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Posted on Mar 8th 2013 at 07:41:57 AM by (CoinCollector)
Posted under Flash, Platformer, Grappling Hook, Excellence

What do you think of when I say "flash games"?  A monkey spanking simulation, tower defense against balloons, or perhaps bloody stick figure kung fu might come to mind.  Sure, those games may have their place (kids need something to do on the school computers, right?), but sometimes Adobe's vector-based dev tools end up in exceptionally talented hands.  From the vast sea of poorly-animated, shallow gaming experiences available for free on the web, some rise far above the others.  In this blog post I pull one such title from the cream of the Flash crop and thrust it into the limelight: Liferaft: Zero.

It's a grappling hook platformer that has you playing as young girls, all clones who are test subjects in a stark white science facility.  The scientists watch from high up windows, sip on their coffee, and talk to you through purple computer screens.  For some reason they want you to ring that bell over there and go through the door to the next room.  Don't like the look of those spikes, but... doesn't seem like there's any other way out of here, so may as well get swinging!

So in standard platforming fashion you can run left & right, jump, but also wall jump and use your aforementioned grappling hook.  Rather than swinging from ceilings like in some other grappling-centric games, the hook is used on designated points sticking out from the wall, in open space - you can swing a full 360 around them.  By extending & retracting your rope and letting go at the right time, you can use your momentum to land where you need to be.  It's the central mechanic and boy oh boy is it a good one.

It's difficult starting out.  The spikes may be quite red before you reach the exit, especially if you want the delicious bonus candy.  But man, once you get the hang of it, once it clicks... that grappling hook is incredible.  It makes this game.  It adds so much depth that isn't found in a typical platformer, and mastery of the swing physics really takes some skill.  Getting some serious momentum going, swinging around that point, and hurling yourself straight up into the air really feels great - it's kept me coming back for dozens upon dozens of playthroughs.  Add in the overall tight controls & fancy wall jumping and you've got some pretty great locomotion going on.

The graphics and sound help to further tie the whole experience together.  Liferaft: Zero looks great - tiny, super detailed, colorful pixel art.  The player character is 9 pixels tall and everything's zoomed out pretty far!  Even so the animations are done well and convey a lot, with her hair blowing in the wind and dust kicking up as she slides down walls.  Then there's the sound... there's actually no music, but plenty of crisp sound effects and ambiance.  The quick little footsteps, the click of the grappling hook, the echo of the wall jump.  It's all another integral part of what makes controlling the character so satisfying.

Mikengreg are the two-man dev team behind this Flash masterpiece, and their slogan is "Handmade games crafted with love & high-fives."  It really shows.  Now, I tend to totally gush about the games I love, so I'll say a few quick things: It may not be for everyone, and it really does take a little while to get the swing physics down.  But if you like what you see and you stick with it, Liferaft: Zero is a gem.

Originally posted over at my Broccoli Blog.

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It's funny, but I've been playing games like this for a while now and I only just realized that I no longer thought of them as flash games.  Weird, huh?

As for the game it's a pretty fun little game, but not something I would play for more than fifteen minute stretches (like Super Meat Boy).  The game feels a bit like "Umihara Kawase" (I just finished watching that episode of Gamecenter CX) with the visual minimalist aesthetic of N+.

Thanks for the recommendation, as I will be putting it on my regular rotation.
There have been a lot of good flash games in recent years, outside of those giant portal sites.  I suppose if it doesn't have hand-drawn vector graphics then it won't carry the "flash" moniker as easily in our minds.

Liferaft is a nice, polished game but admittedly would not be much more to most people, yeah.  It's short.  But it really strikes a chord with me.  I do remember the grappling hook being very hard to control in the beginning, but the fun really did come when it finally "clicked" for me.  Sometimes I scratch my head when people pour hours & hours into a certain game, going to the extreme to memorize it in & out... but Liferaft is that game for me. Cheesy

Ooh yeah, Umihara Kawase!  I've seen gameplay of that and I've totally got to import it at some point.  Dream worlds and grappling hooks seem like an awesome combo, weirdly enough.

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