The ability of game developers to capture and convey an idea with seemingly simple pixel art is totally admirable, and Jonathan Whiting has done just that with his newly released game Stalwart. This is a game that presents simply with pixel art and easy to master controls, but a closer look reveals its true side-scrolling, platform and challenging avoidance essence. And all with rhythm!
Controls for Stalwart are simple; use the [arrow] keys, or [WASD] for the left-handed, to sprint, halt, jump and execute some nifty ninja style maneuvers. The stalwart knight's ultimate goal is to get to the castle, but there are a myriad of hurdles to avoid along the way, like meteorites, crashing boulders and obstacles created by a hovering spacecraft. There are three levels of difficulty to choose from, with an in-game tutorial featured in the easiest level. The easy level is great for getting to know the controls and the awesome music you'll be playing along to. But for hardcore casual gamers, you can't go past the hardest of all levels. You've got one life and the full gamut of obstacles, which is possibly why Jonathan Whiting calls it the 'Hell' level.
Analysis: Stalwart is a game that appeals to many with its various difficulty levels; you can play as someone who likes the experience of interactive art and enjoy the pixel graphics and electronic music, or you can go for the adrenaline kick of playing the most challenging level. Gameplay is fairly simple, the controls are easy to master and the rhythmic appearance of obstacles in time to the music lends some predictability, but the game is not necessarily any easier for it. Which is a good thing. And while I would have liked to hear a different track for each difficulty level, the catchy and vibrant electronic pop sounds of Demoscene Time Machine are completely easy to listen to. At times I even found myself tapping the keys and maneuvering the knight in time to the music. What's also pretty cool is being able to choose a color-scheme for the screen (spectrum for me all the way!). For a totally retro look you can't go past the color scheme 'Handheld'.
You may remember Jonathan's previous release, Love Letter, which featured similar pixel art with the same suggestiveness of detail, and presented a challenge that at once frustrated us while compelling us to keep playing. You can expect more of the same in Stalwart, and even more with nicely varying levels of difficulty, smooth and simple gameplay, and great music. While there may be moments of arduous gameplay, there will also be sublime moments of satisfaction.
So if to be 'stalwart' is to be filled with resolve, courage and physical endurance, then it's fair to say that Jonathan Whiting's game may bring out the little stalwart knight in all of us.
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You know that part where
the color scheme inverts about two-thirds of the way through?
If you give up during that part, it stays that way when you start again! :D
Posted by: Spazz | April 19, 2011 3:16 PM
My apologies for the double-post.
Here are some hints for not dying at the tricky parts:
When jumping over the rocks and dodging beams, hang out at the leftmost side of the screen. The beams won't even touch you.
Jumping over the squids here is easy for the first several seconds. Right after you see four squids fly overhead from the right, dash to the right side of the screen (try to position yourself two-thirds of the way across). You can jump over the squid in front and land before the one behind can nab you in mid-air.
From there until you see a beam, position yourself about one-third of the screen from the left side. The jump timing's fairly easy, and the squids are less likely to trip you up here.
When jumping over flying squid things and dodging beams, just stay between the beams. The squids all come from behind, so time your jumps without moving until the beams disappear.
Immediately after that, you'll want to just stay between beams. No jumping necessary. Right after the beams disappear and new ones appear, halt so you're repositioned in another gap.
You'll get some sets of three squids in a row. Jump over the first set, and halt so you don't accidentally jump into another set while getting to the higher platforms.
When the wall starts to form on the left, there will be a long line of squids. Their pattern is simple: they're making a zig-zag shape. Halt while they're above you, and when you jump over the lowest one, move to the right so the one behind it doesn't catch up to you. Rinse and repeat until you have to sprint.
Spirals: Do NOT try to jump over these! Stay close to them. If they're moving toward you during their first, high bounce, simply get under them. Otherwise, position yourself a little to the left from where they're going to land, and they should bounce over you.
When you get to the upper platform, stay directly under the arc of the first spiral bounce. You should be able to avoid all of them without moving. Once you get to a lower platform, the triple-spirals show up.
Triple-spirals: Sprint to the rightmost side of the screen and stay there until they pass. They'll land right next to you, so wait until all of the waves have passed before backing up.
When dodging spirals and beams at the same time, pay little attention to the beams. Really, all you're trying to do is position yourself so the beams don't touch you and the spirals fly overhead. No jumping! Just concentrate on the spirals.
Some time after the color scheme switches back, there will be a wall of four squids coming from the left. Sprint and you should reach a lower platform before they catch up. Do NOT attempt to jump over these!
Three squids, in a triangle formation, come next. If you're at the right side of the screen, you can simply jump backward and clear all three. Get back quickly, or a rock could land on you.
Finally, stick to the spot one-third from the left of the screen and you should be able to handle the final squid and final rock.
Hope these all help. Give 'em hell, you guys! (Yes, pun intended.)
Posted by: Spazz | April 19, 2011 3:48 PM