As has been my practice for the last few years, I’ve set my RSS feed to truncate entries so that I can post reviews without spoilerage. Within an entry, there is a short, spoilerless discussion (though the comp purists may want to avoid reading even that before playing for themselves); then spoiler space; then a more detailed discussion of what I thought did and didn’t work in the game, if appropriate.
I’m also pursuing an approach I came up with a couple of years ago: I’m playing and reviewing games that have listed beta-testers, and skipping those that don’t. In 2008 that turned out to be a pretty fool-proof indicator of which games were going to end up scoring 4 or less on my personal scale, and it made my reviewing process a happier one in 2009, so I’m sticking with it. I’m hoping this will mean I have more time to devote to the remaining games, which in turn will (I hope) be of higher quality, and you, dear reader, will have fewer rants inflicted on you.
Next up: Flight of the Hummingbird
Flight of the Hummingbird is a light-hearted, not-too-difficult puzzle game in which you’re a second-string superhero looking to foil the evil Dr. Sinister. The puzzles mostly involve ways to navigate that go counter to normal expectations, because you have the power to hover and fly if you drink enough of your energy drink. It’s reasonably polished and friendly, but didn’t knock my socks off, and had one or two specific flaws. Spoilery comments follow.
My chief structural complaint is that the motivation in the beginning is confused. I thought from the dialogue and exposition that I was supposed to be going to Sinister’s island in order to find out what his plot was — but when I got there, the only things I could interact with are the ones conducive to launching the rocket myself. So, okay, I launched the rocket. But this didn’t seem like it was the original point of my coming to the island.
Beyond that, there’s the issue of setting. Superhero parody isn’t, in my opinion, a tremendously rich field, and at this point it’s tapped out — in pop culture in general and in IF in particular. I’ve already seen the jokes about supervillain names, about pathetic or disappointing hero powers, about the bureaucratic nature of the superhero league (or the supervillain league, for that matter). I’ve seen the wacky deathtraps and the private islands. Unless you can bring Joss Whedon wit and a singing Nathan Fillion to bear on the problem, it’s hard to come up with engagingly new content here. So, conceptually, I felt like this was fairly generic in setting and storyline. It didn’t help that Dr. Sinister’s main personality note seemed to be that he was a comparatively pleasant, unselfish fellow who was decent to his minions. This plays against expectation, yes, but without actually providing any new sources of interest.
I did enjoy the fact that the hummingbird’s powers opened up some unusual puzzle solutions, but I would have been more excited by a game that presented a sharper story, a more particular world, or (if the puzzles were really to be the centerpiece) more variations on the puzzle theme beyond “you can go to high/blocked places” and “you can survive falls.”