Jetro Lauha, is probably not a name you're familiar with. However, most everyone who enjoys casual games has at one point played that game where you threw a ragdoll dummy down a flight of stairs attempting to cause as much damage to him as possible. . . yes? That game was called Porrasturvat, better known as Stair Dismount, and it caused quite a stir in the online community when it was released back in 2002. We all spent as least a few minutes toying with the angles and the power, laughing with glee as the dummy bounced down the stairs and landed painfully on his head. Good times.
Jetro's latest offering, Pogo Sticker, is a wonderfully fun and free, physics-based downloadable game in which the goal is to guide a brightly colored pogo sticking blob safely to the exit platform in each of the game's 12 levels.
The award winning game took 1st place in the Mindtrek 2005 casual game competition and 3rd in Assembly 2005 game development competition. Jetro designed and programmed the game while Sara Kapli, Antti Tiihonen and Joona Poikonen provided most of the graphics and level design. There are versions available for all three major platforms—Mac, PC and Linux.
The controls are very simple and done entirely with the mouse. If you drag your mouse to the left or right of your character, he will lean and move in that direction. The farther you drag the mouse the sharper the angle gets and the faster he moves. Clicking either mouse button will increase the power of your jumps. Too much and your character will crash into the ceiling and damage his fragile head. If you take too much damage, you die and have to restart the level. You must also restart if you run out of momentum and can no longer jump.
Restarting is not a big deal though as you can try as many times as you like, and the levels are all beatable in under 30 seconds (though this will take practice). The game comes with a timer which will record how long it takes you to beat each level. You can win green, yellow and red lollipops based on your time, and if you manage to do extremely well on a given level, you can win the highest award, the super lollipop which indicates you've beaten the best score of the developers. I've only managed to get this on 2 levels so far, despite getting what I thought were some amazing times on other levels.
The graphics are bright and colorful and deceive the player into thinking that the game is alot easier than it is. The music and sound effects are lighthearted and fun for a while, but can get tiresome, especially when you're getting frustrated from continually dying on the same level over and over and over again. Fortunately they can both be turned off easily.
Pogo Sticker is not available in a browser, unfortunately, but the download is tiny (1.1 MB), and it's a really wonderful game which is definitely worth a look.
Analysis: Pogo Sticker is great fun. When I first played the game, I was having too much fun to notice any flaws, but now that I've finished the game, there are a few things that I feel could use improvement:
1) The default mode for the game is to run in a window, which caused a big problem for me. Since the speed of the pogo sticker is based on how far you move your cursor away from him, naturally, there are times when you want to have the mouse right on the edge of the game screen. However it's very easy to overshoot and move the cursor outside of the game screen's area, and since clicking the mouse is the only way to increase the jump power, I very often found myself clicking outside of the game causing the window to go inactive or bringing other windows to the front. Fortunately, the game pauses when this happens, so you can't inadvertently die while you don't have control. Unfortunately, this is only a small consolation, as the constant pausing is distracting and usually results in your death anyway. The game does have a fullscreen mode which solves this problem, but you have to manually select this, or create your own desktop shortcut.
2) The level design is not spectacular. Aside from the bright colors, most of the levels are not terribly visually appealing. Many have entire sections which are unnecessary, and almost all of them have random constructions in odd places which don't affect the gameplay at all and are more distracting to the eye than anything else. Each level is generally fun to play through once or twice, but none of them really made me want to play again. The physics engine powering this game offers quite a large range of movement to the players, but unfortunately the levels themselves are not greatly varied and much of the freedom that the physics engine allows is wasted. For instance the pogo sticker is capable of jumping very fast and high, yet there are no levels with wide open spaces in which to make use of that power.
3) Finally, this game just screams out for a level editor and a high score board, neither of which appear to exist.
With more and better levels, a high score board, and the ability to create, download and play custom levels, this game could have had a much greater lasting appeal. As it is, Pogo Sticker is still great fun for an hour or so, perfect for a lunch break diversion. Click.