Higher!


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kateHigherThese days all of the cool kids want to fly to the right. They're buying fancy upgrades and using their slingshots and catapults to launch themselves, gathering treasure and defeating enemies as they sail rightward, mocking the rest of us as they go. Do not fear! Developer Arcadebra has said "No! We shall no longer fly to the right. We shall fly as gravity intends us to, and the flying direction shall be UP! Straight up. Into the sky." To illustrate the seriousness of their convictions, they have released Higher!, a flying game that defies those who would force us to the right. Well, it's more of a floating game. But you do float straight up.

The incredibly simple goal of Higher! is to get, well, higher. An unassuming little house sits on the ground patiently, surrounded by a picket fence, next to some picturesque trees. Suddenly a balloon floats by and gets caught on the roof, pulling the house skyward, freeing it of its mundane existence. This pleases the house greatly, and when another passing balloon gets caught on the roof, an adventure is born.

Sail into the wild blue yonder with the help of these friendly balloons. Mouse over a balloon and it will happily join your journey, elevating your tiny dwelling to greater heights. Use either the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to steer the house through the ether, avoiding the evil bombs that can burst your brave little balloons and send your home plummeting towards terra firma, along with your hopes and dreams. Click and drag those nasty bombs into each other, making them explode, and you're rewarded with coins. Mouse over these metaphorical pennies from heaven to collect them, and we've come full-circle, control scheme-wise.

Your coinage can be used to purchase upgrades for your tiny cottage and its lofty quest. Press [P] or [space] to pause the game and access the menu system where the upgrades can be found. Increase the number of explosions it takes to pop your balloons or increase the money you get from bombs, among others. Unlock various achievements by reaching certain heights or detonating enough bombs, and win even more money. Each balloon you collect fills the Surprise Meter. When this bar of whimsy is filled, you get a surprise. Surprise!

Analysis: We'll address this point right away, because I know what you're thinking, but Higher! is in no way related to any feature film you may have seen recently. An "inspired by" acknowledgment might have been nice, but that could open up an enormous can of copyright lawyers disguised as worms. Let's never speak of that again.

Unlike those fancy newfangled fly-by-night (to-the-right) games, Higher! is refreshingly simple, from the blue and white palette to the soothing music to the gameplay itself. It only gets complex when you need to use both the keyboard and the mouse to navigate, but if you're quick enough with the mouse, you can let your house sail along happily without a lot of keyboard use.

In similar games, you generally get one attempt to fly or sail or slide as far as you can, and access to upgrades is restricted to the end of the level only. Higher! lets you pause the game at any time and open the upgrades menu. Your purchase is immediately applied, without having to literally restart from ground zero. Get it? Because the house is actually on the ground at the beginning? So that's ground zero, see, and then... oh nevermind. Anyway, your progress is automatically saved through some sort of Intrawebs wizardry, so there's no need to fret about what happens to your very brave house and its balloon friends while you're away.

With respectful apologies to those who detest both alliteration and terrible puns, Higher! is smooth soothing sailing all the way.

Play Higher!

47 Comments

The game is very fun, but I keep getting frustrated by how sometimes it doesn't pick up the mines.

I have not experienced any issue with picking up mines.

You have to click on the mine, not just merely close to it. Since they are moving, maybe sometimes you think you've clicked on one when in fact you have missed it? If so, that is something I can relate to. ;)

I love this game. It reminds me a lot of orisinal. Wonderful music, great graphics, simple yet engaging gameplay. You couldn't ask for a much better flash game then this.

It reminds me of Orisinal as well. I actually played this for 10 or 15 minutes, getting to about 6600 before stopping and then realizing (via this review) that you can move the house left to right. I imagine that'd make things quite a bit easier.

You said, An "inspired by" acknowledgment might have been nice, but that could open up an enormous can of copyright lawyers disguised as worms.

What do you mean "disguised as?"

[Edit: It was a play on words. Ever hear of opening a "can of worms"? -Jay]

I found the Achievements and Upgrades menus to be extremely offensive. Your prize for collecting 1,000 coins is... $1,000? And with enough money, wealthy players can purchase upgrades to their own incomes? These sorts of regressive policies, where the rich are rewarded with more money because they are rich, only serve to exacerbate the devastating wage gap in today's casual gameplay world.

When only the richest 1% can afford the balloon insurance necessary to survive a surprise onslaught of raining bombs, it's no wonder so few households can make it to deep space in this economy.

it got to the point that i collected one balloon and flew into a bomb, which popped five of my balloons

I would prefer it without the surprise bar

It seems to be only rain of coins and rain of bombs. Rain of coins drops to quickly to be worthwhile, and the boost it gives even if you collect all the coins is minor, while rain of bombs doesn't give enough time to defend against it and takes out half your balloons.

In the more bombs surprise, you will want to remove the bombs from one side first and move your house toward that side.

A new version has been uploaded to fix a bug. Thanks for reporting it! :)

Pretty boring after 52,000 m and 15 missions. Make it harder.

I'd prefer it if there were an ending. Deep space gets boring in the end.

Jay, I'd have to disagree with you.
Just pause the game when a rain of bombs has just gotten onto the screen, go to one of the listed menus, and play again. the bombs are gone!

Does it ever end? at 50,000 m I suspect it doesn't but I can't stop myself from continuing

Uh... Only now I read that you can "pick up bombs", whatever that means (but it probably means you don't actually have to smash into them continually).

However, just a little strategy note: if you upgrade the lifting power of your balloons too much, you'll reach a point in which all the mines won't have enough onscreen time to blow - and so you won't be able to amass enough money for the later upgrades.

I haven't actually tested this, but I'd say that the best upgrade sequence is:

- Double coin value
- More coins per bomb
- More coins per bomb
- More value per coin
- Defense power
- Defense power
- Defense power
- More coins per bomb
- Defense power
- And then all the lifting upgrades you can get

"Pick up bombs" = click and drag them.

Dan - there is no ending to the game, just higher and higher scores.

Casual? Check.
Fun? Check.
Good system, good interface, sufficient variaton? Check.
Satisfying? .....well, not so much.

It's nice to know when to turn off a game. Winning (with the game ending) is good. Having gotten everything is good (some games don't quit, per se, but you have all the unique upgrades, at which point the games become something of a sandbox until you feel personally satisfied with the experience).

But realizing that you're still playing at 75000 m or so, and have been playing, the same way, for a while, with no apparent reward? That kind of ends the game on a "eh" note. Kind of like those surveys online where you "win a free iPod, house, and controlling interest in Microsoft!!!" if you will just complete the survey, except the survey never ends. The thing that WILL BE WHY YOU QUIT is that you've gotten frustrated with the experience. Getting higher didn't mean much anymore. Yes, another upgrade would make my life easier, at least in terms of raw height gained per unit time. But for what? Space is pretty darn deep, and it's all the same.

Note to developers: if we play your game all the way through, it's because it's fun to play, and we liked the mechanic/style/play system/challenge. Congrats. But getting to some stable unending state, when all we have is a mastered play style, that's not inherently satisfying. On the contrary, the game peters out, and when we get sick of it, that's what you end up remembering, because people remember the ends of things. And so you allowed your game to have a bad psychological overtone when it probably didn't deserve one. (In this case, my wrist hurts now, too, which doesn't help.)

That makes your game incomplete, and in a particularly sad way. So consider that before putting out your product.

(Now, if someone says that at 150000 meters, or something, there's a moon, I'd have a different criticism on the same grounds, so I'm still going to stand by all this regardless. It's technically an end, but not a measured one, sufficient to be satisfying within the offerings of the gameplay. Ultimately, a similar problem.)

I agree with your assessment, JIGuest. I asked the developer to add some additional rewards in, but they didn't make it into this version. Perhaps if enough people play this one, we'll see a sequel. :)

I'm sorta confused by you both, actually. Isn't the time to quit the moment you get all eight achievements? (For me, before then; I didn't really have the patience to wait for the balloons one.) Surely neither of you thought that Tower of Greed was unsatisfying, right?

Is your complaint that arbitrarily many upgrades are offered? This makes sense to me, because you want your game to be winnable to all players; put a cap on the upgrades, and there might be someone who can't get the 8 trophies even with the upgrades maxed out. Upgrades serve the same way as leveling up in RPGs: those who can't beat the game as fast as others at least have an incentive to play repetitively, with the knowledge that temporary boredom will eventually make the unconquerable conquerable.

I would also like to add that the missions are unfortunately unbalanced. When it begins, the difference between Bombs, Coins and Balloons is negligible. You can accomplish any one of those missions with no difference in time. It's great, it allows for variety.

As the game goes on, however, and the numbers between them does not change (always 110 Bombs, 110 Coins or 110 Balloons for Mission 22 for example) Coins become the only quick way to complete them. This is due to the skew behind the upgrades toward generating more coins with each bomb, as well as not 'handicapping' the other two by some factor since they do not change in generation rate. And since you can force the game to always give you Coin missions, I found myself changing to the upgrade screen just to change from Bombs or (the worst of the lot) Balloons.

I second a previous poster in the 'Surprise' isn't much fun. I found myself at the end having one finger hovering on the ESC button in case a Bomb Shower occurred, to preserve my height.

If instead of having it never end, have the house drift off into space by the last height accomplishment, then you could easily score people based on how long they took, rather than the arbitrary 'this is how long I spent at this game' score system currently in place.

I apologize for the negativity, I did find the game soothing up until I figured the optimal route. =)

Buttons - I think the time to quit will vary depending on the player. Some players will seek to fill all achievements; others will try for a high score.

What I believe JIGuest is saying is that with the current implementation, regardless of the type of player, once the player feels that they have seen everything there is to see and quits, the feeling they're left with is a bit anticlimactic and therefore unsatisfying. Not that the game wasn't fun, it just leaves the player wanting or expecting something more.

We're nitpicking here, because the game is definitely fun, it just sort of drops the ball on delivering a truly exceptional experience.

The developer was concerned about performance issue by introducing additional elements the farther the player traveled out into space. And therefore I think there are a whole lot of ideas here left unexplored. ;)

Well I DID have an exceptional experience. I thought it was awesome through and through. I guess it's a matter of personal taste in games, but I thought this game had quite a bit to offer and that there were a pretty good set of rewards as you continued into the game.

This game makes the classic blunder of tying timers to real-world time rather than an in-game frame count. That means that once things start getting chaotic, with lots of explosions, balloons, and coins flying around everywhere, the timers on the bombs count down quickly while the game runs slowly. That makes all the bombs explode way above my house, which means that even the "Rain of Bombs" does nothing to stop me. Plus, bombs set each other off, so I get a cloud of big explosions at the top of the screen that keeps clearing out bombs and making more explosions.

The game ran smooth for me without any timing errors or issues. Even with 15 tabs all open at once.

Have you tried playing it without any other app running and in a single browser window without other tabs open?

I think perhaps it's only noticeable because in Linux, Flash performs horribly, or perhaps because I have a somewhat older machine (just a P4 2.4 GHz), but I'm seeing exactly the timing issues that Aegeus mentions.

It seems that grabbing a coin makes the animation pause for a split second, but not the bomb timers. Once there are enough coins to grab on the screen, the animation of the objects (bombs, coins, balloons, explosions) is effectively paused as I grab them all, and by the time I'm done, any remaining bombs have had enough time to explode (usually near the top of the screen, harmlessly), which of course releases more coins for me to grab.

"It was a play on words. Ever hear of opening a "can of worms"?"

Um, I know, I was making a joke too. I was saying, "Same difference."

Man, I can't believe I played that long.

I guess I enjoyed it, but like others said, I was hoping for some surprise, some "gift" for those who played a long time.

In the end, once you realize all you have to do is

1) Tap escape
2) Click on upgrades or achievements
3) Click Start Playing
And your bomb shield is reset. Play until you hit n bombs, then tap escape again. Rinse, repeat.

And you realize that that isn't necessarily less fun than the game itself, the game feels like a let down.

Hopefully they can expand upon the game, and come up with some other goals rather than "high score" or a short list of "achievements". I'd love to try to pass the moon, other planets, see some aliens, etc.

LOL, Sylocat. I totally missed that. I guess the joke's on me then! xD

This had too many failings to be much fun. As already pointed out, thee were the timing & reset bugs. Then there's the odd interface label, where "Start Play" means 'resume'. The tutorial isn't very clear either - I had no idea you had to wait several seconds, really quite a long time, for it to demonstrate how to catch balloons. That could have just been there in the text. I had to figure that out on my own despite asking for instructions thanks to that (not to mention my cursor doesn't look like that).

The biggest thing for me were the failings in gameplay: Punishing the player randomly for doing well is the biggest sin (surprise bomb drop), and the supposed corresponding reward (coin drops) don't balance that at all. The house controls are pointless, since there's no strategic reason to ever get out of the bottom corners.
Then there's the lack of an ending, apparently (and little reward for pushing upward). No natural breaks can be interesting, but here it doesn't do much since you wish there were some reason to pause besides upgrading. The missions don't add anything, either; I didn't even really notice them until I was on Mission #10.

It also fails at atmospheric science (minor nitpick, that one).

I went to 275,000 m. Definately nothin up there.

Reminds me of the movie UP!...

I enjoyed this. Suggestions for enhancements (to the game itself and/or a sequel):

Fix exploitable bug:

If you pause and visit the Upgrades menu, whether you buy anything or not, the "type" of your current mission changes. So you can trade a difficult mission like "collect 100 balloons" for an easier one like "collect 100 coins".

Make it clear to players, either at the beginning of the game or when all achievements are gained, that the game goes on forever. Like many, I was wondering if there was an ending ahead, or "max upgrades" to be obtained.

More than two types of "surprise".

If I understand how it works right, once you have a balloon defense upgrade, different balloons attached to the house can have different "health" attributes. Making this visible with some sort of color code would be nice.

Not bad! A few things:

I think the explosion animation is occluding the mine hit areas. When a mine moves into an explosion cloud, you can't click on it even though it still exists when the cloud dissipates.

A single mine exploding multiple balloons is pretty punishing. Collecting several balloon and having one mine push you further down than you began is pretty heartbreaking.

Scaling on the upgrades doesn't seem constant (or balanced). Balloon defense wasn't noticeable even after several upgrades while four or so height-per-balloon upgrades bring a house to deep space.

Rain of Bombs? Not the best of surprises, but one that would be acceptable if there were a wider variety of surprises.

Lovely atmosphere, whimsical subject and the insta-save feature should be a must have in every game. A beautiful, rough-around-the-edges game. Nice!

ps: Nice to haves - achievements unlock house decorations, a new Increase Balloon Frequency upgrade, and dynamic marks showing the last 5 and top 5 heights reached (similar to DoodleJump on the iPhone).

Concept is fine, and it was fun at first, but it could definitely be better. I agree with what I read in the comments, but I haven't read all the comments.

Also, the "challenge" in this game, that is, throwing bombs and navigating and picking up coins, didn't feel at all like a challenge, it just felt unfair. I think the clickable area for the mines is a bit too small, maybe add an "easier mode" if you think it makes the game too easy, but there are many times where my house is fast approaching a mine that I can't steer away from, and I swear I clicked on the mine to drag it away, but then I find my house sinking, sinking. And the coins. I could never get all the coins once they started dropping four, so that doesn't motivate me to upgrade, and I also came to dread the surprises.

Hi there, this may already have been found and patched out, but if you fly your house to the very top of the screen none of your balloons will be visible on screen and won't ever be touched by bombs.

It's a very cute game with a similar feel to winterbells, but the endlessness of winterbells worked well due to the level of difficulty in getting high. In this there is no real reason to keep going after you've seen deep space.

Best game review writing I have come across in a long time. This reviewer is both genius and hilarious....

The game just seems really... oddly designed.

The weirdest thing imo is that the two goals, 1) making money, and 2) getting higher are sort of decoupled. That is:

Getting higher seems to have no impact on how much money you make, and in fact does nothing but unlock achievments.

and:

Making money only marginally affects how high you can go: Of the 4 upgrades, balloon power directly helps you, and balloon defense is hard to notice unless you "cheat" by going to the store and resetting all the timers on all your balloons at once... but if you're "cheating" you don't need defense anyways. The other 2 upgrades are just for making yet more money.

It seems like a viable option to make as much money as possible would be to just leave the house on the ground and blow up mines.

Other gripes:

The missions are mostly unimportant (600-700 coins as a reward is negligible), and as others have mentioned, the balance between the balloon, mine, and coin missions and achievements is totally off. (Gathering 1000 coins is trivial, blowing up 1000 mines slow, and grabbing 1000 balloons a worthless exercise in patience).

House movement controls are not useful.

Just a very odd feeling game...

Good game. I wouldn't what (pixer film) inspired it...

It's a cute game, fun to play for a while, even when you are a bad arcade gamer, like me. But it could use improvements/an easy mode.
I found it really hard to catch the bombs on higher levels. The click able area is very small, which I experienced everytime a balloon pulled me up toward a bomb. Of course, I lost balloons because of that, which wouldn't be so bad when you didn't lose height so quickly. Also, I found the surprises a bit useless, especially the Bomb Rain (well, that was just... mean).

I also got the impression that making all the objects white was a mistake. It is hard to see 'what is what' when you can only focus your eyes on one object all the time, while everything has the same colour and roughly the same shape. Also, white objects on a dark background tire your eyes quickly.

Half of the game I was trying to get back to the maximum height I reached, not really fun when you have lost half the distance. Of course that's more challenging and more exciting than going up like it is a piece of cake. It was frustrating and fun, cute and mean at the same time.

Mines and coins are hard to catch. For some reason, balloons have no such issues.
Upgrades don't seem to do much.
Basically, this is nothing but pretty music and graphics.

Interesting game, but as so thoroughly pointed out above, really ultimately kind of disappointing. I eventually got to 100,000 m, and then finished out the achievements (got the 1000 balloons) while floating down. So sad that there is nothing really different after you hit deep space. Thank you ZinVertigo for discovering that there really really isn't anything up there, I certainly don't have the patience for 250,000 m! And now I am totally done with the game. Will never go back, will not think of it later and try to remember its name, nothing like that. Some games (even simple ones) you remember months or years later. Not this one, despite time spent playing it.

I was done once I reached 18,360

and realized that there wasn't going to be a moon

I just wanted to mention that is sibalance, not alliteration.

Yours truly
Grammar Nazi

I enjoyed the game up to about 10,000, but then had an incredibly hard time clicking on the bombs as they fell, ESPECIALLY after a balloon lift-power upgrade where they fell very fast. The lack of an upper limit is also anticlimactic; to contrast, I really like Motherlode, which goes down into the earth on what seems and endless run of dig, get gems, upgrade to dig farther, but it does have an actual satisfying end.

One thing that might be nice is if there were some rare red balloons to catch. Perhaps they could provide more lift than regular balloons. You could then also add an achievement of having gathering 99 red balloons...

I'm throwing in the towel at 106 km. One interesting note though:

Simply right-click to access the flash menu and "freeze" the game in place (although you can still use your mouse), then position the pointer over a bomb and click to unpause the game, trapping the bomb in hand. Beware that sometimes the game "unfreezes" itself randomly.

I was about to say this game reminds me of the movie Up, but then I reread the review. Fun game!

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