Friday, August 20, 2010

Achievement Unlocked 2

Plenty of games, from the cheapest Flash programs to the most expensive console titles, have implemented achievements and bonuses as an incentve to keep playing, sometimes long after you've completed the game. This week's good game, Achievement Unlocked 2, takes this concept to its natural result by making a game where the goal is to collect every achievement possible. It's metagaming at its finest as you bounce around numerous levels as a blue elephant intent on gaining every worthless but welcome pat on the back.

The achievements come thick and fast almost from the first go, but there are 250 to collect and they aren't all so easy to pick up. Achievement Unlocked 2 does a great job of expanding on its predeccesor. You're still a flat blue elephant in a large white room, but now you can actually travel to other levels, collecting coins to unlock new areas.

Some parts of the game are downright weird, like the hamster wheel that you have to spin around in and the big button on the roof that lets you flood the floors below. Actually, that last one has a purpose, as there are some spots you can't reach otherwise.

I suppose I'm giving myself an easy week, as there isn't a whole lot to write about. You jump around, you collect coins, you try to avoid and land in spike pits - it's about as straightforward as you can get. There are no enemies, no big bad at the end, no motivation other than to score all of the achievements. But what makes Achievement Unlocked 2 so damn impressive is just how far it's come since the first game, keeping things simple while expanding the title for new and old fans alike. That alone is worth pressing the "Play" button - and yes, you get an achievement for that, too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Axis Football League

In the past I've always had praise for Armor Games, a site that maintains a consistently high quality of online titles. Of course, we all make mistakes from time to time. Nobody's perfect, after all - just look at Idi Amin. And so Armor Games has sadly suffered its own wave of psychotic, xenophobic deportation, by which I mean they're hosting a game called Axis Football League and it sucks.

This is a game that clearly has the best of intentions. In fact, it describes itself as the "first, great online football game," which made me chuckle heartily, as there is nothing great about this title. I guess it looks nice, but if you're a long time reader of Big Mean Flash Gamer, you'll already know that looks can be deceiving. Sometimes that hot chick is really a man and sometimes a pretty game is really a pile of garbage. But only one of those events will change your life and make you ask questions on the concepts of gender and sexuality, and it's not the second one.

I suppose, being someone with little interest in American football, this game wasn't going to appeal to me too much. But hey, there are plenty of sports I don't follow and as long as the game based on it plays well, I can still have fun. Obviously they couldn't use the names of real teams due to copyright purposes (because, you know, the Steelers worry about Flash games stealing their logo.) I decided to play as the New England Volunteers. Wow, that name must strike terror into the hearts of their opponents.

You pick a play to run and then you go to the game screen. Here's where things start to get tricky. I've never seen a game with so simple a control system sound so complicated. I can't even tell you what the problem is; it doesn't seem natural, you don't find yourself slipping easily into the controls like you might with other sports games. I think part of the problem lies with the use of both keyboard and mouse controls. That works fine for me, since I played it on a laptop. But if you've only got one hand to take care of the keyboard buttons while your other is occupied solely with clicking the left mouse button, it would no doubt be a big hassle.

The nice graphics come back to bite you on the ass at this point, too. So determined were the programmers to show as much of the field as possible, we're left with a top down view seemingly from the bottom of the Goodyear blimp (oh, wait, we can't use copyrighted names. Um... the Nice... Month... Balloon.) The animation is fluid, but there's just one problem that would sour my opinion of any football game: I can't see the God damn ball!

I'm doing my damnedest to block passes and take down the other team, but how do I do that when I'm not even sure who's holding the ball? Usually, by the time I know, it's too late to stop my opponents from gaining another twenty yards.

The vast array of plays you can use is impressive but hammers home the feeling that this is not a game for casual fans. I have no idea what most of these names mean and was randomly picking whatever play I thought gave me the best chance of success. Odds are this approach was no less effective than if I'd known what I was doing. In the end, Axis Football League is a frustrating game for anyone but the commited pigskin fan. Even then, I'd probably suggest throwing a ball around with some friends before wasting your time on this well-intentioned mess.