17 October, 2009

Demo Impressions: Twin Sector; Madballs

written by Blain Newport on Friday, October 16, 2009

I guess my gaming feeling's coming back. I checked out a couple more demos. Like Wolfenstein, I didn't expect to like them enough that I'd want to buy them. A few days ago I would have just went with that assumption. But I've at least returned to caring enough to be curious (although apparently not caring enough to take screen shots before I deleted both of them. Doh).

Twin Sector is a first person puzzle game, definitely trying to be like Portal. The idea behind the gameplay is cool. You have high tech gloves. You can use them to pick up and shoot stuff like Half-Life 2's gravity gun. But unlike the grav gun, you can use the mouse wheel to orient what you're carrying to allow for finer control. You can also use the gloves to yank yourself through the air and break your fall from heights.

The problems are that none of it is very fun. Here is my attempt at some constructive (or at least not mean) criticism.

- The default controls feel awkward. Left mouse button, which is used for shooting in every first person game since forever, pulls stuff in. While the right button "shoots" things away. I think the developer anticipated this because there's a button swap option in the menus. But it's still disconcerting when pressing the right button raises my character's left hand and vice versa. It feels bad.

- The items I carry floated right in front of my face, so even simple tasks like stacking one barrel on top of another are difficult because I can't see what I'm doing.

- The gloves take a long time to charge and the character doesn't move very fast, making the game feel poorly paced.

- Falling kills you, and load times are long, which further contributes to the pacing problem.

- The environments are very simple and serve no apparent purpose. It feels like I'm in a puzzle, not a place.

Madballs: Babo Invasion is a game that hurts my brain by existing. There were these plastic balls with ugly faces on them back in the 80s when I was a kid. This game gives them guns and puts them in mazes, where they run (or rather roll) around and shoot stuff. Surprisingly, it's actually not bad.

- The different guns have specific uses. Unfortunately the player can only carry one at a time, so there aren't strategic choices to make.

- The guns have different elemental properties, so it's necessary to switch modes to damage certain enemies. It's busy work, but it kept me on my toes.

- Different balls have different special powers. Powers include dash attacks with can also be used to jump gaps, turning into rock to take less damage, becoming gigantic to crush enemies, spouting blades and spinning, shooting lightning to drain health, and burrowing underground to avoid enemies and presumably bypass certain barriers even though I didn't see that in the demo.

- The game has multiplayer, which seems like it could be pretty crazy if the arenas are well designed to take advantage of all the weapons and powers.

Despite being only $10 and an apparently well designed game, I still didn't buy it. I've played enough top down shooters to last me a lifetime. But for newer gamers, people who have a social group that enjoys kooky multiplayer (It's even got four player co-op.), or huge fans of Madballs, I'm sure it would be worth it.

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