Another group of talented Flash game developers that I have been keeping an eye on are Florin and crew over at gameSheep in Romania. They used to do primarily client work, but have since gone out on their own and made a name for themselves by quickly establishing GameSheep as a popular destination for free online games. One of the reasons the site is so popular is due to the original content they continue to release for their site.
Horse Racing is their latest effort, a Flash racing game that puts the player in control of one of three (3) different horses on a race to the finish line.
The mouse is used for control in this easy-to-play game. Just position the mouse cursor within the game window and your horse will match its position. Click the mouse to jump, double-click for higher jumps. The farther forward it runs, the faster it goes, but also makes it more difficult to see upcoming jumps quick enough to clear them. Running faster also depletes energy, which will soon run out when running fast, so watch the energy meter and fall back when it gets low, or replenish energy.
You can replenish energy by jumping for apples (they look more like cherries) visible in the trees that pass by, or jump for golden apples that will provide double the energy. Additional power-ups are available that can give you foresight into how far away the next jump is, Pegasus-style wings that allow your horse to fly for several flaps of the wings, or a long-jump capability that sends your horse soaring forward the next time it jumps.
Two modes of play provide for a Quick Race against a single horse at the difficulty of your choosing; or tournament play that puts you through a series of (rather long) races against increasingly more difficult horses. Start with a quick race and choose a medium difficulty.
Analysis: I have to say that a horse racing game has been in the back of my mind as something that I'd like to create myself, so I was pleased to see this one come along. Although a different design than one I'm thinking of, I feel that Florin and crew have put together a fun little game, even if it has a few flaws.
First off, the graphics are beautiful as we've come to expect from the gameSheep artists. Really nice colors and gradients, and charmingly cute horses with dopey faces. I especially liked the choice of background music and how the running-hoof sound effects are synchronized with the music. Very nice.
In terms of gameplay, it just doesn't offer the excitement that racing games should have. That isn't to say the game isn't any fun, just don't expect many thrilling photo-finishes when playing it. Think of it more as a leisurely single-player jumper than a horse race and you'll probably get more enjoyment from it.
I believe there are two reasons for this: (1) Each race is so long that there leaves very little possibility of a close race other than at higher difficulty levels; and (2) the opponent horses don't appear to jump for apples or power-ups.
Finding the right balance with a racing game such as this is likely as much of a challenge as creating the entire game engine itself. The inclusion of the Quick Race mode is therefore a very wise decision, and is the mode that most players should start with.
All things considered, not a bad game by any means. It's a cute game that offers fun for gamers of all ages, and one that provides a little racing action when the difficulty is set just right.