Category Archives: game


finally got around to playing kyle pulver’s bonesaw. the level design is informed by masahiro sakurai’s kirby games, particularly the “bomb block” element which is borrowed outright. the bomb block is truth be told my favorite thing about the design of the kirby games, and it’s high time someone made a game about them.

what the bomb block is is a way of expanding the verbs available for the player to interact with the world of kirby / bonesaw. you hit it, and a line of tiles are replaced domino-style, either by open air or solid blocks or anything in between. punching a bomb block essentially translates your primary verb into, gosh, any number of world-transformations.

one of my favorite examples (from kirby super star) is a bomb block that simulates the effects of blasting a hole through the bottom of a basin of water and the water cascading out and breaking and flowing around platforms and forming a pool at the bottom. and all just by replacing a bunch of empty tiles with water tiles from the top down. that’s a pretty economic design element.

(a more common example, which appears in every kirby game, bonesaw included, is the bomb that takes out the platforms holding up a bunch of cannons, causing them to tumble into pits and thus become harmless.)

the bomb block is the real star of bonesaw. and i think that it’s absolutely the place of freeware developers to expand on and continue the work commercial developers aren’t permitted to. (after all, i did make mighty jill off.)

what else about the game? combat is boring, and there’s seemingly some layer of sports machismo that i don’t understand or care about. bomb block, i have eyes only for you.


this port of tyrian to the ds has been getting a lot of my time. not because of tyrian itself. though we all love daniel cook‘s spritework and alexander brandon’s music, the game itself is really only a more-charming-than-average euroshmup. i’ve been playing opentyrian ds because it includes destruct.

destruct is a mini-game hidden inside tyrian. in the original game, you have to type “d-e-s-t-r-u-c-t” on the title screen to reach it. (on the ds, i can simply pick it off a menu.) it’s maybe the best (realtime!) take on scorched earth anyone’s ever took.

there are a bunch of different weapons that appear in the game, and they all play differently: the traditional cannon, which uses fast, weak “tracer” shots to mark a path to the enemy before deploying slow, strong “large” shots; the radar dish, whose electric blue lasers are unaffected by gravity and ricochet off the edges of the screen; the helicopter, the most mobile by far but the weakest and the easiest target; and the repulsor, which doesn’t itself fire but allows me to redirect my enemy’s own weapons back towards its guns.

(one of my little thrills in the game is picking the dish and sitting on the button, watching the sky fill with bouncing blue lasers, having no idea whether they’re going to end up on my side of the screen or my opponent’s.)

also charming on the homebrew ds is lone wolf ds, not just because it uses the “book” orientation of the ds but because its goal is to manage the “game” part of reading a gamebook, so i can focus on the “book” part. that’s what early crpgs were designed to do, after all: act as the gm of a single-player pen & paper game.

rom check fail

rom check fail stitches together the most iconic games of the eighties with the unifying thread of the glitch. the goal is to clear each screen of enemies, but they might be space invaders or asteroids or the qix and you might be mario or link or the defender and each of these things is prone to change in the midst of a sprite scramble every few seconds.

what i like about rom check fail is that implicit in its design is the understanding that there’s a common vocabulary of videogames. each avatar has its own verb: mario jumps, the tank shoots, pac-man gobbles. the game emerges when different verbs are set against different objects.