Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).
Video games take so much time these days. Studios spend several years making them, and people complain when they takes less than 40 hours to play through. Maybe this is why so many people are fascinated by the results of Ludum Dare. The three-times-a-year competition gives developers 48 hours to make a game and walk away. In the most recent Ludum Dare, Alex Rose decided it wasn’t enough to just make a game in that short period of time. He also wanted to give an abridged history of retro games in its own, even less forgiving time frame.
Using approximations of their individual, iconic playstyles, Rude Bear Radio has players relive scenes from games dating as far back as Space Invaders and Super Mario Bros.—all in 10-second encounters. It’s a lot like Nintendo’s WarioWare series of micro-games—where players are barraged with simple tasks that require one or two button presses and a couple of seconds to complete—assuming WarioWare hated you and wanted you to fail constantly without really learning anything. More than twitchy muscle response, Rude Bear Radio asks players to read and respond quickly and cleverly, be it in finding the proper comeback joke in a Secret of Monkey Island-like insult contest or knocking over towers in a clunky facsimile of Angry Birds.
There are eight micro-games in all, ranging from awful to sort-of-cute-I-guess, but the package is more than the sum of its parts. The loose connections between the games creates a charming crash course in gaming history, and the thrill of scoring higher than five points is undeniable. The game’s difficulty, reflective of the sadistic challenges of gaming past, is likely a happy accident. I can’t imagine 48 hours allows for decent play testing. Let’s just call it hardcore.