The Tall Stump
It's got action. It's got puzzles. It's got zany... everything. And most importantly (for the competition), it makes extensive use of ball physics. The Tall Stump scored exceptionally high on all of our judges' radars, edging out the other entries in our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition for the top spot. Created by three talented individuals who form Team MAW — Adam Wilkinson (Australia), Alex May (US) and Handre DeJager (South Africa), The Tall Stump is an action platformer that feels like an adventure game laced with short puzzles. As you travel through the game you find strange items and learn to use them in even stranger circumstances, all in the name of working your way deeper into the stump.
Use the [A] and [D] keys to move the character left and right while [W] serves as a jump button. To pick up and switch items press the [S] key, and to use whatever is in your hands, just tap the [spacebar]. Or, if you prefer, you can use the arrow keys for movement instead. You begin with empty hands but very quickly get something to start your inventory: a potted cactus. Along the way you'll grab many strange items you'll need to use at the appropriate time in order to open a door or gain access to the next area.
Helping you solve puzzles in The Tall Stump is a handy little item that looks like a bazooka but fires balls that activate switches as they bounce around the stage. Not only is this a clever way to incorporate the competition theme, it also adds another layer of strategy to the genre-bending game. Many times you'll have to bounce a ball through a tiny gap in order to progress. Sometimes you'll have to hop on a moving platform, aim, and fire all within a few seconds time. Thrilling!
The Tall Stump has an in-game save feature that lets you play through in more than one sitting. There is, however, a good reason to do it without leaving your computer: an online high score table. Complete the game as fast as you can without saving/resuming to have a chance to put your name on the board. Collecting all of the hats and coins shaves precious minutes off your score.
Analysis: From top to bottom (and probably left to right as well), The Tall Stump is a superb game. Great music and sound effects and a polished visual style draw you in right from the start, while the game's zany sense of humor keeps you begging for more. It blends puzzle solving and platforming action quite well, giving just enough challenge on each front to keep you driven to beat the game. Add to that loads of fun extras and you have a game that can't be ignored.
A great game on all levels and a fantastic entry from Team MAW!
dancemonkey - This is the game in every competition that I can't wait to play, but I just don't realize it until I play it. The charming artwork and simple story lulled me into thinking it would be a brief and breezy romp, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the challenge of many of the puzzles. I was also impressed by the simplicity and intuitiveness of the control scheme. The ball physics theme implementation wasn't the strongest in the competition. Heck, it wasn't even the second strongest, but it was creative and integral to the gameplay. I would love to see further development of this game and this game world.
Jay - Wow. The Tall Stump excelled in every category we scored on this competition. It might be an easy game to pass off as too frustrating or too difficult by someone giving it only a cursory play test to see if it's something worth diving into. But those that approach it from the perspective of a brilliant puzzle game rather than one that requires split second perfection in hand-eye coordination will be handsomely rewarded. Oh, you'll need good hand-eye coordination to get through it, but if something you're trying seems near impossible, chances are there's an easier solution to the puzzle. It's an exceptional game that is polished, well balanced, loads of fun, and not a bug or glitch to be found, proving that its designers really know their stuff. Congratulations Team MAW on this fine game you've made, and on one well deserving of the grand prize.