Playtest insights on Amanita’s Botanicula : interaction design and the complexity of puzzles

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 10.39.23PART 2 Botanicula is a “relaxed game perfect for hardcore gamers, their partners, families and seniors”; A point and Click adventure by Amanita Designs, who already won our hearts with Machinarium.

I’ve had the chance to test this game with two teenagers: Joe, a core gamer, Alex, a casual gamer and Robin, a 5 year old little girl, a 66 year old grand mother and a zen-game loving mom. Here’s some highlights of their player experiences.

Tested on PC/Mac

This review includes screenshots and details of the end of the game, beware of spoilers

Continue reading Playtest insights on Amanita’s Botanicula : interaction design and the complexity of puzzles

Playtest insights on Amanita’s Botanicula : goals, guidance and storytelling

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 10.39.23Part 1 Botanicula is a “relaxed game perfect for hardcore gamers, their partners, families and seniors”; A point and Click adventure by Amanita Designs, who already won our hearts with Machinarium.

I’ve had the chance to test this game with two teenagers: Joe, a core gamer, Alex, a casual gamer and Robin, a 5 year old little girl, a 66 year old grand mother and a zen-game loving mom. Here’s some highlights of their player experiences.

Tested on PC/Mac

Continue reading Playtest insights on Amanita’s Botanicula : goals, guidance and storytelling

Game review : Catherine’s Tutorials and Controls Usability Review

Tutorials & Controls in Catherine’s nightmares

In this article, we are going to have a closer look at Catherine’s controls and tutorials. Let’s have a look at how players accomodate awkward controls by moving from using the stick to using the less input-error-prone directional arrows. Next, we will see how even the good tutorial of Catherine can fire back when too much explanations discourage users from using game features.

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Problem solving in Catherine and how the interface design decisions influence player performance

Catherine is a game about problem solving. Players need to learn techniques, chunk them to remember them easily and detect patterns in the environment to know when to use which technique to progress in the game. Repetition also leads them to over-learning : techniques become automatic and allow the player to be faster and to reach higher awards as he masters the game mechanics and execution.

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Catherine’s game Interface usability review : how mismatching mental models affects player experience

Catherine is a mature game about adultery and pushing boxes. Don’t run away, it’s the good kind of pushing boxes. Just let me take you through the first steps of the game.

Tested on PS3

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Usability issues that break Tale of Tale’s Sunset experience

Sunset is the last of Tale of Tale’s games, and their first commercial attempt. We’re not going to discuss in depth the business issue, there’s already all the tough love for Tale of Tales out there, and it pretty much matches my point of view.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Sunset, as much as The Path or The Graveyard. The idea behind it is awesome to me. But that’s just because Tale of Tales inspire me, and I have an infinite patience with their games that most players I have watched play Sunset do not share.

This review is going to highlight 3 usability issues that can break Sunset’s experience.

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Good game usability ideas from Tale of Tale’s The path

The path is a short horror game by Tale of Tales inspired by Little Red Riding hood. Released in 2009, the game is known for its uniquely feminine and grown up vision of the grey area between childhood and adulthood, where the same sentence can be cynical and innocent at the same time. Even more skeptical reviews called it a triumph of atmosphere after condemning its pretentious artsiness.

When I played The Path, I was taken by its ambiance, but I my attention was also caught by some neat implementations of good usability practices. And that’s what this article is about

Tested on PC / MAC

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Tale of Tale’s Fatale : game usability issues analysis

coverFatale : Exploring Salome is Tale of Tale’s haunting revisit of the tale of Salome, who asked Herod to give her John the Baptist’s head. The game is split in 3 scenes :

  • In the cistern, players can read Oscar Wilde’s lines to set the mood
  • Exploring the terrace, players can discover the story by extinguishing candles
  • Under the sun

This is a good example of a game made with thought, providing a different experience and exploring complex narration and emotions, stimulating imagination. The result is quite experimental. Players usually comment in one of two ways. Either it makes them think, about lust, about desire, about love… or they consider it the worst artsy fartsy. The one thing they agree on, is that, as often seen, the game could have been be really good.

Not everyone will be sensitive to this kind of game, but as someone who likes to see variety in games, and appreciates successful alternative or experimental games, I want to dig deeper into this “could have been” and what could bring this kind of game closer to its goal, if not Fatale in particular.

Tested on PC / Mac

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A game usability review of Ellie

Screenshot_2015-02-07-18-11-36Ellie is a Japanese visual novel, similar to a point and click game. In this game, the player’s car breaks down due to an earthquake, and he stumbles upon a kidnapped girl while searching for help himself. The goal of the game is to help the girl escape from her kidnapper.

Tested on Andoid / Samsung Galaxy 3

 

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A game usability review of The Silent Age

Screenshot_2015-02-08-18-11-52The silent age is a point and click adventure on tablet. In this game, the player has to solve riddles by exploring his environment, talking with people, and using the right items at the right location. He also has the ability to travel through time, which requires him to think outside the box to solve the problems and progress through the game.

Tested on Android / Asus Transformer Tab

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