The Slacker's Guide - SketchFighter Alpha 4000

December 6th, 2006

The New Lines of Cool: SketchFighter Alpha 4000
The sniffles have gone around lately and I've picked up my fair share of them. It's moments like Friday night where your body holds a minor rebellion against you that make you wonder if you'll ever feel up to gaming again. That and fevered dreams in which a giant whale keeps hitting you in the stomach with its tail while two empty suits of animated Darth Vader armor chase you through a basement � la Resident Evil put video games out of mind for the time being.

I wish I handled adversity a bit better.

Despite everything, a new title yanked me out of the doldrums. The recently-released SketchFighter 4000 Alpha by Ambrosia Software happened to put things right with the world. All of a few days old yet long-awaited, SketchFighter 4000 Alpha sports an incredible line art look and feel that hearkens back to everything you used to draw in middle school when your attention was somewhere else entirely.

A simple and weird idea, but it works. Lars G�fvert's vision and the work of Lost Minds make for a compelling game. The overall effect of a sketch-generated OpenGL environment is fun, compelling and basically brings back everything you thought was incredibly cool when you were nine years old. These elements have been put into a Macintosh action shooter, complete with a space ship, monsters, laser turrets and larger than life bosses to fight against.

Fighting as a tethered team unit in SketchFighter 4000 Alpha's two-player mode.

Where complexity can be interesting, simplicity and the ability to pick up and play the game within 30 seconds helps immensely. SketchFighter 40000 Alpha is a pure arcade title incorporating only the arrow keys and the space bar to fire. A sensitive control system allows for tight control and a full reverse thrust allows the player to fall back from enemies or turrets while firing. Players can continually upgrade their weapons by defeating enemies and destroying terrain such as nearby boulders to grab upgrades as well as health power ups (a much-needed item, as your ship realistically takes damage when it bumps into walls).

Lost Minds and Ambrosia have embraced the best elements of arcade gameplay by making the game simple, the bosses incredibly fun (as well as surprising to see each new one) and the two-player mode an absolute cinch, both locally and over the Internet. Just click into the online two player mode, find a partner in the chat/browser area, accept an invitation to play or send an invitation and the network code handles the rest. Two-player mode is essentially a joint effort in which one player is actually physically "tethered" to the other player, providing every reason in the world to stay close to your partner and provide covering fire while the other person leads the team through the level. A cool idea and this makes for fun game play.

For the true die-hards and registered users, the accouterments have been provided in the form of a level editor with which users can create their own maps and scenarios. Unregistered users can open and play with the editor, but won't be able to save their work, thus pushing for the $19.95 shareware registration fee to be parted with.

The mega-bosses you looked forward to and feared as a kid live again.

SketchFighter 4000 Alpha is a 17.7 megabyte download and requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later to run. The program is written as a Universal Binary and functions well on both PowerPC and Intel-based hardware.

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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