It was independent games development's darling of 2010, and all who dared cross it risked the righteous anger of its creators and fans. But badass platformer Super Meat Boy still is not available on mobile gaming's No. 1 platform. And I don't think it's because one of its creators got into a pissing contest with Apple.
It's probably because this kind of game really isn't fun with multitouch screen control, a conclusion reached after spending some time with CheeseMan, the best port of Super Meat Boy you can put finger quotes around. Frankly, I'm not sure it wasn't published by proxy for Team Meat. Either way, it's available now for 99 cents on the iTunes App Store.
CheeseMan is, evidently, doing its thing with the blessing of Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, the creators of Super Meat Boy. Dr. Fetus, their game's antagonist, is right there staring CheeseMan in the face on the first level, after all. Other Meat Boy characters will appear later. And the same gameplay style is there throughout—you're an anthropomorphized cheese cube instead of a meat wad, zipping through a platform level, avoiding spikes, sawblades and other gruesome instant-death traps, clinging to and double jumping from walls and trying to reach the goal in as little time as possible.
Your strategy evolves as it did in the original Super Meat Boy, too. Basically, you go haul ass into some uncharted part of the screen, die, remember there's a hazard there, and try not to hit it in your next life. Controls are carried out on a virtual game pad of left and right and a jump button.
These are not ideal controls for this kind of game. So much of Super Meat Boy involved technical, perfectly timed jumps that you really need fixed, physical controls that you can feel with your digits through a long gaming session, rather than virtual squares that feel no different when you reposition your hands after picking your nose.
My parkour jumps between walls never went smoothly, even without hazards forcing me to act quickly. Too many times I simply wall-humped my way to the top rather than try to switch my left thumb while hammering the virtual jump button at the same time. This is on an iPhone, whose playing surface dimensions reasonably approximate a gamepad controller. On an iPad, I'm not sure what it's like.
CheeseMan is allegedly published by AlphaNoize, a German shop founded in November of this year. It, like Team Meat, is a two-man outfit made up of Hicham Alloui and Arne Worheide. I have no idea if these are pseudonyms, aliases, alter egos or secret identities. They don't appear to be anagrams. Alloui's bio lists work for Ubisoft in his credits.
Maybe CheeseMan is totally original; maybe it exists with a license from Super Meat Boy. Maybe it is the game that allows Team Meat to reach the iOS without compromising the intellectual stance Refenes took way back in March 2010, when he declared iOS devices to be the "Tiger handheld game of this generation."
None of the intrigue changes the fact that you are still playing an extremely demanding platformer with virtual controls, whether meat, cheese, or something else is involved. Good luck.
Dec 22, 2011
We've done a lot of big-budget games so far in our Best Video Game Music of 2011 series, but there were some great indie soundtracks released, as well. One of the very best of those was Danny Baranowsky's dangerous, dark, synthy work on the Zelda-esque roguelike The Binding of Isaac.
Described by our own Stephen Totilo as "A wonderfully warped Old Testament Take on The Legend of Zelda," The Binding of Isaac was a rigidly difficult game that centered around punishing exploration and experimentation as players made their way through a series of randomly generated basement levels in an attempt to help the titular hero escape from his mother's zealotous captivity.
It was a wonderfully challenging, creepy game, but what put it over the top for me was Baranowsky's sinister soundtrack. A dark combination of synths and electronic beats, it took a bit of Danny Elfman, a touch of Muse, a hint of old-school Final Fantasy boss music, and brought 'em all together into something dark and unique.
For this entry in our series, I thought it would be fun to chat with Baranowsky about the process behind writing three of my favorite tracks.
This is one of the first tracks to play in the game, and one of the most evocative. It's got this winding, ever shifting 6/8-ish thing going on, and the melody twists and turns and never quite resolves the way you expect it to. The chord progression almost reminds me of a creepy (or, creepier) version of "The Carol of the Bells," which feels appropriate, given the sinister biblical allegory of the game. Here's Baranowsky:
"Welcome to the basement" was kind of the idea [with "Sacrificial."]. Something brooding, a little "music-box"-y, and inspired by classical choral music (to fit in with the biblical allusion). But at this point the way I write is very based on state of mind, I try to consume the aesthetics of the game and the situation of the track at hand, and just be absorbed in it and just.....go.
That it ended up being in 9/8 with other parts in 6/8 just kind of happened, I felt like the asymmetry of it would help to make people not get comfortable in any kind of familiar rhythm, while at the same time having sections that were something to ground the track and give people a feeling of progression.
This piece is gorgeous. Nothing says "a moment of calm in the storm" like some wide, wandering ambient chords. I love the natural sixth that turns up in here—most minor tonalities have a flat sixth, but here, we've got an "A" landing while in C minor (kind of sounds like it's over a Bb chord, actually). It's that brightness that gives things a pensive air, as opposed to the driving dread of most of the other tracks on the soundtrack. Which is fitting, since it plays inside of the "safe" secret rooms in the game.
Late in development, most of the music was done, and I had some time to polish/add extra shit, and so I started doing like the "Shop Theme (Greed)" and "Ambush Room Theme (Burning Ambush)", and I felt that the secret rooms (you find them by bombing walls) was a great opportunity to introduce music unlike most of the rest of the game, kind of a contrast to the madness/insanity/evil of the rest of the game.
Indeed it was.
The funny thing about "Respite" is that the idea for the arrangement came to me instantly, and the whole track was sone in about 15 minutes. Not terribly impressive, it's very short, but the funny thing is Omnisphere (the VST used to make it) had some some dumb ass bug that made it POP every time it looped. I spent hours screaming at my buddy Jimmy Hinson (Big Giant Circles, worked on Mass Effect 2 soundtrack) who is kind of an Omnisphere guru and he calmed me down and helped me fix it. and then, to top it all off, because of the way the game was coded (flash) all the tracks have gaps when they repeat anyway, so it didn't even matter....
This track is shit-hot. In my opinion. What starts out as the sort of typical boss-battle-ish driving thing quickly morphs into something more notey and more compelling. Right around 0:33 shit gets real, as the beat double-times with this cool-as-heck ascending sixteenth-note line in E minor, pulling up, up, up and back around to the driving, building main theme. A terrific example of boss-style music done right.
I don't know why but boss music has always been my favorite music from probably anything ever. I can't begin to try and guess how many hours of my life I've listened to the boss themes from FF4, FF6, FF7 and FF8 on loop. I like to think my boss themes are very Uematsuean (i just coined that), which feels like blasphemy to say, but he is by far the greatest influence on my with regards to music in general, and certainly boss themes.
You can download the The Binding of Isaac soundtrack for ridiculously cheap from Baranowsky's BandCamp page, and he has also just released a very cool album of piano renditions of tunes from his killer Super Meat Boy soundtrack. Check 'em both out.
We'll be back tomorrow with another of 2011's best video game soundtracks.
"The Best Game Music of 2011" is a multi-part series highlighting the best video game soundtracks of the year.
The well-meaning earnestness and awesome gaminess of the Humble Indie Bundle IV are being exploited by evil internet users who would probably sell their own grans to be in with a chance of winning the latest Steam competition.
According to the Humble Indie Bundle blog, distinctly un-humble buyers are using the Steam codes from the Humble Indie Bundle to legitimise throwaway Steam accounts created specifically to enter Valve’s current raffle. “It’s a lose-lose situation for the indie developers, charities, Valve, and Humble Bundle,” says the blog.
To combat this, the minimum you’ll have to spend in order to get Steam keys in your Bundle is $1, instead of 1 cent. If the Scrooges among you can’t afford the $1 minimum you can contact the Humble Indie guys and they’ll send you the Steam keys - if you promise not to resell them or otherwise abuse them.
The incessant, nauseating loop of Band Aid on the radio and tear-jerking ads for homeless dogs on the telly are there to remind us that Christmas isn’t just about being drunk for a whole day, but that it’s also about donating to charities and hard-up indie game developers. Let's just hope the Humble Indie guys don't lose faith in the goodness of humanity.
Dec 21, 2011
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Alec Meer)
Good news and less good news from the Humble Bundle camp today. The happier end of the bargain is that purchasers of the current Humble Bundle 4 now get the base contents of Humble Bundle 3 (i.e. VVVVVV, Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, And Yet It Moves, and Hammerfight) added to their pack. That’s if they’ve bought HB4 already. If they haven’t, they’ll have to beat the average price to get the bonus goodies. The average price is currently $5.17 million. (more…)
Did that headline get your attention? Good, because you should go and read this super-cool piece by Kill Screen's Lana Polansky about mechanics, practice, saxophone, jazz, and Street Fighter. (It also features the amazing illustration above, drawn by Daniel Purvis.)
Wait, why the heck am I referring to myself in the third person? Ugh. Anyhow, Polansky's piece is tackling an angle near and dear to my heart, looking at how Street Fighter requires a strict, musical mastery of its systems before play is possible:
I can't imagine a more perfect example than Street Fighter for how a game system can treat practice and play. It not only demands a fairly profound understanding of how its mechanics work, but allows players to combine those mechanics in intriguing and unusual ways once they understand them. Once mastery is achieved, the feeling of play emerges.
From there it goes to a lot of super brainy places, like… the work of Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Bit.Trip Beat and Super Monkey Ball.
It's a cool piece, and worth a read. Everyone we can get to start talking about music and games in this way is a win, as far as I'm concerned. The two have so much in common, we gotta get those crazy kids together more often.
Please Try Again [Kill Screen]
(Top illustration by Daniel Purvis)
Dec 15, 2011
Humble Bundle 4 has made as much money in a day as Humble Bundle 3 did in a week. The total payments sum is shown live on the Humble Indie Bundle 4 front page (currently $1,261,341 and counting). The folks behind the bundle tell us that it took the last sale seven days to reach similar figures, adding that Humble Bundle customers have donated more than $3 million to charity in total so far.
The Humble Indie Bundle 4 is the most tempting bundle yet. You can pay anything for Super Meat Boy, Jamestown, Bit.Trip Runner, Shank and NightSky. If you pay more than the average donation (currently $5.36), you get Gratuitous Space Battles and Cave Story+. If the bundle keeps selling at this rate, it could hit the $14 million mark when it ends in 12 days time. Humble Bundle organiser Richard Esguerra is understandably quite pleased. "We're thrilled to see the gaming community respond so enthusiastically to this bundle, which has been about half a year in the making," he says.
Dec 13, 2011
After peeking out from behind Steam's registry files earlier today, Humble Indie Bundle 4 has made its official debut. And yes, it's everything you hoped for. I mean, if this is what happens when the Bundle Wars heat up, I'm all for it.
To start off, there's Jamestown, Bit.Trip Runner, Super Meat Boy, Shank, and NightSky. I know, I know. Your piggy bank just let out a frightened squeal and then exploded. But there's more. If you beat the average price, the masters of the not-so-ancient art of indie bundling will throw in Cave Story+ and Gratuitous Space Battles. As of now, said average is just a spec over $5.00. So yes, take your piggy bank's charred ashes and make with the spending.
We've seen our share of Humble Indie Bundles over the past year or two—independent developers who gather under the "Humble" brand and release a bunch of their games priced at whatever people want to pay.
The latest one, Humble Bundle #4, might be the best one yet—for any price you want, you can get Super Meat Boy, Bit. Trip Runner, Jamestown, Shank and Nightsky. Pay more than the average price (currently tracking at $4.61 on the Humble Bundle site), you get Cave Story + and Gratuitous Space Battles as well.
There's no shortage of gaming to be done this December, but these are all great games, for a great price. And not only will you be supporting indie devs, you'll have the option to give money to either the American Red Cross or Child's Play.
Check out their (endearingly cheesy and reference-laden) trailer above. It's funny, I was quoting that bit from The Rock all last weekend for some reason.
Humble Indie Bundle #4 [Humblebundle.com]
Some inquisitive fellows on NeoGaf have been raiding the Steam content registry for clues, and seem to have come across some entries suggesting that that Alan Wake may be heading to PC.
In further support of the Alan Wake PC release rumours, Just Push Start spotted an interview on Finnish site YLEX in which Aki Järvilehto from Remedy said "we have received feedback from a lot of PC gamers, and I have to admit that yes, we somehow ignored that. Let’s see if in the near future we could have some positive news to tell you about dating!" We love positive news about dating!
Way back in 2006, Alan Wake was the poster boy for Intel's Core 2 Duo CPU, and was regularly demoed on PC to show off its multi-threading tech. Then, all of a sudden, it became an Xbox 360 exclusive, and the PC version vanished. As a PC version was worked on heavily in the run up to its release, it theoretically shouldn't be too hard to resurrect it for a Steam release. It'd coincide nicely with the downloadable Alan Wake follow up story, Alan Wake's American Nightmare, which is heading to the Xbox 360 early next year.
It's not just Alan Wake haunting the Steam registry files. DIY Gamer have spotted evidence of a very tasty new Humble Bundle. The registry entry suggests that a new bundle may include Super Meat Boy, BIT.TRIP.RUNNER, Jamestown, Nightsky and Shank as a starting lineup, with Gratuitous Space Battles and Cave Story+ to be added after the bundle has kicked off. If accurate, that's a fantastic collection. How much would you pay for that bundle, and would you like to see Alan Wake come to Steam?
Dec 13, 2011
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (John Walker)
Details of the next Humble Indie Bundle have once more leaked, because Steam’s Content Description Record Viewer Thingamie is so ludicrously easy for people to spy. And it looks like it’s going to be a bit of a corker, as spotted by DIY Gamer. In the pay-what-you-want collection it seems there will be Super Meat Boy, BIT.TRIP.RUNNER, Jamestown, Nightsky and Shank. That’s the first wave, and then there’s even better to get added in.