Enter Boro-Toro

March 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

For the most part the BAFTA Video Game awards played out exactly as everyone expected them to. LittleBigPlanet got itself the ‘Artistic Achievement’ award, not surprising given said game’s unique style, and Spore took home the ‘Technical Achievement’ for its ground breaking animation techniques. A less well known award, the ‘Ones to Watch’ award, went to DarkMatter Designs for their 2D platform-puzzler ‘Boro-Toro’ in which “either a ‘Boro’ named ‘Toro’ or a ‘Toro’ named ‘Boro’” – even the team themselves aren’t sure – solves his (its?) way across half a dozen levels of physics based puzzles.
Boro-Toro was nominated for the award following its runner up status in Dare to be Digital , a competition hosted by Abertay university in which university graduates in teams of five compete to create a game in the space of ten weeks. Boro-Toro then went on to impress judges at the ProtoPlay event held in Edinburgh to become one of the three runners up to be put forward for the BAFTA. Although there is a cash prize in it for the three winning teams the competition’s focus lies in giving graduates the contacts to get their foot in the industry’s door, as well as the confidence and experience needed to succeed.

It was with this aim that DarkMatter Designs struck out to create what eventually became Boro-Toro, but where did the design originally come from? According to Graham Ranson (who incidentally takes no credit for the game’s inception, insisting that that should instead be placed firmly in the womb of Adam Westwood) the game stems from a desire to “take the possibilities allowed in such physics sandboxes as Phun and Crayon Physics and then combine them with Point and Click games such as Samarost and Monkey Island.”

The result is something which feels instantly familiar and yet wholly different, thanks in part to its innovative use of the WiiMote and Nunchuk. Contrary to what you may believe, the technical side of implementing the WiiMote wasn’t actually the hardest part of using it, the challenge coming instead from the design side of things. “The hardest part of developing with the Wii Remote was really just making sure we used it properly and played to its strengths rather just ‘adding waggle.’”

It’s really the puzzles in Boro-Toro that take centre stage however. Using the WiiMote, you manipulate the objects on screen in order to reach your objective. Puzzles range from simple bridge-building exercises to complex giant rotating grids of death, all of which completely interactable. What’s interesting however is how your Boro named Toro (or Toro named Boro) is never safe from harm whilst interacting with the environment as other protagonists so often are. Indeed often it becomes part of the challenge to keep the little guy safe as you perilously alter his surroundings, something which caused many problems during development, as it gives the player the ability to stand on an object and then carry themselves through a level. Luckily this was a problem easily overcome, as Graham explains: “At first we thought this was game breaking but were able to make various design decisions such as self-contained levels and well placed barriers that allowed us to leave it in as just another way a player could solve a puzzle.”

With its charming art style Boro-Toro was always going to remind us all of Sony’s seminal platformer, but as anyone who’s played it will tell you it certainly isn’t as one YouTube comment poster put it; “a wii version of little big planet” though it seems DarkMatter will ultimately always be fighting an uphill struggle on this point, albeit exclusively with people who’ve never touched the game. Therein lies the solution: If you have a free moment then I strongly suggest you head over to their site where Boro-Toro can be criminally grabbed at no cost whatsoever.

All that remains to be asked of the developers is the age old question, cake or pie? “As much as I love cake, there are just too many possibilities for pies for it to be beaten,” he replies and isn’t that – insert metaphor here – ?

Skate 2: My moments of Frustration

March 4, 2009 § 7 Comments

As proved by the mistakes made in my Mercenaries 2 review you should never review a game you haven’t finished. For this reason I won’t be posting a review of Skate 2 at any point; I simply don’t care for it enough to complete the damn thing. That said I still care enough to post a little, about points in the game which have annoyed me considerably. Some of them might be down to me not grasping key concepts with the game, in which case the time should have been taken to explain the bloody things to me before I got all worked up about them.

Challenge: Complete a downhill course of sorts, racking up a bigger score than my rival. Reach the bottom in order for score to count.

Problem: I’m bailing every time I try and go down a ramp, with no explanation as to why.

I finally get a high enough score but get stuck in a bowl. Try getting off my board but it turns out the jump button is fucking useless and won’t let you climb out. It seems the jump button is only useful for scaling rises in terrain you could easily ollie.

Challenge: Grind a high ledge. There’s a slanted picnic table set up to help achieve this.

Problem: I move the table to make it easier. Hit the corner of the table, bail, have to reposition. Every time you bail you have to press 3 buttons and then wait for a countdown timer before you can retry.

I make it into the ledge, reached the end and dropped to the floor. Bail, restart.

I get too close to the wall next to the ledge so my skater rotates to ride the fucking wall, when he was in the perfect position to grind the ledge had he not moved.

Challenge: Hit a large ramp at the bottom of a hill. The majority of said hill is a road.

Problem: There’s a T-junction at the point where the hill stops being road and turns into skate ramp. Cars keep on coming from the right, but by the time I see them it’s too late. If I slow down then I won’t have enough speed for the jump, but if I keep going I’m going to collide with something. Bail, restart.

Challenge: Land a grind and a slide down the same ledge.

Problem: Actually no problem with the actual challenge here, but when I completed it I got the message “Very Awesomeness.” I was not impressed.

All of this on after a couple days of play. Expect additions to this list.

Additions:

Challenge: Follow some pro skater around a ‘spot.’

Problem: Never choose to do a challenge with a pro skater you actually like; the amount of times he’s come up behind me and knocking me off my board is insane. Couldn’t they build in some system to prevent this?

Man I fucking such at Skate.

Problem: DragonForce are on the soundtrack. Whenever their song comes on I restart the challenge to make it go away. Even if it means losing all my progress it’s better than listening to that shit.

Challenge: Follow a pro skater. A lengthy part of this section is down a hill.

Problem: Traveling down the hill I need to coffin to make it under a barrier but the camera can’t decide which side of the skater it wants to go. I bail endlessly before finally getting through on a tenth or so attempt.

Oh no. I need to get off the board to walk up some steps into a house to complete the challenge. The timer’s ticking down but I can’t make him walk round the damn corner. Fail, restart.

Side thought: There should be away to do a quick 180 spin instead up a painfully slow turn. Checking the trick list… Nope, nothing.

Challenge: Nose and tailslide across a couple of ledges in a pond.

Problem: First off nowhere in the game does it tell me how to do a noseSLIDE, so I’m going in the hope that a noseBLUNT is the same thing.

Second off there’s another skater doing the tricks simultaneously to me; every time I go he gets in my way and I bail into the pond. Restart.

Closing thoughts:

I hate the way I feel like I’m not in control, but a slave to the physics system. I hate the way my skater can never decide whether he wants to manual or not, and I hate the way I can never make instantaneous decisions without fucking up my line and failing the challenge. I hate the way the smallest obstacles stop you dead in your tracks and I hate the way there’s no way of climbing anything higher than your waist. I hate the way the way I’m always fighting the camera as it moves around and I hate the way you can only jump forward mere millimeters. I hate everything about this fucking game. I hate Skate 2.

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