September 14, 2007

One–click games: Boomshine & Peggle

Video games are generally kind of continuous: you have to keep running/driving/flying/shooting all through the game, and if you stop controlling it, Bad Things happen. But if you’re as phenomenally lazy as me, this is likely to feel more like work than play. Surely there must be games where you can do less than this but still have fun? Quite coincidentally, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve come across two examples, both of which reduce their game play mechanics down to just a pleasingly effortless single mouse click.

Boomshine game

Coloured dots drift across the playfield as in, say, Asteroids. You have one click to set off a chain reaction which must consume a certain number of the coloured dots for you to progress to the next level. So all you do is watch and wait for enough of the dots to seem as though they’re about to converge, and then… click. That one click either will or won’t be enough to set off enough of a chain reaction; all you can do then is watch and wait to see if it does. It’s immensely soothing, especially on the higher levels, where, if we’re honest, there is as much luck as judgement. It’s more of a toy than a game really, and it inculcates, in me at least, a fairly zen approach; this click either will, or won’t work. Either way, it’s good.

Peggle game

Peggle (14MB download; Windows only) is in some ways similar to Boomshine; again, you click just once to initiate events and then all you can do is watch to see what happens. This time, your task is to aim and drop a ball from the top of the screen to bounce off, and thus remove, as many orange pegs as you can. You have ten balls per level; if you remove all the orange pegs before you run out of balls, you go on to the next level. If not, game over.

If Boomshine is like a calm pool of water, Peggle is a bunch of kids hopped up on ice cream and fizzy drinks, playing in the sea. It’s the Scissor Sisters to Boomshine’s Saint-Saëns. It’s bright and shiny, with lots of plinking, bouncing sound effects, like a pinball or a Pachinko machine. It’s incredibly simple (even very small children can easily play and enjoy it) and yet also strangely addictive; a few weeks ago, MSNBC named it one of the five most addictive games of all time – right up there with World of Warcraft and Tetris. It’s a giddy, exuberant confection; when you finish a level, the game goes, frankly, bananas with paroxysms of excitement and joy, and who can resist a game that’s more pleased even than you are when you win?

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