A Selection of Exceptional Flash Games

Flash games were once regarded as the scourge of the internet – entertaining only to twelve year olds who enjoyed repetitive gameplay and terrible graphics, but over the past few years the status of flash games has changed and they are swiftly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Many new developers choose to first invest in flash, publishing their games on online sites like Newgrounds, and in the process producing gorgeous, and innovative, games. Many games could be considered art in their own right, with emotive plotlines, simplistic controls, and an open-ended ambiguity like no other.

So why the changing status of flash? Could it be the relative ease of use, universal appeal, or versatility of the programme? Or the higher status in which many flash games are held; several have, in recent years, been adapted into full console games, such as Alien Hominid and Fancy Pants Man. Many people now give flash the respect it deserves, and within reason, flash is producing some utterly gorgeous games. Many flash programmers have instant access to platforms with which to promote their work, and many flash programmers, whilst maybe not professional programmers, show innovative promise in their games.

Here I will showcase several highlights, and personal favourites, that everyone should play.  There will be separate games for a 5-minute break, a longer play, and games that may require days to finish. All are played in-browser, with no need for downloads, and are of course free so are suitable for the oldest computer, or the budget gamer.

5 Minute Break Games
These are games you can finish in 5 minutes, be it at a spare moment, or during a coffee break. Although, some are puzzles which may take you slightly longer.

The Majesty of Colours
In this game, you play as a monster, and the story unfolds with delightful simplicity. There are multiple endings depending upon your actions, and the game itself well warrants several playthroughs just for the experience.
ImmorTall
In this game, you again, play as a monster – this time an Alien. You watch it grow up, protecting a family from the horrific war going on around them, through to a heart-breaking finale. The music and simple plot are gorgeous.
I Wish I Were the Moon
Another game with multiple endings, here you play as a boy with a camera. You can only take one shot in order to capture the “essence” of the plot, and each shot yields a different  ending, and a different story.
Colour My  […]
Heart
World
Dreams
In this series you play as a man getting back to his love, through a monochrome world which you can bring to life with strategically-placed clicks upon certain spots. Scored with a beautiful piano track, these simple games have a powerful message.
Alice is Dead

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Note: The content of these games is NSFW and may be disturbing to some. In this game you play as the White Rabbit, and swiftly uncover a plot against your life. A delightful point-and-click spin on the traditional Wonderland lore, with many twists and engaging puzzles.

Lunchbreak Games
Games that can be finished within 40 minutes.
Coma
In this game you solve puzzles in order to navigate a strange landscape. Abstract graphics, interesting gameplay and an intriguing conclusion only add to the ambiguity of this title.
Apples in a Tree
In this game you walk through the levels, in order to collect apples. Gorgeous graphics and atmosphere contribute to the eerie gothic atmosphere.
In Company of Myself
Playing as a Hermit reminiscing upon his life, past mistakes, and love, this puzzle-platformer introduces an interesting dynamic in the “double” hermit dynamic. A emotive game with a plot that unfolds beautifully.
Take A Walk
A rhythm game in which a daydreamer’s dreams are manipulated through music, featuring gorgeous graphics, music, and simple controls.
Loved
This game poses the question of love, and how far one would go to attain it. The player is abused throughout, but all is not as it seems.
Raptus
Note: This game is NSFW and may contain content disturbing to some.
More an interactive novel than flash game, this story poses the question of interactivity and unfolds through a tragic plot.
Distance
A game about long distance relationships.
Anika’s Odyssey
A delightful, artistic puzzle game in which you play as Anita, on her quest to retrieve her toy rabbit. Filled with delightful creatures and simple puzzles.

Longer Plays
Games that may take a couple of hours to complete.

E7
You play as an alien ship in a strange land, traversing the landscape to look for an alternate fuel source.

The Infinite Ocean
A game that poses the question of artificial intelligence and self-awareness, featuring a HAL-esque computer system.

The Illusionist’s Dream
An illusionist dreams of his past life, transforming into several animals along the way to complete puzzles.

William and Sly
You play as a fox, exploring a landscape in order to solve the mystery of the teleport stones. A gorgeous atmosphere, graphics, and soundtrack contribute to this calming experience.

William and Sly 2 
The sequel to William and Sly, this game deepens the experience of the first.

If you play these, let me know what you think. If you have any suggestions, ditto! I may include several more similar lists as the time goes on.

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Thematic Analysis of Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is a game at the forefront of the debate as to whether video games are truly an art form, due to the experience, themes, and overall feel of the game. In the guise of an action-puzzle-adventure-RPG, Shadow of the Colossus creates much food for thought in this debate. The main argument for this is that the game itself includes a wide array of themes, and depends itself upon a large amount of audience speculation – many questions are left unanswered, deliberately, to provoke thought, much like art itself. Created by Team Ico as the spiritual successor to another of their games, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus is a truly beautiful game.

Of the many themes featured within the game, all are open to speculation and impossible to fully answer – the themes of rebirth, death, love and futility are all touched upon, even to the point where the audience themselves are drawn into the game’s events. This, of course, deepens the emotional impact of the storyline, although the lines between the interactivity of the game and the futility of certain scenes are frequently blurred. The player must act upon the selfish wishes of the avatar, Wanda, despite their better judgment – and, even, begin to justify just what he commits.

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Shadow of the Colossus poses as a traditional fairytale – the stoic hero must rescue the beautiful maiden, and the maiden herself, Mono, is the epitome of innocence. Killed for something she cannot control, clad in a white dress, surrounded by doves and soft white light, she is the literal embodiment of innocence within the game, directly juxtaposed to a cruel, injust world around her. The cruelty of the world- where she is killed in cold blood, where Wanda himself kills in cold blood, and eventually dies, is softened by her presence. Wanda, the hero, rarely speaks, and though he is presented as the hero even he eventually becomes corrupt (throughout the game his appearance becomes slowly more monstrous as his humanity is eroded) and acts in increasingly selfish ways. Mono is the only one to stay pure and innocent throughout the entire game. Wanda’s eventual demise is his fault and it is here the theme of love comes into play, along with the theme of futility as a narrative device. The futility becomes apparent for the player, who will inevitably notice Wanda’s degrading physical state, which is used as foreshadowing for the tragic culmination of events.

Wanda’s love for Mono leads him on an epic quest, but also leads him to break several of the laws of mortals, a fact re-iterated by the God Dormin, and in doing so, by the end of the game he is merely being punished for his sins. Wanda had the choice to walk away, but he instead chooses to cling on to his love, refusing to let her die – if he had let go, he could have walked away with his pride, his life, and much more besides. Here the theme of undying love comes into play, another traditional fairytale archetype. However, much more like the darker, older fairytales, Shadow of the Colossus, though seemingly innocent, is in fact quite a dark, cynical tale. The hero of the tale could have chosen to let go and move on, but instead he sacrifices his freedom and his life in order to protect, and cherish, the one he loves. There is no stereotypical “happy ending” for them, for the end; although in a sense, the ending is bittersweet. Although Wanda is reincarnated as a horned baby, Mono brings him up, and thus they can never truly be together. In trying to save her and rekindle their romance, he forsakes their own relationship. His refusal to let go sacrifices not only his life, but the romance he was trying to save – instead of preserving his memories and moving on, he goes out and presumably upon his reincarnation, has forgotten entirely about their romance.  The events of the game are also needlessly cruel, and suggest, perhaps, that revenge never pays – in a sense Wanda is avenging the death of his love, as well as trying to bring her back.

We start the game with Wanda entering the temple, and engaging the God Dormin, who awakens and offers Wanda an immense task in a trade-off for the life of his lover. The price for his wish?  He must kill 16 Colossi (that’s giants to you and me), dotted throughout the land, in order to bring her back. The majority of these colossi are gentle, lumbering (and sometimes slumbering) throughout the land, until they are roused by Wanda, and thoughtlessly slaughtered. Some act in self-defence, but others simply walk around whilst the player scales, then kills them. Their deaths are not kind. The player is compliant in this, ultimately the one who causes Wanda to act as he does, as the player controls him.

In many ways, Wanda is the villain of this game, and this is not realised till the penultimate scenes, in which the Shaman divulges several facts. Dormin, the God who Wanda answers to during the events of this game, is an evil being, manipulating Wanda for his own gain (each Colossi is a segment of his soul) – namely his own resurrection. Wanda himself flaunted the rules of his tribe, stealing their sacred sword, and breaching the seal to this “cursed land” he finds himself in. Adding to this the fact that he slaughters these individual colossi, essentially bringing extinction upon a unique species, and he isn’t as innocent as initially considered. Furthermore, he breaks one of the most sacred rules of Mortals: he brings back the dead. Clearly, though you as a player sympathise with him, he is not the hero of our story, but rather an antihero. This subverts many of the themes present within many popular fairytale stories, and furthermore, presents an interesting moral dilemma for the audience.

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It is we who control him throughout, we who kill the Colossi, essentially setting into motion the events of the game and the ending. Yet we had no choice – there is no alternative, we are manipulated by the events of the story and in doing so, the story draws its audience in and creates an engaging, and emotional, narrative. The killings of the Colossi themselves are not pleasant – they roar in pain, shake their bodies and huge plumes of blood gush out of the wounds. We feel sorry for the Colossi as we are killing them, in a way, perhaps, that we do not feel sorry for Wanda. This, in itself, is another form of emotional manipulation for the audience, and shirks the trend of many RPGs, wherein the player character slaughters creatures without much thought. We, instead, are put in an uncomfortable position, feeling empathy for the very creatures we are killing, as opposed to the player character, whose plight we are serving. This adds weight to their deaths, their sacrifices and adds to the realism and narration of the entire game. The Colossi are brought to life, just as the land Wanda finds himself in is brought to life by weather, animals, and a realistic topography.

Wanda himself suffers from very little characterisation – he is never shown emotive. Even when his horse, his sole companion for the entire game, dies (well not really, but we don’t know this at the time), he does not shed a tear. As a protagonist, he is relatively unemotional, and you feel distant and disconnected from him as a result, which, again, creates more empathy for the Colossi. However, this could be turned on its head. Of the noises that Wanda does emit throughout the events of the game, they are all pained grunts – he trips and stumbles when walking, gasps when he climbs, and cries out when struck. This brings the immense task that he is subjecting himself to, to the forefront of the player’s mind, and indeed, the suffering he must have gone through to act upon these wishes.

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The land of Shadow of the Colossus is as varied as one would come to expect, comprised of deserts, lakes, and small pockets of greenery. This not only brings the world to life, presenting it as realistic, but encourages exploration and increases the isolation felt by the player. The land eclipses Wanda, and his steed Agro, and often the player will find themselves lost. This as a device is implemented not only to increase the isolation, and the desolate appeal of the land, but also to shirk the trend of traditional linear RPGs wherein the destination is immediately apparent. Alongside this, it brings to mind the idea that Wanda isn’t seeking out these Colossi, but hunting them – they are tucked away, hidden, in lost civilisations and caves, atop mountains and at the bottom of dried up lakes. Wanda is not seeking them out; he does not encounter them unless he searches high and low. He is the predator, not these immense beasts. The size of the beasts is juxtaposed by their gentile demeanour, whereas Wanda is small, and violent. The land itself is also breathtakingly beautiful, and painstakingly realistic – a small beach, found only after traversing a cliff, has wind that blows the water and sand about. A forest has pockets where the sun breaks through the canopy, and water is murky, and mysterious. The landscapes themselves are presented as a part of the game – the Colossi are often hidden by the landscape, or even comprise of the landscape itself. Everything in the game eclipses Wanda, evoking the thought of just how against-the-odds his quest really is, and just how futile everything could indeed be. Everything is against Wanda – his tribe, the land, the Colossi, even, eventually, the creature he thought was his ally.

It is here the theme of futility comes into play, and there are several aspects of this present within the game:

  • The player is futile to resist Wanda’s quest as there is no alternative. This is presented in various ways – the clear setting of the scenario, of which there is no escape; the way in which Wanda dies every time he defeats a Colossi and several “interactive” cutscenes, present later within the game.
  • Wanda’s futility in his quest. Faced with invincible odds, he is destined to fail, and in many respects he does.

The story is set into motion quickly, and Dormin wastes no words telling Wanda just what he wants, and the immensity of the task at hand. The player simply listens to his wishes, and obeys, seeking out and killing their first Colossi within the first ten minutes of gameplay. After killing the Colossi, Wanda can run about for a short amount of time, but inevitably, he is killed. Wanda cannot escape this, the tentacle-like appendages that emerge from the Colossi upon defeat hunt down and mercilessly kill Wanda, just as he hunts down and kills the Colossi. It is futile to escape, as the player will inevitably try to do the first few times this occurs – midway through the game, the player may well give up, allowing the tentacles to pierce Wanda without running away. This brings into play the futility of Wanda’s quest, the sheer size of his sacrifice. This, as a device, also allows for the player to be brought back to the Temple where he begins his quest each time, without more needless exploration of the landscape. The player is also a partner in crime to this futility – they control Wanda, it is they who slaughter the beast, yet they have no choice. This draws them into the narrative, and upon their viewing of the deaths of countless creatures, they observe the reactions from a first-hand view. This interactivity is backed up by how the player must hold down R1 (a shoulder button) to cling on for dear life each time Wanda stabs a beast – they shake the corresponding body part, and to avoid falling off, Wanda must hold on, through the player’s interaction.

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Of the many interactive cutscenes in the game one of the most poignant occurs at the end of the game. Wanda is dead, after having killed the final Colossi, and Dormin possesses his body to bring themself back to life (their identity is obscure- they speak with both female and male voices). Dormin then acts out revenge on the tribe that trapped him there, chasing them slowly, and smashing down. There is no tutorial for the controls, the player is left to themselves to discover how to move, and buttons that once did one thing may do another, or not respond in the slightest. Furthermore, this subversion of the games events; namely that Wanda, who spent an entire game killing the Colossi, is now the physical embodiment of all of them, is an example of dramatic irony. When controlling the Colossi, the player becomes aware of just how heavy, slow, and difficult it is to control them – whilst they may assume they will have power, they do not. Dormin is slow, each step takes controlled effort – in excess of 15 seconds for each – and his movements are painfully emphasised. This acts to put the player in the position of the Colossi, and again, creates empathy for them rather than Wanda, who slaughters these cumbersome beasts.

The following cutscene grants the player control of Wanda once more, for the final, interactive cutscene in which Wanda, now alive again, struggles in vain to run towards Mono, who has now awoken. She is brought back to life, but Wanda, now the physical embodiment of the beasts he slaughtered – pale-skinned, with horns – is unable to get to her. The player can attempt to get to her, running against the gale that blows Wanda towards his fate: a portal in a pool created by the very sword he killed the Colossi with, again, dramatic irony. But, the gale is too strong, and Wanda will never reach her. He stumbles, catches himself on bits of stone and uneven pathway, and hurls himself against the force, but never reaches her. This scene is much more emotional than a simple scene where one sits back and watches, because the player is brought into the scene and truly feels the pain, the need, of the character. This interactivity, this futility, makes the cutscene one of the most powerful, and for once the character feels sorry for Wanda, as he sacrifices himself for the love of his life.

Of course, Wanda does not die, but is reborn- just as Dormin was reborn in the Colossi, he is reborn in the guise of a child with horns. And Mono takes him up, through to a small Eden where they can live in peace, Agro is revealed to have survived and joins them there. In a sense, the events of the game end on a happy note. But, they are still alone, they are still unable to be together, and in that sense, nothing has changed, and Wanda’s sacrifice was for nothing. This is the final example of dramatic irony, the last futile blow in the entire game. Despite everything, nothing has changed, Wanda still finds himself in the same position as he did at the start of the game.

Silent Hill 2 Scene Analysis

Silent Hill is perhaps one of Konami’s most lucrative franchises, ironic considering that it was created by a team who were going to be booted out of Konami, yet created one of the most emotional, and interesting, video games to come out of the survival horror genre. It was one of the first games to invest in an emotional storyline where the audience felt connected with the characters, rather than sole emphasis upon plot. Open to multiple interpretations, and genuinely scary, although recent installments have dwindled in success and quality, the original four or five games are as beautiful as any art. Silent Hill 2 is perhaps their most popular installment, and tells the story of James Sunderland, who travels to the eponymous town to find his dead wife, and, in typical Silent Hill fashion, uncovers a lot more.

As many of the cutscenes are short, I will here analyse several opening cutscenes. This FMA (full-motion video, a type of video game cutscene, generally of a higher quality than in-game cutscenes) was also known as the teaser trailer for the game Silent Hill 2. The non-diegetic soundtrack is “Promise”, a song on the game’s soundtrack, recorded specifically for this introductory video. The purpose of the video is to introduce the scenario and main characters – namely James and Maria – to the audience, along with introducing monsters, and several other background characters to draw and advertise the game.

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The first shot shows Maria, sitting behind bars, from a mid-shot. This automatically puts the audience in James’ position- it is a form of direct address, and she clearly knows something about the character she is addressing. Furthermore, her relaxed posture and revealing clothing suggest that we as an audience are familiar with her, which deepens the emotional connection to the narrative. The personal touch to her speech, and the information she relays also furthers the connection. Her speech introduces us to the ambiguity of her character; she resembles Mary, James’ dead wife, and speaks of their shared memories together before revealing that she is not all that she seems. This theme is recurrent throughout the entire game, and so introduces the audience to this concept, as well as acting as a hook. Emphasis is put upon her manner of speaking to deepen the impact and emphasis and so there is a lack of soundtrack at this point. The scene then swiftly jump-cuts to James’ reaction to this, again from a mid-shot, that is also shown over Maria’s shoulder. This is a common technique used to simulate conversation. This also serves to assert Maria’s dominance over the conversation, as even when she is not talking, she takes up most of the frame. James is simply confused.

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During the penultimate exchange in this scene, the camera slowly zooms in on Maria, showing her reaction in greater detail, and again putting emphasis upon her – there is no over-the-shoulder shot here. This establishes her as the important character within this exchange, as well as the one in control of the situation. James has no control, he is bemused, confused, and so the conventions that would be used here (over the shoulder shot) are instead flaunted. This final exchange also establishes the main scenario of the game, making it familiar to the audience and introducing them to the main plot. Through this conversation we learn that Maria looks like Mary, a person close to James, and the plot of the game is set into motion to familiarise it with an audience. James’ final statement: “aren’t you Maria?” is emphasised through the use of a close-up shot, showing how upset he is by all of this, and establishing him as the addressee, and main character of the game. This has the dual impact of introducing the scenario, as it is clear he is searching for someone.

The colour scheme used within this scene is very dull, and the filters used on-screen give a grimy, foggy feeling to the entire shot. The only colours to stand out are the top Maria wears, which is red, simultaneously putting emphasis upon her lustful tendencies, and impulsive nature. James, on the other hand, is dressed in very dull clothing that blends into the background of the scene and asserts his everyman nature.

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This shot then fades through to fog, an important aspect to Silent Hill, before revealing the name of the game. Following on from this, there is a zoom-out, to a mid-shot, to establish the scene and again, the colours used here are very dull. From there, there is a fluid shot, full of movement, of an incredibly ambiguous item – this again would act as a hook for the audience, who will be drawn in by the narrative, and the appeal of wanting answers. This scene is repeated several times throughout, increasing the suspense. From there, there is a shot of a hospital bed, establishing one of the key themes of the game; Mary’s hospitalisation. This shot is sepia in tone, and this is done both to evoke a sense of nostalgia, and as an emphasis upon the dull palette and grimy detail of the game. Hospitals are also a horror archetype, establishing the genre for a new audience.

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Throughout these scenes, there is a filter similar to that of a hand-video recorder present. This is included both to simulate home-made footage (which is intrinsically linked to the plot) and to create an amateurish feel, and thus, a more personal feel. As the audience, you could almost have recorded this yourself. The next scene, that of an actual home video, establishes the game’s lore for the new audience; “this whole area used to be a sacred place”, as well as establishing that Mary, mentioned previously, is sick. This scene is shot in place and white, to create a sense of bleakness and depression, as well as to simulate real home recordings. The entire shot is intercut with shadowy footage of James carrying someone, possibly a body, to an unknown location, creating dramatic suspense and further reinforcing the horror aspect.

There are several other shots of Maria, displaying key plots within the game –the first meeting and the argument – which further introduces her character, as well as linking her to that of Mary and inferring that Mary is dead. Interestingly enough, the only characters emphasised within the opening portion of the video are female, displaying, perhaps, James’ issue with women. This scene then cuts to show the supporting characters, Angela, Eddie and Laura; following on from this are several scenes inferring that supporting characters may well be mentally unstable, with similar dark tone, a sudden change from the dull colours previously shown. The colours during this scene are incredibly dark, the faces obscured, which again establishes the genre as horror, by introducing a traditional horror archetype – darkness.

By the end of the trailer, the video has come full circle, showing Maria, once more, and further establishing her flirtatious ways with a close up shot, fully displaying her intentions to James. All the main characters have been established, as has the setting and scenario of the game.

The Bathroom Scene can be viewed here.

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This first scene establishes James as the main character, showing him as pensive and reflective – both literally, and metaphorically, as he looks at himself in the mirror and then sighs remorsefully, whilst asking himself a question. The music at this point, obviously non-diegetic, is strange, and surreal, just as the filters overlayed in the scene do not feel realistic. The scene jumps from close-up to mid-shot, arcing over from a Dutch angle to fully set the camera straight for a moment. This is done to emphasise the confusion of the scene, how lost James feels, and also to portray the bathroom – it is shown as dirty, littered, and this establishes the scene of Silent Hill to an audience familiar with it. By the end of this scene it has once again moved on to a Dutch angle and the camera has panned across a full arc. At this point James addresses himself, asking himself a key question: “Mary, could you really be in this town?” His confusion is mirrored in the angles used during this shot, which are deliberate in that they are used to portray confusion. The constant movement of the cameras emulates this, as it is disorientating and confusing for the audience.

At this point, control is given momentarily over to the player, so that they can get used to the controls and move James out of the bathroom, and into the car-park, setting off another cutscene.

The Car Park scene can be viewed here.

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This cutscene begins with James, mid-shot, showing him stood alone. This scene emphasises how alone he is, and how alone he feels, and eventually zooms out to create an establishing shot of the town of Silent Hill, and more importantly, Toluca Lake, which is James’ first destination. This also acts to show that James has come here alone, whilst he ruminates on the letter that drove him there. The aforementioned letter is read out, in non-diegetic (or possibly diegetic, if James is thinking about his wife’s voice) by Mary, who is never seen. This creates a connection with Mary as a character, as though you do not interact with her, you have now heard her voice, and personal dreams, creating a more human and emotional character. You can instantly connect with her. This scene also portrays how desolate, and alone, Silent Hill is, and how alone James is. He stands alone in Silent Hill, thinking about his wife, which links back to the first scene wherein he wonders about her whereabouts. At this point the soundtrack, also non-diegetic, changes from surreal to emotional – the music, once synthesised, is now a string instrument, an instrument traditionally associated with sadness.

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The entire shot that follows is an extreme long shot, portraying James as small, insignificant, swamped by both the town, and his emotions. It is here that he sets the scene, establishing the basic motives, and location of where he currently is. This is done to make it obvious to the audience as to where they are, and what they are doing, and is clearly a form of goal-setting. Furthermore, the internal dialogue the audience can hear (in which James is talking to himself) creates an emotional connection with James, as his grief is witnessed for the first time. This grief is emphasised with the use of a stereotypically “sad” instrument, along with an internal monologue where he thinks things over and reveals personal information, creates empathy for him. James’ grief, after losing a loved one, is something all can empathise with, and at this point he is a sympathetic character. The audiences’ emotions are manipulated by the scene itself. At this point, the town is not scary, but sad and desolate, reflecting back in James’ emotions – the town is, to an extent, an extension of him, and when he later loses his mind, the town becomes more horrific.

After this the character once again gains control and begins guiding James on his journey, encountering the first of the supporting characters along the way, and creating a vague sense of unease through the gameplay.