[Game: Spelunky, Mossmouth, 2012]
Platforming Perfection:

The Incredible Design and Even Better Execution of Mossmouth’s Spelunky

 

Introduction:

Derek Yu’s Spelunky first appeared as a freeware game in 2008, and it soon became a beloved piece of software for many gamers in the know (including acting as one of the two biggest influences on Edmund McMillen’s design for The Binding of Isaac). Yu then turned his attention (enlisting the help of Andy Hull under the Mossmouth heading) to a ground-up HD remake of Spelunky, and its release garnered a victory in the design category of 2012’s IGF, followed by PC Gamer naming Spelunky‘s Steam release their game of the year for 2013. That second accolade resulted in a lot of controversy, with gamers all over the internet commenting concerns about how a simple 2-D indie game could possibly beat all of 2013’s massive studio releases, with each franchise’s fans arguing their case.

If you know me well, you’ve already got a pretty good idea of what sort of remarks I made toward those negative reactions. Mostly, I wondered whether most of those commenters were merely judging the game by its cover art, as it were, and had not actually played the game. As it stands, I would not only concur that Spelunky was the best game released in 2013, but I would go yet further and say that Spelunky is one of the best games I have ever played. To explain why, I will now compare Spelunky to the original Super Mario Bros. games.

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[Game: Spelunky, Mossmouth, 2012]
Platforming Perfection:

The Incredible Design and Even Better Execution of Mossmouth’s Spelunky

was last modified: May 24th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: VVVVVV, Terry Cavanagh, 2010]
A Game with 1980s Cohesion:

The Compelling and Eery Retro Unity of Terry Cavanagh’s Relentless Platformer VVVVVV

 

VVVVVV screenshot 2 - Terry Cavanagh

Introduction:

Two weeks ago, your Mid-week Mission was Super Crate Box, a simple, pixel art title carefully constructed around one innovative game mechanic. This week I would like to talk about a game with an even simpler art style, which is built around a less innovative mechanic—Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV. And yet, for all of the utter simplicity in its visuals and gameplay, this title manages to be one of the five best platformers I have played in the last five years, and one of my top ten platformers of all time.

VVVVVV is a game whose aesthetics leave everything to be desired, but which uses its sparse, sometimes-baffling visual presentation (in conjunction with Magnus Pålsson’s anachronistic chiptune-esque masterpiece of a score) to set an incomparably other-wordly mood plucked straight out of 1980s video game logic. Meanwhile, the deservedly lauded level design ties the project together for a respectably challenging campaign. For more on why and how this game looks so odd and plays so wonderfully, keep reading.

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[Game: VVVVVV, Terry Cavanagh, 2010]
A Game with 1980s Cohesion:

The Compelling and Eery Retro Unity of Terry Cavanagh’s Relentless Platformer VVVVVV

was last modified: May 24th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Super Crate Box, Vlambeer, 2010]
Simple Arcade Innovation:

The Elegant, Ingenious Gameplay of Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box

 

Introduction:

In the first post of this series, I praised Tribute Games’ much-maligned Wizorb for being a high-quality recent example of a cheap, challenging, arcade-style game. This week I would like to recommend a game which you may not have heard of. It is also in the arcade style, but it is much more challenging and much more cheap. How can it be much more cheap than the $3 title Wizorb, you ask? In fact, this game is completely free. Not free-to-play or freemium, just plain old free. It goes by the name of Super Crate Box, and it is available on Steam right now in exchange for no money.

Super Crate Box is an arcade action game that pits your pixelated player-character against hordes of marching foes, but with one amazing gameplay twist, explained below. The game was developed by Vlambeer, a Dutch team which has risen to prominence in recent years with games like LUFTRAUSERS and Nuclear Throne. And like those later titles, Super Crate Box is a tremendous time-sink, a great challenge, and a lot of fun: now, on to discussing that interesting gameplay quirk.

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[Game: Super Crate Box, Vlambeer, 2010]
Simple Arcade Innovation:

The Elegant, Ingenious Gameplay of Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box

was last modified: May 24th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Spacechem, Zachtronics, 2011]
Lost in Spacechem:

The Addiction, Atmosphere, and Exquisite Challenge of Zachtronics’ Spacechem

Introduction:

Last week was another slightly heavy entry into this series, focusing on the interpretation of pixel art, and pixel art as an artistic movement. So, just like my post on Offspring Fling! from two weeks ago, I will be making this post another lighter recommendation. The game which I would like to recommend, however, is hardly light, and it goes by the name Spacechem.

No true fan of puzzle games should go through life without having experienced this title. Spacechem is an amazing piece of software, elegant in its game-design simplicity and staggering in its gameplay complexity. But also like that Offspring Fling! article, it is not the primary gameplay of Spacechem which is going to the focus of this article: instead it is an aspect of the game that I haven’t seen many people mention: the game’s atmosphere and story. Yes, this game is a satisfying yet relentless challenge, but its virtues do not end there.

Spacechem Screenshot - Zachtronics - atmosphere, aesthetics, story

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[Game: Spacechem, Zachtronics, 2011]
Lost in Spacechem:

The Addiction, Atmosphere, and Exquisite Challenge of Zachtronics’ Spacechem

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Offspring Fling!, Kyle Pulver, 2012]
A Hidden Gauntlet:

The Brutal Platformer Hiding Behind the Lovely Facade of Offspring Fling!

 

Introduction:

After the heavy subject matter and dense theoretical prose of your last Mid-week Mission, I am just going to make this one a brief recommendation of another cheap, oft-overlooked indie product. This might just be another outlying opinion on a tiny title, but when it comes to Offspring Fling!, I love the game.

After beating Offspring Fling! casually (or as soon as you care to notice it), the real challenge of the title opens up: one of the most precise and challenging speed-run systems built into a game of which I am aware, which upon completion unlocks a suite of precision platforming bonus levels.

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[Game: Offspring Fling!, Kyle Pulver, 2012]
A Hidden Gauntlet:

The Brutal Platformer Hiding Behind the Lovely Facade of Offspring Fling!

was last modified: May 24th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski