Trouserheart: A Short & Pantsless Review

     Trouserheart is a small and entertaining mobile game that feels a lot like some of the dungeons in The Legend of Zelda or Diablo in a very abbreviated form.  You play as a king who's pants are stolen by a goblin and set out on a quest to return said pantaloons with a lot of hacking and slashing.

     There are numerous levels to play each with a multitude of single screen stages and checkpoints that are all randomly generated for which ever difficulty level you choose- Casual, Harcore, or Permadeath mode.  All three are entertaining and well tailored for whatever the player's preferred style might be.
     Upgrades are simple and easy through the use of in game collected coins (no IAPs) and health, weapon, armor, and gold amounts can be boosted.  Obviously, going with the gold find upgrades right away makes the collection easier and upgrading go quite swiftly in preparation for later levels for the other 3 areas.

     The game's visuals, music, and sound effects are all superb and are backed up by extremely responsive controls.  Developer 10tons Ltd. has pared down the controls to merely d-pad movement and attack.  An admirable and Spartan decision that works quite well here.
     The art style and color palatte work wonderfully for this silly world.  The designs are interesting takes on many fantasy staples and I especially enjoy the dungeon crawling gelatinous cube enemies- you can actually see the hearts and coins inside them as you whittle them down.

     Trouserheart is an amusing romp through an entertaining land.  It's simplicity belies the real depth of challenge in the higher difficulty modes, although it'll leave many players wanting much more in terms of overall content.  There are only a handful of levels and the whole game's story can easily be completed in an hour when playing on casual difficulty, so it's just the right amount of game play for 5 to 10 minutes bursts.  This is a definitely a charming adventure story to eat up an hour or two for those that want to give it a go.



Bad Corgi: A Review-ish Reflection


     I recall reading about the Ian Cheng's piece for the second Digital Commission from London’s Serpentine Gallery titled Bad Corgi and was immediately intrigued.  This is a game purposely designed to force players into a state of uncontrollable mayhem.  Not to worry though, it's done in an interesting art style with cutesy effects and music that make the puppy's misbehavior a little bit more tolerable.

    According to The Creators Project, Cheng says:
“I see my simulations as a kind of neurological gym in which art becomes a means to deliberately exercise the feelings of confusion, anxiety, and cognitive dissonance that can accompany life in a world of intense change and uncertainty. In this way Bad Corgi functions as a shadowy mindfulness tool about refusing to eradicate stress and anxiety, and instead learning to deliberately setup and collaborate with those bad-feeling feelings.”
     So, in Bad Corgi, you are given only the slightest control at first, and it degrades to the point of being a spectator with absolutely no control in watching the world do its own thing as the corgi goes on a tiny, wild, and furry rampage.


     The longer you play, the more entropy takes over and the unpredictable nature saps your ability to control the corgi.  Over the course of an in game day, you start with 100% perfect and can quite swiftly wind up in the negative thousands.  I mean look at a few of the game's "features":
- Undertake impossible herding exercises
- Wreck local biomes
- Lose control of Bad Corgi and learn to love this feeling
- Contemplate both the vulgar and the joyful dimensions of corgi herding life with equanimity
- New exercises added every sometimes
- amazing dynamic herd simulation
- simple touch controls
- dynamic loss of control
- secret characters to herd
- secret behaviors to complexify your herding

     The game puts players, or more accurately- viewers- into a place where we generally just have to let go.  There's no real way to corral the devil dog as it's whims will always override yours in favor of whatever distractions capture its attention.  There's a good reason the flock of sheep's shepherd isn't visible in the game (just the shepherd's staff)- it's because all real control gets relinquished to that of the bad corgi itself.  The goals here are rarely obtainable, and I've only completed a single one- removing all shrubs.
     Even the random occurrences are strange and stressful.  Garden hoses chase ducks, rocks follow you and smash other flock members, and garbage bags swallow and slowly kill your animals.  All the environmental interactions are sporadic and truly unpredictable.  It's the way of the world, and we just have to accept it.

     It seems like a pretty decent idea, Bad Corgi on the surface comes across as apparently saying that letting things fall into disarray and shambles is the natural order of things, but it's not true.  We may not be able to control things, but that doesn't mean letting go of the wheel while driving 60 mph on an iced-over highway because you are stressed is a good idea.  We can't control everything, but we can control some things, and this game revels in the intentional frustrations of its players.  It wants you to not only expect it, but enjoy it as well.  It asks us to note those things, to focus on what makes us frustrated and anxious and in simply acknowledging them, it gives us an odd sense of control over the emotion.

     Bad Corgi is a neat experiment about the nature of acceptance of all those things we can't change- it shows us that sometimes things are indeed impossible, but it doesn't mean we should stop trying to do what we can to avoid total chaos anyways.  Sometimes it's perfectly all right to go with the flow and enjoy those moments, allowing us to give in and take pleasure out of it instead of raging against them and letting them bog us down with feelings of futility or failure.  We learn to cope with this sense of disorder through our recognition of its effects on us, and how we then proceed to deal with it, and that is a wonderful realization.

     To play free [ Bad Corgi on the iOS App Store ]