The three judges were TDC administrators Knudde (Shab) and Joshtek as well as Kliktopia's chief game recommender msg.
The judges individually played the games, reviewed them, and ranked them based on their merits (taking into account gameplay, creativity and use of the theme). These rankings were then combined to make the final rankings.
As you can see from the details below, all of the judges agreed that the best of the bunch was the flamin' brilliant Flammable Freddy. Congratulations to 3kliksphilip for winning the competition (and Game of the Week #380)!
Msg's rankings and reviews: #1 - Flammable Freddy: Okay, it's the first game, when I saw the message You Lived and I said Dang it, not again!. Very original idea, I must admit and it bonds the theme of Time Trial and Fire in a very specific and... satisfying way. Yes, I am a bad person saying this, but I enjoy the gameplay of setting everything on fire. I enjoy a lot about this game. The visuals, the music, the whatever-I-said in the beginning. 9/10
#2 - Viva la Marshmallow: It's another thing I didn't think I'd say today, but it's quite hard to burn your marshmallow in the fire. This game has such an irony to it in my mind, because I always end up burning my marshmallows, when they fall of the stick into the flames. Believe it or not, that's what the game is about and it's also quite satisfying. Very nice graphics, although I don't feel the urgency of the Time Trial too much. It's quite relaxing, actually. 8/10
#3 - TomArtowEscape: Oh yeah, that's a Time Trial by Fire by all means. The incoming flames, the imminent threat, the difficult platform setup, it's all here. The movement could be more forgiving, though, the acceleration and braking of our hero are really tough to master at first and they make you push the arrow keys harder and harder every time you die engulfed in flames. Graphics are quite pleasing, the music adds to the mood as well. 7/10
#4 - Ball Thing: The gameplay is rather simple in principle, but if you think you will finish the game in no-time, well, check again. The level design makes it quite challenging to pass from level to level. On top of that the movement is rather difficult to master at the beginning and requires a bit of getting used to: you are a ball and you pass the obstacles by bouncing up and down. It takes some time to gain height, though. Graphics are simple yet readable.
Sound effects are solid and well composed and the time trial pressure is high, which is good. 6.5/10
#5 - Space Tyranny - Flaming Rush: The gameplay is simple - running to the end of the level, made even simpler by the mechanics - it's a platformer with a standard movement schematic. There is not much of a time trial vibe to it though. Yes, the music is very dynamic, but there's nothing to push you forward. Graphics are lovely, made in the always recognizable author's style. 6/10
#6 - Frantic Target Desctruction - The Fire Trial: That's a Time Trial all right. Shooting targets, sure, there's the fire, although it's hard to say the two are really bonded together. The graphic is readable, sound design is simple, but all in all the game gives you some difficulty to play upon. The time limits are very strict, luckily you have skip level option. 5/10
Shab's rankings and reviews: #1 - Flammable Freddy: This game, while a simple concept, is ridiculously fun. From burning bushes, explosive barrels that launch you in the air, and lighting other poor souls on fire who likewise spread the flames among the flammable world, the addictive nature and subtlety strategic levels designs compliment this simple and fun concept. Absolutely top notch design on this one. 9/10
#2 Tom Artow's Escape: The classic premise of a vertical shaft filling up fire while the player desperately tries to escape. Unfortunately for our tomato hero, I don't think there's an end to the shaft or the getting shafted. The graphics are clear, with some nice parallax backgrounds, and a good variety of terrain types. The flame rush is timed very nicely, giving you just enough time to gain ground, but punish you once you start to get confident. While the movement is a bit slippery for my taste, the gameplay is solid, and the graphics have some personality. 8/10
#3 - Viva La Marshmallow: VLM easily has the best presentation of all the entries of this competition. The Graphics have a lot of personality and are well animated, it's just kind of a letdown that the gameplay doesn't hold up the that high bar. The player has a very limited control over what goes on in the levels. The Enemies are randomly placed, the only way to damage them randomly move about, and you can only punch the marshmallows backwards. This could have been solved in a few different ways that would have led to a much more playable game. Perhaps set fire locations, making the challenge to lure your enemies towards the fire and trap them. It's immediate thoughts like this that made me very aware of how much the main game loop lacked. That the graphical and presentation prowess shown here deserve a better designed gameplay loop. 6/10
#4 Space Tyranny - Flaming Rush: This would have made the #3 spot if it had been made originally for the competition, edging out Viva La Marshmallow for a few reasons. First, while basic, the base gameplay is pretty solid, and the music is nice. There's a small variety of enemies and the graphics are of a nice style. The game presents itself as a metroid like experience, however it reminds me more of the classic European style playformers with huge levels. While this could easily be a strength, unfortunately, the level looks the same from end to end making getting lost the easiest thing to do. Switching tiles to a different style to designate different areas would have been an easy fix. All this being said, the base game feel is good, I just wish that everything surrounding it was up to the same level. 5/10
#5 Ball Thing: Unfortunately, the precision needed for this game is let down by a lack of appreciable feedback to the player. While I'm all for pixel perfect jumping, the overly stiff and stilted manner in which the game operates mean you're giving your best guess on if you're going to clear the jump over the flames.
#6 Frantic Target Destruction: I wasn't even able to get by the first tutorial screen unfortunately, which means I wasn't able to give this game any playtime. 1/10
Joshtek's rankings and reviews:
#1 - Flammable Freddy
My introduction to what could be called the ‘maximum destruction’ genre was the glorious crash mode of Burnout, where causing the biggest crashes impacting the most cars resulted in both the most fun and the highest score.
While aiming for ‘excessive destruction’, Flammable Freddy is certainly no car crash. I didn’t expect to see such a game for this competition, but it really does work. This game has fire at the heart of its mechanic, with the fire spreading element latching onto a key element of what makes fire different to any generic hazard.
Also fitting is how instead of the game simply counting down and then you giving you a score, you have to jump into the water to put out the fire before you burn. This adds a great ‘push your luck’ element to the game, where you have to keep track of your health and make a judgement call on when to call it quits. Adding to the theme, this creatively draws on how fire can be stopped by water.
Allowing you to upgrade your abilities adds replayability and gives a nice sense of progress as you replay the same levels again and again. Although it does mean that my improvements were not entirely down to increased skill, I definitely had to learn the levels and some strategies to progress). While this sort of advancement system is not original (e.g. Pacman 256 and its power-ups to name just one) the implementation does fit the theme and adds to the experience.
While again not original, the bonus objectives work to add more to the replayability and help keep the game interesting. Some of these are easily accomplished, but I didn’t know hard it was to limit my score to just over 9,000 until I gave it a chance (but of course that just made my achievement of the objective feel all the more victorious).
I’ll run through some more compliments in short order: The art style fits the feel of the game, I like how the music changes when the gameplay changes, the interface was intuitive, everything ran smoothly, and the name perfectly matches the game.
I didn’t come across any remarkable bugs, so all I have really are minor nitpicks: While it has a controller option for the game itself, you need to use the keyboard and mouse to enter this mode and the expanded white border around a selected upgrade is a bit subtle (although it is complemented by a preview graphic which shows what is selected more noticeable). Not bad given the relative complexity of the gameplay engine, with its oil slicks, jumping, fire spreading, etc.
#2 - Tom Artow's Escape
This game certainly feels like a time trial by fire, with the feeling of dread while the fire is moving towards your tomato-faced form is palpable. Out of all the games in the competition, this is the one which had me most fearful of the fire as an existential threat out to get me. The gameplay style of moving upwards to avoid the flames work well, and it shows how the whole design of the game revolves around escaping the flames.
The gameplay is emphasized by Mr.Pineapple’s intense soundtrack which adds to the gameplay, although perhaps diminished by not having sound effects to reward getting more time and having no audio clue to indicate the level of danger you are in.
The game does feel a bit ‘trial and error’ at times, with the correct route only obvious once you’ve played a section a few times. It felt pretty good to learn a route and then follow i. However, too often it felt like I was not quite getting to where I wanted to go due to the platform engine rather than my own skill, and this was then exacerbated by having to start right back at the beginning rather than at a checkpoint.
The game might have worked better if there were multiple difficulties, or at least if the level design was more sympathetic to the difficulty in getting onto a platform which is directly beneath a block. It might also have worked better if it was designed so seeing the fire more often meant you were in the ‘danger zone’ rather than that losing was almost inevitable, as there were too many times where my sense of fear was lessened by the fact that there seemed no obvious way to get more time before the fire got to my character.
Beyond the ‘challenging’ platform engine the only bug I saw was that the fire was sometimes not going to the edge of the screen, which doesn’t affect the gameplay. I think with a bit more development this could be a really great game, so I hope to see sequels to it in the future. I’m sure that outside of the ‘non-randomness’ requirement of the competition there could also be a decent version of the game which was procedurally generated and lasted forever.
P.S. The game specified it was shift to start, but never said that it was also shift to jump or arrows to move. It does support changing to joystick using Ctrl+Y, although not for the ‘shift to start’. You can toggle full-screen mode with Alt+Enter
#3 - Viva la Marshmallow!
Marshmallows and fire, what a perfect combo! I do like how fire is both your friend and your foe in this game, forcing you to get close to danger in order to push your enemies to their doom. There is even an ice element, which can temporarily freeze the fire which is some great physics-defying fun. I also appreciate the variety in the gameplay elements, with various types of enemy marshmallow and other elements to help keep things fresh.
Now for the constructive criticism part of my review...
Firstly and most importantly it didn’t lean heavily into the ‘time trial’ element. Yes, there was a timer and it was great how that was handled. However, not only was there not a way to keep track of how well you did in terms of your time, but the way the AI randomness worked meant that how long it took didn’t truly feel like a reflection of your playing.
The AI was sometimes a bit buggy with enemies moving outside of their grid movement.
And my final piece of criticism is that the music ended up feeling a bit repetitive.
Still, this was overall a fun game to play and its fun concept and the joy of setting your enemies on fire brings it a step above your average bomberman clone. I could well have given it a higher rank if it had more of a ‘time trial’ feel to it.
#4 - Ball Thing
The firey opening screen gives a good first impression. It has the visuals, the old-school moving text, the sounds, the… ball thing. But then it shows how it is an unpolished gem with the warning that: The game may glitch if the sound is on. It does unfortunately still have a few notable glitches even with the sound off, but nothing that prevents you from playing the game.
The gameplay has a number of interesting ideas it, starting from the Eggit-style controls and carrying on to the counter-intuitive behaviour of the timer guy (which is explained on the description of the game at The Daily Click but not within the game’s help file).
The game’s concept is definitely on point, with the ‘time trial’ being a main component to the gameplay and the enemies being fire-based. When the sound is enabled the game is also the only one in the competition to use a clock ticking noise to signify the time counting down, which worked well as an audio cue.
The difficulty curve of this game is quite high and varied, going from a relatively easy first level to a tricky second level to an easier third level (or is that just me). The difficulty seems worse because the control of the ball feels a bit indirect, adding a layer of distance between you and the ball that makes the deaths feel less ‘fair’.
It would also be nice to know how many attempts you have left before you die, not least to add more tension. Furthermore, while the restart feature allows for you to continue playing if the ball ends up getting stuck, that does unfortunately use one if your unspecified number of remaining lives. Given the bugginess of the game, it might have been better for each level to be scored separately, and the player allowed to go back to any previously played level to get a better score.
I respect the decision to make the game in The Games Factory and the challenges the developer must have faced in trying to incorporate custom movement into the game. Unfortunately, it does suffer from the downsides of trying to achieve so much on an old engine in a short period of time. For example, the ball itself also looks to have a low framerate, minimising the benefits of the bouncing effect and the game crashes from time to time when the sound is on.
Overall this game shows a good commitment to the ‘time trial by fire concept’ and it mostly works. That said, it would be nice to someday see a sequel to this game made with all the benefits of Clickteam Fusion 2.5+ and without the restrictions of a strict time limit.
#5 - Space Tyranny: Flaming Rush
To those who played the original Space Tyranny this game will be quite familiar, i.e. a fun Metroid-style game with BigAl0104’s charming graphical style. The original game even had ‘Time Mode’ and ‘Time Mode+’ options, so this game is only barely breaking new ground, but the fact the game had a solid starting point does allow it to be a pretty solid game and it’s interesting to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.
This version of the game includes the requisite theming, with various types of fire-spewing enemies. Perhaps the most fun is the timed sections where you have to defeat an enemy before your fire protection wears out. That said as with some of the other games the ‘fire’ element could easily have been replaced with ‘acid’ or any other harmful element and it wouldn’t have changed the gameplay at all. Indeed, having played the original I know some of the fire enemies are reskinned from previous enemies. Still, the fire theming works fine, and the change of the water zones to time-limited fire zones is a nice improvement.
There is quite a lot of content in this game which is either impressive or daunting depending on the player. I’m someone who gets lost easily in the real world and in video games, so having to traverse large maps is daunting enough without time pressure (especially without hints about where to go next). Fortunately, the timer counts up rather than down so it doesn’t prevent me from being able to play the game. However, the way the game is designed does mean it doesn’t really feel too much like a ‘time trial by fire’.
I like the original Space Tyranny game so it is no surprise that I like this adaptation of it. However, this game has been marked down in my ranking for being a variant of a pre-existing game as well as for feeling a lot less like a ‘time trial by fire’ than most of the other games.
#6 - Frantic Target Destruction
The original Frantic Target game worked well enough, but was perhaps a bit basic. The ‘trial by fire and flames’ sequel then was an opportunity to build on the existing game and fire things up a bit. It nearly worked, but a rushed implementation seems to have somewhat missed the mark and there seem to be plenty of missed opportunities.
From the initial menu screen you can some competition-inspired the additions. A flamey font has been added to the game’s subtitle, and it has a score multiplier and time choice option. The latter is a bit buggy, with the values jumping around when you go outside of the bounds and the mouse going behind the controls (due to the use of Windows buttons rather than the active objects used for the play and quit buttons).
The bugs continue when the game starts, with the tutorial being ruined by not having an arm to hold a gun to shoot with. The janky parallax scrolling also hurt my eyes, or maybe my brain. Fortunately there is an option to skip the tutorial.
Coming to the game and it is a mixed bag. The fact that there is a time limit and hazards is an improvement in principle, but it does feel a bit half-baked. The ability to have different levels of difficulty with different score multipliers is a reasonable concept, although the implementation doesn’t quite work. For example, if you finish early and destroy all the targets then you are forced to wait for the timer to run out and don’t get any ‘finishing early’ bonus.
While you play with a timer, there feels no real need to actually keep track of it as you are just shooting as much until the timer runs out. However, that can mean that when clicking rapidly it can be too easy to accidentally click a menu option when a level completes, sometimes resulting in going back to the main menu by mistake.
There are two ways I think it could have been done better than the current timer and multiplier mechanic. One would be to have as long as you need to shoot targets but a multiplier which starts high and goes down, thereby giving you more points if you shoot stuff quickly. Another would be for the timer to be replenished when you shoot something and to have a bonus for the remaining time at the end.
There is also only minimal feedback that you died by fire, with it simply displaying ‘time’s up’ while showing your character standing in the flames. Maybe to make the flames more relevant, you it could have been designed so that if you shoot a target through flames then you get a ‘flaming arrow’ bonus (making it both a threat and an opportunity). Or maybe shooting into fire could have resulted in flames bouncing back at you, giving you a reason to be careful in where you shoot. I’m not sure quite what would be the best way to improve the gameplay, but it definitely feels like there is untapped opportunities to make the most of the concept.
yma: Good(ish) news... Ball Thing is actually only second lowest (sorry about that copy and paste error). Maybe not the ranking you were hoping for, but an improvement nevertheless. Better luck in the next competition. Comment edited by Joshtek on 20/09/2021
I'm totally ok that I got somewhat low rankings for my game since like I said, I didn't have the time to make something new, but I'm at least happy that you guys enjoyed the base game well enough, but to be honest, the original source game, Space Tyranny, is way better. Looking forward to the next competition... if I'm able to participate again. Comment edited by BigAl0104 on 21/09/2021
Yes the game was rushed, i rushed the game for no reason - I missed so many opportunities with fire.
I even thought of adding a fire mechanic after you shoot a target but yeah
Im last place now but that means i can only go up.
I await the next competition impatiently