Under The Radar is a weekly look at games that have ended up hidden through lack of coverage, but shouldn’t have been. If you have a game that you think should be featured here, leave it in the comments and I’ll be sure to check it out.
While the video game medium is fairly young, it’s already old enough to have conventions. This is important as any study in art history—whether books, music or visual—highlights that each generation’s innovations are a response to the previous one’s rules.This week’s announcement of I Wanna Be The Guy: Gaiden made me think of modern games that incorporate the rules and expectations of early games and then break them along the way to create effects on players who are “well-read” in the medium.
I Wanna Be The Guy is freeware for the PC that was released in 2007 by Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly. The game is both a love letter to early console games and a masochistic platformer that makes Super Meat Boy seem a walk in the park. The game’s difficulty doesn’t come in having precisely designed levels that are tough because they challenge skills players have learned, but rather because rules that the game puts in place are immediately violated. Dodging apples that fall down from a tree seems logical, but then they start falling up as soon as traversing platforms above becomes necessary. Spiked floors suddenly become vertical and rush forward towards players even though they’ve already managed to pass over it. Levels are copy-pasted straight out of old games and become even more difficult than they originally were.
The intended effect of this punishing gameplay? Frustration. Anger. A good laugh. IWBTG manages to be nostalgic in a way that no other game has. You can still pick up the game for free here.
Not Tetris 2 was made by a group who run StabYourself.net. The game is modeled after the original Gameboy version of Tetris in every way, from the music to the graphics, except for one vital element: they’ve added physics. What results is a visual cacophony of falling tetronimos as players attempt to create straight lines out of jumbled blocks. Spinning has momentum, making it impossible to line up a block correctly and even falling straight down is impossible as pieces with “heavier” ends have spin. This mixing of a modern video game system (physics) combined with an older game is also what makes the next game great as well.
Developed by the same group who made Not Tetris 2, Mari0 combines the original Super Mario Bros. game with the portals from Portal. As both games were about the joys of player controlled movement, it actually turns out to be a perfect match. The levels are exact replicas of the original Mario game, so habit may induce players to go through the levels with the same strategies that saw them through the first time, but the use of portals allows for a whole new exploration of the classic title. The developers have also released a level editor that allows the game to thoroughly explore the combination of Mario gameplay and portals.