Certainly one of the highlights of the two Casual Gameplay design competitions we have held so far has been the original new gameplay ideas that have come from them. Rising to the occasion of a call for entries and a deadline, Flash game designers from around the world embraced the challenge and rewarded us with their efforts. It really is amazing to see such creativity sprout from a simple word, as with the recent competition and its "grow" theme.
In this 18-level game, there are only but a few rules that you need to know to get started: (1) Click on a rectangle to expand it; (2) No rectangle may be clicked twice in succession; (3) Each rectangle may be expanded only 3 times; (4) All rectangles must connect to advance to the next level. It's as simple as that.
With the first couple levels starting off easy, the challenge comes in later levels when planning your moves carefully becomes necessary and more difficult. A nice musical riff and impressive red paint drip reward you after each success.
Analysis: With one of the stronger entries in the competition, Wouter shows that great things can grow from simple ideas. In fact, a simple idea is often the impetus behind games with a more universal appeal. A successful game designer is someone that can transcend language and cultural differences to deliver an enjoyable game play experience in a package everyone can understand.
This particular implementation of the game design, however, is lacking a couple of features that could improve the depth and quality of the overall experience: random levels, and a save mechanism, both of which might have been outside the scope of the relatively short development period for the competition. Additional gameplay elements thrown into the mix in later levels could even serve to extend and enrich the core concept. Still, PLANned is a solid puzzle game design with plenty of potential for future iterations. I am personally looking forward to the DS version of the game. ;)
Another neat idea that incorporates the Grow theme as an integral part of the gameplay mechanism. Plus, the music you get to hear after solving each level is a nice incentive. Not quite as appealing to me as Rings and Sticks, but still makes you think and plan each move carefully. Even more than Rings and Sticks, the later levels suffer from guess-and-check syndrome, and I think that the "can't click twice in a row" rule adds more frustration than strategy. Still, technically awesome and refreshingly unique.
Good overall design and heavy on the "plan ten moves ahead" element. The visual and audio extras make the game feel quite polished, and the gameplay couldn't be easier. Just like zxo said above, I felt the later levels suffered from guess-and-check syndrome. When my PLANning wasn't spot-on, frustration set in every time I had to start over from square one. It doesn't detract from the overall deliciousness of the game, though.