Game Review: Super Gerball by Binary Sun

or “You had me at ‘Smeg'” Part 1

This is the second of two reviews that are part of the Binary Moonโ€™s Free Games for Bloggers promotion. More reviews are likely to follow.


Super Gerbil
Super Gerball game is a sure winner!

Now, I do find it funny that every one 6 and older that played this game, including my wife and myself, looked at it and said “Oh, it’s like Best Friends“. Best Friends is a big hit in this house with the 2 and 4 year olds. The 2 year old doesn’t quite have the skills to play it but he still enjoys the birds being knocked off of the tracks into space and he wanders around.

It turns out that these games share a lot of the same behind the scenes technology. Don’t be mislead by that statement. Though Ben, of Binary Sun, and Mike, of Retro64 have colaborated on some projects one of Ben’s other work places, www.MiniClip.com, these are two VERY different games.

While we’ve had the trial version of Best Friends for months without purchasing, this could not have been the case for Super Gerball! As I said my two youngest kids loved Best Friends, as did the older kids at one time. However, I very quickly grew tired of it. That won’t be the case with Super Gerball, which takes a whole new approach.

Part of the fun of Super Gerball is that we right now have an escape artist Dwarf Hamster.


Anyone seen this hamster?

Just when I started to review Super Gerball, Streaky, one of our hamsters, had been recovered from her last escape act and had been wandering around the house for two days. And that, my friends, pretty much sums up Super Gerball. Super Gerball is about a Gerbil that is wandering all around the house in its little rolling ball.

No for the record, Gerbils have tails See a tail! and Dwarf Hamsters don’t See No tail!.
So, I’m pretty sure this should be Super Dwarf Hamster Ball, but that’s hardly as catching of a name, now is it?


Got it?
Any Question?

Ok, we’ll let that go for now. ๐Ÿ™‚ What makes this game so unique is that it is the world & platforms that are rotating so instead of you just guiding the hamster around, you are rolling the hamster like a marble in one of those old wooden marble maze games. It’s neat to see the whole world tilting that way.

While the beginner levels are easy enough for my two year old to complete them, they are also big enough that I’ve tried a couple times to collect all of the gems but run out of time. (Practice will make perfect).

The medium levels are where the fun really starts for the 8 & up crowd. First, there is a Red Dwarf reference as the Gerbil tries to find its way through the kitchen. That alone made the game a winner. “You had me at Smeg”. Though what such language is doing in a kids game, I have no idea…. ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, this difficulty setting adds self tilting islands (for lack of a better term), spinning obstacles, moving ground and a couple other terrains that affect the physics of the hamster. It was enough to give my wife quite a challenge in the game and to get the kids sucked in so far that I never got more than two brief moments at the controls. I did however get beat by the very end second level the first time I played it. So I want to go back and play some more.

This game is a MUST have and is truely worth the price asked.

Since my 10 year old son has asked me over 15 times in the last two days if I’ve written this review, I need to sign of and leave my recommendations for Part 2.

But I’ll leave you with the comments of my two year old.

This is him as we forced him to let his sister have a turn…
Gain! I play again!

This was his reaction after he got another long turn and it was time for everyone to head to bed:I try again nnnnn!!!

The next 15 minutes were repeats of the first two slowing dying down to a numb:
aaaiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

I think he liked it!


What the smeg is that doing there?

Things I like:

  • I like the fun concept
  • I like the tilting of the platforms – that’s unique
  • I like the attention to detail – for instance on the easy levels, all of the obstacles you guide your Gerbil around have round corners. That means that the little ones can be a little imprecise in how they guide the ball around.
  • The art style is very nice

Things I would change:

  • Recommend, some how, that older players play at the medium level first so that they don’t dismiss the game after just playing the medium level. Maybe level shots in the menu?
  • In all of the character based games I’ve played from Binary Sun, you spend the whole time staring a the back of the character. At least at the end of the rounds in this one you see the Gerbil’s face. It would be nice if you could see the Gerbil a little better and watch him run around in the ball. With being zoomed out this far you pretty much miss that entire effect. It becomes just a ball not a Gerbil in a ball.

That’s not a very long list. Why? Because everything else I want to I’m gonna be able to do in the level editor that comes with the full version of the game. That means I’ll be making an additional level pack for my two year old VERY soon.

Here’s a feature list of the full game:

• 60 levels – 60 fun, exciting levels provide a long-lasting challenge.
Each level has been designed to offer something new, with no two levels alike –
ensuring a fresh experience from start to finish.

• 6 game zones – Super Gerball provides you with the ultimate in graphical variety
– there are no less than 6 game zones in the game,
starting off in the garden and moving onto the garage, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and attic.

• 3 difficulty settings – easy, medium and hard modes make the game accessible
to everyone and also provide lasting challenge.
Start the game off in easy mode, and then as you get better try mastering the medium and hard modes!

• 3 unique endings – complete the game in easy,
medium or hard mode and you will be rewarded with an entertaining end sequence –
completely unique to that mode! Do your best to see all 3 endings!

• 3 high score tables – compete against friends and family to see who is the best Super Gerball player of them all.
Can you reach No. 1 in all 3 tables?

• Freeplay mode – play any level in any order and try and beat your best score for that level.
Import additional level paks for endless fun! (Note: shareware version allows you to import 2 level paks,
the full version can import an unlimited number.)

Level Editor


(included with full version of Super Gerball)

Level editor features:

• Easy to use – normally, 3D level editors can be horribly complex to use – but not Super Gerball’s editor (SGB Ed).
SGB Ed has been designed to be useable by anyone whether they’ve used a 3D editor before or not.

• Powerful – Super Gerball’s editor lets you do everything that can be done in the game –
so you can create levels just as simple or as complex as you want.

• Complete and thorough documentation – the documentation for SGB Ed explains everything about the editor, so you should never get stuck.

• Support and community – already there is a community of Super Gerball full version owners who are creating their own levels.
Get the full version and join this creative community!

Yet to Come: A gratuitous review: Binary Sun’s SETH’s Puzzles

Treating a TImage’s loaded JPEG as a Bitmap in Delphi

One problem with the TImage component is that it doesn’t natively support JPegs. JPeg just wasn’t as popular a format back in the early to mid nineties when the Delphi was first developed. Well, today that is a different story. Starting with Delphi 3 , if memory serves (I didn’t every use D2), the TJPegImage component was introduced and the TImage could be extended to allow JPegs to be loaded. Today’s TImage component can load a JPeg straight from the LoadFromFile command. However, you still cannot directly manipulated it as easily as you can a BitMap. This is clear if you look at the structure of a TImage’s Picture property.

A TPicture has a BitMap property and a MetaFile property and a Graphic property that stores everything that isn’t a BitMap or a metafile.

Yet you’ll quickly see that very few routines and example on the web deal with the Graphic property. They can’t! The structure of the information in the Graphic varies depending upon the type of image.

So, the trick of dealing with JPegs, or anything else like TIFFs, GIFS or Targa’s (oh my), is to get their data uncompressed and de-interlaced and back over to the bitmap property. A little known fact is that this is exactly what Windows has to do any time you choose a JPEG as a background. Windows will load the JPEG save it to a BMP and write the name of that BMP to the registry and then display that file instead of the original JPEG. So, we all should quit blaming Borland (DevCo) for a klunky control, they are doing it the right low level way. And that’s, after all, what we like about Delphi right?

So, what we must do is once we allow a user to load a file, we will check to see if the type is a TJPegImage. If it is, then we create a TJPegImage component. We then assign the JPegImage to the BitMap property and we are done! You can now access the image data in the BitMap.

In Delphi, that looks like this:
[delphi]
SourceImage.Picture.LoadFromFile(FullFileName);
if (SourceImage.Picture.Graphic is TJPegImage)
then begin
JpegImage := TJpegImage.Create;
try
JpegImage.Assign(SourceImage.Picture.Graphic);
SourceImage.Picture.Bitmap.Assign(JpegImage);
finally
end;
FreeAndNil(JpegImage);
end;
[/delphi]

Assign is a wonderful little black box function built into many objects. Assign is one of the neatest functions in Delphi. It basically accepts other types of objects as a parameter, and converts as much of that type of object as possible.

Let’s go abstract and say you have two object types TCar and TSuitCase.
C: TCar
S: TSuitcase

Obviously can’t say S := C; or C := S; because they are of different types.
However you can say
C.Assign(S)
and inside the TCar’s Assign method have a statement that looks like:

[delphi]

if (Source is TSuitcase)
then Self.Trunk.Contents := Self.Trunk.Contents + TSuitcase(Source).Contents
else if (Source is TGasolinePump)
then …

[/delphi]

OK, that sounds pretty non-exciting, but it gets better! What if the type of object is unknown? A the TCar routine may know how to assign a TFordPerfect to itself because a TFordPerfect inherits from TCar, but a TCar is NOT going to know how to assign a TFordPrefect to itself now is it? That’s where AssignTo comes in…
[delphi]

if (Source is TSuitcase)
then Self.Trunk.Contents := Self.Trunk.Contents + TSuitcase(Source).Contents
else if (Source is TGasolinePump)
then Self.Tank.Contents := Self.Tank.Contents + TGasolinePump(Source).Gallons[1]
else Source.AssignTo(Self);

[/delphi]

AssignTo goes exactly the OPPOSITE direction. The person writing the new component than then create a routine that will allow his new component to the most common components that already exist. So following our example, TFordPrefect’s AssignTo routine might include something like this:

[delphi]

if (Dest is TCar)
then TCar(Dest).PassengerCompartment := TCar(Dest).PassengerCompartment + TPassenger(Self);

.
[/delphi]

Or in the case of a TJPegImage, the AssignTo method checks to the see if the Dest var is a TBitmap, and if it is, it goes through a long decompression and conversion routine to finally produce a true Device Independant bit map and write those raw bits into the Dest.

And that my friends is how our TImage component, that knows nothing about JPEG to Bitmap conversions gets the job done. It asks the TJPegImage AssignTo method to do all if its work for it.

You can now use the Picture.BitMap image as normal. The neat thing is that you can put those routines in your FormCreate method. So, TImages can be made to contain JPEGs at design time, making your EXE significantly smaller. And then it converts them, if appropriate, to BMPs at Runtime. It’s nice to save 600,000 of image space at next to no cost.

Kinda nifty eh?

(BTW if you are really ambitious, I’m sure you could write that routine above so that it checks to make sure the graphic isn’t a BMP, WMF or empty and then uses the class info routines to request the type of object and instationate a TPersistent variable to contain an object of that type. Then your routine can handle as a bitmap ANY image type you’ve extended your TImage to contain. More on extending TImages later…)

Google Cache links use checksum of the first 8 characters in the earl

I was looking to see what people were looking for as they reached my blog searching for “KCYap Wife” when I noticed something interesting.

This:
http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:CT71ZmX0u3UJ:kcyap.com/wordpress-16-theme-design-competition/how-to-participate/%3Fp%3D126+kcyap+wife&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=4

truncates back to this:
http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:CT71ZmX0u3UJ:kcyap.co

without any changes to the output. That means that all of the rest of that stuff is just Garbage. I’m not quite sure why that’s important. I think Google must use that as a check sum in there. It’s definately not a Rot13 or md5 or anything like that. So I think it is a 2 hex char checksum. I’m not sure what use it would be even if someone cracked the cache indexing key. But it’s interesting none the less… in a Code Cave sort of way…

Game Review: Rocket Boards by Binary Sun

This is the first of two reviews that are part of the Binary Moonโ€™s Free Games for Bloggers promotion.

Few people know that when I was looking for colleges I had four main paths I wanted to follow: Forestry, Theater, Teaching, Computer Science. Well, considering the fact that I liked to eat and eventually wanted to support a family, the first three were right out even though I had theater scholarships in the bag. So, I decided that I could at least combine teaching and computer games with computer science. Life moves on and I haven’t done much to complete that dream, but I do still admire those that write children’s games.

Binary Sun doesn’t profess itself to be a children’s game company, but that’s where its calling is. I’ve tried all six of their games and, imho, they are geared perfectly for kids in the 6-13 year old age range. And I should know. You see my house is infested with them! I’ve got four rugrats running around here from age 2 to age 10. And they are all now Binary Sun addicts. In fact, I have a dilema here because I showed the kids several of the games and we picked the two we are going to get for the reviews, but that was before I played Seth’s Puzzle box and THAT my friends is a fun game. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The games in their promotion are these:

Super Gerball

Super Gerball

Gerry the Gerbil loves playing in his ball – he would play all day long if he could. Unfortunately though, the house in which Gerry lives is not safe – if he is not careful, he will fall and hurt himself.

Bubble Blitz

Bubble Blitz

Match the coloured bubbles against the clock in this family friendly puzzle game.

DR Germ

DR Germ

Dr.Germ is looking for a new assistant! Are you up to the task?

Seth’s Puzzle Boxes

Seth's Puzzle Boxes

Help Selena rescue her parents by competing against the evil robot ‘Seth’ – in this fiendish brain bending puzzle game.

Bubble Bomb

Bubble Bomb

A highly addictive puzzle game made in the spirit of Bubblet. Bubble Bomb adds the extra element of bombs, which you can earn to help you along your way.

Rocket Boards

Rocket Boards

Want to relive the glory days of old, or are you new to the joys of pc video gaming? Perfect for novice and advanced gamers alike. Rocket Boards, with its colourful cartoony 3d graphics and simple control sytem, will provide hours of entertainment for the whole family.

The first one I grabbed was Rocket Power. The name just screams fun.

It was evening and I wanted to play. Now, I know some of the reviews from 16-18 year olds have been harsh on this one, but for an independent game geared a the 8-14 age bracket, this thing has fit and finish! (And I’m sorry but from here on out a bunch of “you”s and “your”s slip in because I am really talking directly to the people at Binary Sun/Moon. My other readers will just have to bear with me.)

A Screen shot:
Rocket Boards from Binary Moon

Some quick positives:

  • Good name, good subject – everyone wanted a rocket power board at sometime in their lives
  • Great skins (graphics) for the racers. There’s quite a mix to choose from between the cowboy, Eskimo girl, space alien .
  • It include female game characters. Yes, that’s plural – as in more than one! In fact there are just as many female racers as male. This is still unique enough that it is worth note. In my computer generation, yes I belong to the 8088 generation of gamers, games rarely included female roles. Modern FPS still often include only one female role just as a nod to that gender even thought the QIII code has gender as a built in option. Now with gender saturation reaching 50-50 in some markets, it’s no longer just ignorant not to gear your games to everyone, it’s fiscally irresponsible.
  • Even in the Grand Prix demo level, the courses are rich and diverse. You race on the track and on the beach. That keeps it fun!
  • Good Sound Effects and Music.
  • Good lettering in the game – it’s easy to read and on the screen long enough for the younger readers.
  • Consistent physics. You can predict what will happen when.
  • Good balance on the AI for the competition – Though older players will find the demo no where near aggressive enough.
  • Good rewards when you complete a race

So, where could this game be improved? I haven’t played the full game yet and probably not even gotten through all of the races in the demo, point one may be already addressed in higher levels, but here’s what I would like to see in game:

  • Unique power ups – the base for the game is sound – as in well built. Some unique (non destructive) gimmicks would be fun – like little side skies to make you go fast over water or a bubble bounce maybe
  • The menu is stark – that’s the absolute best word for it. It’s white, it’s orange, it’s got words. It is in such contrast to the cartoonalisious races, that it feels like it is a menu for a totally different program.
  • A difficulty setting would be great. It would radically increase the age range that this game is appropriate for. At the rugrat setting, it could be much harder to turn the board to far sideways and stop yourself. It would also not let you get into the water. At the increased difficulty level, you could make the board a little more sensitive at the lower speeds and much less sensitive at the high speeds and make the gravity a little stronger too and make the players more likely to get in your way. That could solve the issues with the older demographics.

I really think this game could be fairly big, at least much bigger than it is right now. However the real issue isn’t the game play, it’s the marketing. A few simple changes and I think that you could have a money maker here that will quickly pay for your development of the other games.

Here’s what I would do on that front:

  • Admit that this game, most of your games, are geared to young players. When you state that Advance Gamers will like this game, that’s an overstatement. They will like it only if they have something else that draws them in and the Nintendo similarities are not enough to do it. For me having a 10 year old is, but I probably won’t be playing this much myself.
  • Sort out the Binary Moon, Binary Sun differences. If it was done under a different label originally, work out the details and rebrand it. You need to put out a consistent front and be one label. Pick a site, pick a name, go with it. Keep the other side around, but it isn’t mentioned in graphics or advertising. Let your journal be your journal and word of mouth and a maybe an inconspicuous link on a bio page will allow frequenting Binary Moon to be something the Binary Sun Gurus (and those in the know) do.
  • Give RocketBoards its own website. That could radically increase your sales tremendously. Just as I said about the menu, the site does not reflect the game. It is too busy with words that do not sell the game. The AdSense text ads don’t help. And did you know that displaying a “Best viewed in XWY” button or text drops your hit count by 40%? The separate site should take advantage of all of the neat graphics you have and build upon them. The 8 characters should guide you through the site and the game. Some of the Binary Sun/Moon games were obviously part of a learning progression, but this one IS of stand alone quality and deserves the attention. If the separate website only produced an extra sale every two months – and it would do WAYYYY more than that, how would that compare to your income through AdSense for the entire year? I bet even at that slow rate I bet keeping AdSense only on your main site would quickly pay for itself. Advertising MUST be kept simple. There are places to use lots of words, front pages are not one of them.
  • At least reference PowerBoards in your thumbnail list of games. This is your most easily marketable game and it isn’t even there! I can understand leaving out bubble bomb but not this one.
  • Build on the character identification. There is room for an entire marketing approach here. You could take some of these racers, the ones that your players will be identifying with, and build them in to real people in your players minds. There’s fodder for a lot of marketing stuff there. Not to mention separate games with featuring one or more of those same characters. It’s a good thing when some one sees the character they always play in one game featured in the next. You’ve just made a personal connection in your player’s mind and that’s 99.9% of the work in marketing.

Well, in summary, Rocket Boards achieves the goal of being a surprisingly complete and sophisticated game from an independent developer. Despite the slight stretch in its one paragraph description (it probably won’t help the advanced gamer relive the glory days of old), the game is fun to play and definitely has the opportunity to introduce many to the joys of pc video gaming.

Binary Moon’s Free Games for Bloggers

Some of you may have noticed that this Blog was hosted initially using the Regulus theme by Binary Moon. It was a good theme – still is. I’ve just landed on a nother one – for now. Well, Binary Moon is the darkside of Binary Sun – a budding independent gaming company.

They offer a number of games, of the puzzle and kids action variety:

And have started a promotion going on right now give a way up to two games if you post a review on your blog. It’s a good idea. Something an independant can do. You can read about here:

Bubble BlitzFree Games 4 Bloggers
Games 4 reviews

I, with some help from eager assistants, have been doing “research” on two games over the last few days. When the reviews are posted, you’ll see their links here:

Super Gerball
Rocket Boards

Stay tuned…

Free Games for Bloggers

My code cave account gets its first spam…

And it’s my very first infamous Krishna spam too!

—–Original Message—–
From: Neateye [mailto:nitaigouranga@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 4:18 PM
To: Brian
Subject: Gouranga

Call out Gouranga be happy
Gouranga Gouranga Gouranga!
That which brings the highest happiness…

See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouranga#Email_and_ICQ_spam

Every body sing, all together now:

Slow down Krishna, slow down! Your email spam goes way to fast!
Slow down Krishna, slow down! Or your pop3 account will never last!

Taken from The Bobs – “Slow Down Krishna”. Well it went something like that… For the curious, that song was written by Gunner “Bob” Madsen (or was it Richard “Bob”?) who lived down the street from a Krishna – umm… complex? Monastary? Commune? Encampment? – uh let’s try community – he lived down the street from a Krishna community and one of the teenage kids there bought a BRAND NEW TransAm and would rumble up and down the street behind his fellow Krishnas as they left for their daily doings. He began to think about what the community leaders had to say about it. So the song is not meant to be insulting at all and shouldn’t be taken as such. ๐Ÿ™‚

Secret Russian plot to hold the world’s O-Zone at ransom….

I’ve blogged about this before but now I have a good screen shot.

The Giant Band-Aid of Russia

A secret Russian government plan was discovered by Brian Layman in late February, 2006. It is beleived that this giant structure is intended to patch the hole in the O-Zone. But only if America surrenders to the Russian government all of the former members of the group known as Munudo.

See here for Googliscious details.
Or look at the wide angle shot.