It feels like years since I’ve gotten lost in a console game. As I’ve gotten older and life has gotten busier, my gaming adventures (and game design work) have tended to take place on mobile or desktop. A train journey here or flight there being the perfect time to explore a new story or world. But the ritual of setting up the Playstation and telly, getting comfy on the sofa with friends and settling in for an evening’s session has been something missing from my adult life…until now!
It seems odd that my brother and I never got round to playing Zelda together as kids (we were very focussed on Final Fantasy) but I always suspected it would be something I’d enjoy. This year the planets finally aligned as my boyfriend Adam decided to set up The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on an emulator.
!!! SPOILERS BELOW !!!
At first I wan’t entirely sure about the strong primary colour palette and chunky 3D characters, but after an hour of gameplay I was addicted. As we’ve explored the vast ocean world i’ve grown accustomed to the simple visual style and been impressed by how many emotions a small number of polygons can trigger. Sailing in our little dragon boat over stormy, rain-whipped waves, I’ve felt glad to be safe inside our living room. Creeping in the shadows of an enemy’s lair to avoid their searching spotlights has had my heart rate climbing…
It’s lovely to slowly learn the language of a new game again. How do I jump? What can I smash? How many weapons might there be?…Beginning to uncover it’s depth. When you first play a game you’re unsure if it will all be over in three or four missions, realising that the map is much larger than you thought and the path to the final boss is by no means clear is just so exciting! And as it turns out, there is plenty to do in Wind Waker.
Some bosses have had us stuck for hours, straining our brains to work out clever ways through only to realise it was a completely logical solution all along (usually centred around the last weapon or item we’d unlocked).
The UI and UX can be pretty frustrating at times. Having to repeatedly open and close the menu to equip items into slots is quite fiddly. The level maps are often scantily basic too…however the game’s charm more than makes up for this. Then there’s the evocative music, which coincidentally is a great soundtrack to work to! Crawling through giant shells, edging around perilous cliff faces, launching into the air with a leaf parachute, it’s just so good to get lost in a console game again!
All Zelda images gratefully borrowed from the internet and used here without permission.
I had such a pleasant experience playing through Old Man’s Journey. Created by Austrian game studio Broken Rules, it’s an emotional game told through stunning illustration. I found it so refreshing – the perfect choice if you’re looking for something different to play on your phone.
I don’t want to give too much away but at the start of the game our white-bearded hero receives a letter. We never see the contents but after reading it he promptly packs his rucksack and sets off on his journey.
He walks through pretty little towns with houses like jewels, rolling pastel coloured hills, over train tracks, up narrow winding roads and even sliding down waterfalls. The art is style is just so beautiful! Clearly the creators know their way around a colour palette! They layer soft textures and play with composition to draw you into his world.
The atmosphere builds as the journey continues. The weather changing from gentle sunshine to howling winds and driving rain. The carefully considered SFX build the world even more. Tiny sheep bleat and miniature bells can be rung. The original score means that even playing through trickier puzzles is a relaxing experience.
The puzzles themselves are unique to me. In order to progress, we must use our fingers to literally move mountains! Pushing hills closer together and rearranging the landscape to make a safe way through. Whilst some levels were trickier than others, the puzzles never feel frustrating and the super minimal UI keeps the screen free of clutter.
The story is an emotional one. More is revealed as you progress and you start to build a picture of this little character’s life. I love to play and work on games that make you feel something. If you’ve got any suggestions for games that you’ve enjoyed – please do share them with me!
My Unity game ‘A Witch’s Garden’ is taking shape! The 2D games tutorial that I used as a starting point was a great way to kick things off. It makes use of the ‘Playground Project’ a very useful pack of ready made scripts and assets. After making their demo game, I was able to move on and use the scripts like puzzle pieces to create a simple, object collection game.
Initially I used the pack’s existing spaceship art to get the foundation of my game working, then I was ready to replace them with my own, witchy designs. I’m so inspired by beautiful, artsy games by developers like State of Play and Simogo, making my own game has given me the opportunity to explore styles that I haven’t had the chance to use for client work yet.
In A Witch’s Garden, you control a disembodied skeleton hand, guiding it around an ethereal garden to collect glowing pagan symbols whilst avoiding the monsters that lurk there. It’s going to be a long journey to finishing my game and I’ll have to remind myself to be patient, but the fact that i’ve already got the foundations in place feels like a big achievement. My next steps are to add as much polish as I can and then explore how I can share it with you all to play!
The Playground Project is a free resource created by Ciro Constinisio
Unity game engine
This year i’ve started learning to use Unity; a free, creative engine that is capable of making all kinds of games and interactive experiences. Initially I wanted to learn it as a gateway to making things for Virtual Reality. I’m still planning to do that, but realising I was trying to gallop before I could walk, I slowed things down and set myself a personal project of creating my own 2D game.
As a freelance designer (by day!) I’ve worked on many games over the years and have even used Unity in some projects to assist developers with simple tasks – but I’ve never attempted to create an entire game myself. When I found this handily titled ‘2D Games for Non-Programmers’ tutorial I decided to get involved and see what I could learn.
A spot of mood boarding
It’s going well so far and after an initial spot of mood boarding and research, I’ve settled on the title ‘A Witch’s Garden’ and started sketching enemies, collectable items and logo ideas for my ethereal concept. It’s going to be a long journey to creating for virtual reality and I’ll have to remind myself to be patient, but i’m already excited and absorbed by my mini project and will keep sharing my progress until it’s ready to play.
I’ve been enjoying working my way through Simogo’s beautiful mobile games. I’m a big fan of the Swedish developers who created Year Walk and Device 6. Their twisted storytelling, unique puzzles and high production values really inspire me to be a better games designer.
The Sailor’s Dream is a wonderfully crafted experience in which you take to the seas, exploring little islands in an attempt to discover what has happened to the story’s protagonists.
The side scrolling horizon is stunning, I’d love to know how they created the gently lapping, animated sea. Each island illustration is covered with minute details, the Secret Lighthouse, the Celestial Sanctuary; every time a new location was revealed I got a buzz of excitement.
Navigating through each location is unusual. Scenes are stitched together, fading to black as you shift between them. Dotted trails connect you and are roughly mapped to a floating compass.
They put so much effort into all elements of the game, secret sketches to be found, specially written songs that reveal parts of the narrative and without giving too much away…once I’d figured out what to do in the Transmission Horologe I was so excited about it I was telling anyone that would listen for weeks!
I have to admit I got a bit confused by the story for this one. Perhaps I didn’t uncover things quickly enough or in a good order to work out what was going on. But it didn’t really matter. Simogo always create beautiful experiences full of twists and delights – The Sailor’s Dream is no exception. Set your sail and weigh anchor!