Peru :: Squares Trials

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 00.52.48

“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”).

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 00.31.23

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 00.34.28

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!

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 01.05.51

(me playing at Machu Picchu)

 

0-neu-d2-3733643bb2463750d6a393bf86cceb84

0-neu-d2-ddd4f06ca1b98ceef6a0da2a4ad59cad

0-neu-d5-3812f1d1ffc24708dc286cec04892bd1

0-neu-d4-ee4cd198092ec418f320ab0c99fb724d

0-neu-d4-efeb7b6258ea54b6349c15b8aa048955

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

Pakistan :: Run Sheeda Run

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 07.48.22

Poultry in Motion…

After some research, the first Pakistani game, which caught my attention, was the mobile first-person-shooter “Pakistan Army Retribution”. In this game you would play a Pakistani soldier defeating Taliban terrorists in a school. The game should remind and make aware of the 2014 Peshawar school massacre (141 people, including 132, children were killed) and was developed following up the one-year anniversary. However, designing a game based on such a tragedy is a very sensitive topic and probably not the perfect way to deal with such a doom event. Due to lots of criticism on its poor taste and disrespectfulness for families and victims it was removed from Google Play Store in January (Article).

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 06.52.31 Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 06.53.20

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 06.52.58

The local game developer community is still extremely upset about this game and strongly criticise it as they find it is a very bad representation for true Pakistani games.

“This game has been designed by some non-professionals and is based on Terrorist attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School on 16 December 2014, which is a very sensitive issue for Pakistani audience. Thus the game has faced a lot of criticism from locals and eventually taken down. The game has poor graphics, game design and technical errors.”

So instead of playing this dark game I got to play an extremely colourful and humorous mobile game. Sadia Bashir, a representative of the Pakistan Game Developers association and the local developer community helped me to find another and more representative game for the growing developer community. They chose “Run Sheeda Run” for me, a colourful mobile jump’n’run game, which reminds of Pakistan’s tradition and street culture. The game takes place in Lahore, Pakistan. The game starts by introducing the player in form of a comic to the two friends: the Pakistani kid Sheeda and his beloved smart chicken. But suddenly, the chicken gets kidnapped by this stereotypical evil super-villain, the BBQ chef. (a “qasai”, a member of the community with the occupation of butchering). The game starts and the player has to help Sheeda to save his best friend from becoming part of Chicken Tikka on a BBQ fest. The game is designed as an endless runner; the main gameplay reminds of the Danish game Subway Surfers. You are running through the streets of Lahore, trying to avoid obstacles. It takes place in a city theme (with a mix of fancy 3d objects and pretty flat dwellers), with street markets, food carts, grumpy businessmen, and busy streets as obstacles. You can run, duck, jump, and slide.. until you die (so actually the cook finally steals your chicken). My favourite mechanics, however, is definitely the one, where you are able to use your chicken as a flying apparatus. The game is extremely polished with fancy graphics and very nice animations. However, it is kind of sad to know, that in the end your friend always will be cooked.

The game is based on this nice webcomic “Run Sheeda Run”. I am definitely waiting for an English translation to read the comics. While the website promotes the game with “Made in Pakistan, Made by Pakistan, Made for Pakistan!” I would highly recommend changing this to “Made in Pakistan, Made by Pakistan, Made for the World!”.  

Release 2014
Genre Jump’n’run, Mobile, Endless runner
Developer we.R.play Studios
Publisher we.R.play Studios
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.werplay.runsheedarun

Poland :: This War of Mine

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 17.55.55

Not everyone is a hero in war

Many people recommended different games from Poland. Most (all) of them mentioned different parts of the famous series The Witcher. I already player The Witcher, and I would totally agree. However, one game – which I haven’t played yet – I heard a lot as well was “This War of Mine”. Reading about the background story of the game already touched me. The game is inspired by wars and sieges such as the Siege of Sarajevo (1992 – 1996), when Sarajevo was besieged for more than 3 years. More than 5000 civilians were killed during this period. This War of Mine tells the dark story of war – not from the perspective of the glorious war-hero or the fighting soldier, but from the perspective of the victims: civilians trying to survive in such a raw and dark period.

You would start the game in a small shelter with three characters – Katia, Bruno, and Pavel – all of them with a different background story. The only goal is to survive. The resources such as water, food, or time for sleeping are extremely limited. It is cold, and in times of war you never know if you should open the door when someone knocks. The characters have to build objects to create different resources and try to survive day by day. At night one of them is able to scavenge the nearby places, such as an old fuel station or an empty villa to find food and material.

When encountering other characters in this game,  you never know if this is someone who would help you, or one of the characters trying to rob and/or kill you. You start becoming very suspicious about everyone and everything. Together with its dark atmosphere, this setup makes the entire game much darker. You would meet people sitting in front of graves. While you would be afraid of this person trying to rob you, he would answer sadly “Don’t worry – I’m just taking care of a friend”. Things, which are usually normal – like helping the neighbor and her baby – suddenly become a process of weighting between risk and value. And at some point you also have to decide whether you want to rob an old couple, which would be their certain death, in order to survive just one more day. And it is not only the situation outside your shelter, which is the worst part. All this anger, the fear, the war also break the characters inside this shelter at some point. After taking the food from the old couple, all characters in the house became depressed for several days. This choice broke them even though it was the only way to let them live.

This game made me really think a lot. Would you steal the last food from others to survive? Would you let your neighbor die just because you are too afraid of a trap? Would you rob an old couple to be able to have food for you and your friends for one more day? Bruno died. Katia got extremely depressed and shortly died after him. Pavel left our shelter and was shot the next morning. This war definitely did not only break my characters. Another screen for the Hall of Pain. Playing this game was not fun, but definitely an important experience.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 18.07.21

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 18.03.55

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 18.03.43

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 18.03.09

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 18.03.25

Release 2014
Genre Survival, Strategy, Resource Management
Developer 11 Bit Studios
Publisher 11 Bit Studios / Deep Silver
http://www.11bitstudios.com/games/16/this-war-of-mine

South Africa :: Pixel Boy and the Ever Expanding Dungeon

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 15.31.28

Shedding some (neon) light on the dungeon…

Finding a game from South Africa was not a challenge. Choosing one instead was. The association “Make Games South Africa” (http://makegamessa.com/) is a vivid forum of motivated game makers and was immediately helpful by pointing me to interesting games. A first link-list could be found on their Steam page (http://store.steampowered.com/curator/5025202-makegamesSA/). This list is full of all sorts of games. Violent bunny games, sci-fi horror games, dark dungeons, and more violent bunny games. Many games are developed in Johannesburg or Cape Town. All of these games are pretty young and were published between 2013-2015. The South African game developer association seems like a vivid and growing community. More games (also many free ones) can also be found on https://itch.io/c/39646/south-african-games-on-itchio. Intense colours, top-down view, pixel graphics, and a good prize at Steam Sale (0.99€ instead of 4.99) made “Pixel Box and the Ever Expanding Dungeon” a very attractive choice for my game from South Africa.

The game starts with a very unique narrator-voice telling me how to play the game (or rather commanding me how to play the game). The tutorial is very well and interesting designed. For every new command, they have designed a separate room in a dungeon. The commands and how to use them are displayed on the floor in shiny blinking red. After the tutorial you start the actual game in a town (which reminds nostalgic-me a lot of Game Boy top-town Pokemon towns) where you would encounter other characters, some puns, and jokes. This is the starting point for the different dungeons, all of them procedurally generated, full of different monsters (chosen by the mob maker 9000), items and keys to collect,… and colours. Elements you would collect in the dungeon can be used for crafting new items, weapons, and armours.

The game itself is a rogue-like game. Since this is the first rogue-like game in my article-series, I’d like to shortly describe this genre. Rogue-like games are inspired by or similar to the prime father dungeon-crawling-DOS-game “Rogue” from 1983. Rogue was one of the first games, where items, monsters, and dungeons are randomly and dynamically (procedural) generated. Dying in the dungeons means usually losing a lot of items (in the case of evil Pixel Boy: ALL :-( ) and starting over at the entry again. (So while playing Pixel Boy I suddenly found myself stuck playing 1984 DOS Rogue again. Just another awesome dying screen inspired me also to create the page of the Hall of Pain with my “favourite” game-over screens I’ll see during my project.)

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 21.38.53 Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 21.40.19 Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 21.40.56

Back to Pixel Boy! The art style of Pixel Boy is really interesting and colourful. While the dungeons are styled in a dark and dull way, the monsters and the entire combat is designed with intense, contrasty colours. Many styles are mixed and an intense fight feels like “disco disco”. The soundtrack of the game is fantastic. Even though many reviewers would especially praise the option to turn off the narrator’s commentaries, this is definitely one interesting and unique part of this game.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 22.31.26

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 15.50.23

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 15.54.48

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 22.35.21

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 16.53.59

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 17.03.46

 

Release 2014
Genre RTS, Shoot ’em up
Developer Giant Box Games
Publisher Giant Box Games
http://store.steampowered.com/app/263080/