It's been a Q-Games summer. When I think back on things, I realize that I have not only purchased and played every DS downloadable title from Q-games, but I've also become a fan of the company. With articles written on DigiDrive and X-Scape, I'm adding Trajectile, Starship Defense, and PixelJunk Shooter 2 to the queue. Each of these three games deserves some special attention. So we'll start with this missile launching puzzle game that also goes by the name...
Trajectile. This game is the new Zengage, one of my GOTY from 2009. The graphics are stylized, simple, and a bit rough resolution wise (at least on my 3DS screen). The music tracks are catchy but few in number. The predominant colors of each stage are just blue, green, and red (see image below). And all you do is aim and fire missiles from the bottom screen to the top in attempt to hit all the glowing targets. After my first 40 minutes of playing, I wasn't really enjoying the game. But I knew that like many puzzle games, things start of slowly. So, I stuck with it. I'm now clocked in at 23 hours and I've earned a medal on all 230 stages.
Needless to say I really enjoyed the game. Instead of writing more formally, I'll just hit the highlights in bullet point format.
- Aiming with the touch screen is brilliant. Just slide the stylus around to adjust the aim of the missiles. To fine tune, just hold L/R and continue sliding the stylus. I actually played most of the game riding the train to and from work. The bumpy tracks didn't stop me.
- The missiles in this game bounce and rebound with perfect collisions (from what I can tell). In other words, you never have to worry about the same action resulting in two very different results due to system error (random variation). If the system was more "physics based" the result could have been very "shoot and hope for the best" instead of puzzlely where strategy, reading, and consistency are essential.
- The missile and powerup design is very well-rounded. Of course, I'm talking about design space. The 3 missile types (blue, green, red) bounce, pierce through, and explode on contact with level blocks respectively. Then there are powerups that increase the power of missiles, doubles the ammo for a turn, and convert one type of missile into another. The special blocks (bomb, split, shield, and hard) have neat effects that keep things interesting.
- With just a few gameplay elements and one mode of play, Q-Games delivers 230 levels! The biggest downside to this much content is that the levels struggle to be distinct and blend together somewhat. And becaues the game doesn't feature online leaderboards, the chances of finding and comparing my scores to others and battling for top spots becomes less likely as there are so many levels to divide one's attention among.
- There are 3 main ways to challenge yourself in Trajectile. 1) just beat the level. 2) Earn a medal by beating the level with at least one move to spare. And 3) go for a high score. At each level the reading and strategies change.
- Aiming is one of my favorite gaming actions because of how it stresses various combinations of the DKART skills. Visualizing angles and bounces in Trajectile engages the mind much in the same way that artists and viewers of art experience. It's called seeing the implied line, and it is a very important part of Trajectile's gameplay.
- Building and using aiming skills is the most reliable way to earn medals. Because of this design, I think it was better for Trajectile not to feature an "undo" button. It's good to be stuck with your less than satisfactory missile shots not because its a kind of punishment meant to reinforce more skillful play down the road. It's good because of emergence and spectator sport moments. Simply because a shot didn't go exactly according to my plan all was not lost. As I worked through the process of finding solutions, working through my "mistakes" often revealed new insights. And when I thought that my chances of winning were gone, I would always hope for a series of miracle bounces. I remember being on the edge of my seat watching the missiles reflect around the screen carrying with them my last hopes for success. Such is the nature of spectator sport moments.
- There are some potential real-time challenges in the game, but these are very nuanced. After completing the game 100%, I don't recall ever needing to launch 2 rounds of missiles so that their bouncing coordinated in real-time to earn a medal. In other words, the gameplay is designed around turn-based strategies. Q-Games could have pushed the level design to this level, but it's probably a good thing they didn't.
Trajectile is only 5 dollars. I thought I should mention that. Next up, Starship Defense.