The Emularity and Ruffle teams have finally done it – Flash is running natively in the browser. No more flash plugin. You can play flash games and watch flash animations on archive.org. Flash defined internet content in the mid 00s. It has been effectively dead since the introduction of the iPhone, and to really enjoy it you need something with a mouse, or a very large tablet I suppose. Actually playing flash has gotten progressively harder, until now.
During the aughts, these where some of the games I played the most. Call it casual if you want, but these where the games you could play on school computers, that you didn’t need to buy. You could discover new ones every day. By timing alone, at least, they’ve ended up meaningful to me.
This is a great example of how the mouse was used for what you might call a sidescroller/shooter. Rather than negotiate a level with pitfalls, the task of your Mario-like character is to dodge incoming bullets, sort of like a bullet hell shooter. It’s also got an array of different creative weapons, each accompanied by a cool robotic voice announcing it when you pick it up. It never leaves this basic loop, spawning helis as fast as you can kill them. Once you get good at it, you can keep playing it for quite a long time. You can play it here.
This game made a huge splash when it was released. The norm for sidescrollers since eras where denoted by the number of bits systems has was for side scrollers to be very similar to Mario and have the following characteristics:
- Maps made out of a tile grid
- Maps defined by axis-aligned bounding boxes
- Movement defined by walking and jumping.
Fancy Pants adventure subverts these expectations while still sticking to the intuitive sensibilities of a platformer:
- The levels are defined by smooth shapes much larger than what you’d expect in a tile map.
- The maps use curved surfaces rather than straight lines or uniform curve sections.
- In addition to walking and jumping, you can build up momentum and slide
But oh man, the style. This game dripped style. The lush animation, everything about it. I don’t think I ever made it past the first level. I didn’t care. When this came out it felt like it injected new life into the platformer formula. I think Flash’s vector nature really played a role here – it could do things you just couldn’t do on an NES. You can play it here.
This is a game that really only works with a mouse, and also illustrates the obsession with violence against stick figures. The figures attempt to knock down your castle and your defense against them is to click and drag them violently into the air so that they splatter down on the ground into a puddle of blood. Eventually you get enough points and abilities to take stick figures into your castle and turn the game a little bit more into a tower defense setup. You might be able to get this working on a very large tablet, but really the interaction is tailored for the mouse. The graphics are basic and make heavy use of gradients and stick figures – both flash tropes. Yet here I am in 2020, actually getting sucked into it. It’s a very well crafted dopamine loop. Launching the little bastards with your mouse is satisfying, mastering doing it quickly before they get to your gates is rewarding, and the relief of having your job automated by a bunch of archers is even more rewarding. You can play it here.
As a big fan of the Escape Velocity series, Broken Mirror kept me playing for many hours. It’s a space trader game set in the star trek universe. Well, the Trek’s mirror universe-the one where everyone is the baddies. It’s the rare fan game but it fills the exact kind of niche that you’d love to see for that setting. It’s also absolutely dripping with humor, especially inside fandom jokes. As a fan work it is monumental. I’d daresay that until Star Trek Online was a thing, it was the definitive star trek video game experience. The open world of the space trader genera fits perfectly with the open feel of Star Trek. And really, having a big open world RPG on a platform that was mostly used for single-screen arcade games is quite an accomplishment. It plays at breakneck speed on modern systems, but you can play it here.