The Chimerist

Posts tagged Games of Balance

I’m more drawn to games than you are, Laura, especially when I’ve spent the day writing, but I’ve never been good at shoot-em-up stuff.  I like cards and other kinds of strategy, and things involving connections or geometric shapes. Pipe Dream, derailer of many undergraduate papers, was an old Windows favorite. Tetris, too, but I never had nightmares about it, which is more than I can say about the pipes’ green goo.

I’ve found some great games for the iPhone — Eliss and, before the “upgrades,” Twistlink and Surfacer — but most either haven’t been reconfigured for the iPad or don’t translate well to the larger screen. One exception is Stay, another balance game, this one involving falling squares, rectangles, and skulls. Though Stay is sized for the iPhone, not the iPad, the washed-out, low-res images don’t suffer the way so many others do in the 2x-blowing-up. I prefer the larger version.

In the easiest mode, the idea is to keep your little red triangle on the seesaw as long as you can. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not so hard. Until the skulls start dropping.  They explode into eight or ten deadly little black asteroids.  

I’ve never gotten good enough to discover what horrors lurk in the more difficult settings.

—Maud Newton

More than a decade ago a friend of mine found a strange site where unexpected objects — a bowling ball, a birdhouse, a snowman — fell from the sky into the waves below. The goal was to hang everything on the waiting hooks, balancing it all so carefully that nothing dangled into the water.

The aesthetic of the artwork has become fairly commonplace in the intervening years but it felt incredibly fresh then, like an interactive Looney Tunes backdrop for a new millennium. And the game was (and is) my favorite kind to play: cleanly designed, having a consistent objective that’s progressively harder to achieve, with a focus on fitting things together.

But my laptop died, and I lost my bookmarks, and although I searched from time to time, I couldn’t remember its name and didn’t find Levers again until I came upon a version in the App Store. It’s even better on the iPad than it is on the Internet. The touchscreen makes the experience of wrangling all these disparate objects into some sort of order feel a lot more personal. Why won’t these damn birds would stop weighing down my bowling ball? In what world is a snowman bigger than a submarine? 

It’s a fun mix of physics and whimsy, and a good way to spend fifteen minutes when you’ve finished the book you’re reading but aren’t ready to get out of bed on a Sunday morning. 

For nighttime distraction, I prescribe another Vectorpark game: the bizarre and unsettlingly dreamlike Feed the Head.

Maud Newton