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An Instant Family Classic: Armado

The Slacker's Guide - An Instant Family Classic: Armado

December 22nd, 2006

Back home in Providence, my family's new puppy just ate my mom's cell phone. Well, nothing was exactly digested, but Wilbur came to the conclusion that an old StarTac cell phone needed to be properly gnawed upon in order to properly celebrate his first set of Barylick holidays.

In relative terms, this is the least of crises that could occur with anyone in a parental position. Whether it's a new pet or a small child, anything can happen and parenthood provides a continuous series of odd surprises should you decide to bring a new life into the world or care for something.

Not the least of these decisions is finding a cool yet age-appropriate set of video games for your kids. Although marquee titles like Unreal Tournament, Quake 4, Battlefield 1942, Call of Duty 2 and others are sure-fire hits with the older demographics, there's a certain wariness to having your child pretend they're a space marine and blow things to tiny, bloody, well-rendered bits.

Thus the hunt for entertaining, and age-appropriate game continues. The kids want something cool while the parents hunt for something appropriate and actually fun for them as well. This is not an easy combination and for anyone who had to listen to a continuous barrage of Pajama Sam or Reader Rabbit music, the balance between entertaining and appropriate becomes that much more critical.

Relative newcomer Tricky Software seems to have achieved this with its new shareware game, Armado. A third-person action/adventure title, Armado places the player in the role of Armado, a young armadillo who's left his village to discover himself in a rite of passage and finds himself fighting the ant armies to save the Queen of the Eagles and restore peace to the land. To do this, Armado must fight his way to the top of seven mountains and return the eagle eggs to their nests in order to regain control of each area.

Armado functions as a standard run-and-jump action game, much in the vein of Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog. Like these titles, the player must jump over obstacles, pick up power-ups and use powers such as dropping onto enemies and rolling into a ball to their advantage. Such abilities are available in limited quantities and the player will have to recharge their powers by grabbing up power-ups along the way.

Tearing through the arctic wastes in Armado.

This isn't the most original idea, but it works well. The genre is familiar, the game is easy to learn, and a precise set of controls lends to a realistic feel. Load the game and within moments the player feels as if they're the galosh-wearing armadillo hero jumping over boulders and getting the drop on enemies to the best of their ability in an arcade fashion (never a bad thing).

Even if Armado's gameplay feels recycled, it wins in polish and style. Beautiful OpenGL graphics greet the player and nice touches like splashing rivers compliment the title. This is by no means marquee level, but they stand on par with what can be done on an OpenGL kit and a starter shareware game company. The overall look is solid, detailed and effective, connecting the player with the character. Sound and music, while not sweeping and orchestral, capture the feel of the game and a good theme song, though repeated, doesn't feel repetitive or irritating and blends into the background after a while. The title doesn't break completely new ground, but feels like a good, solid entry from a team of former Electronic Arts programmers that split off to start their own company.

A properly-placed spin attack can be destroy obstacles as well as fend off enemies.

Armado includes some cool features as well as a familiar style of gameplay. High scores can be quickly published to an Internet scoreboard while options and controls can be easily configured. A solid fantasy story holds the title together and realistic elements such as a fragile yet capable central character (a few stray boulder hits or a missed jump will kill Armado) ground the game, yet make it fun. Easy save features and multiple save slots make the game something that can either be played for a long session or dipped in and out of for a few spare minutes at a time.

Finally, realistic level design (the player must fight their way to the top of the mountain and then fight their way down again - no easy "mystical warp" to the next level) both adds to the gameplay and brings a different (now downhill) perspective to the game.

Armado, which retails for a $19.95 shareware registration fee (the program can be launched six times before demanding a license number be entered) is a Universal Binary capable of running on both PowerPC and the current Intel-based Macintosh hardware. The game is a 112 megabyte download for the Universal Binary version and a 109 megabyte download for the PowerPC version and requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later and a PowerPC G4 processor or better to run. Both versions as well as the Windows version can be easily downloaded from Tricky Software's downloads page.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see something 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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