Free, fun games by a top game maker: Recharge by Rachel Lopez
His name is Benjamin Croshaw, better known as Ben and even better known by his nickname Yahtzee. Fans know Yahtzee as the man who’s developed video games, written four sci-fi novels, raced through game reviews at Zero Punctuation at Escapist Magazine, and worked on two web series.
But if you’ve never heard of him, know that Yahtzee is the game guy fighting commericalised gaming (and the demons in his head) while keeping you entertained. In May, he pledged to make 12 games in 12 months, and release a video diary about their development every fortnight.
This is huge. Video games – from Angry Birds to Call of Duty – take months, sometimes years, to produce. And increasingly, they’re coming out of mammoth game companies, with promo blitzes, complicated gameplay, unoriginal premises and unnecessary add-on purchases. The responses to them are just as loaded – reviewers make careers out of slickly shot rants; in comment forums, angry tirades last for months.
Yahtzee’s games are quick, light and free. Their pixelated animation will remind you of classics like Donkey Kong and Contra. But unlike either, his are slyly, subversively funny.
He kicked off with Preflight Panic, which needs just your arrow and Enter keys to direct a flight attendant up and down an aisle of passengers, fastening errant seatbelts during the countdown to takeoff. How do you know who’s undone? They’re fidgeting in their seats. What happens if you don’t finish? The flight takes off, and crashes, with the message “You killed us all”. It starts out easy, with increasing levels of difficulty.
Yahtzee knows how to do more with less. His Zero Punctuation reviews have minimalist line drawings (and rapid-fire narration, hence the title).
Try his July game, Upbeat, in which a Michael-Jackson-in-Bille-Jean-type character must dance, jump, stomp and bounce off floating panels. The catch — his moves must sync with the background disco music. For gamers, whose hand-eye coordination has been honed for speed, this is surprisingly difficult. And the unlearning and unwinding is its own reward.
The Life of Erich Zann gets you to play a violin in tandem with wartime shells exploding on the horizon. The upcoming Hogpocalypse Sow will have a redneck farmer side-firing two guns to kill correspondingly coloured feral pigs. I already regret that he didn’t name it Aporkalypse Sow.
Each of his Dev Diary videos offers a different reason for why he’d take up such a challenge. One suggests it’s his doctor’s recommendation to keep him from self-harm. He has eight games more to do and I wish him the best – and better puns!