Being appropriate to the time of year, Experimental Gameplay Project held a little game development challenge over the wintery months of November and December with the theme “Temperature”. Inspiration for the theme was actually derived from elsewhere, in truth – the forthcoming release of Tomorrow Corporation’s Little Inferno was cited as the raison d’etre. A couple of months of prototyping and developing and the entries for the challenge were received at the beginning of January – though it seems of those submitted, most of them were made in a matter of days as opposed to weeks or months. Let’s be fair; who really has loads of time to spare during those festive months at the end of the year?
There were eight games submitted to the challenge, all managing to stick to the theme in a manner of different ways, but there’s three games that we’d like to highlight of the bunch. Perhaps you could call it our issuing of Bronze, Silver and Gold, if you wish. Yeah, let’s do that! So we’ll go through our favorite of the eight submitted and we’ll leave what we consider to be the best until last.
Too Hot Too Cold by Joseph Miller
This is a rather basic puzzle platformer that excels in its ideas, but falters when it comes to the execution, and mostly concerning its puzzle design. This is more of a lack of refinement and polish though, so perhaps with a bit more work it could become something a little more smart. The title pertains to the multiple states you can become by going over an icon – either a snowflake or a flame. In your normal state you can move and double jump, when you turn hot you can burn crates in your way and when cold you can dissolve ice cubes obstructing your path (somehow being cold melts or cracks ice?). The first few levels add extra considerations while introducing these mechanics before getting to the more interesting states of matter.
When you’re hot for a little while you’ll start to get closer to death. When only seconds away you’ll be granted the ability to fly and reach higher up areas. But if you don’t pass over a heart icon to return to your normal state or a cold icon, you’ll just die. Similarly, when you start getting too cold, you’ll form ice boots that allow you to walk through spikes before you die. Unfortunately the game doesn’t really get much further than showcasing these ideas, and with some awkward level design in places, it ends up feeling like it has ideas, but doesn’t realize them in the best way possible.
Hypothermia by Jacob Albano
Boasting a surprising amount of sheen and polish for the challenge, Hypothermia would be our favorite had it been a little more impressive and incorporated further elements beyond the one that it is based around. Saying that, it’s a still a clever, short-form point-and-click puzzler that’s worth at least a few minutes of your time. The premise is that you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere during a blizzard, and if you don’t find warmth soon, then you’ll freeze to death. You don’t have more than a few minutes before the lids of your eyes grow heavy and usher in a close to your existence.
So, with that in mind, do not hang about when playing Hypothermia. You’ll need to find a way into the distant wooden hut you can see, but the door is locked, for starters. Without giving away what you need to do, mostly the game has a pretty logical flow, though sometimes a little more indication might reduce some of the confusion, and some more clickable areas would be great. At the end of the game we were left wanting to do more, to carry on with this tiny adventure and see what else would happen, but, alas, it comes to a close and that’s that.
Hot Plates by Mark Twang
So here’s our winner, then! You play as an ant attempting to get at some food – as they always bloody are. But being an action-puzzle game, you need to make it to each nibble in a certain amount of steps. You move the ant by holding the left mouse button down and then drawing out a path across the level. This is easier said than done, particularly in the later levels. Not to imply the game doesn’t play well, because actually the way you draw out the paths and the information displayed to you on each level is very simple, feels great and does the job amicably. A few sound effects help to flesh it all out too.
But the main meat to accompany the sauce is working out the puzzles. Mixing things up are the hot and cold plates of the game’s title. The hot plates increase the size of the ant meaning that your steps become much bigger, while the cold plates shrink it and need to generally be avoided at all costs. Later in the game you are given a pickup in the form of boots, which seem to drag on the effect of the plates a little longer, though, to be honest, we’re not entirely sure what they do. Buttons are also introduced so that the temperature of the plates are switched around, making for further considerations of your path. For those up to the challenge, there are bronze, silver and gold runthroughs for each level too.
Think With Cubes
To round off this news regarding the Experimental Gameplay Project, it feels appropriate to outline the nature of the current challenge which is running from January through to February. For this, the Project has teamed up with Sifteo to bring a number of prizes into the mix for those who enter and make the best games. The challenge is quite simple, though highly interesting, and will really stretch the creative minds out there, with any luck. Basically, you have to design a game for the Sifteo Cubes.
First off is Round 1, which takes place over January, so there’s still time! If you want to enter, you have to prototype a game that uses a pack of three Sifteo cubes and present it everyone. You must use the Sifteo SDK, and ideally you want to portray the idea in as many media forms as possible, i.e. video, images. You’ve got to post links your entry in the comments section of this article to enter.
Judges will then select about 10% of the entries, they predict, to go into Round 2. Each finalist will be sent a pack of Sifteo Cubes, and they then have to build their game over the month of February using them. Once done, you must then show it off via a video uploaded to the Internet for all to see. Should be some very interesting games coming out of this one. Those who do come out as winners will win prizes too! These include an internship at Sifteo and a publishing and promotion of the winning entry by Sifteo, including a featured place on their GDC booth, as well as other events they attend.