[Game: Pikmin, Nintendo, 2001]
Thinking, with Pikmin:

Why Pikmin‘s Campaign is Superior to Pikmin 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

 

Introduction:

Pikmin was one of the last few entirely original game concepts produced for Nintendo by Shigeru Miyamoto (the creator of Donkey Kong, Mario, Star Fox, The Legend of Zelda, and more), and it is certainly overshadowed by the worldwide phenomena of his earlier creations. Still, I feel that the original Pikmin is a tremendous game, well worth discussing, and is a very unique approach to the otherwise mostly warfare-focused genre of real-time strategy.

Dedicated readers of this series will probably find the title of this article oddly familiar. That is because it is almost identical to the title of an article I wrote previously about Valve’s Portal franchise. I couldn’t help but notice the similar thesis here, where I am saying that the campaign of a sequel to a distinctive and well-known title is weaker than the original, against the critical consensus, and on the basis of both tone and design. But in this case, I feel that the quality difference is much more pronounced. Whereas I consider Pikmin to be an excellent game deserving of classic status (like both Portal and Portal 2), I find Pikmin 2 to be a stale, stilted, and even at times boring game to play.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling plot details of Pikmin and Pikmin 2, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you do not mind spoilers or have already played the games.

Pikmin screenshot with bulborb and red pikmin - Nintendo, Pikmin 2, comparison, analysis

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[Game: Pikmin, Nintendo, 2001]
Thinking, with Pikmin:

Why Pikmin‘s Campaign is Superior to Pikmin 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

was last modified: May 18th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Defense Grid: The Awakening, Hidden Path Entertainment, 2008]
Towering Tower Defense:

In Praise of the Gameplay, Execution, and Aesthetics of Hidden Path’s Original Defense Grid

 

Defense Grid: The Awakening screenshot with mid-game challenge level - Hidden Path Entertainment - tower defense game

Introduction:

The topic of today’s article is a game which is roughly eight years old, and which resides in the curious genre of tower defense: Defense Grid: The Awakening. I call tower defense a curious genre because the formula of tower defense is a simple one, and yet one which is rather often poorly executed. For this article, I just want to talk about what that formula is, and how Hidden Path managed to impeccably nail it (in addition to doing other things right).

It is amazing to me that Defense Grid is almost a decade old now, as I first played it less than two years ago and, due in no small part to its economical aesthetics, the game still felt fresh and new. In short, it has aged incredibly well so far. Indeed, what is perhaps most striking is the fact that so very many tower defense games have been produced in the eight years since Defense Grid released, which by and large continue to make the same mistakes that Defense Grid so gracefully and thoroughly avoided.

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[Game: Defense Grid: The Awakening, Hidden Path Entertainment, 2008]
Towering Tower Defense:

In Praise of the Gameplay, Execution, and Aesthetics of Hidden Path’s Original Defense Grid

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

[Game: The Sentient, Uncaged Studios, 2016]
Galactic Potential:

An Introduction to (and Cursory Assessment of) Uncaged Studios’ The Sentient

 

(The article below remains in its original state for archival purposes, but work on The Sentient was abandoned by its developers in mid-2018, before it was completed and exited early access. As such, I am now forced to recommend that no one purchase the game. – The Gemsbok)

 

The Sentient screenshot with ship overview - Uncaged Studios - early access review

Introduction:

Alright, this is going to be a relatively brief article that doesn’t go into too much detail, as the game in question, Uncaged Studios’ The Sentient, is very early in its early access career. But I wanted to write this preliminary review because I have been rather impressed by what I’ve seen so far. If I could sum it up in one sentence, I would say that The Sentient has accomplished more of the things promised by the developers of Pixel Piracy before entering early access than Pixel Piracy has managed to accomplish in the year since its full release.

As you can tell if you’ve read that earlier article linked above, I am no fan of Pixel Piracy; so why even bother with the comparison? Well, as much as I think Pixel Piracy is a clunky, buggy, superficial, bad-UI-ridden mess of a game, its premise is very strong: you take the exploration and RTS gameplay of FTL, and you add in deeper crew management and ship customization features. And this is exactly what The Sentient does, putting the player in control of a fleet of human scouting parties as they search the galaxy for the means to research, expand, and survive.

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[Game: The Sentient, Uncaged Studios, 2016]
Galactic Potential:

An Introduction to (and Cursory Assessment of) Uncaged Studios’ The Sentient

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

[Game: Pixel Piracy, Quadro Delta, 2015]
Swashbuckling Bored:

The Bad Design Choices, Game-breaking Bugs, and Superficial Execution of Quadro Delta’s Pixel Piracy

 

Introduction:

I have previously written, on more than one occasion, about games with simple premises or gimmicky attributes, which succeed due to the high quality of their execution. Today I would like to talk about a game with a great, interesting premise that fails due to the low quality of its actual design and execution. Pixel Piracy, a pirate-based RTS RPG with roguelike elements, is a game that was in an abysmal state at launch, but which has come a long way since then; the problem is that it has come nowhere near far enough, and does not seem likely to ever do so.

One of my biggest problems with the game is that its most grievous flaws are not apparent to the player until after a few hours in-game. In fact, Pixel Piracy is almost enjoyable, if a little repetitive, for almost half of its campaign. At that point, however, the small cracks widen into crevices, into which fall all of your hopes of ever completing the game with a positive opinion of it. I have completed the main campaign, and it was no easy task to do so (although the gameplay is easy as cake, the game’s technical problems and repetitive design made progress difficult). Now let me discourage you from doing the same.

Pixel Piracy screenshot visual effects comparison - Quadro Delta - negative review - criticism

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[Game: Pixel Piracy, Quadro Delta, 2015]
Swashbuckling Bored:

The Bad Design Choices, Game-breaking Bugs, and Superficial Execution of Quadro Delta’s Pixel Piracy

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

[Game: FTL: Faster Than Light, Subset Games, 2012]
Style by Necessity:

On FTL: Faster Than Light, and Pixel Art as an Art Movement

 

Introduction:

FTL: Faster Than Light bead sprites - pixel art analysis - Subset Games

Bead Sprites by The Gemsbok

The artistic movement of Cubism has had an incalculable influence on the art history of the past century. Its temporal and spatial fluidity was new and exciting, and carried art yet further along its strange journey of influence from Impressionism toward Abstract Expressionism. Some formal attributes of Cubism, such as flattened perspective plane, an emphasis on forms and experiences over realistic minutiae, a reduction of realistic complexity to geometric simplicity, and sharply contrasting regions of intense color, are also present in a much more recent art form: pixel art.

One recent game which uses pixel art to great effect is Subset Games’ acclaimed strategy roguelike, FTL: Faster Than Light. By taking a quick look at some of the art in FTL, one can acknowledge and remark upon the meaning it carries, in the hopes that others will go on to do the same for pixel art that interests them.

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[Game: FTL: Faster Than Light, Subset Games, 2012]
Style by Necessity:

On FTL: Faster Than Light, and Pixel Art as an Art Movement

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