Archer9000

Settle round the digital fireplace dear readers, this week, my prototype drawstring is tingling.

Hah! Archery joke!

Bad puns have strongly indicated that Archer9000 is indeed an archery game, and it is one where you defend a princess/castle from waves of barbarians, knights, and dragons until you’re finally – and valiantly, of course – overwhelmed and said castle is destroyed.

At face value, Archer9000 is boring – I mean, archery? Really? 

That’s until you realise you have to do everything using only the “A” and “D” keys: move left; move right; jump; shoot at low enemies; shoot at high enemies; collect upgrades; avoid a dragon’s fire… everything. Even the menu uses two keys.  Archer9000 takes a boring archery game and makes it incredible just by forcing you to elicit one of several inputs through the combination of two buttons. This effective experiment was created individually by Paul Lombard as part of a month-long competition over on Make Games South Africa where the challenge was to create a game that uses only two buttons.

The game of course, is also just absolutely pretty. Each sprite has so much character that the game oozes high-fantasy from every pixel. It’s clear that Paul Lombard is a talented artist first and incredible everything else, second. Despite his artistic talent, it’s interesting to see how bare the original prototype was – the focus was very much on the mechanics:

Save the pink damsel from the red evil to reclaim your blob masculinity. #AbstractSexism

Save the pink damsel from the red evil to reclaim your blob masculinity. #AbstractSexism

Despite the great art and deep mechanics, I still have some critique for Archer9000. A big problem with the game currently is its difficulty – the game ramps up rather quickly and in less than five minutes you’re a smoldering pile of ash after a dragon with a behemoth of a health bar takes a dislike to you.

Now the difficulty issue is closely tied to the controls of the game which, while brilliant, are very difficult to master. Due to their complexity, I feel there needs to be a much gentler difficulty curve. You don’t want players to be overwhelmed by controls. You want them to slowly master them, while feeling increasingly challenged. This is admittedly a tough balance to expect from a prototype, and is downplayed in the simple enjoyment you get from mastering the simple yet deep control scheme in Archer9000.

Archer9000  is an excellent little prototype that I’d love to see expanded and you should jump at the chance to play.

What do you think?  Is the game too difficult? Are my archery puns terrible? Let me know angrily in the comments below!

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