Monday, March 1, 2010

Robot Unicorns wut?

I could be writing about a lot of things, but instead I'm writing about random flash games.

This isn't just any flash game, though. It's got unicorns, rainbows, 80s synthpop and only 2 buttons.

It's Robot Unicorn Attack.

There's so much good about this game, that words don't do it justice. But damn it, I'm going to try.

A lot has been written about the flow state, and how to reach it. It's essential for competition of any kind. This game is literally all about the flow state - forget the rainbows and the unicorn and the exploding stars.

Let's start with the music. It's the most obvious thing, because occasionally when a lot of things are going on (typically as the game starts to move faster), the sound effects that are normally mellow and soothing start to break up the flow state a little because they inhibit your processing of the background music.

The music is "Always", by Erasure. It has a relaxing melody and calming lyrics about love. The song is typical of late 80s synthpop, even if it was released in 1994. The melody is practically manufactured to sound soothing, and it does an incredible job as a background song for Robot Unicorn.

It makes one think a little about music design. I'm sure that musicians want to produce a unique sound, and I know some people who insist that screaming death metal is the best thing since sliced bread, but ultimately I think we all know music that follows the rules and sounds more mainstream is what ultimately sells. In this case, I think we can see why - it induces an almost trancelike state!

The brightly colored visuals also help by making everything in the game obvious and appealing. Little things like the 5k dolphins that show up add to the visual immersion, and once the game really gets going, they stop showing up (or at least, they take a break between 35 and 70k). The rainbows following the dolphin or the little sparklies that occur when a star pops on screen, all of it is to get your attention without violating the flow state.

The rest of the game is all very smooth too. Two buttons is an amazing design, allowing people to enter the flow state easily without having to master complex controls. It greatly increases the game's accessibility, which is good.

Lots of little design things go into the game, like the strategic positioning of faeries to warn you of jumps or the sound cue of a star.

The slowly increasing game speed over time also makes sure that the game keeps you in flow state; a player of any skill will quickly reach the parts that are challenging and maintain the trance.

In short: play the game, it's awesome.