Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bunch of Short Game Reviews

Before my trip to London, I was taking a lot of time off work, and just sitting around playing video games. So here’s my thoughts on some of the games I played recently.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Amazing, just like every other Kirby game I’ve played so far. A lot of people told me that it was too easy or childish, but that’s exactly why I played it; so that I could enjoy the unique art style and relax a bit. And the art and animation really is amazing.

But it turns out that getting 100% completion was still reasonably challenging. Even though you can’t die, the scoring system means that you can’t take very many hits, if you want to earn all of the medals.

I’d also like to point out that this game does Wii controls right. It only using them in a few areas, and they’re fun in all of them. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this game. 😀


It’s so pretty! The Wii’s graphical limitations aren’t noticeable at all.

Donkey Kong Country Returns

This could have been a really fun platformer, but the way the Wiimote controls were implemented is just really stupid. Why do I have to shake the Wiimote when pressing a button would have been so much easier and more intuitive? Ugh. I should have gotten the 3DS version.

Besides that, the game’s great. The most notable thing is the amount of detailed background animations; Tidal waves, pirate ships, big enemies etc. They usually don’t effect the gameplay much, but they make the game way more exciting, and show that a lot of work went into the graphics.


You’re really only dodging those moles, but having a train loop around you makes things way more exciting!

Excite Truck

Got this for cheap and wasn’t expecting much. It’s a very simple game, but it’s still really really really fun, and I had a great time with it. Strangely enough, the Wii controls didn’t bother me, like they usually do. I hated trying to play Mario Kart with the Wiimote, but here they seemed to work okay.

Anyway: Rocket powered trucks + Heavy metal + High speed and huge jumps = Awesome fun. 😀


You probably spend more time in the air than on the ground!

Forza Motorsport 4

I always wondered why people enjoyed realistic racing games. I picked this up just to see if I could possibly enjoy the genre. Using the “easy mode” controls, the game was incredibly boring. It was just like playing Mario Kart, but on very boring stages and with no items.

But then I changed the controls to “realistic”, and it became a totally different game. On my first attempt at realistic controls, I damaged my engine by not using the clutch, lost control of my car on the first turn, barrel rolled a few times, and then couldn’t start my car again, because it was wrecked. Simply controlling your car becomes the biggest part of the challenge, which contrasts quite heavily with less realistic racing games. A bit frustrating at first, but I found it surprisingly fun!

I’m sure that people who are seriously into cars and motorsports would enjoy the game a lot more than me though. There’s a lot of customization you can do on your car that just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know about tire pressure, suspension, gearing, and all that. 😛


I also wanted to play this for the shiny graphics.

Under Defeat

Here’s another Shoot em up! The controls are a bit strange in this one, but to me, that’s what makes it stand out from others. Your helicopter turns sideways when you move, unless you’re shooting. And the whole game is tilted forward a bit to give it depth, and isn’t completely flat like most shmups. So that takes some getting used to.

I love shmups, and this was no exception. It had massive bosses, lots of explosions and a somewhat interesting power up system. It’s also nice to see a vertical shmup that fully supports widescreen. Most of them usually only use a 3rd of the screen. I’m also glad that the Deluxe version comes with a soundtrack CD, because the soundtrack is amazing!

A few major complaints though: Enemy shots look very similar to yours, so it’s easy to not see them if they’re overlapping. Ugh! Smoke often covers enemies, so you think you’re safe and then some shots fly out from a smoke cloud. Urgh! The game also looks quite cheaply made, overall. Just a little.


Did I mention the bosses were massive?

Starling Tests

When I was in London, a bunch of people recommended that I check out the Starling framework for making Flash games for mobile platforms. I was already slowly looking into it, but after hearing about the massive advantages and relative ease of implementation, I jumped right into it.

Basically, Starling let’s you use Flash’s Stage3D API and hardware acceleration without having to do any low-level programming.
With hardware acceleration, you get much better performance, which is very important for mobiles.

The limitation is that Flash’s traditional motion-tweened animations don’t really port well; it’s better to use sprite-sheet style animation.
That’s fine for Cat Cafe though, because the animations are very simple, and I can port the tweening required quite easily.

Anyway, here’s some of the tests I did:


Test 1: Stars


Test 2: Cats


Test 3: Tweens






The first test is just a bunch of glowy and transparent objects bouncing around, much like they would in Bullet Heaven.

The second test has a lot more particles and no transparency, which speeds things up a bit.

The final test is just to see what Starling’s built in tweening engine can do. It’s pretty easy to code objects flying around, stretching, rotating and fading. But it would be pretty hard to animate a character with multiple moving parts this way.

All of these tests should run at 60fps on a decent machine. They’re pretty extreme though, and no games that I have planned will need this many objects, not even a potential Bullet Heaven 2. For now I’m just going to use Starling to get Cat Cafe working at 60fps on crappy phones.

Blog of London

So as I mentioned a while ago, Mochi were hosting a Flash game developer meetup in London, and I was invited to speak at it. That happened last weekend, and here’s a blog about how it went.


My favorite photo from the trip, with ChrisJeff, Jimp, and Jay Armstrong

This was actually my first time traveling completely alone, so it was quite educational. I planned the trip, explored, and stayed at a hostel by myself. I had never met any of the people at the meetup, and had only talked to a few of them online. I had never been to London before, and didn’t know much about it either.

But everything went better than expected.
Staying at a hostel is easy if you follow a few simple tips, everyone I met was friendly, public transport was easy to use, and getting lost is impossible when you have GPS on your phone.

Day 1: Exploring Central London

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral

I spent my first day in London just walking around the city center.

Walked past the Shard, and that curved building that melts things. I hear that London has some of the highest skyscrapers in Europe, but they’re still pretty small compared to those in America or Asia. Having been to Hong Kong, I was not very impressed by the height of the buildings here. 😛

St. Paul’s Cathedral looked pretty nice from the outside, but it was kinda boring on the inside. Security guards were quick to stop people from taking photos, and the most interesting areas were reserved for people actually attending the services. Also, the style and layout of the inside looked pretty similar to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, but smaller and less decorated. So I wasn’t particularly impressed.

I also saw the Tower Bridge from a distance. Didn’t seem like a big deal.

So yeah! London’s buildings weren’t very impressive to me. The parks were nice though, and there seems to be quite a lot of them for such a big city.

I was supposed to meet up with ChrisJeff today, but he was very ill and stayed in his hotel, so that never happened.

Day 2: Presentations at King’s College

The main Mochi event was a series of presentations at King’s College, with a bunch of food and networking breaks. There was a big variety of people there, including programmers, artists, game distributors, and students. Some were younger than me, but most were way older and more experienced than me. Around 40 people showed up in total.

This was the first time I met other developers that work in similar areas to me, so it was great being able to talk to people who actually understand what kind of work I do, and to also meet a lot of people who’s work inspired me as a kid.

My presentation was about the marketing and deployment strategy for Epic Battle Fantasy 4, and which parts worked and which parts didn’t. I might upload my slideshow later, but it won’t be very good without me talking, and I don’t think any of the presentations were recorded.

Anyway, I was a bit nervous about the whole thing, but it turned out fine. People actually found what I said to be quite useful, and noted that I sounded very “honest”.

And then we all went to the pub afterwards.


I got a lot of free stickers and business cards

Besides the 3 guys pictured above, some awesome people I met include Tom from the Super Flash Brothers, TheEXP, RobotJam, Colin from Mochi, the guys from Bad Viking, Toge Productions, and DampGnat.

Even though the event was sponsored by Kongregate, none of their official employees were there, which was a bit disappointing. It would have been cool to meet some of them, and some more American developers, but I guess it’s quite far to travel from San Francisco.

Day 3: Game Jam at the Loading Bar

The second Mochi event was a short Game Jam at the Loading Bar, which is an awesome video game themed bar, with arcade machines and consoles. I didn’t participate in the Game Jam directly, as I don’t even own a laptop, but I did help out a bit by Googling for sound effects, and borrowing machines when people went on breaks.

Most of the time I was just playing games though. I got the top score in Defender! I wonder if the score will still be there when I come back next year. Me and Colin even played all the way through DoDonPachi together.


Jammin’ away

The Game Jam only lasted around 10 hours, so the games people managed to put together in that time weren’t terribly impressive. But there was one that was pretty fun; it was a local-multiplayer Unity game, with Xbox controller support, about gentlemen fighting on the Tower Bridge, and dodging raindrops.

I don’t think the games are available to play anywhere yet, but I’ll let you guys know if/when they are.

Day 4: Natural History and Science Museums

The Natural History Museum was really the only thing I wanted to see in London, because I had seen it in a lot of documentaries and it just genuinely looked like an awesome place to visit. And it was. The building itself looked beautiful, and the exhibits were also very interesting. There were tons of dinosaur skeletons, fossils, preserved animals, paintings, old trees, and minerals. If I had more free time, I would have liked to sit around and sketch some of the unusual objects they had. Instead I just took a lot of photos.


The main hall of the Natural History Museum looks amazing

I also visited the Science Museum, which was just next to the Natural History Museum, but I found it less interesting, mainly because I’ve seen similar stuff in other museums. They had a lot of vehicles, including cars, tractors, planes, and spacecraft. They also had a bunch of really old everyday objects, including some early computer hardware.

After that I headed home. The end.

Here’s a public Facebook album of all the photos I took in London (excluding those from the Mochi events).