Surely you've heard of Minecraft by now. What? You haven't heard of that popular downloadable indie-game where you run around in a virtual 3D world consisting of pixel-like blocks, harvesting anything that isn't tied down to create tools, structures, and even entire worlds? Hmm, you say you're intrigued, but you don't have the time and energy to invest in such a robust and addictive product? Well in that case, it sounds like you should give Scuba by Louissi and Mapoga a try.
Directly inspired by titles like Minecraft and Terraria, Scuba is a casual game of discovery, crafting, and exploration across a randomly-generated, side-scrolling world. The story begins with a meteor-deflected rocket ship that needs to make a quick landing on a cube-like planet. As the stranded pilot, you must find parts to build a new motor so you can take off again. Armed with only a puny mining laser, you need to guide your character on land and under the sea, collecting 10 types of resources and crafting them to form dozens of new materials and objects. You control your diver-character with the standard [WASD] keys, and click and hold the mouse within a defined radius to collect resources. Back at your rocket ship, you can place items from your inventory into a 3 X 3 grid to craft other materials and objects from a list of recipes accessed by pressing [R]. Only through persistence and lots of collecting will you be able to build your new engine and return home.
While there are a limited number of resources on the surface, most of the better materials are found underwater, requiring you to dive. You start out with a limited oxygen supply, a shallow pressure suit, a weak flashlight, and feeble boots. As you dive, you have to watch your air, pressure, and battery meters. The deeper you go, the darker it gets, and the added pressure uses up your limited air supply more rapidly. You can keep returning to the surface and your rocket ship, but for more time and bounty underwater, it's quicker to build submersible mobile workbenches, air cabinets, lights, and battery chargers.
Analysis: Even if you haven't really played Minecraft, by playing Scuba you can get a sense of how the former game can be so popular. There's something satisfying about creating increasingly-advanced items from scratch, knowing that you went out of your way to find the nuts and bolts that went towards their creation. With Scuba, there's a definite goal you have to reach, and certain milestones along the way that give your character powerups and a sense of direction. Need the level 3 diving helmet? That'll require a level 2 helmet, two iron, and two gold. How do you get gold? That's four coal, one energy unit, and one glow bulb. Short on energy units? You can craft one out of stone, mushrooms, and glow bulbs, or you can go diving and zap the energy from swimming creatures. And so on. The fun part is that there's an arcadey-element to running around and zapping the stuff you need, and a puzzly part to finding the right combinations and forming them on the 3 X 3 grid.
Of course, there are some problems with the game as well. The screen's scrolling motion (as of v1.1) can be extremely jerky in certain browsers, though it's something you get used to after a while. Navigation can also be difficult, since there's no mini-map to tell you where you are in relation to anything (other than your rocket ship). It's also possible to accidentally destroy your mobile workbench, forcing you to backtrack to your rocket ship before you can build it again.
Most of that can be overlooked, however, compared to Scuba's pluses. The graphics, while tile based, are nicely detailed and stylized, using lighting effects and nifty shading gradients. In addition, the music is varied and relaxing, keeping you going throughout your quest. All this coupled with the fact that the random world generation gives you a new experience each time means you may be coming back to this title more than once. While it would have been fun to face off against tougher monsters than the neutral underwater creatures, Scuba's casual and forgiving gameplay is a nice gateway to more advanced crafting games. Even if you're already a hard-core Minecrafter, Scuba's fun gameplay and underwater aspects definitely make it a casual title worth checking out.
Thanks to Crankyanker and Cyberjar88 for sending this one in! :)