Friday, January 21, 2011

Free / Indie Game Review: Sticks - A Quick Physics Puzzler

Title: Sticks
Platform: Flash - Plays in browser
Sponsor: Armor Games
My Rating: 8.5. Pretty good, but awfully short.

   Sticks is a Flash game over at Flonga that instantly hits home with most of us. You play an invisible role helping an ordinary-Joe named Bob scrounge up a little extra change. See, Bob is like many of us. He is a regular guy, works a regular job, drives a regular car, and has the regular dreams of riches. Of course, like many of us, the reality of Bob's financial situation hit home whenever he checks his bank account.
   One day, on his way home from work, Bob drives by a store called Sticks and gets an idea. He can use these sticks to get some more change rolling his way. More appropriately, you can use the sticks to help Bob get some more change. In thirty different levels, you draw sticks on the screen to help some loose change fall towards Bob. Different levels have different amounts of change, and it is not always a coin somewhere above Bob falls downwards towards Bob. You really have to get creative to get some of these coins moving at all. You can arrange the sticks however you like, although you can only use a specific overall length worth of stick in each level. Many of the levels, you obviously make a ramp of sorts for the coins to roll down, but be ready to get a little more creative. Sometimes you will have to go around things or avoid falling objects. Other times, you have to catapult the coins across the screen.
   The controls are very simple. Click the mouse on the screen and drag to draw a stick. Cross two sticks to make them connect. Make a mistake on placement? Just double-click and that stick is gone. A play/pause button allows you to turn on or off gravity, starting and stopping the action. This is great, because if the coins drop incorrectly, you do not need to wait for a "you lose" message. Pressing pause puts everything back where it was before you pressed play.
   The audio and visual effects were appropriately simple. The soundtrack is a quiet, melodic beat that reminds me of Phonics Monkey. When the gravity is turned on, the falling items appropriately plop. When the coins reach Bob, you hear falling change and the unmistakable cha-ching of a cash register. The graphics are very minimal. Bricks represent static items that do not move when the gravity is turned on. The same basic background of stacked coins appears in every level.
   Sticks does have a couple of distracting bugs. One, if you stretch a stick off-screen then try to get rid off it, a ghost stick remains in its place. Not so bad, but you do not get that length of stick back, so it is not usable unless you refresh the level. Another issue arises when you press play and the gravity is turned on. If the sticks are placed awkwardly, they bounce around, defying the physics the game is based on. One other thing I noticed was that there were some stages that were not centered correctly on the screen. This is not excusable in a release product.
   Sticks also has a couple of shortcomings. There is not enough variety in the levels. This is fine though, because it is only thirty levels. Another thing that I dislike; especially after reading some articles on the psychology of video games, is the lack of a rewards system. I mean, I know the purpose is to get Bob the money, but can we not spend just a little of it for some different types of sticks? Not in this version I guess; however, I hope to see some of this in the sequel, if it ever comes.
   While there are some shortcomings in this short game, I think Sticks is a very fun game to play. Bob is a character we can all easily relate to. Weighing in at a very quick to play thirty levels, Sticks will have you entertained just long enough to finish the game.

No comments:

Post a Comment