All my life since I can remember, I've always wanted to compose music sung by a choir of mice. Finally, all of my relentless and agonizing patience has paid off and I can finally get my chance in Sound Factory, a game created by our friend Luke Whittaker, whose other game A Break in the Road was only just recently reviewed here.
In this charming little game, you play the role of a bored tire manufacturing worker named Dink. Dink's tired of his pathetic day to day existence doing the same old thing. In fact, he'd quit his job were it not for his eight starving children and warehouse load of credit card debt. Today though, things are going to turn around for poor Dink as he discovers his inborn talent to make music from old factory machinery.
The game is simple: unlock all of the different sound items by impressing your co-workers with music created from the items you currently have. Don't get too caught up in all of the fun though—you've still got a job to do and a quota to meet. No matter how hard you rock out, you still need to have 100 tires inflated by 5 o'clock. This doesn't seem too hard until you realize that your first and chief instrument, over-inflating tires, destroys your quota meeting product in the process!
To make things even more difficult, your boss isn't going to just let you play around all day (I couldn't believe it either, what kind of sick, twisted world do they live in?!) From time to time he'll come down to make sure absolutely no fun is being had and work is getting completed—so stop all instruments IMMEDIATELY until he leaves! Once he's in his office you can return to getting your funk on behind his back.
Once you have beaten a level you can take the items you've unlocked and have free reign to come back and compose away without dealing with silly things such as quotas and bosses. Also, just as you could in A Break in the Road, you can save your masterpiece and send it to friends!
Do your part in sticking it to "the man" by creating some smash tunes yourself!
Analysis: This game is just plain good 'ol fun for the whole family (they'd have to play one at a time of course). It is so immersing that you don't really even realize how much fun you're having until you have many instruments playing at once—when the floor is filled with employees gleefully neglecting their job.
The truth is, every time I thought to myself "wow, it'd be cool if I could do this," I'd discover that I could! It's a well polished game that gives you the freedom to create what you want—the kind of open-endedness that keeps people coming back. The animation and audio are crisp and the game is laid out very well.
I'm a big fan of creation in games- we take ownership of we create and in doing so we invest ourselves in the game world. By the time you snap out the game you'll be shocked to learn how much time passed. Hmm... maybe YOU should get back to work!
Bonus: I recently asked Luke, based on his experience with games that experiment with sound, what his take on audio in games was. How important is it? He was quite gentlemanly and responded as such:
"Ah, you've got me onto my favorite subject... how long have you got? Put briefly, I think a lot of audio designers would tell you that, even in full-blown console and PC games, audio has traditionally got the short straw in terms of its support from technology and from developers. It's changing now, with better tools and technology being developed, but at the time A Break in the Road was being developed back on Flash 5, all you could really do with sound was pan it from left to right or change the volume. We had to work out many tricks to get them [the audio tracks] to loop properly. Flash 8 has added many more sound channels, which is always welcome. It's up to developers now to push their ideas with sound, if we're going to see games use it creatively. I see it as a great way of giving the user a sense of being part of a game, and of having a true creative input in the path the game takes. Rather than give the player a choice of, say, four "paths" through a game, why not give them four sounds instead, and they'll each come up with something unique they can call their own. It's still possible to give a game a narrative trajectory so it's not just a musical play pen—for example, you've still got to play your tune to the crowd at the end of A Break in the Road, but along the way you've created your own story.
On another note, perhaps Web games are the best way to experiment with these ideas at present, since it seems like the big console publishers are only just starting to realize the potential of audio in games (Guitar Hero is an example). On the web we're free to try these things without needing a 100 strong development team, and who knows, perhaps the big publishers will cotton on soon." -Luke "Makes Rockin' Games" Whittaker
Super Bonus: Tip: If you're having a hard time turning off all of the instruments when the boss comes out, don't forget that you can click on their icon at the bottom to toggle them on and off!