Kongregations

Hey guys,

I think it’s time for me to introduce what will probably be a very common style of game review on this blog – Kongregate flash games. For those who don’t obsessively play flash games know, http://www.kongregate.com is one of the largest free game portals on the interwebs, with loads of great (free) games for all to become horribly addicted to play. Even better, you can get your daily dopamine dose with an on-site ‘Badges’ system.

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I’ve been on the site for a few years now and times are changing. Games increasingly have systems for paying for ‘optional’ extras, but these extras are becoming increasingly vital to the gameplay itself. Hundreds of cloned games are being produced which copy excellent old titles just to be able to develop a product that can be sold as an App (Don’t even get me started on Angry Birds – you should play Crush the Castle). That being said there is a mass of great games on the site and my objective is to help you sift through the dross to find the diamonds. Here are a few old favourites:

1: Gamezhero’s  Tentacle Wars

In Brief: Simple gameplay but complex strategy for those who love thinking while they play.

No, it’s not any kind of crazy hentai, it’s a perfect example of an unfortunately quite rare type of strategy game. You compete for control of stationary cells by sending units from your own cells in the form of tentacles. Cells passively produce more units (so more cells means more units) but can be taken over if their unit count is too low. The objective is to take over all of your opponent’s cells.

Other games use the same mechanic – Pixel Legions, Civilization Wars, Phage Wars 2, Nano War – but what makes this game so perfect is the tentacle function (oh gods, I can’t believe I just said that). Depending on where you choose to cut an arm it can either be a dose of reinforcements for a beleaguered cell, or a sudden and shocking attack on an opponent.While the precise gameplay is quite hard to describe (go play it for yourself!) it is incredibly easy to pick up the basic principles.

2: Gameinabottle’s Gemcraft Labyrinth

In Brief: The ultimate, all-time champion of tower defence.

The latest incarnation of a very successful TD series, Gemcraft narrowly beats Bubble Tanks TD as my favourite TD game. GCL has literally everything you could want – a wide variety of enemies, different tower types, beautiful top-down graphics and literally hundreds of different level designs and options. It even has a pretty good (if also pretty sparse) story! The game is well balanced, but if you’re kicking ass try ramping up the difficulty. The endless mode will be totally impossible without a good strategy, but it is beatable ending at wave 1337 (which is a nice touch for those who g37 th3 j0k3).

Gemcraft also brings something new to the table in its way of distinguishing tower types. Towers themselves are just neutral passive buildings, but you can craft gems (duh) to put in them to make them act. The gems are what determines the property of the tower – high crit, poison, slow etc., and the gems can be combined and upgraded to your personal tastes (mine was always bloodbound-critical-lightning, the GCL equivalent of a chainsaw to the face). Gems can also be used in other ways – as one-off bombs, sold for mana, put into traps etc. The flexibility this gives the game is incredible as there are hundreds of ways to beat every level.

Also, a new one is coming out soon, so better get some practice in!

3: Silen Games’ Granny Strikes Back

In Brief: The unfortunate effect of too much codliver oil

This one is both adorably silly and a wonderful shooter. Take control of your ex-Special Services granny (everyone has one) and use vegetables (?) to attack the aliens (?) attacking your house with snowmen (?). Sounds ridiculous, but its got everything a good shooter needs – different objectives in different levels, different weaponry (the shotgun peas are my favourite) and a real sense of just good fun.

Also, as with all of Silen Games’ games the graphics are superb. Even without utilizing the Unity3d options for flash this game makes everything look and feel real even though its top-down – just like Warcraft3 did back in the day. Genuinely fun for all ages (so basically the exact opposite of monopoly).

4: AdamAtomic’s Canabalt

In Brief: Parkour apocalypse!

This one comes last because I don’t think its for everyone, and to be honest I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. It literally feeds of rage quitting, growing every stronger in its quest to drive players insane.

Gameplay wise its a pretty straightforward running game. Your character runs endlessly to the right and you use the jump button (AKA the only button) to avoid pits and such. The speed gradually increases and the gaps get wider and wider, until in the end you are flying across the screen, nerves frayed, finger twitching frantically, screaming when you mistime a jump and get flattened against a wall. The gameplay in this type of game isn’t complicated, but Canabalt gets a perfect difficulty curve which gives it massive replayability.

The thing that really sets it apart however are the graphics and sound. A monochrome 8-bit apocalypse is going on in the background the whole time and the music fits in perfectly.

5: Senekis’ Badgemaster

In Brief: A hook on a line

OK This one isn’t really a game – its a tool for organizing the badges on the Kongregate site. Once your hooked on the site your hooked, and Badgemaster makes finding a fresh new unearned badge to go for easy. Like a crack dealer delivering to the doorstep. It can also give you your stats – see mine above!

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Quick announcement: Due to a bout of flu, ep5 of the Tekkit quest won’t be up today, but you’ll get 2 episodes tomorrow, so hang on in there.

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An introduction to Dookian astrophysics

So I mentioned I’d be doing some cool science-y stuff in this blog and I should probably explain what to expect. I suck at science and I’ve forgotten most of the maths I once knew, but there’s so much crazy stuff being discovered these days that simply beggars belief. My aim here isn’t to explain things or study them (bleurgh) – it’s more to point out all the cool stuff dedicated scientists have found. To begin then:

4 Reasons Why The Pulsar Is The Most Badass Star

1: It’s Also A Neutron Star (cheater)

Pulsar’s are highly magnetized neutron stars, and since neutron stars are their main competitor in the Badass Star Olympics, pulsars have basically screwed over the main competition. Neutron stars are formed during supernova events and consist of nothing but neutrons (Duh) in an incredibly dense, 12km ball.

And when I say dense, I mean dense. When people talk about atoms being almost entirely empty space given the distance between the nucleus and the electrons, that just doesn’t apply to the neutron star – it’s literally solid neutrons at roughly the same density (3×10^17 kg/m^3 for those who are counting) as the atomic nucleus. How heavy is that? Imagine a grain of sand that weighed as much as a boeing 747. Yah. An interesting side effect of this is that it allows another level of magnitude for yo mamma jokes.

2: You can see more than half of it

Since they are so dense, pulsars and neutron stars have more gravity than a sad Morgan Freeman voiceover. This has one awesome and incredible effect:

If you are looking at an object you’re seeing the light that bounces off it and shoots straight into your eyes. Since light travels in straight lines, we can only see things that are directly in front of us…

…Unless the thing in front of you is a neutron star or pulsar (in which case, let’s face it, you’re pretty screwed). These ridiculous objects have so much gravity that the light shooting off the opposite side is bent around and hits your eyes. That’s right – you can see the front half and also part of the back half. Reflect on this mystery of the universe as you get pulped (or, to use the technical term, spaghettified) by those same gravitational waves.

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Those lines represent longitude and latitude. W? T? F?

3: Pulsar = Pulsating Star

Now on to the pulsar-specific badassery. When we imagine a star we basically think of just some giant heavenly body made of gas or neutrons or whatever, and they’re pretty impressive sure but they don’t really do anything interesting, do they?

In short? They do. Rather than following mandated star behaviour guidelines like its mother told it to and emitting its radiation evenly across its surface, the pulsar emits strong beams of electromagnetic radiation out of the poles. Since they spin rapidly (record currently held by PSR J1748-2446ad which spins at ¼ the speed of light) they appear to ‘pulse’ as the beams cross earth and then move off. There is rapidly growing scientific consensus that the pulsar is just trying to be difficult, and should be ignored until they learn to behave properly.

4: They are incredibly useful

However we forgive the pulsar its oddities because unlike most stars which just sit there all day smoking and drinking plasma, pulsars have jobs. The regularity of the pulse caused by the spin is more accurate at time keeping than an atomic clock without the danger of a loss of power. Since many have unique spins they can also be used as navigational tools for future space pirates.

The Pioneer plaques were our first prospective messages to aliens – simple symbolic messages screwed onto the Pioneer craft with pictures of a nude man and woman (because scientists are perverts) and directions to earth (which may come back to bite us in the arse if any sci-fi series ever written turns out to be even vaguely correct). How do you direct aliens from another galaxy to our humble little speck? You give its position relative to 14 uniquely identifiable pulsars.

It has just occurred to me that thanks to the brave minds behind the Pioneer Plaques, we may all be royally bollixed.

Image courtesy of wikipedia