Ridiculous Fishing & LUFTRAUSERS

Game Review_Costantino

Ironically, the most popular story about Ridiculous Fishing concerns the clone that copied its core idea. Game cloning, albeit with different graphics, is unfortunately common practice in the mobile games market. Vlambeer were hit hard when a replica of their game was released before the genuine article. Their struggle with Ridiculous Fishing reflected the whole industry’s difficulties: creativity and originality are not always respected. The questions it raised propelled the game’s credibility, but best of all: Ridiculous Fishing is a brilliant piece of design.

Its premises are, indeed, ridiculous: fishing and shooting are combined in one frantic move. You’re an apparently tranquil fisherman that has to make their bait go as deep into the sea as possible while avoiding every obstacle. When you pull it up and fetch your catch, it will subsequently be propelled in the air. At that point, of course, you finish the job by dispatching your catch with miniguns.

This is Vlambeer’s unconventional design style: a deconstruction of old school game genres, namely the classic shoot’em up, where classic tropes are neglected in favor of bizarre game situations. Dribbling through obstacles is reminiscent of 80’s arcade games, while shooting flying targets refers to Nintendo’s classic Duck Hunt. These elements are brilliantly adapted to touchscreen devices, creating a game that is both immediate and deep: the qualities every mobile game wishes to have.

Screenshot from Ridiculous Fishing

The same ideas inspired LUFTRAUSERS, another take on the shoot’em up genre with a Vlambeer twist. The game presentation is classic: your little fighting jet is pit against hordes of enemies, including powerful battleships. But rather than taking them on one by one, you’ll left to freely roam the skies. You’ll shift from chasing them to running away. Your mission is a matter of endurance, but in the end you will be shot down.

Despite this harsh challenge, LUFTRAUSERS feels free and open. The jet is a joy to control, as the plane can just float around or free fall. In typical Vlambeer fashion, the power ups are much more than simple add-ons, but allow new game possibilities. For example, they can create a slow but tough jet, allowing your jet to perform (and survive) kamikaze attacks. On the other hand, the plane can be made lighter and faster, changing the game into a speed run.

With Ridiculous Fishing and LUFTRAUSERS, the Vlambeer team perfected a design style that mixes over the top ideas with classic elements. The games’ best qualities are probably their ease to learn and play, yet being surprisingly deep. Simple concepts are explored through minimal variations that reveal new possibilities and a well-balanced discovery path for the player.



Ridiculous Fishing

Platforms: iOS (version tested), Android

Developer: Vlambeer



Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita (version tested), Android

Hotline miami 2: Wrong Number

Game Review_Costantino

Indie games have allowed a new generation of creative developers to experiment. Nostalgia is a leading trope: defunct genres are being resurrected, and the 8-bit aesthetic is a stylistic trademark. Adhering to this practice, the first episode of Hotline Miami chewed-up old-school arcade games and nineties ultraviolence, mixing it up with a contemporary, psychedelic audiovisual blend.

Hotline Miami 2 keeps all of that with a set of new mechanics: players can now shoot sideways, roll under enemy fire, and brandish katanas. The game’s greatest merit is to carefully balance unabashed mayhem with careful strategy. You will need to memorise patterns and act quickly at the right time. And then, do it again and again.
As a sequel, Hotline Miami 2 feels rather conventional. As expected, every part of the game has been expanded and the game mechanics have been completely exploited. Its narrative has been exhausted and lost sequential logic. It now serves as a backdrop for yet another suicide assault.

Hotline Miami 2 is undoubtedly a joy: a well-crafted, ultrafast ride, with a fantastic, inspired soundtrack. The game is designed to satisfy its fanbase. The struggle continues between innovation and conservatism.

Vib Ribbon

Game Review_Costantino

If you’re into music-centric games, you’re in for a treat. Vib-Ribbon, the seminal rhythm game released in 1999 for the original Playstation, is back on contemporary consoles. It’s not a new version, but rather a faithful emulation: an important recognition for a title that was never commercially released in North America, but still made its way into the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York) collection. Continue reading

Pale Machine

Game Review_Costantino

Pale Machine2Our idea of digital games certainly doesn’t fit Pale Machine. The latest work of Ben Esposito — a multimedia artist based in Los Angeles — comprises a physical CD with eight songs and eight wacky game experiments that accompany every track  on the album. The title track (or game) is a sequence of absurd vignettes: first you are somehow controlling a bottle rolling on a desk. A few seconds after, you are awkwardly maneuvering a hyper extendable tongue, which soon enough will occupy the whole screen. The game then proceeds to completely change the controls, and now you become a giant hand floating in the sky of a suburb.

It is hard to grasp, but Pale Machine is a tribute to many other works: games like WarioWare and Keita Takahashi’s Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy. One can also hear echos of Japanese electronic musician Nobukazu Takemura, as well of the chiptune band YMCK. But the uniqueness of Pale Machine is in its ability to join together interaction design and music composition. It provides an intense and inspiring experience, perfectly appropriate for an artistic setting.




Game Review_Costantino


What is the story behind our smart phones? Phone Story retraces the production stages of our favorite products, showing us the dramatic working conditions behind their assembly. It seems like Apple didn’t like it: the game is now banned from the App Store.

Mass riots and frequent suicides shed a dark light on Foxconn, the company that assembles product for the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. Afterwards, it became impossible to ignore the conditions of the workers that mass-produce contemporary tech gadgets.

Enter Molleindustria, the software house funded by Paolo Pedercini, responsible for a remarkable series of ferociously satirical, “serious” games (check molleindustria.org for more — it’s worth it). Phone Story takes us through an uncomfortable ride of funny minigames with classic, familiar mechanics juxtaposed to harsh vignettes: underage miners extracting silicon, suicidal workers jumping from the roof of the factory, and an army of Apple — pardon, “Pear” — fans taking a flagship store by storm.

Don’t expect a radical new gaming experience with Phone Story, but pick it up if you’d like to reflect on the process that brought you your mobile, while you’re
actually holding it in the palm of your hand.