Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Flash Mobile Game Review: Chickn 2Go

Chickn 2Go
Developed by Milky Entertainment
Released: June 2007
Availability: www.milkyentertainment.com
Requirements: Nokia N73 was the target development device for the game. It is a Flash Lite 2 game for 2nd or 3rd Edition Series 60 devices (240x320). Note: Review was conducted on a Nokia N95.

"A set of 3 'Fing-R C-lick'N Good' Flash Lite Casual Mini-Games"

Review by Scott Janousek

As part of a final student project at the Vancouver Film School, Chickn 2go is a set of three Flash Lite 2.0 mini-games that Melanie Genereux sent to me from their organization: Milky Entertainment.

The games were developed by a team of students over the course of 12 weeks, which is further empirical proof that with Flash Lite, a team can more easily prototype and build casual mobile games by utilizing Adobe's mobile design, development, and testing tools with little, to no experience.

Frying Frenzy
The first mini-game, "Frying Frenzy" is a good example of a very simple casual game. Situated in a kitchen setting modeled in "2.5D", you play the role of "Head Chicken Chef" where the objective is cook as many chickens as you can before time runs out.

To cook a chicken, you must first catch falling ingredients you need in a frying pan by moving your character left and right on the screen.

To successfully cook a chicken, you need 3 main items. These consist of an uncooked bird (of course!), some oil, and a bit of flame ("heat") to cook it up.

As you catch each of these particular items you must be careful to get each one of these ingredients while trying to avoid the extraneous ingredients that continue falling. After all, these will otherwise ruin your super famous chicken recipe!

Mixing Madness
The second game is the mini-game pack is "Mixing Madness". This is a puzzle type game where you must mix and match various ingredients (butter, salt, onion, honey, chicken) to complete the sequence given in the "red strip".

Also, to make it more challenging you can only move ingredients that are surrounded by buzzing flies only. Of course there is also an obligatory time left with this game as well, so you can't rest on your laurels while playing it!

Besides a few bugs here in there due to things not loading properly, this little game seemed to be fairly amusing, especially from a visual aspect.

The Other Game
Lastly, the 3rd title in the Chickn 2 go series is called, "The Other Game". Clever. The goal here is super-size all your chickens in the hen house.

How do you do that? Basically, you feed them seed. The more the better, and better move quick or your chickens will grow ill and then croak. If you feed them nicely, your stock become super sized, and then start pumping out eggs. You'll need to grab these before they go stale! ...

As you collect good eggs, you will, you guessed it, generate some much needed cash which can be used to buy more chickens, in case your flock (is that the right term for Chicken's? Doh.) depletes. A very good casual game concept!

The Good:

"World Creation"
Frying Frenzy was the best of the lot. It offered great graphics, amusing and simple game play, and performance was decent. It immerses the player into a world of "chicken lick'in goodness".

Uniqueness and Concept
This kind of ties in with the previous entry, but overall, I found the games unique enough due to the overall storyline and game series concept.

Sound Effects
I liked the overall sound effects for the series. Very simple and to the point. They added a much needed response to the gameplay, and without them I don't think the title would be quite as polished. Kudos to the team members who did the sound.

The artwork accurately captures the look and feel the game is trying to go after. The games were a mix of 2.5D and 2D work. In Frying Frenzy, I found the 2.5D work very nice. More level graphics are always nice, but for sake of size, what is there is quite good. The feedback animations were entertaining, where "Cluckie" (yep, the chicken character's name) does a little dance when you do something right and achieve some point levels.

The Bad:

No Level Difficulty Setting
Unfortunately, there is no difficulty setting for the most challenging game of the bunch, "The Other Game". This made it extremely hard to play and win (or at least more diffcult on my Nokia N95).

On the main screen of the games, there is a vibration "cue" on each menu item. Although this might seem like a good idea, and adds a unique touch, it does drain the battery. IMHO, it would be better to leave this out, especially on a menu selection page ... but it comes down to taste. No biggie.

I didn't have time to check with the team about some loading issues I was having in regards to instructions, but there were a few places where clips failed to load. (Note: I believe the team did mention, they did in fact, run into a few memory issues with some of the animated content they wanted to present).

Game Play Keys
Overall, the control of the game is pretty straightforward. The instructions are definitely a requirement for each of these titles, however. Changing the game logic to require or skip instructions to prior to playing each title, would probably be best, especially for newbie players who will be lost initially.

I would have liked to know more about "Cluckie" and what he was all about! Why the heck is "Cluckie" cook'in up his fellow chicken brotheren? Is he a cannibal? Is Cluckie just a human in suit? Is he related to BucketHead? The world will never know. A shame. :)

The game is currently deployed as a .zip which must be extracted and individual games SWF needs to be run.

A deploy using a .SIS file would probably be much more preferable. Using SWF2Go (a .SIS packaging tool for Flash Lite) to bundle the title would solve this problem for target Series 60 devices. Alternatively, a main SWF launcher might be appropriate for a series of mini-games ... a "Cluckie" launcher if you will. :)

I mentioned both of these to the development team, so I'm sure they will be using the tool in the next release!

Long live Cluckie!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Flash Mobile Game Review: Rune Mage

Rune Mage
Developed by Pixelthis Mobile
Released: February 2007
Availability: OTI (over the internet)
Requirements: Flash Lite 1.1 enabled device
(176x208, 176x220, 240x320 native resolutions are supported)

"If you’re like me, and you enjoy games like Sudoku, or Tetris, you’ll most likely eat this little ditty right up."

Review by Scott Janousek


So, I had a chance a few evenings ago to play a new Flash Lite puzzle based game released by Pixelthis Mobile; a New Zealand based Flash Mobile game company.

What can I say about Rune Mage? First off, it’s addictive (for me anyways). I’m always up for a good puzzle, and this game delivers. If you’re like me, and you enjoy games like Sudoku, or Tetris, you’ll most likely eat this little ditty right up! Fair warning though … it’s equivalent to cocaine for your run-of-the-mill puzzle junky out there. No joke, consider yourself forewarned!

The overall objective of the game is pretty simple. In the role of a “spell caster” you move around various ancient (magic) rune symbols set on a square grid until they complete a “magic spell” (they solve the puzzle for a particular stage). If you’re correct and runes match, then the spell starts to take shape (pieces start to glow in their respective places in the grid). Think of a traditional rainy day puzzle and you’ll get the picture here. Things fit or they don’t, until the puzzle is solved.

Unlike a traditional puzzle, however, moving the symbols involves selecting a position (or rune) in the grid with the select key and then using the up, down, left, and right keys to shift entire columns or rows of the overall puzzle. In a way it is very similar to some of the slider puzzles you see where you push around puzzle pieces until they complete a visual picture. Close, but this is much more satisfying …

But, herein lays one of the particular challenges of this game. In moving a particular row or column, you can sometimes unintentionally move pieces you’ve already placed, making it a requirement to think ahead. This kind of thought process is much in line with what you do when playing a game of chess, or sudoku. You need to give some thought about what your current move so you can complete the overall spell given. On lesser stages it’s not a requirement, but some of the later stages it’s imperative! Not to fret, as you move from being a “Neophyte” rune caster to being a “Master Rune Mage”, you’ll have to learn how to visualize the spell based on the level title hints. Fun!

To make everything even more challenging, each stage in the various levels (did we mention the game has 25 levels which contain multiple stages!?) has a predetermined time limit. If the time runs out, you lose the level and have to play it again. Luckily, there is your handy dandy “enter a code” feature to allow you to skip right to where you left off.

All in all, we found Rune Mage to a be a true classic in the Flash Lite puzzle genre category, worthy of very high praise due to both its addictive game play and unique theme. For a Flash Lite 1.1 game, this one rocks in my book.

The good:

Graphics – the game really shines here. The actual runes, stones, and overall game screens are laid out quite nicely. Other areas of the game, add a little pizzazz to the title. I think some might have been held back on because of overall file size, but some areas such as the splash screen could be a bit more engaging. After all, this is the first thing a user sees and is very important to captivate them there.

Sound - another bonus is the sound. I found the overall soundtrack to fit nicely with the game. There’s also a lovely option to toggle off sound. Although we wish we could do this throughout the game instead of at the very beginning, it’s still a valuable feature as you’ll end up playing this everywhere.

Game Play – I'll just came out and say it. The game play in this game is superb. The stage and level creation were given quite a bit of thought and it shows. The game is reminiscent of Tetris on a few levels. But the game play is unique enough to classify this title into its own genre. It's a shame we don't still do ratings here at Frame 27. This game is nearly perfect in terms of overall game play and experience, IMHO.

Multiplayer or a high score mechanism would be a nice have, but overall the title works best a standalone solo game. Overall, I enjoyed the atmosphere of the game. Frankly, it brought a tear to my eye, as the quaint memories of role playing games danced about in my head. If you like fantasy, or puzzles you’ll love this particular title!

The bad:

Minor User Interface Aesthetics: Level codes entries (sorry my battery just died so I don’t know the exact terminology used in the game) took some time to figure out based on the existing graphical assets. This could be easily fixed by swapping some graphical assets and changing the color coding to be more dramatic. The idea is there, we just found the existing method a bit unobvious at first try with what “grey” versus “brown” was. Although we are not colorblind, we might sympathize with someone who may suffer. Entering codes shouldn’t require any learning at all, and with some minor changes, this area of the game would be perfect! Adding a Flash Lite 1.1 save state style feature would be a bonus, but as is it works fine.

S.O.S. … Help Me: The help screen could be a bit more detailed (aka visual). If you’re into puzzle games, you’ll figure the game out on the 1st stage of the 1st level. It would be cool if this area could be spruced up a bit a graphic here and there, but the game is easy enough to pick up, so perhaps the overall file size isn’t warranted. No biggie!

Sadistic Level: “Carpet Snake” level was a particularly challenging and perhaps belongs with the later, more intricate levels. We found it very out of place on the very 1st level where some users may still be learning the game play. I see a lot of potential hair loss on this level … for your average casual gamer.

Performance: We wished there was an option to toggle on and off the motion effects when moving a puzzle piece. The “Rubix cube” effect is cool, but gets tiresome after a while. Plus it just tacks on more time when you’re trying to complete a particularly difficult stage where time is of the essence. Also, I did have one freak occurrence (1 time only instance) of the game freezing while seemingly idle, but otherwise the overall stability was quite good for the amount of game time we’ve put in this far.

Review by Scott Janousek

Monday, February 12, 2007

Flash Mobile Game Review: In the Crib with Rob and Big

In the Crib with Rob and Big
Developed by Zodal
Released: February 2007
Availability: OTI (Over The Internet)
Requirements: a Flash Enabled PSP

"This game is not to be missed as it represents perhaps one of the first Flash games created for the PSP platform for a major entertainment company!"

Review by Scott Janousek

In the Crib with Rob and Big

In the Crib with Rob and Big Youtube Video

In the Crib and Rob and Big YouTube Video


"In the Crib with Rob and Big", developed by Zodal (a New Zealand based Flash Mobile development company) has released a PSP Flash game loosely based on the MTV Networks reality TV show characters of the same name.

The game is a “sidescroller” with both old school 80's arcade style play and retro pixel graphics. The objective of the game is to earn points as Rob performs various skating moves, avoids obstacles/enemies, all while grabbing various "goodies" along the way.

At the end of each stage with Rob, the other character, "Big" then contends with various bosses, in which he must fight to help send Rob to the next level (of which there are currently three we know of). The object of the goal score as many points as you can on three unique levels of game play.

The game starts with a splash screen on which the pixelized representations of the Rob and Big characters are displayed. The graphics here set the tone for what you are to expect from this casual, yet rather challenging game. On the main menu screen, the user can select play the game, check out the scoreboard, toggle sound, or get the game credits. Clicking on the "Play Now" screen, leads the user into a rudimentary "How To" (Play) screen that explains the basic PSP keys to be used in the game. Clicking continue here bring the user directly into Level 1, "Beverly Hills".

The game play consists on using the left and right arrow keys to control Rob's skating speed as he moves from left to right in each scene presented. Using the "X" key makes Rob jump over obstacles. Using the "X" key in conjunction with arrow keys, such as when jumping off onscreen objects makes Rob perform skating tricks that earns him points. If you fail to clear an obstacle or mess-up you lose energy from your health bar. Lose enough energy and it wipes out one of your 3 total lives for game.

After each stage is cleared with Rob, Big is faced to fight some baddie. The controls here consist of various key combos that must be performed in exact precise order and within a quick elapse of time, otherwise Big looses health. If the user executes enough moves, Big defeats the enemy and Rob is able to go to the next level. As you progress throughout the game the levels do get harder, and are quite challenging given this is a casual game.

This game is not to be missed as it represents perhaps one of the first Flash games created for the PSP platform for a major entertainment company! It’s a fun, yet simple to play game with pixel based graphics reminiscent of early Sierra games. If you're expecting a nice casual and fun game, then you won’t be disappointed. If you're seeking a Tony Hawk like experience with 3-D graphics galore … well, look elsewhere!

Also, for those without a PSP, there is an alternative web version that you can play directly from your desktop at:


Here are some highlights of the PSP game:

The good:

Graphics: The quality bitmap graphics really set the tone for this game, and really make it one of the first high quality PSP Flash game created for a big name in the entertainment industry (MTV Networks) … that we know of, that is. We love the graphics and style!

Sound: The sound effects are excellent and the custom soundtrack created by Sam Trevethic and Nick Robinson, who form part of the well known New Zealand drum and base band Shapeshifter, really makes the game experience fun. We can’t imagine this game being quite as good without the sound! Kudos to the sound engineers on this project!

Performance: Truly, we can tell that this game has been greatly optimized for the PSP. “In the Crib” is more in lines of a Flash Lite game, than a true desktop game … but for good reason, the PSP has quite a few device constraints and limitations that Zodal has addressed quite nicely here. Once you start playing you won’t notice much performance lag at all!

Challenge: There are 3 fairly unique levels which will challenge you and keep you from getting immediately bored with game. The magic number 3 also makes it an ideal casual game for the train, or other places where you have a few minutes to kill.

The bad:

Instructions: The game instructions are not very encompassing. The game help is unfortunately not available on-the-fly, but rather served up before each game sequence begins. There is no pause during game either. There is no way to save or load your game. But is there a need? There are only 3 levels game play so perhaps not.

Game Play: In regards to game play, we did find it to be particularly challenging on the various "boss" levels with the Big versus baddy duels. You must be quick with key combos, or get your $ss handed to you! Perhaps this is intended ... as Big may not be “fast” but he sure packs a mean punch? We do not know. However, the key combos could be a bit larger here and the difficulty begs to ask the need for easy, medium, and hard settings, particularly in this area one area of this otherwise great game.

We also had one instance of the game freezing during a critical point in the game. We are not sure if this was a genuine bug, or perhaps some flakiness with either the Flash Player or PSP browser. It was not a regular occurence, so we believe it the later.

Installation: First time users to Flash based PSP gaming will have to do some digging in order to get the game installed and running within the PSP browser (but to no fault to Zodal). Unfortunately, at this time, no standalone and self executing Flash content is supported on the PSP. However, for those who are stuck, Zodal has graciously provided some help instructions which can be found here:

How to install "Rob and Big" (PDF)

In regards to the Rob and Big website ... we would have also liked this site to cater to the PSP, but currently it does not. Hopefully this is something that can be addressed in the near future, as it would perhaps allow another method for players to easily download as well as access the game online. We don’t blame Zodal here, as distribution is handled via another party.

Review by Scott Janousek