Friday, April 13, 2012

Caine's Arcade and the Power of Social Media

If you are currently unaware of the story of Caine's Arcade, it's really very interesting.

Caine is a 9-year-old boy living in Los Angeles. His father owns a used auto parts store that doesn't get many walk-ins. Mostly his business is online. While Caine was there one summer he noticed that his father's business had a lot of cardboard boxes. So, with a dose of gumption and a double dose of imagination he built a basketball game. Then he built a soccer game and then a claw machine... all out of cardboard and other things he found around his father's shop.

However, he had trouble getting people to play his games. That's when filmmaker Nirvan Mullick stopped by for a new door handle for his '96 Corolla and decided to give the games a try. Caine told him "It's four games for a dollar and two dollars for a fun pass." A fun pass gets you 500 games! That's a pretty good deal if you ask me.

When Mullick discovered he was Caine's only customer, he decided to change all that. To do so, he went to the denizens of the internet.

If you didn't know this, the internet usually a pretty weird place. In some of the darker corners people speak in a strange hieroglyph of memes and funny pictures. You will be trolled and flamed repeatedly and you will need to watch your step because one false move and... BLOOIE!

And yet...

The internet has its moments.

Mullick started a flashmob event on Facebook and got as many people as he could to come and use Caine's Arcade. The event made it to the front page of Reddit (basically like the New York Times of what's happening online, populated by users, for users) and the story went viral.

Thanks to Mullick and the others who fell in love with Caine's Arcade, he now has a scholarship to go to college when he gets old enough.

It's not everyday the internet can say it sent a kid to college sometime in the future or made a 9-year-old Maker of Cool Things' day. Well done, internet. Well done.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Flash Games Forever!

As I've said before, I'm a little addicted to flash games. I could play some of them for hours on end. A few of them, however, are better than others.

One of these is William and Sly and its sequel, the recently released and uniquely titled William and Sly 2. (I can give the creator, Lucas Paakh, a lot, but his titling is not at all creative.)

In the first game, you play as Sly and you're trying to turn a bunch of runes back on for your human friend, William.

The stunning 2D play is complimented by equally beautiful music. It plays like a typical platform game. You use the arrow keys to move and jump, and you have to grab a certain number of fairyflies (little floating orange light-y things that fly around in the game) to turn on the runes. Also, like a typical platform, there are regular baddies to destroy called darklings. They pop up and steal your fairyflies. At the end, there's a boss level to fight.

As platforms go, it's not particularly original in its gameplay and yet... I've played this game at least a dozen times, if not more. I'm not sure what it is about the game. Is it the perfect amount of difficulty that keeps it interesting? Is it the amazingly relaxing music? Is it the idea that I might just be playing with a fox that can either jump abnormally high or just happens to live in a world where there isn't a lot of gravity? I'm not sure. This game is one of the darlings of Newgrounds and there doesn't seem to be a specific reason for it.

When William and Sly 2 was released in December, fans of the original game (like me) hyperventilated at the chance to play the long awaited sequel. And we've waited awhile. The original was released in July of 2009.

As gameplay goes, William and Sly 2 is both a wonderfully similar experience, and completely different as well.

Firstly, there's the graphics to consider.

Where the original game was this:

The new game is this:

Yeah. Paakh has taken William and Sly out of the realms of 2D renderings, and into 3D. And it's stunning. The world was already immersive and beautiful, and now it's even more so. Plus there's new music and a brand new series of objectives.

But this is where the similarities start to end. Where the original game was almost typical platform - you mostly went in one direction and you had a level boss - the new game is more open world. There are four objectives here where once there was only one. Now you need to unlock the runes, save the pixies, put the Ahmni back on their towers, and retrieve the scraps of William's journal that those blasted gnomes have scattered everywhere. Now, instead of only moving right, you're going all over the game world. 

There's no boss, either. That doesn't make it any less frustrating at times. I spent my first night with the game desperately trying to find the last key to open the last chest that held the last journal scrap so I could win.

However you look at it, William and Sly is a brilliant game series, and I look forward to seeing if there will be a William and Sly 3. No matter what, I'll play it. You should too. I guarantee, you'll enjoy yourself thoroughly.
Creative Commons License
Help, The Stash is Attacking! When Yarn, Knitting and Growing Up Go Terribly Awry by Kimberly Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at