Level 12 and I was ready to quit. But I haven’t yet because the production and design of this game is really great, and I think you’ll get sucked into it like I have. Simply click the little blue dot above to get started.
This little video has been making the rounds today with great force and for good reason. Created by the folks over at One More Production and written & directed by Patrick Jean, PIXELS explores the idea of 8 bit characters and items crossing over to modern day New York and pixelating the hell out of it. The design and animation of this whole video is amazing and hysterical, kind of like District 9 except with Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. Through it all though I think I’d have to say my favorite part is when the Tetris pieces descend, like omniscient, translucent gods coming to PWN your buildings.
This little video is one of the weirder things I’ve ever posted, so we’ll see how it goes over… Justin Wallis, aka MILKBBI, sent me a link to this little video he did called Puppy Love which he describes as a found love letter translated into an old Sega Saturn Japanese dating game… right. It’s pretty weird but you have to give him some props for really making it feel like a weirdo, Japanese game from the late 90’s.