Coming out of Wildsnake Software, from the chilled steppes of Russia, comes an entry into our 4th Casual Gameplay competition: Chap Hai - Way Of The Dragon.
What is the "Way Of The Dragon"? Does it involve superhuman martial arts, or maybe a method of braising reptile meat? Actually, it involves flicking marbles at each other. It's Zen baby.
The game plays like the smooth trickle of a stream, always changing and always the same. You click-hold on the red marble, a white arrow appears that represents what that marble's velocity will be when you release your hold. Pulling back increases the force of your sling, and moving the mouse left and right adjusts the angle. The goal is to use the red marble to knock all the yellow marbles off the board, the catch is, you must achieve this in a certain number of shots, and without sending the red marble off the board. Marble columns and walls offer both obstructions and ricochet points, adding complexity to the physics equation. As the game progresses, you'll be required to put your intuitive, Zen-like grasp of physics to the test as you bounce away multiple marbles in a single shot.
Analysis: This is the kind of game that Ian Bogost might have had in mind when he suggested that some games should be a relaxing, "lean back" experience, instead of an intense "lean foward experience". The gameplay is turn-based, entirely deterministic, and therefore entirely owned by your precise judgements and gestures. It is tightly programmed and polished, and you can tell it's from a country that produces highly rigorous programming talent. The only fault with it, which is unfortunately a major one, is the design decision to limit the number of replays. If any developers haven't gotten the memo about the Arcade-age ending and the Internet-age replacing it, you've got it now. The tension of being limited in your exploration of the physics in each level almost completely ruins the purity that the game otherwise provides. And to think, if only you had infinite lives inner peace would be yours.
If the twin dragons don't call out to your very DNA, then let me persuade you: