Showing posts with label relaxing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label relaxing. Show all posts

Friday, April 20, 2012

Utopian Mining

Indie games have been redefining what's popular in video games, and though quick-and-dirty shoot-em-ups still probably reign supreme, more technical games are slowly creeping upward in popularity. Indeed, it's entirely possible to not kill a single person while playing these games, yet still enjoy the experience.

Utopian Mining is one such game. It's not perfect, but it does hint at some intriguing possibilities for the future.


Concept

Ever wanted to be a mining robot? Yes? No? Maybe? Well, if you play Utopian Mining, that's exactly what you are: a helpful drilling machine. The town of Utopia has largely been destroyed by a storm, and you're called upon by the citizenry to help restore order. This involves completing a series of missions for needy people, as well as upgrading your own equipment.

How? You mine. You mine 'til you can't mine no more. The ground beneath Utopia is absolutely lousy with valuable ores. Dig deep, collect as much as you can, return to the surface to sell them at the local store. Use the money to recharge your batteries, repair your chassis if you accidentally go too deep, and help people out.

Utopian Mining isn't the only digging game on the indie market, and it surely won't be the last. That said, there's some level of originality in this RPG-esque game in that the resource gathering is about as relaxing as a video game is likely to get. Utopian Mining is an excellent way to unwind after a stressful day, 'cause even though you're helping people, you never feel rushed.


Controls

Utopian Mining is easy. Most of the action revolves around the arrow keys, as you dig simply by moving through the dirt. X allows interaction, C backs out of menus, and a couple other hot keys trigger menu options. Very simple, very straightforward, and, in the case of the movement where functionality is most important, very smooth.


Graphics

Ahh, another pixelated wonder. Utopian Mining is a humble game: the visuals are tidy and clean, much like the rest of the experience. They get a bit repetitive after a while, as the dirt beneath the ground never REALLY changes, but I hold no deep reservations. It is what it is.

Sound

Three tracks, one of which you'll only hear at the end. That's about it. The two prominent songs in Utopian Mining are gentle, acoustic pieces that are perfectly suited to country life. No heavy diggin' here.


Challenge Rating

To call Utopian Mining a difficult game is a stretch. It's not. It's very easy. Time-consuming, perhaps, but easy. There's no way to lose, unless you fill up your robot's ore larder and then go around wasting the remaining pieces of ore. And that would take a veeeeeery long time to accomplish. Even overheating or running out of battery life is of minimal consequence.

I never got the sense that Utopian Mining is MEANT to be difficult. It's relaxing. Therapeutic, even. Just sit back, relax, and let the guitar strings and dirt clods carry you away.


Conclusion?

My only beef with Utopian Mining is its anti-climactic conclusion. The game just... kinda... ends. I'd hoped for a little more story behind the town. Shrug?

That aside, Utopian Mining is fun. Could use some more missions and upgrades, perhaps - by the end money is pretty much useless - but worth playing nevertheless. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to lower their blood pressure.

PLAY UTOPIAN MINING

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Love Letter

If there's one schoolyard romance cliche that's never going to fade, it's the love letter. True, most kids probably send each other love texts or PMs or whatever these days, but the idea is the same: one blossoming adolescent sending a token of their affection to another blossoming adolescent. Will they find true love? Or will one reject the other? That's kinda the point of The Love Letter - though it could also be a condemnation of nosy-ass friends.


Concept

You are the most popular boy in school (public, catholic, high, low, not sure what it is). You have tons of friends who will chat with you at the drop of a hat - and this is problematic, because you've just received a love letter from a mysterious girl. You need to read the letter and discover the details of her love... but you have only five minutes to do so before second period, and privacy is somewhat lacking in crowded school hallways.

That, then, is the point of The Love Letter: read the letter, in five minutes, without anyone discovering your furtive perusal. A novel concept, if not the most exciting, though the excitement comes more from the game's 'awwwwww' factor than standard browser game stuff.


Controls

The Love Letter offers two control schemes: use the mouse or use the arrow keys. Click with one to read the letter when no one's watching, or hold down SPACE for the other. (Or use a combo, up to you.) I prefer using the arrow keys, myself, as you seldom need swift motions to beat The Love Letter, and I found myself getting stuck on walls while using the mouse.

Graphics

Pure retro, baby. The Love Letter is just another throwback title to add to the pile. The graphics are hardly glamourous, but they're clean and interesting enough for a game that only lasts five minutes.


Sound

The Love Letter has two MIDI-ized tracks: one that's a kind of standard jaunty tune, and one that's token luv. They're alright, nothing special.

Challenge Rating

The Love Letter is one of the easiest browser games I've ever played. There are lots of students roaming the halls, true, and they do seem to home in on your position while you're trying to read, but once you get the hang of corralling the little bastards on one side of the map while you run to the other reading the letter becomes a cake walk. I don't think extreme difficulty was foremost in the programmer's mind - this is supposed to be a swift, sweet romance, not an endurance trial.


Conclusion?

The Love Letter is a tiny, interactive story, and not much else. You'll probably play this once, read the letter, meet the girl, suggest it to a friend or two, then forget it exists. Hardly a terrible experience, but not memorable, either. (That said, this mechanic COULD be used to craft a more difficult multi-level game without much trouble, and that might be more interesting to play.)

PLAY THE LOVE LETTER

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stellar Hunter 2

Some games challenge your skills. Some games make you think. Some even tempt your inner urges to murder, murder, murder, even if murdering consists of nothing more than a lump on an enemy's head from the sole of your boot.

And some games? Some games are just meant for relaxation. Stellar Hunter 2 is one of those games, and should ONLY be used for relaxation, 'cause frankly, it's not that good at anything else.


Concept

Stellar Hunter 2 does not boast some grand scheme for snagging stars out of the night sky. No story is needed: you're simply given a strange, circular capturing device with some magnetic pull and set loose on a series of levels full of stars. Catch as many stars as you can until they all vanish, then move on.

The rub? Well, there isn't one, actually. Just catch stars. The stars sometimes move in strange patterns, so it's... occasionally... a teensy bit difficult...

Yeah, let's get down to brass tacks. Stellar Hunter 2, no doubt like its predecessor, is a pretty game. Thaaaaat's about it.


Controls

You move the mouse around to catch stars. Wooooo. I often found that my browser screen moved when trying to move the mouse too high on the playing field, so even in this, Stellar Hunter 2 is a little glitchy - though given the relaxing method of play, it's no big deal.

Graphics

Ah, the graphics. One of two areas that actually matter in Stellar Hunter 2. Overall, this is indeed a pretty game: the star patterns are fun to watch, especially when they form intricate patterns, and the vibrant, cosmic streaks they leave in their wake are nifty enough to dazzle the eye.


Trippy, man.

Sound

Aside from the tinkling of stars upon capture, Stellar Hunter 2 relies entirely on a looping set of calm techno-and-happy-sci-fi songs to keep the ears enthralled. For the most part, the soundtrack works: it smacks of space travel, and is perfectly suited for the subject matter. Now, if it would just loop a little less often...

Challenge Rating

What challenge rating? There isn't one. This isn't a hard game. At all. Hell, I found myself completing levels while taking screenshots, and my disc of star capturing wasn't even MOVING. The challenge was getting snapshots of beautiful star clusters before they got sucked up by my static circle. And since there's no minimum number of stars needed to complete a level, you can happily miss most of 'em and still see the whole game through without worry.


Conclusion?

Stellar Hunter 2 is an interactive screen saver. You can play, if you want; conversely, you can sit back and watch the stars dance without so much as touching your mouse. There are no serious repercussions for utterly ignoring the game. Relaxation? Yes. Game play? Not so much.

PLAY STELLAR HUNTER 2