Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Intuitive Stroke Checkmate Puzzles

Remember the days when battery back-up was not very common, and most games instead used a password system to let you record your progress? (If I recall correctly, The Legend Of Zelda was the first NES/Famicom game to include real back-up.)

These passwords were often four-line, alphanumberic pictograph monstrosities, and I'm sure many a veteran gamer remembers the pain of losing their progress to badly transcribed passwords and the fact that the low-resolution graphics on the NES often made it difficult to distinguish between some letters and numbers. Some games had other weird symbols, making it a nightmare to have a friend read out the password for you to copy down... "capital A, seven, three, heart, smiley face..."

Ah, but memory gets the better of me. My point was that Intuitive Stroke has a create-a-puzzle mode that, of course, allows you to send and recieve original puzzles wirelessly. But it also has a decidedly retro password system, which I find interesting as it means you don't have to be anywhere near the other person to get puzzles from them. The passwords are three lines of ten digits each, which may sound long, but entering them on the touch-screen number pad is a breeze.

It would be cool to send your fiendish creations to friends by e-mail or text message. But even cooler are these puzzles that Famitsu created and published the passwords for!


This feature is, of course, nothing that couldn't be implemented on other systems. But the key point here is that it doesn't take more than twenty seconds to enter a password. On any other system (funny how consoles can now be divided into those with touch screens and those without) this would entail D-Padding around an on-screen number pad and entering each one.

(For that matter, the game itself would of course be possible on any other system, even the old Game Boy technically speaking, but the ease of play afforded by sweeping the pen quickly and accurately around the play area in one stroke is unique to the DS.)

All this made me realise something about the possibilites the DS allows, something that I didn't even think about until I tried it for myself. That is, the ability of developers to simulate almost any input device using the touchscreen!

There are racing games, both on sale and in the works, that have a steering wheel that you can control with the pen or your hand. Pictochat, the built-in chat software, has an on-screen keyboard that you can use to type out messages, and it's almost faster than writing them if you can touch-type. There are card-based mini-games in Super Mario 64 DS that involve choosing matching pairs, and being able to select cards directly makes the game go much faster.

Probably the best example of this is the forthcoming Retro Atari Classics compilation, which faithfully reproduces the trackball of Missile Command, the strange aircraft-like controls of Lunar Lander, amongst others.

Exciting, don't you think? Now I'm off to try and create a few decent puzzles of my own. I'll put up the passwords if/when I succeed.


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