A game about flying a damaged ornithopter through a sand storm on Arrakis. 3 levels of windy action! Fake speech synthesis!
Reach the end of each map without crashing into the dunes below or being overtaken by the following sandstorm.
left: tilt thopter upward (less speed, more lift)
right: tilt thopter downward (more speed, less lift)
x: fire jet (more speed, fuel recovers over time)
z: air brake (cuts speed, gain a little altitude)
About the game
This is my second PICO-8 game, following on the Dune theme of Shai Hulud; I wanted to make a little flying game about surviving the sand storms of Arrakis as an excuse to experiment with flight model stuff, screen scrolling, and collision detection. I did that stuff and also played with a few other goofy "what if" ideas, and so the code is in places a mess of hacks, which I'm trying to embrace as an okay way to go with experimental P8 games.
The map was an interesting thing to work out; I had a few ideas for how to do sand storm stuff and how to create maps dynamically to get past the limited map sheet area, but ultimately decided to make do with a pretty conservative approach of just static directional-wind tiles on a pre-rendered 1*8 string of map screens. The method for reusing the same map for three increasingly windy levels was fun, though; if you look in the map memory on the cart, you'll see green, blue, and red arrows filling it up, and on each level I successively convert another one of those to actaul sand storm sprites as the level loads up.
Music is a straight-time rendition of a bit of the extremely Toto-y soundtrack of the Lynch film.
The "speech synthesis" is just a trio of sound effects played back together chunk by chunk in time with the words, using melodic rises and falls and rests to suggest speech. The way this is implemented is super duper hacky, and could be formalized a little into a function and a decent data structure if I wanted to use it as more than a one-off, but I'm not convinced it's worth the effort for such a silly effect.
1.01 - Tweaked starting configuration to be less brutal to someone who hasn't been playing this for several days while developing it.
1.0 - Release
This game has some really neat controls, in the sense that I haven't played anything that feels exactly like this. I had a really hard time grasping it the first few tries, what with how quickly you can drop down and never regain your altitude, which is why it surprised me how quickly I figured out the controls.
The tendency to go from gradual adjustments to being thrown across the whole screen is bit jarring at times. You lose all that extra boost speed when you hit the right side of the screen, and yet I realize that taking this border away and changing the camera style would affect gameplay a lot. The way it's set up right now it's possible to go really fast, but since you hit the screen you can't simply shoot blindly across the whole level. Basically, the weird effect of bumping into the screen border is actually saving you from reckless deaths where you were going too fast. It might be interesting to see an unrestricted camera variant since it would actually be harder to control! ...This review has turned into more of a discussion on hypothetical cameras and design theory OOPS :1
ahem The controls are tricky and at first it feels very imprecise, but the game actually feels okay without requiring tons of practice and it's an interesting challenge.
It also totally reminds me of some rushed franchise game like... Well, I didn't have a NES as a child but this is like straight out of an Angry Video Game Nerd video. Sadly I'm not familiar with Dune (someone out there just gasped in disgust) but the intro is just about perfect.
It might be interesting to see an unrestricted camera variant since it would actually be harder to control!
Yeah, that was an interesting wrinkle once I got the systems more or less put together; I got curious and implemented a camera that follows the ship after it his e.g. halfway across the screen, and I actually like the feel of it -- some satisfying zoominess and a little bit of danger from fast approaching terrain, etc -- but with with the current very short levels it turned out it made the game super duper short. So, artificially-imposed slow crawl it is!
I might come back for a second pass at some point and implement more of a gradual envelope of pushback in the last 15-20 columns on the right to slow the ship's forward progress instead of it just being a solid wall; wouldn't change the sort of Arbitrary Sudden Stop nature of the thing but might dress it up a little in a way that feels a less goofy.
Really the main thing I learned from laying out the levels here vs. the system I came up with is that if you stick all the deadly stuff on the bottom, it's a little too easy to develop a "well, just stay up top" strategy. I could have tuned the pushback of the headwind storm tiles to be more aggressive to make it more dangerous to fly up top (where by level 3 the top tile or two is almost always a headwind storm tile) but if I was thinking of doing a new game with the same flight mechanics I think I might do it as more of a cave-style thing and just have deadly terrain above AND below.
It also totally reminds me of some rushed franchise game like...
Exactly, yeah. "The kids love that shit, let's get this out by Christmas, I don't care how you make it happen."
And maybe Cortex Carts will put out a cheesy, canon-violating sequel at some point involving Spice Caves to work with the terrain-above-and-below issue. Maybe attach a lasgun to the thopter too and turn it into a shmup.
"I have this general notion that the Dune games I'm making were rushed-to-market franchise cash-ins in an alternate universe where the Lynch film was a huge success instead of a bomb." -- haha, I suppose that helps enforce time limitations as much as focus creative direction? I admire your hackish attempts at voice synthesis and the mechanics feel quite unique, if a bit rough around the edges (nothing I have done with P8 can hold a candle). Well done, I'm sure there's is room for more dune themed games in general.
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