I’ve been playing Dishonored for a review that’s going up next Tuesday, and it has me thinking about originality in games, and whether or not the originality of a game has any affect on how good the game is. Right now I’m leaning towards “yes” with a large “however”. Originality and uniqueness can only carry a game so far – if this new concept that the game is trying to convey isn’t enjoyable, then you have a bad game, or at least a new concept that just isn’t fun and ultimately harmful to the quality of the game as a whole.
At the opposite end of the spectrum we have common and well worn concepts that are done extremely well. As much as I dislike the monster of monotony that is the Mario series, I have to give them credit for continuing to produce games that people find to be enjoyable despite the fact that they’re reiterations with a few new concepts thrown in on occasion.
In the middle is the amalgamation that takes the best from both. The use of established concepts in such a way that the result is something unique, something fresh, while being enjoyable. When a developer is able to pick the best elements from some of the best games in the industry and then put their own spin on it, they’ve done something magical.
With that in mind, I would like to bring your attention to the trio of games I have picked out for this week’s In the Greenroom. My criteria for this week was originality and creativity. Not necessarily something that I have never seen before, but something that I don’t see much of. In the Pit would be an example of the former – I can’t say I’ve ever seen a game that eschews graphics in exchange for an emphasis on sound and tough in order to guide the players interactions. These games don’t necessarily reach that level, but they do offer up something fresh and enjoyable.
In Verbis Vitus
“While playing In Verbis Virtus you find yourself completely unarmed in a dark dungeon that hides many dangers. The only way to overcome the obstacles is to learn the secrets of the arcane arts of magic through inscriptions that you will find along your path. The magic formulas found, if pronounced correctly, enable you to perform many kinds of spells. Using these powers in a creative way you can solve puzzles, overcome traps and kill the enemies that try to hinder your journey.”
Ironically enough, the first game I thought of while watching the gameplay of In Verbis Virtus was Ubisoft’s Endgame. Sorry, Tom Clancy’s Endgame. Anyways, the tie between the two is the use of the player’s voice as a means for player interaction. In Endgame you moved units, called in reinforcements, and activated special actions by simply ordering them around with your voice. It turned out to be surprisingly effective in interpreting the player’s commands. Interest had dried up shortly after launch, unfortunately.
Which is why I’m interested in In Verbis Virtus (pronounced In Werbis Wirtus if two semesters of Latin have taught me anything). On the surface it looks like a generic fantasy puzzle game – you go around solving puzzles by casting spells on things. The voice detection system, however, puts an interesting spin it. In a dark room? Say, “Let there be light” and watch as a glow emanates from your hand, illuminating the room. They are planning on moving to a custom language so players don’t have to worry about being able to speak perfect English, which should help with immersion. As a side note I would like to add that the game looks gorgeous.
“Incredipede is a puzzle game that celebrates the vast diversity of life in the world. The game follows Quozzle, a lone Incredipede on a quest to rescue her sisters. She has a unique ability to grow new arms and legs wherever she needs them, transforming into a snake, a spider, a horse, a monkey – anything you can imagine. You can give her antlers or a tail, use nature as a blueprint or strike out in weird new directions.”
The game itself seems almost whimsically weird. When you’re designing the creature in order to traverse through the levels, you slap on slender arms and legs that terminate in exposed bone. In order to make them move you have to connect them to another part of the body by placing muscles between joints. In the end you get this very odd creature; a green orb with a singular eye attached to lanky appendages propelled by exposed muscles.
It’s an interesting concept, and something that I would like to see more often.
“Use your grappling hook to slingshot around corners in this fast paced arcade style racer. Hone your skills by learning on the tutorial tracks, then blast out of the snow onto more complex tracks against other racers. Race around a selection of tracks in stunning day and night settings.”
Some of the best games are also the most simple. Take Canabalt, for example. You only have one button and one ability. All you can do is jump. It’s such a simplistic flash game, but you can get so much more time out of it than you would expect.
Slingshot Racing operates on a similar principle. It’s a racing game, yes, but you only have one button. Clicking the mouse or pressing the spacebar has your vehicle grapple onto nodes stationed at corners around the map. I’ll admit, my initial reaction was wondering why something like this should be available for money, but after playing the demo I was hooked. Its simplicity and quick pace lead to a “one more game” loop that I was reluctant to leave. It definitely deserves some attention.