Peru :: Squares Trials

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“Reverse engineering is key”

My recent journey to Peru inspired me to find my game for this wonderful country full of llamas and crazy altitudes. After some research on games developed in Peru I was immediately fascinated by its game development history and how everything started, so this time I want to take the chance to share with you this story: Peru’s game development history started off very early – with an interesting game “analyzing” and reverse engineering (nice way to put hacking and cracking) scene before internet and games were widespread and the people of Peru had to find alternative ways to spread and play video games.

This polygon article and this gamelab article tell the fantastic story of Mr. Byte and his hacker’s club TEG (Twin Eagles Group). While decompiling, and cracking first games, they’ve also gained the required expertise in game programming. They’ve started by adding new scenes, new levels, new languages to the games; so it was only a short way until they started developing the first games on their own: Gunbee F-99 (Amiga: 1989), and games inspired by local politics such as La Tercera Vuelta and The King of Peru (fighting game), but also the first Peruvian erotic game: Samba de Oruga (tetris with “happy end”).

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By 2007 TEG stopped their development efforts and the Peruvian game development industry was almost dead. However, apparently starting with the Lima Game Jam in 2012 the spirit to develop games was rediscovered. In the middle of the mobile game area, a new chance for publishing games  was visible to Peruvian developers.

Since 2012, Peru is also home of a vivid and uprising IGDA chapter. The’ve just published a brilliant guide of all games developed in Peru. I was extremely surprised by the variety of games developed in this country. In particular the new rise since 2012 is very visible in this guide. Uprising studios such as Bamtang Games and LEAP Game Studios seem to be strong forces in this country. So the IGDA chapter was also the first address I used to raise my question “If I should play ONE game developed in Peru – which one should it be?“. After a couple of days I got my answer: “We talk a lot about your question and we believe that you must play Squares Trials“.

Squares Trials is a very polished fast-paced pastime mobile game about – squares. It uses a simple but addictive and challenging principles: tap blue squares; double tap dark blue squares; never, ever tap on red ones; move arrows to the right direction – and that’s it. That’s also already the very simple and comprehensive tutorial of the game. Sounds easy – it is also easy – the first 3 levels. The games becomes extremely addictive but also very stressful and sometime definitely frustrating. The music also adds to this constant panic – and especially this evil grey shadow disappearing from right to left to put even more pressure on me failing again.

Definitely a perfect game to forget some stressful bus journeys in Peru  :-) In summary I am very fascinated by Peru’s development spirit and how they made their way into games (literally). Well played Peru – well played!

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(me playing at Machu Picchu)

 

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Release 2014
Genre Casual Mobile Game
Developer LEAP Game Studios
Publisher LEAP Game Studios
https://itunes.apple.com/pe/app/squares-trials/id703217085

Brazil :: Toren

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Sacrifice your childhood, Moonchild

In 2016 Brazil hosted 48(!) Global Game Jam locations. So I thought it will be incredibly easy finding tons of games from Brazil. However, choosing a game was not an easy task. While people from Brazil play a lot, and always lead the game consumer lists on the Steam sales page, the number of studios only grows slowly. Well-known games such as Agar.io or Outlive were developed in Brazil. However, compared to the enormous number of interested developers and jammers, I found only a small list of games published in Brazil. Also it is interesting to read that this country seems to have quite strict censorships. Bully, for instance was banned, sales of Counter-Strike were prohibited in 2008 [R]. Nevertheless, at the moment Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the favourite game in Brazil according to Steam statistics.

Steam Download statistics retrieved 02/03/16 from http://store.steampowered.com/stats/content/
Steam Download statistics retrieved 02/03/16 from http://store.steampowered.com/stats/content/

Asking mighty Twitter for recommendations for games, especially titles from the studios Aquiris Game Studio (Horizon Chase), Behold Studios (Knights of Pen and Paper +1 [definitely on my Steam wishlist now!]), or Joy Masher were named. It was not easy, but the game I finally chose for my project was “Toren”, one of the youngest of these games, developed by the Brazilian Indie Studio Swordtales. Toren was the first game supported by the Brazilian’s government and got financial support from the Brazilian Ministry of Culture.

The saying “Life is short” gets definitely a new meaning when playing this game. You play this strong female character called “Moonchild”. Your goal is to beat the dragon on top of this mysterious tower (Toren). While you are climbing this tower you are also growing up. So it’s quite interesting when you to start as a toddler, crawling through your first quest. On your way you would constantly fall into dream sequences. You are never entirely sure if you are currently dreaming or awake. After such sequences the character often comes back to the tower grown older. The environment, all animations, and in particular the cutscenes were artistically crafted with so much love for detail. The puzzles and fights were not particularly hard but the main element of this game is definitely this process of growing with the character, surrounded by inspiring poems, metaphors, and mysterious music.

Playing this game was not challenging and its focus is not on sophisticated game mechanics. Playing this game was a pleasing and somehow healing (?) experience. It was a very intense and simply wonderful, beautiful – sometimes dark – experience. AND it was definitely hard to pick just a few screenshots out of this giant list of beautiful pictures I took while playing (experiencing) this game. (I felt like an artist while taking screenshots, which immediately turned out to be super-fancy and meaningful pieces of art.)

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Release 2015
Genre Adventure
Developer Swordtales
Publisher Versus Evil
http://toren-game.com/