the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Zineth

Zineth

Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

This week, we roll through the desert, and tweet while we do it!

Zineth

It’s not a spelling error, it’s a play on culture

Genre: Social Media Platformer
Link to Game: http://arcanekids.com/
Game Info: Released in August 2012 by Arcane Kids for both Windows and Mac as a student project.

I’m a big fan of Jet Set Radio, as you may have already known. This week, Jet Set Radio HD was released as a downloadable title for PSN, Xbox Live, and Steam,  and while I think it’s still every bit as good as I remember, it’s also perhaps a style of play I wouldn’t expect everyone to immediately adapt to. Fortunately, last month’s release of Zineth may just provide everyone with some guidance on the matter, as its style of play and colorful setup unfolds very similar to the skating, grinding, and wall-riding found in Sega’s title, but at no cost whatsoever! Plus, your character gets a cowboy hat; who could ask for more?

In Zineth, you take the role of a ‘zine’ delivery boy, skating around a futuristic desert city filled with youthful inhabitants. Your role apparently grants you use of some sort of elite status, as you have on a biomechanical speed suit that allows you to kind of hover at the center, while its arms and legs act as an extension of yours. Nobody addresses what the hell is really going on about what’s going on, however the quirk is perhaps just part of the fun; like many of the underground hand-drawn zines that can be found in many urban areas, sometimes you just have to take what is handed to you.

The cowboy hat is quite aerodynamic

The suit allows you to build up some incredible speed using your own method of acceleration (button pushing) and gravity by rolling down slopes. It’s important to note that you can also increase your own gravity to build up even faster speeds going downhill- something not well relayed in the tutorial, so if you’re just rolling around wondering why you’re not going so fast, that may be why. Oddly enough, it’s also possible (and in many cases required) to accelerate on rails and wall rides, although the game does not acknowledge this well, and it almost seems counter-intuitive to what physics may tell you (how are you not only able to maintain speed when rubbing up against a surface against friction and gravity, but increase it as well?). Through building up speed, your character is able to pull off some incredible jumps; and it’s with your character’s incredible jumping distance that the main draw appears. Far off tunnels and areas can be seen, while it’s up to you to determine the best ways to build up speed in their area, using the nearby ramps, walls and rails to chain together the right set of actions that will allow you to reach them. If you’ve misjudged your angles, Zineth also features a limited rewind mechanic similar to the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time trilogy, so you can back up and try again. The rewind is a welcome inclusion, as certain elevated areas require lengthy travel times, and falling from them can really set you back.

The game also features some native inhabitants, although they remain stationary (unless you knock into them, of course). Denizens of the city are obsessed with a dueling video game on their phones that you can play against them. While this game is mildly enjoyable, it becomes fairly repetitive, and is a required component for one of the game’s overall quests, so it is something you’ll ultimately have to put up with if you want to complete the game 100%. In addition to the game, your phone offers the game’s other menus, noting missions, highlighting nearby objects on radar, your game settings, and even features real-life twitter functionality. (note to self: send out a few in-game tweets from our @gamingsymmetry account once this article is up). While it can be seen as somewhat of an afterthought for some people, the game’s embrace on social media offers an interesting way to introduce marketing campaigns for smaller projects, and is thematically appropriate considering the game’s penchant for reinforcing the tropes of underground zine distribution.

There are 13 missions within the game to complete, ranging from timed racing segments, to reaching specific areas, to completing miscellaneous objectives. The missions are split between totally obvious, and incredibly vague. Some, such as the “Catco Canyon Run” you are directed to, and the objective is clear; while “find the hawk’s nest” is close to being only achievable by accident. The main mission of the game is to “Get to the Moon,” which ideally should be the last objective you complete, however upon completing other missions, your mission automatically reverts back to the moon, and the guiding arrow icon simply points up. Not all missions are immediately available either, requiring you to complete some to unlock others; this is mostly fine, as the unlocked missions are typically harder than the basic ones, however since the “To the moon” mission is most always present, it seems to imply a greater sense of urgency, implying it should be your very next objective.

The futuristic cityscape is excting and filled with hidden ledges to use.

While the game offers little in the way of relaying an understanding of the game’s mechanics, and how missions can be prioritized, once you grasp exactly how the game’s mechanics can be put together the world becomes very exciting to explore. The game also features a few extras that extend the play experience; collectible zines can be found scattered along the landscape, cubes can be grabbed around the city to aid your catco minigame stats, and you also have the unsolved mystery of some desert mirage cat that shows up every now and then. Beating the game also nets you the speed debug tools, which will help you rocket towards any areas you’d like to explore more.

If you like games with speed, and like games with exploration, then this is a no brainer, as your robo arms and legs can take you up to thousands of miles an hour, whizzing you past sprawling cel-shaded landscapes with a vibrant futuristic design. While all the missions can be beat in about an hour (if you know what you’re doing), there’s a fair amount of puzzle solving in determining your appropriate actions, often with multiple solutions at hand, and as I said, some of the answers are not so immediately obvious. Considering the speed, I also think the camera work is rather impressive, as the camera follows the character very well, even through tunneling areas requiring several fast angle changes. All in all, this game was built for speed, and it’s a blast to keep rolling and flying all over, as the game’s constructed depth is much larger than it may initially seem.

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