Tuesday’s Top Ten: Flash Games

Time again for another Tuesday’s Top Ten!  We’ve talked about Flash games before, but this week, we’ll be discussing the top ten Flash games.  It was hard to pin down ten games I felt were exemplary of the fun creativity and innovation I feel is inherent to the medium, since Flash games vary in depth and breadth just as console and computer games do.

Flash games struggle to shake off the stigma of being mindless past-times for the bored or very young.  They can be such, of course, but it’s not inherent in the medium.  Any sub-set of any hobby can be tailored for varying audiences, after all.

Few Flash games take dozens of hours to complete.  While some of it is due to limitations of the medium itself, it’s also due to the fact that a developer most often works alone, and almost always for free.  No matter how much you enjoy your work, there’s only so much time you can put into a labor of love.  Spend too long on something without the enjoyment of people actually interacting with your project (whether or not they praise it) and it soon becomes more tedious than enjoyable.

That said, you can find Flash games that are no less enjoyable than console games, that offer rooms to explore, intriguing stories to tell, or simply interesting mechanics that make the act of playing itself the most enjoyable aspect.

There are plenty of sites out there that host Flash games, too.  Newgrounds, Armor Games, Albino Blacksheep, and Kongregate are arguably the most popular, though there are plenty more out there.

Once again, it was emphatically not easy to narrow down the list to only ten.  There are so many interesting games out there that turn their genre on its head, or they ask the player to step outside of their preconceptions, or whatever else.  There are so many good Flash games out there that to assemble a full list of ones I find more interesting, more in-depth, more provocative, or simply different would be nearly impossible.

That said, let’s get this going, shall we?

10. Fragger
Physics games are a popular sub-genre all their own in the world of Flash games.  There’s an entire site just devoted to them.  Fragger is one that stands out because of the sheer fun.  Most physics games require some strategic planning, and Fragger is no different, but it differs from most other physics games in one important way.

When you complete Fragger for the first time, you unlock the next highest difficulty, and a perk.  Complete that, and you unlock the final difficulty, and another perk.  Complete that one, and you unlock the final perk.  The difficulties mainly affect how many grenades you have, with the highest difficulty only giving you the bare minimum that you need to pass a level.  The “perks” include things like being able to explode a grenade at any time instead of having to wait for it to come to rest, infinite grenades, and such.

That makes Fragger stand out from most physics games, and makes it much more enjoyable.

09. Atome
Atome is a simple puzzle game.  Arrange the shapes together to pass the level.  There aren’t many levels, and only a couple-few are what I’d call real head-scratchers, but the game is just—different.

Puzzle games are a dime a dozen, really.  Heck, almost a nickel a dozen.  But this one looks different, acts different, and because of those two differences it requires the player to look at it a little differently.  Asking the player to think a little differently makes it just plain fun.

08. Mastermind: World Conqueror
It’s your basic real-time strategy game mixed with the Flash game staple of a tower defense.  You hire and control minions to do things like patrol outside of your base, plot evil deeds for you to send other minions on, and so on.  There’s a tech tree in place, as well as a system that determines how often enemies—law enforcement—comes to try and stop you.

It’s not the hardest game, but it presents itself with its tongue firmly planted into its cheek.  There are quite a few small bits of humor along the way, and the game culminates in an ending worthy of some of the better comedic stories around.

07. Secret Exit
Puzzle-slash-platform games aren’t hard to find.  You can traipse through pretty much any Flash game site out there and find dozens.  What makes Secret Exit different is that it requires lateral thinking.

The clues given are sometimes straightforward—but only rarely.  Most of the time you have to look at the problem a little—or a lot—differently in order to proceed.  Lateral thinking is a quality few puzzle games take to such extremes, but still keep the game fun.

06. Smashing
I have an affinity for Breakout and the million clones it’s inspired.  Smashing is one of the few that homage the original yet brings a few interesting things to the table that are more than simply gimmicks.

There are a few power-ups, though none are too terribly game-breaking.  They’re small boons, nothing more.  You control the paddle with the mouse, and where the ball hits the paddle determines its angle.  Simple stuff.  It’s a simple game over all, but pleasantly so.  It’s one you can jump into without much more knowledge than that it’s a Breakout clone—though, again, one of the few to make that a compliment.

05. I wish I were the Moon
For a small and rather simple game, I wish I were the Moon is very powerful.  A boy and a girl; one pines for the moon, and the other pines for the first.  You can switch things around, move the pair individually or together, or pieces of the background.  You can try to fulfill both individuals’ desires, or see what else there is.

Again, it’s a small game, and someone watching over your shoulder would likely think it was a mindless time-waster, but it’s really more than that.  It’s a small look at relationships and desire.

04. Loved
Loved is one of those games that sets out to be more than simply a way to pass the time.  Loved examines rules, and obeying or disobeying them.  You will have choices throughout the game, as a disembodied voice tells you to do this or not do that.  Obeying gets you praised, while disobeying gets you insulted.  Choices you make affect the game world itself, as well as the ending.

By the end, there’s a distinct feeling of an emotional bond between the disembodied voice and the little blob you control.  What that bond may be and the blob’s connection to the faceless voice are left up to the player, and the game works better that way.  It lets you think about the game without simply telling you what to think.

03. Linkaball
As we’ve seen, Flash games can be interesting and deep, even when they’re complex and bringing a touch of twitch-gaming with them.  Linkaball is more relaxed.  You still have to use your brain, but for the most part it’s not quite as mentally intense.

The music is the main actor in the enjoyment.  It’s a soft, tinkling classical piano tune.  The sound effects are equally subtle; as the rings hit each other they produce what sounds like a singular note struck on a piano in different pitches, soft enough to let you just relax.  It’s not an easy game, not by far, but it’s one of the few games that battles frustration and does so well.

02. Filipe Sheepwolf Mixer 2
D.J.ing is an interesting thing, I think, especially the form known as “free-mixing”.  That’s when a D.J. whips up the music on the fly, instead of having everything pre-recorded.  A decent example can be found here.

Filipe Sheepwolf Mixer 2 is a game perfectly suited for playing with such a concept from the comfort of your computer chair.  It isn’t, of course, the same as doing the “real thing”, much like playing Guitar Hero isn’t the same as playing a real guitar.  However, also like Guitar Hero you actually feel like you really are doing it—though one major difference is that, here, you actually make the music, instead of following along a pre-set list of notes.

There is a third one, but I find the second one to be the best.  It has more things to customize, and though there are fewer options here and there, the trade-off is worth it.  If you like games similar to Guitar Hero and all the rest, you’ll like this.  If you like D.J.ing but can’t do it yourself, you’ll like this.

01. Portal: The Flash Version
To say that Portal was popular would be an understatement.  It received next to no marketing, and was included as simply one small part of The Orange Box, itself released by Valve primarily to show off games developed with their Source engine.  Yet out of all of the games included, Portal is what captured the attention of gamers and reviewers alike.

It was no surprise when a Flash version was made.  Pick anything, pretty much at all, and there’s a Flash version of it.  What makes Portal: The Flash Version different is that the creators sought to recreate the fun of using “portals” with intriguing puzzles, topping it off with refusing to simply rehash the popular computer game.  Instead, the developers at We Create Stuff wrote their own version.

Where players of the computer game controlled the nameless female protagonist, here players are given control of a nameless male protagonist, only known by a number.  He’s taken through other “tests”, no less thought-provoking (and occasionally requiring twitch-gaming) as its “big brother”.

What makes this take the number one spot is that it shows what happens when a fan creates something to homage the thing they love and do it right.  Instead of simply aping the original, what made the original fun and interesting was taken and tweaked to fit not only the Flash medium, but also fit the desire to make something new and interesting.


One Response to “Tuesday’s Top Ten: Flash Games”

  1. […] Tuesday's Top Ten: Flash Games « Retro-Ish Gaming CriticDescription : If you like games similar to Guitar Hero and all the rest, you’ll like this. If you like D.J.ing but can’t do it yourself, you’ll like this. 01. Portal: The Flash Version To say that Portal was popular would be an understatement. …http://retroishgamingcritic.wo .. […]

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