Weekly Time-Waster: Death vs. Monstars
Sometimes you just don't want to do anything. Am I right? Well time keeps creeping by and you can't just sit there. This week's time wasters are a salute to abulia.
Death vs. Monstars doesn't do much to break the flash-game mold, but it's well-made and you can play it without ever clicking a button. Use your mouse to float around while your death-head skull shoots bullets across the screen. Oh sure, you can use extra buttons to try and be strategic; you can even hold down spacebar to play in bullet time, but Art Attack realized pretty quickly that it's way less work to just not even try. As long as you avoid anything nasty from hitting you, the storm of projectiles pretty much takes care of everything else on the screen, leaving you free to chase after precious, precious coins. The more coins you get, the more money you have to upgrade your face -- or whatever it is that's shooting bullets. The more upgrades you have, the less you have to do. The levels get harder and more and more full of nasty particulates, but you're free to just zone out and collect coins, if that's all you're after. Isn't this what "casual games" are made for? Who knows, you may even find yourself wanting to push some buttons and do better.
The king of minimal-input gaming, though, is Adam Atomic's Canabalt from 2009. It pretty much went viral at the time, but if you never had your time wasted on it before, now is a good time to start. You play a man running over the rooftops of a crumbling, futuristic city trying to escape some kind of 24-hour surveillance apocalypse (or some other plot from any summer blockbuster based on a Philip K. Dick novel). There's only one possible action in the entire game: jump. Jump between buildings. Jump through windows. Jump over exploding robots that fall from the sky. You don't even have to press anything to run! Needless to say, it's quite exhilarating -- and effortless.
For anyone who wants to be a little more productive, Adam Atomic is kind enough (and smart enough) to share the flash framework he uses to design his games for free. It's called Flixel and if you play a lot of flash games, you are probably already very familiar with how it works. Many great games are being made on this framework (one dead give-away is that most keep the default pause screen -- another is that X and C are the default action buttons). Though it might not be for complete beginners, there are tutorials and there's also a pretty active help/discussion forum. Go on, Houston, make some shit!