Ah yes: throw games. No, not the kind you used to play as a kid, where you got so angry you hurled the cartridge at the wall. Throw games or launch games are another genre of casual games that I’ve recently looked into.
The common goal in throw games is to launch an object or character into the air, and try to either hit targets, cover a long distance, or both. The most famous example might be Angry Birds by Rovio Entertainment, dating back to 2009. It’s stated to have sold over 1.7 billion copies in 2012, across all the platforms it has been ported to. Here, the player launches a variety of cartoon-style birds, and tries to hit a number of targets in order to progress to the next level.
In a foolhardy attempt to swim against the tide of 1.7 billion fans, I’ll admit that I don’t really like the gameplay of Angry Birds. In many iterations of the game, I don’t like the controls. In a game where accurate aim is paramount, you should be able to precisely judge the angle and power with which you launch your payload. Often, I’ve found this lacking.
The main attraction with Angry Birds style throw games is the puzzle element. You need to figure out a way to use the available ammo to hit all the targets, combined with the dexterity to actually execute the plan.
But, there are completely different styles of throw games. If you’ve played Rayman’s Raving Rabbits, you probably recall the minigame where you launch a cow as far as possible, by spinning the analog stick rapidly. This type of game is extremely simple, and requires no tactics or puzzle solving whatsoever, making it probably more suitable as a minigame than a full-fledged game.
However, there are ways to build on this principle of “as far as possible” and turn it into an entertaining game. A good example of a game that succeeded at this is Burrito Bison, published by JuicyBeast in 2011.
It received great critiques, quickly became a fan favorite and led to the inevitable sequel.
I suppose the catchy title might need some explanation. Burrito Bison centers around a Mexican wrestler who is abducted by evil gummy bears, and forced into a wrestling ring in Candy Land. He decides to bust out by launching himself off the ropes and bounce his way out in a frenzy of squished gummy bears. Yes, I like the originality of the storyline, and no, I’m not on hallucinogens.
Anyway, the trajectory and speed of your launch in these games is determined by timing rather than aim. Burrito Bison will bounce off of gummy bears, but gradually slow down, especially if he hits the ground. As a last resort, he can perform a rocket-powered body slam that squishes several enemies and gives a slight speed boost. By buying power-ups, his speed can be increased and better preserved. Special gummy bears can be purchased, which will provide our hero with vehicles and other objects to aid him in his escape. Because you normally have just 1 control (rocket slam), you often have little control over your trajectory. However, with vehicles to obtain, play becomes a bit more tactical and a lot more fun.
As simple as this sounds, I actually find it highly entertaining. It is somehow addictive to bounce on as many bears as possible, use and abuse vehicles and reach a new high-score distance. I find myself hoping for that “perfect run”, where you hit just the right objects to make it very far (especially in endless mode). The amount of time required to buy all power-ups goes a little bit against my expectations of a “casual game”. On the other hand, the array of available power-ups provides some room for tactical purchases and synergies,
All-in-all, throw games are an example of a genre where story and depth seem almost completely irrelevant. A very simple objective can sometimes suffice in making a very addictive game, as long as you hit exactly the right style and level of challenge. Right, time to squish some more gummy bears…