About the collection of games
Part 1 of the "Summing Up Throw Games" series dealt with the three most crucial aspects that the flash-based launch games of today must possess in order to remain a relevant genre. It also discussed how all three of those factors were incorporated into the three best launch games out there currently, which were Toss the Turtle, Burrito Bison and Learn to Fly 2. The competition provided to all of these games by the other launch games released over the last 5 years has been immense though, so much so that it was heart-wrenching to leave out a couple of these from the first part. In other words, the most prominent of these games, which consist of Learn to Fly, Flight (by Armor Games), Hedgehog Launch, Hedgehog Launch 2, Flight of the Hamsters and Fly Squirrel Fly 2, are worth every second of the time you spend on them and deserve an article of their own. Here are some of those games and how they match up on the "Holy Trinity of Throw Games" front:
As repeatedly emphasized in the previous article, the Transformers movies do not have a storyline. They simply do not. However, here we're talking about some throwing games which are already better than the Transformers movies by virtue of having one. Flight (by Armor Games), has the most prominent as well as poignant storyline amongst all the aforementioned games. It consists of a wish sent to Santa through a paper plane by a girl who just wants to see her mother. On the way, the plane gets picked up by people in different countries and the wish gets inscribed upon. So, basically, using the word "poignant" to describe it is wrong, because it is more in the realm of "heartless". And that is where the problem with this game begins and ends. Everything is fine; the gameplay, the graphics etc. In fact, it is more in the realm of perfect. But when you play a light launch game in order to relax and instead witness a tragic storyline with an even more tragic end, would you really want to play it anymore? Most probably not.
There are no such issues with the storylines of either of Learn to Fly, Hedgehog Launch or Fly Squirrel Fly 2. Learn to Fly and Hedgehog Launch both have hilariously crazy premises, wherein a Penguin tries to learn how to fly after taking offense at being called "flightless", while Hedgehog Launch is a space program with hedgehogs as test subjects instead of humans. Fly Squirrel Fly 2 is based on a squirrel enrolled in a flying school. This game doesn't have much in the way of a storyline, but it is still better than Flight of the Hamsters, which has absolutely none. Keep this in mind, because this is a trend that will be repeated. As for Hedgehog Launch 2, well its storyline is identical to the first part except for the location setting.
Essentially, Learn to Fly has the best storyline in all of these games and is consequently the most fun to play and successful of the lot. Again, however, storylines alone aren't the main driving factors for the success of any game and the other factors matter a lot. This brings us neatly to...
Gameplay is to games as the Joker was to the movie The Dark Knight. It makes the game, but you don't enjoy it as much if the supporting cast is unworthy. Getting it right with the gameplay is therefore a bit more important than nailing all the other aspects of the game combined. In that respect, Flight stands out of the crowd here. There is a great combination of the right upgrades at the right times with the right monetary values to not be frustrating at any stage, plus an easy to master format that you will feel immediately at home with. You are required to toss a paper plane up into the air and eventually add boosters of faster launches to the mix to go to those high speeds that most launch game items frequently frequent.
The gameplay steadily gets more and more basic from here on in. Hedgehog Launch 1 and 2 have identical gameplay sets, which makes Hedgehog Launch 2 a bit of a disappointment. The gameplay here is slightly different because this is a vertical launcher instead of a horizontal one, but the basic tenets remain the same. Otherwise, the variety that the game initially possesses makes up for any lingering disappointment that you might feel when you witness the hedgehog having to land splat on its back instead of getting a greater chance of, you know, sliding in or something. From individual booster upgrades for each side rocket to dark sunglasses to prepare the hedgehog for the blindness that will inevitably follow once it falls back onto the Earth, the game has every sort of upgrade that you could ask for. So much so that it wavers on the side of being too easy, hence proving how hard it is to design a gameplay that has everything and is yet challenging. This is applicable for Fly Squirrel Fly 2 as well, which has upgrades that are way too strong, especially considering the density of obstacles and how they all seem to be intent on tossing the squirrel as high as possible.
Learn to Fly by Lightbringer has very basic gameplay, but that is its USP. There are some basic upgrades, but the game essentially does remain a challenging launch game where you have to carefully position your glider or swim with the frozen fishes in Antarctic waters. With a total of 4-5 different upgrades is all, Learn to Fly is great for the basic technical challenge alone, but not if you're looking for something taxing in strategic terms too.
Flight of the Hamsters takes the concept of lessening the challenge level beyond where any game had gone before by making it an absolute zero. Firstly, because there's no storyline, you have no in-game objective to play the game for. Secondly, there are no upgrades whatsoever, so it's just the same thing over and over again with no hope for betterment. Thirdly and lastly...Wait, that's for the next part.
Graphics and Audio
Now we come to the packaging. It's been scientifically proven that the right kind of packaging leads to better sales and because you do not argue with science, you accept that this extends to video games as well. As mentioned in the previous articles, flash games don't really have a lot of scope for high-end graphics. So, there has to be a balance between making it look good and making it look so good that it doesn't run on anyone's computer. In that respect, Fly Squirrel Fly 2 by Art Logic Games does as close to the perfect job as it's ever going to get. The sheer variety and crispiness of colors, a multitude of background and a fine eye for detail with no noticeable lag on even a primitive 256 Kbps connection sounds as good as it is. You can see the tiniest details, right from the squirrel's dazed expression at being hit head on by a spaceship (it's obviously the squirrel equivalent of Superman) to the one bloated eye that the turtle from Toss the Turtle now possesses. The audio track is excellent too, and really the only reason this didn't make the top games list is because of a couple of bugs and the not-very-challenging gameplay.
Flight by Armor Games also has some excellent graphics and a soundtrack that is inspirational and therefore considering the storyline, quite cruel. There is no lack of color in this one, even though most of the flight happens during the night and up in space, where all you see is, err, space. Down on the ground though, the detailing is pretty good but the graphics aren't as streamlined as they could be, so it's an experience that is slightly off the bull's eye.
On the other end of a noticeably small scale you have the Flight of the Hamsters game (again). With the same background permanently fixed in place behind the flying hamster, there isn't all that much color in the game. However, the graphics are at least polished enough to look respectable, so that should be respected. Or maybe not, considering that that pretty much closes out any reason for anyone to ever play the game again. As for the audio, the less said...
Hedgehog Launch, Hedgehog Launch 2, Learn to Fly and Learn 2 Fly all have very similar graphics, in that they're basic, with not many colors and about as much polish as your black office shoes after a month-long trek in the Amazon. Both games have the terrain and location as an excuse though. Antarctica isn't known for its beautiful green hedges with multitudes of blooming wildflowers, and historians have long remarked on how the sky is always blue. Yet, the seeming lack of any attempts to make it look better is disappointing.
Hedgehog Launch 2 further emphasized the low-quality graphics issue instead of striving for improvement, so that game no longer has any excuse. The audio on the Hedgehog games is a bit of a surprise in the context of all this though, because it is really good and easily one of the best soundtracks in all of these throw games. You won't even glance towards the mute button unless forced to do so, which is unlike Learn to Fly where a few minutes is all it will take for you to not just glance at it, but press it.
If these are the sort of games that form the lower rung of flash-based throwing games that have been released recently, then the future of these games is as good as it could ever be. With the exception of Flight of the Hamsters, all of the other games excel in at least one department if not all three to make sure that no matter what sort of experience you might want, you have a game for that. You could even play pranks on people by recommending Flight of the Hamsters to them, so even that option is there. All in all, in the current climate of throw games, there's an 8/9 chance that the game you pick will have something going for it, and there's no betting against those odds.