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1 (edited by dr_st 2013-05-15 23:59:09)

Topic: So I just completed all the levels of Tasty Static

Well, actually, I've already started replaying it. smile

So what was intended as a pure initial impression review, is now a little more. But here goes:

So what did I like?

The basic formula
At its core, it is very similar to Skyroads, with the same basic mechanics of jumping, sliding, accelerating, braking, and collisions. There are differences (which I will get to later), but it is clearly designed to feel as much like Skyroads as possible. And it does it well. Things like variable gravity, and the need to recharge the ship in mid-level, which were good ways to spice up the original gameplay, are present and welcome.

It expands the original gameplay
Introducing interesting new elements, such as track reversal, upside down, auto-jump platforms, ledges and others – it makes the experience richer and adds more versatile challenges.

Difficulty progression
It again captures well the original Skyroads formula – starting easy, and getting gradually more and more difficult towards the end. There are cases when a level may actually be more difficult that those that follow, but this happened from time to time in the original as well. I think I was somewhere two thirds into the game when I first had hit the “100 deaths before completion of a level” mark, and most later levels required as much (with some particularly difficult ones requiring 300, 400 or even 500+ tries!)

Graphics
The wire frame looks very nice – simple, yet elegant, and the same time retro and modern. The support of higher resolutions makes the game look great on large monitors.

Style
Each trio of levels has its own theme, both visual (with different color palettes and graphical styles) and gameplay-wise. Some focus on jumps, others on lateral motion, and others yet on obstacles, and so on. Each level set also has its own unique music, most of the tracks being rather nice and fitting well into the atmosphere of the game.

What are the things that I did not like?

Really they come down to just two points: some particular differences between the gameplay mechanics of Skyroads and of Tasty Static, and control responsiveness problems.

Lateral Jump Momentum

In Skyroads it is much easier to completely change the direction of every single jump – consecutive jumps are independent, which makes you truly feel the freedom of motion. In Tasty Static I felt that there is much more momentum involved between jumps – changing direction is harder, and if you don’t get enough build-up on your jump, you won’t make as far. This is not a big flaw, but it does make the game feel a bit more “sticky” and less fluid.

No Jump-o-Master
Now this one is the major difference. It is the one way in which the mechanics are totally different. The Jump-o-Master (JM) is the feature in the original Skyroads engine which allowed the game to change the effective speed of your ship in mid-air, so that to attempt to land successfully on a platform, and not miss it / crash into it, without you having anything to do with it. When the game activated it for you, the JM indicator on your dashboard would say “In Use” (normally is said “Idle”.

Effectively the JM made series of jumps easy, because you had some freedom in your ship speed, and did not have to set it exactly, or adjust it to account for small differences in platform-to-platform distance or jump timing. As long as you were “mostly correct”, the game would adjust your jump and you would succeed. Think of it as an equivalent of the “Auto-aim” feature present in some early shooter games.

Some people reading this now may wonder – Why would I want something like this? Isn’t the point of the game is to give complete control to the player? Isn’t setting the correct speed for the jump and varying it as needed part of the challenge?

Well, yes and no. Really, as a game developer / level designer you can go either way. Skyroads levels were plenty challenging and interesting with the JM – there are so many other ways to have tricky puzzles, which require both understanding of what needs to be done and precision in executing it. Not having to worry about very little speed/timing differences allows to make the jump sequences themselves more complicated. Skyroads does it really well, and for the most part so does Tasty Static. However, there are places where to succeed you must have very precise control of your speed and change it often, and fast. And this is just something that I don’t find very fun. This is not what I want to think about when playing a Skyroads-type game. Whereas most of Tasty Static succeeds to balance between pleasant and annoying, these parts – to me – are just annoying.

In the end, it is a matter of preference and perspective, and not a fundamental flaw in the game. Thankfully, the areas where constant speed tinkering is required are mostly short and not so common.

And what about the control problem I mentioned?
Well, this is one thing (so far the only thing) which I consider a real flaw, or bug in the game. Somehow the controls are just not as good as Skyroads. They are not as responsive. Way, way too often I would find myself trying to execute a lateral jump in a fairly straightforward situation, only to find that the left/right key did not register, and the ship instead jumps straight into death. And nothing is more annoying than to have this happen to you towards the end of a long and complex level.

I can say that in some levels, probably 10-20% of my deaths where because of this. And just so that you don’t think that there is a problem with me or my keyboard, I will point out that this never happens to me in Skyroads.

In the end, the best way to work around this problem, is to be aware that it may happen, and try to hit the keys very clearly, and exactly at the same time. I’ve also found that in sequences of jumps where you must change directions with every jump, it does sometimes help to keep the jump key down, and only tap the arrow keys. Finally, some places seem to be more prone to it than others.

It is an annoyance, but not a fatal flaw. Overall, it will not have a drastic effect on how long it will take you to beat the game, but it may make you want to slam your keyboard or punch the monitor once or twice during the experience. smile

Conclusion

With the “don’t like” section being so much longer than the “like”, you may think that I was disappointed in Tasty Static. Nothing can be further from the truth. I really liked the game and I found it amazing. I feel it captures almost exactly the Skyroads experience, and then builds up on it. I strongly recommend that any fan of Skyroads plays Tasty Static.

Congrats, Leo, on an amazing achievement!


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Re: So I just completed all the levels of Tasty Static

Thank you for such a comprehensive and deep critique dr_st! I'm incredibly sorry I haven't responded until now, but I've been pretty busy over the past month and wanted to make sure I had the time to write an appropriate response. Anyway:

For the jump-o-master,
To be honest, when I was designing the game I couldn't figure out what it did, so I left it out . It sounds like a pretty crucial feature to some of the harder levels in Skyroads (.....probably one of the reasons I could never beat Druidia) and definitely should have been included here. I imagine it would be pretty fun to code, too.
Personally, I always liked the speed tinkering puzzles, but you do have to be very very used to the game engine to do them well. When beta testing the game, the straight platform sequence at the beginning of one of the Speedbumps levels caused a lot of trouble for new players (and it came a lot earlier in the game, back then!). I was proud of that at the time, but maybe I should have found some way to ramp up to it.

With regards to lateral jump momentum and the control problem,
There isn't actually any momentum in the physics engine. I think what you're experiencing may be a combination of a few things:
- When you're at the very edge of a platform, you can't control your ship and will slide off of it. If you landed there from a jump, you'll still bounce, so it will look like you were forced to jump again in that direction. The sliding was based off of a similar part of Skyroads physics, but I think in retrospect is way too strong of an effect here. If I could go back I would definitely have worked on this part of the engine more (along with collision on the faces of tunnels).
- Horizontal velocity has a more stiff relationship to forward velocity than it does in Skyroads. If your speed is slower, your horizontal range is much slower. The idea is the same in both games, but if you plot one velocity with respect to the other I imagine horizontal velocity would increase more slowly in Tasty Static.
My strategy for many chained jumps in a row is actually the opposite of yours - I'll hold the space bar down and, while I'm in the air, hold down the arrow key for the direction I want to jump next. If you do this the timing isn't that sensitive and, assuming you don't land on an edge, you'll always go in the direction you want.

Anyway, thank you again for the detailed review! It's enough to make my day just knowing people are still playing my game, and it makes my entire month to see someone analyze it like this smile

Regards,
~Leo

Re: So I just completed all the levels of Tasty Static

Hi Leo,

Now it's my turn to apologize for the late reply. I've been busy with a lot of things in the past few months, and had very little time for games or forums. smile

In retrospective, I have to say that I feel far less strongly about the two negative points I mentioned. I considered them downsides because I was used to the style of the original Skyroads, and in these two points Tasty Static differed. But it's not a flaw of your game. I said that in the review, but I'd like to reiterate it again, strongly - these are NOT faults. They are perfectly legitimate ways in which Tasty Static plays different from Skyroads.

A player moving from T.S. to Skyroads might feel uncomfortable with the physics of Skyroads just like I felt a bit uncomfortable here. But so what? Just because the games are based on a very similar concept does not mean they have to play 100% identical. Your game is just about perfect as it is - I would not go back and change a single thing about it! smile