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Rise of the Silver Surfer

silver-surfer-1Use the mouse to dodge incoming missiles in this fast paced side scrolling action game. How long can you last?

Postmortem:

Behind this basic looking game lies a well tuned piece of gameplay. Anyone can pick this game up in seconds and it feels good to float about on a flying surfboard, but mastery is a tricky task. At it’s heart, there’s just one task – dodge missiles. And only two types of missile too – straight ones and seeking ones. Behind the scenes though there’s a subtle level progression that takes you through some 15 or so different stages of types of attacks. From one at a time, through waves of attacks, to an endless onslaught. You can really get into a rythem of dodging and it feels great when you get into that flow state, diving one way or another almost omnisciently.

The game played awful for a while due to not being able to see/anticipate where the next missile was coming from before it was on top of you. The addition of arrows at the edges that grew as the missiles got closer helped a lot, then the final touch of a launch sound that subtly prompts the player to look out for a new arrow finalised the gameplay feel.

The motion of the Surfer himself mattered a lot too. He needs to be flingable, but also controllable. To move fast when needed, but also to have precise control when required. This is achieved with a fairly complex system of accelerating towards the mouse faster the further away he is, and progressively more damping the closer to the mouse he gets so he doesn’t overshoot and oscillate wildly.

The game looks like a sideways scroller, whizzing over trees at a tremendous rate. The background scroll is a simple looping tween however, and all the gameplay is static on top. Even when I tell myself this whilst playing, it’s a powerful enough illusion to give me a real sense of speed.

One of the few issues I have with the game is that it only becomes really fun for the player when they are challenged to their skill level. When you’re learning to play, the game ramps up appropriately, but when you’ve played a few times already, you have to wade through the early easy levels to get to the fun bits. There wasn’t much scope for changing this in the project, but if I were to revisit this game I’d think up something to let you play on from where you were before.

Lessons:

  • Simple games can be great fun if they feel just right
  • Shortcuts can often work where a ‘proper’ solution would take longer and give very little tangible benifit

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