After the BBC revived the classic sci-fi program Doctor Who, they began creating a number of fun games on their website, which, unlike some BBC games, I was able to play outside Britain (I'm in the U.S.). One of their games that really stood out was the Cyberman Game (a.k.a. Doctor Who Cyber Assault), which is really three games in one, all of which include some innovative thinking that I'm compelled to 'borrow' the next time I create a game.
The first (and main) game has many similarities to Risk! in that you move armies around a map of the Earth trying to conquer it. But Cyberman has a few twists that appealed to me as a fan of this kind of game:
- Troop movement is done before the attack, allowing you to quickly double the size of an attacking territory
- Recruitment of new troops is an alternative to attacking, and you get one new troop in each territory you command
- Each side controls a number of bases that must be destoyed by the other player, and become focii of defensive strategy
Attacking an enemy territory then brings up a mini-game of sorts, a modified 'roshambo' (rock-paper-scissors) in which each player chooses to Attack, Defend, or Outflank, and each of those three options is strong against one of the two and weak against the other. The results are weighted with the number of troops on each side, resulting in a satisfying scenario even if you lose: instead of yelling at dice for bad rolls, you can only blame yourself.
Once you control a territory with an enemy base you have the option for a Base Attack, which brings up the third game, a run-and-shoot activity that is very attractive but which doesn't quite fit with the other parts. It could be a fun standalone game, but action segments in strategy or puzzle games always seem out of place.
Cyberman was created by the team at Fish in a Bottle who have some other fun puzzle and racing games they've made on their site.
Analysis: The Risk!-style game has some very clever aspects that I would like to see developed. The AI seemed very weak, so I would consider the game more of a 'proof-of-concept' than a finished version. The AI in the roshambo portion of the game also seemed weak. I couldn't tell whether it was learning/predicting my patterns or not, but I think it was, as those games got harder each time. Again, using modified rock-paper-scissors to resolve attacks seems a very clever twist.
The action game is very attractive and fun, although it was painfully slow (it looks like they use a scrolling vector background, which must be re-rendered each frame. Flash does much better when moving bitmaps). The levels are well-designed although there isn't a lot of strategy, making this mini-game not quite fit with the rest. It usually doesn't make sense to spend a turn in the map game on a base attack, so I was left with all the action mini-games at the end.
Over all Doctor Who Cyber Assault is interesting and new in many ways. With improved AI it could be an excellent game.