Thursday, July 21, 2005

Endless Fire - A Shmup!

Here is a link to a game called "Endless Fire". As far as I can tell, they use the same software package as rRootage, minus the horrifying memory bleed.

This version is a little more classically inclined than rRootage, with waves of ships followed by bosses followed by waves of ships. It has a couple of problems. First and foremost, I have no clue what their collision detection or damage scheme is. I lived through things that passed right through me, and died to things which barely brushed me.

But the biggest problem is that it's a flabby game.

A long time ago, I said that books have an advantage over movies: books can be flabby. Movies are intended for one sitting, and have to keep someone riveted for the whole length of the movie. Books contain a lot of extraneous stuff - information and experiences not central to the story - because they have a lot of time in which to explore their world.

Games have the same pattern. Some games are like movies: intended to be played in one sitting. Others are like books, and can take weeks or months to finish.

Endless Fire is the first kind. It doesn't have enough time to dawdle. It has to slam on the core experience and not let up. It's a fifteen minute game. It doesn't even have time to let the user BREATH.

So, why do they have FOUR FIRE BUTTONS?

In all honesty, I always hated the 'special/shield/bomb' key in these games. I rarely need it, so when I do, I've totally forgotten about it. That's two buttons: fire and special. This game has fire 1, fire 2, special 1, and special 2. That might be suitable in a game which has a long legacy of that control scheme - like fighting games with six buttons (which I also dislike) - but TWO is the classical number, three in some exceptionally complex games. The changes in fire mode come from live choices on the game map, not from having a trillion choices to choose from at any given moment.

Moreover, they adulterate their game with a bizarrely complex scoring mechanism, where you have to shoot enemies with one fire mode to build up a multiplier, then shoot them with another fire mode to actually get points.

But, on the plus side, it is a very kinetic game. It looks and feels good. They could really have thought a bit more about balance and adaptive (or at least consistent) difficulty. Some of the shots - such as the seeking missile - are extremely difficult to deal with when there is a swarm of linear patterns flying about. Others, such as the high-speed hose-spray, are just nearly impossible to see, let alone fit between the two-pixel gap between bullets. Still, these aren't until levels 40+, so that's some pretty solid play until then.

I highly recommend trying it out. It's free, after all.

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