Monday, November 11, 2013

The Pond (Game Review)

The Pond is an amazing HTML5 game. It looks simple, but there's a deepness to it. When I was a kid, they showed us a drop of pond water under a microscope. It was full of little animals, swimming around. That creeped me out!


And then they showed me a drop of vinegar. Eeeewwww!


 I got used to the idea that there were all these things we couldn't see and we eat them every day. So vegetarians beware!

Fast-forward several years to 2009. Hemisphere Games made a cool game called Osmos that took some of these principles and wowed everyone. The music was cool too!



Then in 2011 (so long ago I can barely remember), Stephen Eisenhauer made an HTML5 version called Browsmos. And now, for Firefox OS, we have a more elaborate and different game called The Pond, from Zolmeister. I'm the creature in the middle, with a blue skin and an orange loop inside.


You are a pond creature, swimming around. The point of the game is to eat smaller creatures and avoid the bigger creatures (just like Osmos and ... duh, real life). Since there isn't a set of detailed instructions, all I can tell you so far is that the colors and inner details (loops of white, orange, or blue) determine how well you grow. There's a science to this, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that that is part of the game, to figure it out. The game is slow and soothing, and I love it.

Here's the start screen:
 

And here's me, the pond scum creature. I've eaten another creature and so I have two blue loops inside me. I'm not bigger but I'm better.


When I eat another creature,I have three blue shapes inside my orange skin. I'm tough!


After another meal, I now am bigger. I've changed some of my inner loops, but I'm still not sure how that works. I'll keep working on it and post a comment when I get the algorithm.


But there are bigger pond creatures and one eats me! And the game is over!

So, how cool is that? Very cool! It might be nice to have a bit more clue on what kinds of smaller creatures you can eat, but I'll keep playing because it is fun. And it might be nice to have soothing music in the background (like Osmos) but at least I get a sound effect when I eat something. And you can turn off the sound effects by hitting that little dual note symbol up at the top right.

But this game is way cooler for one important reason. The author has written an article about how he programmed it. Read all about it here: http://www.zolmeister.com. This program is very advanced, using an interestingly complex game loop, CocoonJS (a game library), and Bezier curves for both performance (instead of sprite sheets) and collisions (detecting exactly how the creatures collide). And best of all, all the code is in github at https://github.com/Zolmeister/pond. And even more insanely great, you can play The Pond on not only the Firefox Marketplace, but also in the Amazon App Store, Google Play, Facebook, Chrome Web Store, clay.io, and something called Pokki. He even recommends a cool code editor called Light Table.

The Zolmeister (Zoli Kahan) lives in San Francisco and is an HTML5 genius. Hire him! We bow down to you, sir!

This game deserves a 6 out of 5!

Cost: Free
Genre: Puzzle
Score: 6 (out of 5)
Tested on: ZTE Open (Firefox OS)
Get it at: Firefox Marketplace