My cats have a pretty standard routine at this point that passes for the two of them fighting, and it’s kind of hilarious. They’ll both be perched on their hind legs glaring at one another, but neither one of them wants to actually hurt the other, just sort of whap the other around. The result is that for a couple moments they look as if they’re just going to glare or pounce, then one of them smacks the other without claws, and then the whole thing devolves into kitty paw-slaps and yowls. A confused mess of angry fur and smacking.
Hammerfight reminds me a lot of that. Not in the sense of adorable cats, but in the idea that it’s a confusing mess of a slap-fight. It’s got a fascinating and engaging premise, totally, but it’s an idea that never does a good job developing beyond that, and interesting aesthetics and concepts don’t make for a good game.
I’m just going to lead off here with what I think is a pretty simple thesis: if your game can’t sustain a demo that lasts for at least half an hour, you might not want to put out a demo in the first place.
I blew through Unmechanical‘s entire demo in about 15 minutes, and that was with a bug that made one puzzle take longer than it should have. That’s really short. Flash-game short. And I make that comparison for a good reason, too, because Unmechanical has definitely been sipping from the cup of Flash gaming, namely the vague and surreal cup that places an emphasis on a clever look and environments over actual narrative.
That’s not necessarily to disparage games that are all about clever looks and environment; some of them are, in fact, quite fun to play. But it’s a tricky line to walk. For every game you can think of that was a fun play while mostly being based upon looking neat, I can think of a dozen that missed the point of those great games in favor of the surface elements. Unmechanical feels more like the latter than the former.
PopCap games, by their very nature, are not complex beasts to decipher. You can get a sense of them within a few moments. Oh, sure, they ramp up in complexity a fair bit, offer new wrinkles and the like, but these are not games with deep narrative structure and bewildering turns. These are games in which brightly colored things interact with other brightly colored things in a fashion which is fun enough to play for a few hours without realizing that you’ve been playing for a few hours.
If you are turned off by the idea of bright colors being a fun ride, you may wish to re-examine your life goals, as at some point you appear to have mistaken cynicism for depth.
Insaniquarium is one of PopCap’s earlier offerings, and as such it’s a bit rougher than their later offerings but still offers more or less what you’d expect. Sure, the game is probably best defined as a puzzle game, but it’s more of a fish-management simulator with pooped coins and alien invasions. If you like PopCap games, you’ll like it. You get the idea.