Inflection Pixel’s Ten Titles I Loved In 2010, Part One

A Hero is born.

Welcome to 2011!  I’m looking forward to another year of working myself to within an inch of my life and playing a lot of video games to compensate!  I wish you all sorts of goofy fun for your new year.

I have two New Year’s resolutions this year: 1. play more Dance Central, and 2. write more!  I started this blog so I can keep my mind juices flowing on what I see and ponder on about video games more often, but it only works when I actually write!  With a reduced credit hour load this semester, hopefully I can start fitting that in more often.  The spring semester has also started this week, so I decided to fit this in with my first burst of productivity for 2011.

To start off, I want to do a wide sweep of ten of my favorite things of 2010.  This is my personal list and it doesn’t approach close to exhaustive; I’m not a professional game reviewer nor do I have the time and money to play all the games I want.  I’m going to try to do two a post to get my wheels really spinning.  Here we go!…

#10: Dance Central
Played on Xbox 360 / Harmonix / Original Release: November 4, 2010
“Intelligent game design meets untested technology”

Dance Central

Harmonix is a developer I have a fan-crush on.  The first game I purchased from them was the original Rock Band in 2007, so I was not really on the ground floor for their meteoric rise in music game stardom.  I remember trying the first Guitar Hero game at Jaron’s house, however.  It was a Franz Ferdinand song on Easy, and it was an unmitigated disaster.  Fast forward to Guitar Hero 3‘s release, when my nephew got it on the Wii for Christmas.  GH3 is the first time I really dived into the plastic guitar.  I proudly worked my way up to Hard (with some Expert!) and maintained a healthy rivalry with my sister.  When I played Rock Band afterwards, I could feel Harmonix’s experience in the genre and lessons taken from Guitar Hero games work its way through every part of the game, from the updated, more mature visual asthetics to the new mechanics such as drums gameplay and Big Rock Endings.

So, Microsoft really lucked out when they were able to wrangle Harmonix into creating an exclusive new title for the launch of their Kinect peripheral.  Granted, a dance game isn’t their usual wheelhouse, but their talent showed through in Dance Central, the most critically well-received Kinect title available.  It starts with their simple yet genius and highly applauded approach to menu navigation, a swipe system using either the left or right hand.  When it comes down to dancing to the game’s expertly curated soundtrack, the game utilizes a flashcard approach for each specific dance move and each card flipping predictably to the beat.  The ramp in difficulty introduces more complex moves and increases the number of kinds of moves the player encounters.  Combined with a training mode that will break down moves in the song of your choice one by one, dancing on Hard becomes an exhausting yet rewarding experience.  Dance Central neatly steps away from weaknesses in the Kinect that other games make more obvious, such as mapping the player’s body one-to-one to an on-screen avatar, and what they do use of the Kinect makes the game feel fair and accurate.

Bluntly put, If Dance Central didn’t exist, I wouldn’t believe in the Kinect’s ability to create memorable gameplay experiences as much as I do now.  This game seems like proof that a skilled developer with their heads screwed on tight enough can eke out a game for the system that feels fresh and unique from anything else available.  This game is proof of a working technology.

And my mom is better than me at doing the salsa.

#9. Angry Birds
Played on Android phone / Rovio / Original Release: December 10, 2009
“Quick and mobile bird-on-pig violence”

Angry Birds

When I played Unreal Tournament 2003 back in high school, I was wowed right away at the first time I’ve seen the ragdoll physics characters go into when they died.  Something in me got a hilarious kick out seeing corpses flying every which way from rocket fire.  I remember the initial wave of weird maps where you jumped off a ledge and your ragdolling character would hit obstacles on the way down and spin about uncontrollably.  I guess I have an odd fondness for physics interactions on objects in games.  Stuff falling down is neat.

In Angry Birds, stuff is falling down and flying around constantly and I can’t get enough of it.  With a simple touch interface to control a slingshot, players send the titular birds careening into the enemy pig’s various structures in an attempt to eliminate all the pigs in the level.  It’s one level after another of wanton physics-based destruction.  It’s a perfect design for a mobile device: I can either pop in a level here and there where I want, or I can sit down and burn through a whole chapter of levels.  The simple gameplay supports whatever experience I would want out of the game at any moment in time, anywhere I am.  The visuals are light and fluffy as well, and it’s just goofy fun to experience this weird world where these animals are in perpetual war over eggs.  It doesn’t reach for the stars like lots of other games on this list, but it doesn’t have to.  It’s designed to fill that mobile game role and that’s all I need out of it.  Angry Birds filled in a lot of time in-between responsibilities for me in 2010.

The evolution of mobile game design, spearheaded by titles like Angry Birds, is leading way to massive success for these developers as well as a new paradigm shift in the mobile game market.  This is a world where Nintendo DSs once reigned supreme for gaming on the go.  While there is still space for traditional mobile consoles, the mobile games market meant for devices like phones and tablets is growing uncontrollably and can’t be ignored.  When a game like Angry Birds can sell 6.5 million copies on the iOS alone, you can’t ignore that market for long.

Hang tight for more posts coming soon!

Images: Giant Bomb


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My name is Anthony Munar, a computer programmer in Utah. I also play a bunch of video games every now and then. I talk and think a lot about them, but I never really solidify those thoughts anywhere, and writing is something I like doing, so I thought I'd do it right here. I don't intend to be high-and-mighty authoritative about what I say and I don't really have any sort of standing in the games industry. This is just for me to muse about games when I want to.

Naming a blog these days was harder than I thought. In calculus, the inflection point on a curve is where its concavity changes between upwards and down. So, maybe, the inflection pixel is the pixel which represents something that turns my opinion around on a game, like the pixels representing a beam cannon firing in FreeSpace 2, the pixels representing a flying car wreck in Burnout, or the pixels representing my own sentry gun holding off an army in Team Fortress 2.

Using the word 'pixel' in naming something game-related seems clichéd, so sorry about that.


January 2011
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