Bits and Pieces
The first thing I noticed when playing Bits and Pieces, David Lorentz's new platform game, was what a crazy good jumper its pixelated protagonist is. I mean, yeah, most platform heroes wouldn't make it through screen one if they couldn't jump five times their own height, but this dude easily launches himself off like a bottle rocket at the slightest provocation. Good thing though, as making it to the artistically confusing finish will require quite a bit of hopping and/or bopping. And it's a load of fun.
Arrow keys move you left and right, and [X] makes you jump (something you'll be doing quite a bit.) Running into enemies depletes your health, but jumping on enough of them or grabbing a power-up give you energy to perform special moves. The controls are standard, the world you move in isn't. Interestingly, the power bar is represented by "Glutamate," literally Brain Power, and losing health seems to revert you to earlier stages of evolution.
Analysis: Games based around jumping have sort of a bad reputation. Certainly it's an action that's hard to replicate in the 3-D environments of most modern games, but even in two dimensions, even the slightest bit of lag or unresponsiveness of the controls can be a real killjoy. Fortunately the programming is up to the challenge. True, the hovering mechanic is hit and miss, and it sometimes got frustrating when I jumped off the top of the screen. However it's the kind of frustrating that makes want to try again until you succeed.
As for the plot... Bits and Pieces is open to interpretation, and my own tends to be a bit more navel-gazey than most. However, I personally took it to serve as an intriguing comparison between the "kill or be killed" mechanics of simpler arcade games and the amorality of the animal kingdom. Why do lions hunt gazelles? If they didn't, they wouldn't survive. Why do gamers shoot down Space Invaders? If we don't, we lose a life. Certainly more complex games give more complex motivations (i.e. Why is that plumber climbing those girders and jumping over those barrels? Because he wants to rescue his girlfriend from the ape that has kidnapped her), but in simple games like Bits and Pieces, literally everything that I input is purely for the survival of my little avatar. I "kill" dozens of creatures as they try to "kill" me, but there's nothing personal about it. It's just that if I didn't do it, my character wouldn't survive.
Do games like this reveal the animalistic side of the arcade? As goofy as it seems on the surface, it's hard to deny something primal in the sensation of "fun." And certainly, while I personally may be reading too much into it (as I said I tend to do that), it doesn't hurt that "fun" is a sensation that Bits and Pieces certainly evokes.
The main flaw of Bits and Pieces is that it does try to do too much in too little space, and as such, parts of it don't particularly mesh. Fans of hop and bop gameplay may find the artistic elements intrusive, fans of more arty games may find the platforming frustrating, and the game may be too short to leave either group completely satisfied (especially with such an abrupt ending). Saying you'll be left wanting more is definitely a double edged sword.
While Bits and Pieces is a short experience, it is also a sweet one, and it has a surprising bit of depth. It's certainly worth a little bit of your time and a piece of your mind.
I thought it was pretty fun. The level where there were pink-bird mountains that you had to platform over while they were moving was fun because of the difficulty. I didn't find the last level hard though, and overall, I thought it was pretty easy.
I like it in the abstract, but starting on the level that introduces meat, I die because I can't use the controls precisely.
This is about what it means to be "human" and amorality
It reminds me of Douglas Hofstadter's story about
the consciousness of an anthill. The individual ants have no more intelligence or self-awareness than individual cells in my brain, an anthill as a whole seems to have plans and goals, and (in his story) a personality. So I didn't feel any compunctions about killing the birds in this game when necessary.
Those eggy-looking things seemed more important, though. I was sad that there didn't seem to be anything to do other than destroy them... I'd been hoping the little brain dude and the giant distributed bird dude would learn to work together and escape to someplace nicer.
definitely on the wrong side of the fun / frustration ratio...
Am I the only one who thought that...
the face at the end looked like Hella Jeff?
I'd appreciate it, if when jumping out of screen view there would be an arrow pointing where I am. I found it very hard to aim at things when you don't see where you are.
This game annoyed the hell out of me. I spent more time crashing into targets then I did actually hitting something on the head.
1 star for poor controls.
Like many people, I thought it looked interesting, but has some issues:
- I had to do the first level about 10 times before I realized I was supposed to move to the right. I thought I was supposed to jump on X creatures. Overall, it's not really clear where you're supposed to be going.
- Controls were a little too sensitive. Also, not knowing where the thing is going to land once offscreen killed me more times than I can count (as has been mentioned)
- After a few hits, the little pixel gets so small, you can't even see it, much less control it.
- I got to the last level once (I think) but had no idea what I was supposed to do.
I don't have the patience to try it again.
To kill the giant face thing, you have to destroy the red "organs". There's one in each eye and two in the mouth. Invincibility mode or the super stomp will do the trick. Also be warned that if you destroy the lower half of the head completely without enough glutamate left over to rocket to the top half, you'll have to restart the level (pause the game and press X).
On a random note, am I the only one who found the ambiguity of the player's appearance mildly disturbing? At first I thought it looked like a squirrel, but on closer examination, it's more like some weird chicken-thing. The only thing I can be sure of is that as you take damage, you're gradually reduced to just a pair of legs, and the first thing the bird-voice says is "where's the rest of you?", implying that it's already supposed to be missing parts...
@ryusui - I thought the other creature was saying that because at first it assumed that
you were a collective organism, like it was. Later on, it figured out that there was only one of you, and your parts were internal.
Nice. Didn't think of that. Makes sense.