Game Review – They Need To Be Fed (Jesse Venbrux)
May 11, 2010
A perfection of ideas – this is how Jesse Venbrux describes his first-prize-winning entry into the fifth YoYo Games competition “Design a Handheld Game”. And it’s a fitting description. They Need To Be Fed features elements found in his previous works, most notably the 360° gravity well-known from Frozzd (his winning entry into the first YoYo Games competition over two years ago) and improved with the lesser-known Maru, a game released earlier this year. It’s clear there’s been thought, and care, put into its perfection – whereas Frozzd was a little clunky and felt glitchy, TNTBF is smooth. So, so smooth.
So, in the game, you play as a guy who, oddly, must get himself eaten without dying on the journey to the predator. Whereas Frozzd levels were a cluster of large planets, the worlds in TNTBF consist of small spheres, rectangles, triangles etc, each with their own independent gravity. It takes a little getting used to, but once you’re into it, the game’s intricate movement allows for rather a lot of manoeuvrability… which you need.
Levels start off fairly easy, but it doesn’t take long for the difficulty to be cranked up sky-high. Initial menaces, such as stationary mines, are little threat provided you’ve nailed the controls down. It becomes a second nature to be jumping from one “planet” to another, dodging airborne mines as you switch from one gravity field to the other seamlessly. But other things are quickly thrown in which prove trickier to avoid. Moving mines, which tend to orbit circular “planets”, and particularly homing missiles, will be a bother, especially when you’re having to dodge both at once… while planets are rotating, moving, or reacting to your jump landings. It certainly turns into something requiring plenty of multitasking, as you look to avoid being killed by everything Venbrux decides to throw at you simultaneously, while timing jumps and movements to absolute perfection.
One thing about the gameplay is that it’s perfectly suited to portable gaming, something I’m sure aided its success. Levels are fairly short – most will be completed before the minute is up (excluding however many thousands of times you choose to die). Furthermore, it holds an addictive quality to it, with frustration being hastily subsided by the knowledge that your death was your fault and you can win this level.
Graphically, though minimalistic in style, the game is very pleasant to look at. It has a cartoony aesthetic that is pleasing to the eye, animations are cute, smooth and very well drawn, and (nearly) everything fits together beautifully. The clouds in the first group of levels are slightly misfitting, as has been noted by others before, but they’re not hideous or detrimental to the experience in any major way. The menu, though I’m sure is great, was slightly problematic for me as it ran at about 3FPS. I will reinforce though that this was likely a problem with my computer, not the game, as I saw nobody else complain about any such problem. Sounds and music are both minor parts of the game, but are fitting where used.
So was it a worthy winner? As a stand-alone game, I’m not sure. Venbrux himself stated the game didn’t take a huge amount of time, and there is of course the aspect of its concept being very similar to some of his previous works. There were also a lot of games, including the games that took second and third, that reek of quality. Even some of the games that didn’t manage a “Runners-up” placement seemed to have originality and quality TNTBF didn’t quite manage. But as a handheld game, it’s suited to a T. Short levels, addictive gameplay, progressive difficulty, replayability (in the gem collection) and a nice little pile of levels mean TNTBF would be PSP gold. I know I’d buy it for portable play.
Download They Need To Be Fed on YoYo Games
Phil’s blog entry on the Competition05 results
18 Replies to “Game Review – They Need To Be Fed (Jesse Venbrux)”
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Apparently the game will also be going (directly?) to PSP for retail eventually…
Not directly, through YoYo Games.
“Together with YoYoGames we’re going to try and get this actually running on PSP (as well as many other great entries).”
Interesting nonetheless. Perhaps this is how they’ll enter the publishing business?
iPod Touch and/or iPhone (happy?) 😛
I’ll stick with iTouch
I agree the game is very smooth and well polished. Trying to get yourself eaten is a nice change from the normal games where survival is the aim.
Whenever you think you have got the hang of jumping from shape to shape a new challenge comes along be it mines, rotating shapes, lasers etc. Very enjoyable as you must plan your route ahead whilst avoiding the obstacles that could kill you whilst you remain in your current position.
I agree with Andrew. I’d buy this. If I had a PSP/Android phone/(iTouch)…
Not to be nit-picky, Philip, but there’s no such thing as an “iTouch”. 😉
It’s a common abbreviation, Martin.
I tend to appreviate it as “iPt”.
It’s not a pun, despite my just realising it could be taken as one 😛 “iPod” just naturally shortens to “iP”, and Apple always stylise the word “Touch” as “touch”, so the “t” is lower-case.
I was actually addressing the word ‘appreviate’. That was a pun, wasn’t it?
Oh right. No, that was a clever, but unintentional, misspelling. Haha
Well, I don’t know how common an abbreviation it is, but I usually get the impression that the person using it just doesn’t know what the product’s name actually is, so I thought I’d help Philip avoid giving people the wrong idea in the future.
It always reminds me of that old song by The Divinyls. “I don’t want any body else. When I think about you iTouch myself.”
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I’ve already beaten it. It was short and fun…