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Physics is at work in the latest video games.
BY THOMAS L. McDONALD
“Physics-based gaming” may sound like a fun new way
to study for a midterm, but, in fact, it’s a new sub-genre of puzzle games
featuring objects that act as they might in the “real world.”
“Line Rider” allows you to draw a wild path for a tobogganist, creating jumps
and loops and other hazards. If the ride gets too wild, however, he’ll fly off
the track. The game started as a free PC application before migrating to the
Nintendo DS as “Line Rider 2: Unbound.”
“Crayon Physics Deluxe” creates a charming experience out of a screen designed
like a crumpled piece of children’s drawing paper and a few crayons.
objects on this piece of paper, and they take on the physical properties of
those objects. Draw a hill, a car shape, and two circles for wheels, and the
car rolls down the hill.
Goo”; 2DBoy.com, computer/Wii: $20.
of the most impressive physics games of the first generation was “Tower of
Goo,” a building/puzzle game in which you create structures made out of balls
of goo. Along with the original “Crayon Physics,” it was one of the best things
to emerge from Carnegie Mellon University’s Experimental Gameplay Project,
which set a goal of creating 50 games in a single semester, each done in under
a week by one person.
of Goo” has now been reborn, in a new improved form, as “World of Goo,”
available in computer versions (for PC, Mac and Linux) and as “WiiWare” that
can be downloaded and played on the Nintendo Wii.
goal of “Goo” is to create stable structures out of little moving blobs. As the
size of a goo structure increases, imbalances can occur, and you have to work
quickly to prevent the whole thing from collapsing. Each level has a
puzzle-like structure and a simple goal that challenges you to get a certain number
of goo balls into a pipe that leads to a special container.
the pipe is inaccessible, and the challenge is to create bridges, towers and
other lattice-work structures in order to shepherd a certain amount of glop to
varieties of goo are available, and depending on a ball’s color, it might
float, stick, drip or be impervious to damage.
is the great enemy, and once the levels start moving and the spikes and
goo-eating frogs appear, things can get tense very quickly.
of Goo” is wildly inventive and creative fun for the whole family. The more
elaborate structures might be a little frustrating for little kids (and many
adults), but aside from the possibility of goo-ball fatalities (they do have
little faces and personalities) and the presence of a clichéd “evil
corporation,” there are no real content issues.
free demo is available at the 2DBoy website (2DBoy.com).
Creatures”; THQ, Wii: $50.
Creatures” might sound like a show on the Discovery Channel, but, in fact, it’s
a new Wii exclusive that takes games where they’ve never been before.
if you’re at all squeamish about bugs (arachnids, to be specific), you may not
want to go there.
Studios, a development team best known for its motocross and ATV (All-Terrain
Vehicle) simulators, has done something actually new: created a third-person
action in which you play entirely as a spider and a scorpion.
game features 10 levels in all, alternating between the two deadly creatures.
All of the normal features of an action game are on hand. There are foes,
health, goals, points, unlockable fight moves, combination moves, platform
jumping, and a final big-boss battle for each level.
however, has been translated into “bug-lish.” Thus, “health” is restored by
eating tasty grubs and other lesser insects that don’t fight back. The
“enemies” are other bugs, rodents and reptiles, ranging from spiders, beetles
and gnats up to rattlesnakes and gila monsters.
you earn points by killing bugs and traversing levels, you unlock new moves.
The spider is fast and nimble, with quick attacks and spin-kicks: the ninja of
the desert. The scorpion is thick and powerful, with snapping claws and a sting
in the tail: a slower heavyweight.
might sound like a recipe for silliness, but Rainbow has actually managed to
achieve, if not realism, at least a level of plausibility in the way the
creatures move and fight.
game also manages a neat narrative trick by having the arachnid action take
place in the foreground of a human drama that is unfolding in the background.
Two humans, voiced by actors Billy
Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper, have ventured into the desert to search for a
treasure. Their story advances on the periphery, intersecting with the spider
and the scorpion at key moments.
just one more effective touch for a clever game.
note: “Deadly Creatures” earns its T-rating thanks to some salty PG-level
language; a seedy background story of greed, violence and murder; and nonstop
critters is the whole point of the game, although this is done without much
blood or gore. Frankly, the entire game is disgusting since … well, you’re a
spider and a scorpion, and you eat grubs and crickets. Things get tasteless
when, during one of the scorpion levels, you repeatedly sting a human in the
that was meant to be a leg-crossing moment for the largely male gaming
audience, then mission accomplished! It was also tasteless and unnecessary.
Thomas L. McDonald is
editor-at-large of Games magazine
and a catechist in the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey.