I think that one of the signs that I'm getting old is my increasing inability to comprehend the appeal of the latest hot must-have toy of the season. Truthfully, this mental deficiency started early in life: my sister's Furby seemed positively demonic to me, and, in my mind, the proportions of her Bratz dolls fell deep into the Uncanny Valley. This has continued to the present day: Silly Bands? Zhu Zhu Pets? Paper Jamz? I just feel like I'm missing something. No matter... I have the plethora of webtoys in the JiG Vault to keep my increasingly crotchety personality at bay. Below are three of my favorites, which I think will be fun for both the young and the young at heart.
- Acrobots - Of the three we feature this week, Acrobots is probably the toy I'd most want to see a physical desktop version of, to place next to the ol' Newton's cradle and miniature Zen garden. We've featured Vector Park quite a bit in these Vault articles, and all you need to do is to manipulate a collection of their three-legged Acrobots to remember why. Acrobots plays like an interactive aquarium with its hopping, bopping, magnetic creatures and the various controls on the side to influence their environment. Despite how my mind tells me that all of their movements are controlled by some intricate physics engine, I can't help but see flashes of playful personality in how they push off of each other and build larger Acrobot-ic structures. Acrobots may have no larger goal beyond amusement, but it is the perfect game to keep in the corner of a multi-monitor display, or just to pull up whenever you need a smile provoked. I may not be entirely sure what all the controls on the side do, but they're fun to mess with all the same.
- Pianolina - A great proportion of webtoys try to capture the joy of music creation, but few succeed in the way that Pianolina does. The concept is so simple: set different colored boxes in motion within a square box. Each time one hits a surface, it bounces and makes a different tone depending on its color. Hit another box, and it makes a chord. From this simple premise comes music of surprising depth. They aren't sounds that you could reproduce in any formalized structure (to do that sort of thing, you'd need one of the pianos sold by the game's sponsor, Grotrian), but that is sort of the point: the internet is just the place to create instruments that would be impossible to realize outside of a computer screen. Pianolina is not a tool for writing a great symphony, but it will recreate the feeling that comes when, just sitting at a keyboard tapping at random, you come upon a small sequence of notes that just sound good together.
- The ABC Game - A strange mix of alphabet book and post-apocalyptic wasteland, Norweigian developer Orgdot's The ABC Game feels like something that parents would love to play with their more-astute toddlers. Whether or not you have one of the latter on hand, it's a good bet you'll love the gorgeous art and letter-based character designs. It's combination of simple hidden object gameplay and simple point-and-click puzzling won't tax the mind, but is more than made up for by the joy of looking at the pretty pictures that jump up across the beautifully surreal landscape. I'm not sure how well The ABC game serves as an educational tool, but going from A to Z has never been so satisfying... and if it reminds you that Norway has a few more vowels to deal with, all the better.
While we welcome any comments about this weekly feature here, we do ask that if you need any help with the individual games, please post your questions on that game's review page. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and rediscover some awesome!