You know, to be honest, I was a little torn about what to bring out for this week's installment of Free and Worth Every Penny. I really enjoyed the multi-game roundup that Mike gave us for Christmas, and there's already been enough cool looking Flash stuff pulling my eyes to it since the first of the year that we could probably justify another one of those. But I'm going to hold off, let that simmer on the back burner for awhile and maybe let the best flavors rise to the top first. For now, let us look forward. Let us look to Spring.
It's crappy out right now. There's snow and sleet damn near everywhere, and it's cold, and everything's dead. But it won't be that way forever! No, the fine folks over at 2DBoy know better. (Yeah, mention the developers of World of Goo and suddenly I have your attention, don't I?) They know that soon, new plants will tentatively poke out of the soil, ready to stretch to the heavens, devouring people to feed themselves as they avoid falling, exploding rocks.
That doesn't sound like Spring, you say? How little you know. Enter:
Technically, Sunshine is the product of only half of 2DBoy - specifically, Kyle Gabler. Its connection to World of Goo, however, is clear the moment you begin playing. Gabler's visual style is immediately recognizable - which I suppose could be a negative if you aren't fond of it, but since I was a huge fan of the sights and sounds of World of Goo, I'm delighted to have even just a little bit more.
Posted over at the Experimental Gameplay Project (which Mr Gabler helped to create), Sunshine is a tiny prototype of a game, especially when compared to something like Goo, but it manages to pack quite a bit of addictive high-score chasing into a simple concept. Using the mouse, the player controls a vine reaching up from the ground to grow as tall as it can before it runs out of energy, which it continually loses as it grows.
Energy can only be replenished by sprouting flowers - which is to say, by using the mouse to draw loops around the tiny people falling constantly from the heavens like so many human Tetrominoes. Snag more than one at a time, and you're rewarded with a combo bonus and more energy. As you grow higher, the people begin falling faster, making it continually more difficult to keep your energy reserve filled.
In addition, you must deal with falling rocks (which look strangely like explosive mines, but hey, I'm already growing flowers by eating people here, so fine); let one of these hit you, and you're docked energy and points. You can defend against these rocks, however, by sending air bubbles up to catch them - make a loop without any people in it, and a giant bubble is sent skyward to ensnare any rock it intercepts. (Be aware, it'll also catch people, potentially robbing you of points.)
It isn't all that complicated, but there's just enough depth there to hook you for awhile as you try to best your high score with a taller vine and a higher combo count. In addition to the visual style for which 2DBoy so quickly became known, Sunshine's audio also lives up to Kyle's previous work, with delightful music and playful sounds.
- reminds me of the tower mode of World of Goo, a bit.
- okay, obviously reminds me of World of Goo in several ways.
- still manages to stake out its own quirky identity.
- provided me with a good half hour of fun trying to improve my score.
A gameplay tip: I had much more success drawing tight vertical loops than horizontal ones. It seems the bigger a loop gets, the less likely the game will accept it and grant you flowers for it.
The download for Sunshine is a reasonable 10 MB, and runs on Windows. Go check it out here.
One more quick note before I go: The latest version of Spelunky is out, and you should go get it. If you somehow haven't played Spelunky yet, it's one of the best freeware games of last year (or any year), and you must. If there's ever a "freeware you need on every machine" FWEP feature, Spelunky will be on that list.
Okay, I'm done. Get on outta' here.