Monday, May 16, 2011

Dynamite Headdy

Treasure may not be as well known as Nintendo or Sega, but they have proven their expertise in the platformer genre (and other genres) several times.

Immediately upon starting this game its stage/play theme is made apparent. The opening where Headdy is captured and escapes is done on stage and all the characters are introduced. Its made obvious that many characters including Headdy himself are puppets, and of course you as the player will serve as the head puppeteer.



Establishing a theme this strongly early on is an extremely important but also unappreciated facet of game design. Also assigning the player a role more descriptive than "the main character" goes a long way into immersing them into the game. But the main point is that when starting to design a game you should have a strong idea of what your theme will be and what vibe you want the entire game to give off.

That means you need to be able to describe your theme in more than two words - "bright cheerful" or "dark and gritty" and going to cut it for themes. If you can't write at least a page worth of description for the theme and setting behind your game: you need to rethink how much you care about your game, how much you care about game design, and most importantly if the game is even worth making. Because if don't care enough to describe the direction and feel of your game to yourself before you even begin to think of developing it, no one will care enough to think about playing it.

I realize I am throwing out some harsh words here, but I want to stress it isn't that hard if you really care about your game, its world, and its successful design. For example, you know you want your game to be "bright and sunny". OK, when does it take place? Springtime. The spring breeze will play a role in the game, and the rebirth of life will be a strong recurring theme. The color palette will be primarily "Easter" colors like yellow and light blue. Enemies will contrast with the theme by being dull black and blue - icy, representing winter and death. Just writing down things like this can help you understand where you want your game to go and what you want it to accomplish.


Moving on, the games main claim to fame is its sheer variety in level design and elements. No two levels play exactly alike and the game is constantly bleeding new ideas - a trademark of Treasure. However this can also be a drawback as one of the later stages consist entirely of a shoot em up stage. While it is not particularly bad, it ends up being a mediocre shooter stage instead of a fantastic platformer stage like the rest of the game is. You could argue it keeps things from getting monotonous, but its a silly argument in game that has you changing head powers every 10 seconds and fighting giant wardrobe changing puppets.

Speaking of, bosses are plentiful and creative, and the difficulty builds up nicely up until stage 7. The boss here is so hard I remember thinking for sure it was the final boss. Considering there are 9 stages and the real final boss is considerably easier than the aforementioned boss, you can imagine the disappointment. Its always a challenge to ensure 100% that the final encounter is the most difficult thing in the game, but when the player has a clear imagining of various obstacles in the game that were more challenging, its hard to take the final boss, the ending, and frankly, the whole game seriously. Difficulty spikes are hard to keep in check, but are detrimental to good game design. Probably one of the easiest traps to fall into. Overly obnoxious difficulty is closely related but thankfully a little easier to keep in check - but that is discussion for another time.

                                            Are you sure this isnt the final boss?

DO
+ Think carefully about the theme you want your game to employ early in development so it will shine forth in all aspects of the game design. Also, your theme should be specific and able to be described in detail.

DONT
- Enforce a different game genre in a certain level or stage that is completely different than the genre the rest of the game categorizes itself in.
- Fall into the difficulty spike trap, ramping up difficulty linearly goes a long way for keeping the player interested

23 comments:

logo mess said...

great game :) the theme here is done well!

theWhale said...

Oh I miss those old games :(

//Love said...

Ever played a game called powerpete? It got me through my childhood a little more awesome

Dejch said...

epic oldie! keep it up :)

Xenototh said...

I think that your 2nd don't needs to be sent out in a memo to all game designers, they tend to screw that up... A LOT.

hyyypz said...

love this game :)

Gifz said...

Nice game man, I was going to review it today :D

rakoth said...

Never played this one, great review :)

Come At Me Bro said...

This is great!

Common said...

Awesome review!

Malkavian said...

Never owned a sega, but that looks exactly like sonic the hedgehog. And i feel you bro when you finish a stage or boss fight and you say to yourself "DAMN IF THIS WASNT THE FINAL BOSS HOW FREAKING STRONG WILL THE LAST ON BE..." and to your horror you beat him fairly easy. Son i am Dissapoint.

Musicofjustin said...

Great Review! This game is olddddd school. Really enjoyed the post though. Keep up the good work!

MJ to IM said...

nice! I def wanna play this but the difficulty curve kind of keeps me hesitant

Jesse Crows said...

such great memories from this!

ChazWellington said...

never played this game but i know that nostalgic feel just by lookin at its graphics

Jay Reid said...

Awesome game!

Gambling Degenerate said...

never played this one, looks fun though

Chloroform said...

I can't recall ever playing this game. But it does certainly look familiar.

KievZenit said...

I remember these.

João Rodrigues said...

Never heard about this game... or the company.

mindph said...

This reminds me on "James Pont" or "Fire and Ice" on the Amiga

SOMS said...

i remember it, its cool

Mr. Storyteller said...

donkey kong is the shiz nizzle ;)

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