Star Guard is one of those rare games that come along and wow you on simplicity alone. The premise: guide the spaceman through the castle and defeat the wizard. You are green. The bad guys are red. Along the way, you get little bits (ha!) of narrative in the form of text overlays.
The controls are simple: shoot with X and jump with Z. The left and right arrows are for movement. The author of the game suggests using a gamepad, and I would concur with the later stages of the game. There will be the need for some fast shootin’!
The game’s charm comes in its accessible gameplay and little nods to humor via the enemies and their placement in the levels. However, this platformer probably has the simplest aesthetic I’ve ever played in a game since Combat on the 2600. At most, six colors are used.
There are a few perks for the diehards such as a hard mode and a trial mode (the levels are timed) that can be played on the game’s nine levels. In hard mode you get one life whereas in normal they are infinite. There are checkpoints in the levels, and when you die you continue from them. There’s an interesting twist that the enemies and traps you’ve set are still gone from your first failed run through a level (if you got, say, half-way). In essence, you could go through a section and not have to do anything but reach the exit if you had earlier died at the end.
It’s available for Windows and Mac as a FREE download from developer Vacuum Flower’s website. See the key word? FREE. It was made in Flash but has it’s own executable. Perfect for a USB stick game on the go.
Lastly, it’s a 2010 Independent Games Festival Finalist in the Excellence in Design category. Based on the fun I’ve had with this title the last three days, it should be a contender.