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Wasting Time... IN SPAAAACE!
We’re all guilty, to varying extents, of needing little fixes of gaming when circumstances don’t allow us to indulge in our favourites. Maybe a server is down or we are stuck on a laptop that won’t pull the frames we need to frag properly, but in all likelihood, you don’t have the time to put in.
In the last case, the only thing worse than not getting a quick game is deciding to play 3 or 4, or a dozen, and there is now an angry professor, family member, or boss that is chasing you down. French game developer Motion Twin makes cute online games that offer limited free play time or attempts daily, the most popular of which are translated into English and other languages. This article looks at one of these: Alphabounce, their rather original take on the old-school Breakout premise.
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Work Release in Distant Galaxies
Logging in, you are greeted with a message from ESCorp: you are some kind of convict, but instead of throwing you in prison to rot, you have been given an “envelope” (think paddle off which your ball bounces) in which to live, then sent very far away to rot. ESCorp explains that you can reduce the time you have to rot by using your envelope to carry out mining and other missions.
Your first missions are spent getting your license. Your game time is split between two views; a large map with a grid where you move from place to place, which then zooms into a more traditional Breakout view where it is just you, your paddle, and your drilling ball against a set of bricks. Moving on the large map uses up “hydrogen capsules;” red ones last until you use them, green ones disappear ever day. You get three green capsules for free everyday, and can buy red ones with in game or real world currency by credit card or Pay Pal. In game currency is also useful for buying upgrades to your envelope from merchants you come across. The most important of these are without doubt the engine upgrades that allow you to travel more squares on a single capsule. You need to move around to reach the areas on the map in which ESCorp wants you to perform missions.
Every time you move on the large map, you go to the action mode and destroy bricks. People who like this ball-bouncing style of gaming will be amply satisfied with the creative layout, variety of brick types, and plethora and originality of upgrades that fall as one breaks the bricks. Destroying all the bricks in a level clears the equivalent square on the map. Clearing squares in a certain area as requested by ESCorp will net you some in game currency (Minerals). ESCorp also sends you on recovery missions; in these you will need to play the appropriate location’s board, break a special brick, and grab the thing that falls from it. You can fail the board but complete the mission if you get the item and die, and complete the board but fail the mission if you miss the falling item, so make sure you grab the item!
Completing missions gets you minerals, envelope upgrades, or moves the story along; that’s right, some of the missions and messages from ESCorp seem to point to a grand scheme of sorts! Flash games aren’t exactly known for plot elements, so this solid story line is something of a revelation.
Combining a strategy element in moving across the map, some RPG-type upgrade features, and a decent story with a great implementation of good old Breakout, Alphabounce makes for a great way to play a few minutes when for whatever reason hours of immersion aren’t possible.