the Horn Farm Paste Mob

N (downloadable Flash for Windows/Mac/Linux — free)

Download here or see pretty screenshots here.

“You are a ninja. Your god-like speed, dexterity, jumping power and reflexes are all the result of an amazingly fast metabolism; sadly, so is your natural lifetime of 1.5 minutes.”

N falls into an old, old category of games– you have a tiny character who runs, jumps and climbs around one-room levels collecting gold– but it feels nothing like, say, Lode Runner due to its physics simulator, which strives for high realism except when it comes to the things you yourself can do (like sticking to walls or jumping a hundred feet from a standing start). This means a lot of falling to your doom as you soar around the screen and then miss one of the toeholds you need. And yet, at least in the levels I’ve played, the game is curiously forgiving– the guard cannons’ targeting crosshairs appear onscreen so you can see exactly how long you have before they find you, and while the time limit always feels pressing, you never suddenly run out of time in the middle of a run where everything else was going fine.

Getting the Ninja Wall Jump down perfectly requires more practice than I’ve been able to give it yet, but the game otherwise achieves an excellent balance between puzzle-solving and action. Plus, it feels GOOD in a way that not enough video games do: gold pieces shimmer away into the air as you collect them (each adding two seconds to your minimal lifespan), your stick-figure ninja has just enough detail to always look simultaneously agile and relaxed, and the laser cannons singe the air so satisfyingly that even when one hits you, it’s cute. (If you don’t like stick-figure violence you will hate this; passing a level usually means being flattened or blown up a dozen times while you figure out the best path through.) The game includes internet high-score submission, which is interesting less so you can compete with the internet (the internet has more free time than you do and has gotten way too good at this game) and more because you can watch replays of the highest scorers’ games for any level you want if you get stuck.


NOIZ2 (web/Java – free)

When I was little and bored in synagogue or school, I’d squint my eyes so the world became flat and carefully track the path of an imaginary infinitesimal dot as it bounced around off whatever edges were still visible.

Now imagine a cross between this admittedly senseless pastime and something like Raiden, written in Java. From a site recommended by Penny Arcade: Noiz2. ‘You’ are the tip of your mouse pointer, dodging missiles and trying to pick up green stars. When the flickery line leading upward from your pointer crosses an enemy, a split second later you automatically zap the enemy with a laser beam.

Simple! But the momentary gap between lining up with a bad guy and actually firing makes it satisfyingly thuddy; I can just hear the (absent) WHUMP of space ordnance colliding with its target. Combined with the odd airiness of having no body in the game (and being able to move as fluidly as the mouse lets you) it’s hypnotic. Highly recommended.


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