Cool Despite Its Name: Dork
November 10th, 2006
Cool Despite Its Name: Dork
There's something to be said for simplicity. Despite the additional bells and whistles that find their way into a game, nothing beats the appeal of a title that can be learned almost instantly, while being from the start.
Alan deLespinasse's Dork (yes, that's the actual name) fits this ideal to a tee. One of the simplest games I've ever played, Dork is Frogger cranked up to 11 with enough strategy to keep any puzzle fan happy. In Dork, the player must take on the role of a small yellow insect which has to leap or bounce across any surface from the direction he's facing to his switches and power-ups while avoiding monsters, traps and other bugs which freely leap about the screen and devour your bug should they come in contact with it. Collect enough objects and you'll be transported to the next level.
Where some games require the player to learn a set of key commands, Dork is literally a one-button game. Press any key on the keyboard and your bug will leap in the direction he's facing to the furthest extent possible, whether it be a small hop or practically sailing across the length of the screen until he reaches a surface to land on. Combine this with increasingly more strategic levels as the game goes by and you have something fun.
Angles make all the difference in Dork. Where a jump from a rotating platform may seem impossible, combining the jump with a nearby rubber barrier can provide just the ricochet angle needed to reach a nearby platform and then make several easy jumps to hit a nearby switch. Power-ups also play a critical factor and can help turn the odds in your favor by making enemy units edible.
You'll need to traverse the platforms to avoid the baddies and hit the switches to reach the next level.
Albeit simply designed, Dork is well crafted with regard to level design as well as graphics and sound. The levels themselves, though not adorned with 3D graphics and particle explosions, become more interesting as the game progresses. Where just a few moving ramps and platforms greet the player in the initial stages of the game, later stages will embody moving ramps, rotating platforms, obstacles such as fire pits, additional wandering enemies and a network of rubberized walls for the player to bounce off of as they attempt to reach new areas of the map.
The graphics are understated, easy to understand and practical, while top-notch audio work makes the game fun (noises like "Hep!" as the player jumps, cool scarfing sounds and brief yelps when the player is eaten add to the feel of the game). What's present may not be on the marquee level, but it blends together well and makes for a fun game to kill some time with.
Only bouncing off walls, avoiding the fire pits and avoiding insects which wish to eat you will get you past this level.
Dork is available for a $9.50 shareware registration fee from moojob.com with the option to purchase half of the game for $5.50 and the other half for an additional $5.50 at a later date. Registration grants options such as the ability to slow the game speed and/or disable each level's time limit. Dork is a 1.1 megabyte download which expands to occupy 1.9 megabytes of hard disk space when installed and requires Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later to run. The game is suggested for Macs running G4, G5 and Intel-based processors and is currently a Universal Binary which runs cleanly on both the PowerPC and Intel hardware architectures.
Even if Dork doesn't sound like the gaming extravaganza you were hoping for, complete with dozens of vehicles, upgradable armor, deadly weaponry and killer graphics that make strong men weep, it is cool, clever, incredibly fun and worth a try. Give it a shot and see what you think.
That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,
Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.
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