Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grasping Inside a Star-filled Sky

In my latest post over at PopMatters, I delve into the depths of Inside a Star-filled Sky.

The more time I spend with it, the more I admire it. The game draws inspiration from traditional twin-stick shooters and marries it with procedural generated, recursive levels and an open-ended progression structure; elements that seem to be all the rage these days.

I find myself fighting with the controls from time to time and the game has made me appreciate the elegant simplicity and transparent rules of classic shooters like Robotron. Despite these issues, I appreciate the game's tactical feel. In addition to elements of bullet hell and pattern memorization, being able to reconfigure power-ups and enemy abilities ads a lot of strategy to a genre that is usually based on twitch-based skills.

As luck would have it, Jason Rohrer, Inside a Star-filled Sky's creator, released a major update just as this post was set to publish. The update has made the game much more social, which detracts from the sense of individuality and isolation I felt while playing it. Although my essay is now a bit outdated, I still think it's an interesting testament to the difficulty of writing about games. A simple update can drastically alter a game's message, which makes it even more important to document changes before they become lost in the ether.

In a way, it's poetic that Inside a Star-filled Sky has already grown beyond the game I wrote about. It's a game whose dynamics center around endless expansion, growth, and variation; it makes sense that the game itself would continue to change.

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