Saturday, 8 October 2011

Brainsplode! (PC)

Firing projectiles along parabolic arcs from a fixed position to blow stuff up is a fine starting point for any game. The experience is made even better with a variety of different munitions to sling at the target. Rust Red Games' Brainsplode! certainly hits these two targets, with its entertaining, challenging brain-blasting gameplay.

Blowing up alien brains with shots fired from a fixed cannon is the name of the game here, and while at first glance it seems like a straight up artillery game the puzzle elements thrown into the mix add a surprising depth of play which pushes Brainsplode! over the line from entertaining to addictive.
Describing how the game actually plays without sounding like a condescending user guide is pretty hard, because the concept is really simple but, like an explosive rocket to a gigantic alien brain sans skull, very effective.

You've got your big gun, right, and you fire shells out of it in the fashion that everyone who has ever played Worms, Angry Birds, Scorched Tanks or a million other artillery games will find familiar. There's a pictorial instruction sheet that appears at the start of play that does its best to fill the player in on how to make stuff work. As the game progresses different kinds of projectile become available; Rocket boosted shells, parachute add-ons to drop your payload of brainsploding death down holes hard to reach by other means make appearances, and extra controls in the angle the shell flies at are introduced as well, allowing for some of the ridiculous trick shots needed to perform rocket propelled brain dissection in some of the more challenging levels. Bouncy yellow stuff is the final piece in the puzzle, both helping and hindering the player in their earnest work of making brains erupt into mist.

A few twists on the theme are thrown in, like levels where the gun fires on a fixed trajectory, and the player needs to rely on the shell's angle of attack. Then there's the ability to mess around with the settings of the ammunition in some of the levels; shells can be programmed to rocket away, then float down to wreak lobotomising havoc, or (a personal favourite of mine) blast off on their rocket engines, then stop for a sedate float down to the surface, then rocket off again. Take that you alien brain bastards! Collision detection seems really spot-on, with some of the levels taking insanely precise shooting to achieve victory, sometimes through just taking loads and loads of consecutive shots, slightly altering the trajectory or power each time.

A future build of Brainsplode! would be punishingly hard if finite ammo was introduced and the levels stayed as complex, but without it I never did experience that moment in playing a PC game when you realise you've been playing standing up for the last few minutes because it's all got so damn tense. Still, there's bags of satisfaction in pulling off a trick shot first time, and stuff does blow up in a visually appealing fashion. Also you can even kill the brains with the jet-wash from your rocket boosted shells which is awesome.

Brainsplode! remains firmly on my hard drive; after all, it's an artillery game about blowing up brains with rockets, and I do love my artillery games and so far it hasn't outlived its replay value. Reviewing it as if it should be a seat of the pants, knuckle biting thrill ride is a little sly, because it's clearly meant to be a jolly adventure of blowing shit up with gleeful abandon, a fun time killer. In this fashion it does the job pretty well, and it pulls the whole thing off with style. The graphics are the right side of cartoony, the maps are evocative of the perennial classic Worms but with added 3D effects, and the little dancing bunny eared things are entertaining window dressing that are legitimately fun to just sit and watch for a while between shots. The 3D background graphics are of a high quality as well, stretching out into the beyond and revealing more of themselves as the player's point of view changes.

Brainsplode! is, as the intro text explains, a prototype. And despite this it's already a pretty good game. It has the potential to be brilliant, given the right tweaks. In the intro designer Rich Edwards, of Richmakegame, writes about expanding the game with extra features and additional levels, and with a solid, polished prototype like this the final product is definitely something to look out for.
Download the game here (from the RichMakeGame website).
3 out of 5