Monday, January 13, 2014

esviji (Game Review)

It's probably not a secret to anyone that I love SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), but I'm continually surprised more people aren't making games in SVG. One of the biggest advantages of SVG is that you can make something fit anywhere, because it is ... scalable!


And now, out of the blue, comes a game from Nicolas Hoizey that not only uses SVG, but, if you say the name out loud, is SVG!


Nicolas claims this game is based on Puzzle Bobble (also known as Bust-A-Move) from Taito, and while there are certain similarities (I find both soothing and fun), I think esviji is definitely in a class by itself, and somewhat more challenging.

In case you weren't around for Puzzle Bobble, here's what Puzzle Bobble's screen looks like:


The two little dinosaurs at the bottom pull a gun turret back and forth, shooting a colored ball at a pile of colored balls. If you hit one of the same color, all of those balls explode. The two dinosaurs are Bub and Bob and that game is a spinoff of Bubble Bobble, which is a platformer! But esviji isn't really the same at all, and in fact, more challenging.

Here's the actual playing screen of esviji.


Very simple, very elegant. Low-key, understated, just what you might expect from France. But very different from Puzzle Bobble!!!

You have the game name, the score, level, and lives. You have a pause button at the upper right. And you have some nice colored balls at the lower left corner, and a ball on the upper right. Your mission is to guide the ball by sliding it up and down and letting go at the right moment. You want to smash into a green ball with a 2 on it. Get all the balls off the screen and you go on to the next level.

But there's more. You'll notice stair steps on the upper left. If you let go the ball so it goes across and hits one, the ball will bounce off the step and down to hit the ball you want to hit. If you hit one ball, it explodes. But your ball keeps going and will explode another if it is the same color, and so on. Then if it comes to a ball of a different color, it changes into that ball.

Lots of strategy, but you can take your time and think about what you want to do. Simple but deep. And this game has all the components of a complete game. There are sound effects you can turn on and off, high score saving, and a very good tutorial. Here's how you navigate to get the information.

From the start screen:


If you touch the gears on the right, you go here:


Turning the sound on and off is good, but even better is the Tutorial. It's a simple set of cut scenes showing you how to play!


And


And so on. Really well done tutorial and leaves no questions about how to play! None!

Going back to the Start screen, if you choose the middle button (the blue ribbon award image), you go here:


You'll notice that the scores are ranked by difficulty, and I obviously chose beginner. When you start the actual game, you'll get these choices:


I'll have to work up to ... Crazy! But I like that there's room to grow.

When you play the game, you can hit the Pause button (which looks like this: | | ). The Pause screen looks like this:


All in all, very elegant. You can start slow and keep going for a long time. The only thing that I would add is some kind of background music, but because Firefox OS can play music and sound on separate channels, you can play your own music in the Firefox OS Music player and still hear the sound effects of your game.

But there's more!  Nicolas Hoizey has chosen to share his source code at https://github.com/nhoizey/esviji. I haven't had the time to dig in to it, but it looks like he's creating the SVG shapes in the body of the document and then moving them. He uses the SVG Animate tag but also uses JavaScript, so I'll be curious if he wants to share his basic architecture of the game at some point. I didn't know SVG/Animate was supported, and, uh, it looks like it still isn't in Internet Explorer 11. But it works fine in Firefox and Chrome. And super-fine in Firefox OS, Firefox on Android, or the "home screen of any IOS 6+ device".

Because Animate wasn't supported by IE 9 or 10 or 11, I've not looked at it much and my main interest is using JavaScript for object creation and animation anyway. So this is an interesting development in the SVG game world, a very small corner that I would like to see grow.

I'm in love with this game and will keep it on my phones forever! Thank you, Nicolas Hoizey! And please do more. Let's not wait another 20 years.

Cost: Free
Genre: Arcade
Score: 7 (out of 5)
Tested on: Geeksphone Peak (Firefox OS)
Get it at: Firefox Marketplace https://marketplace.firefox.com/app/esviji