Sunday, March 30, 2008

Boomshine: A frivolous (and fun) romp

I just checked out Boomshine (a free Flash based game). It was easy and pleasant to play, had a decent initial learning curve, and had me hooked until I the learning curve went from... well... a curve to a straight vertical line.

The object of the game is to trap a target number of bouncing balls on the screen. You have one chance to detonate a bomb that expands to a maximum blast radius and then fades. Each ball that enters the blast radius explodes (expanding and shrinking) and this can cause a chain reaction. The idea is to place the initial explosion in a spot that will cause a chain reaction that eventually traps the desired number of balls before the chain reaction fizzles out.

This mechanic has been done in other games. The use of sound, music, and color in this game were the differentiators: The resulting venn diagrams of color were really cool, and the sound effects of the detonating balls complimented the music very well. It was pleasurable to set the initial bomb and then just sit back and watch.

At first, the game reminded me a bunch of Stair Dismount, a physics simulation that was incredibly addicting. You simply positioned a rag doll body, watched it fall down stairs and take damage, and then restarted the game -- but the next time tweaking the positioning so that you could increase the damage.

However, at the highest level of difficulty I was able to attain, it started to seem less like an exercise in aiming and precision and more like an exercise in chance. I could decipher a few principles that seemed to serve me well as far as where to place the initial blast. However, the resulting chain reaction seemed to be nothing more than a roll of the dice in terms of how predictable the outcome would be. I was never able to complete the level, and even though I got agonizingly close (54 out of 55 balls detonated), as often as not I would end up with far fewer. It was still fun to watch and listen to as a simulation, but ceased to be a game.

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