May 25, 2018
I am a biochemist, making games to teach the invisible bits of cell biology.
Tiny Bubbles is built on a simulation of bubbles, yeah, it’s a bubble behavior simulator. Tiny Bubbles takes a piece of the natural world, gives the player a goal that requires mastery of some fundamental properties of that world. This kind of game design is what I call a "Science Game," and it is what I tried to do with Immune Defense. Tiny Bubbles did such a fantastic job that I posted it up here immediately.
I listed Tiny Bubbles as entertainment only, but this game is important because it demonstrates how fantastic a game built on a natural world simulation could be. I hope more developers will take more steps on this path. games built on bigger pieces of the natural world, that let players play with more fundamentals of science will result.
I think the bubble simulation in Tiny Bubbles is pretty accurate... I am actually curious to test with real bubbles. Isn't that a sign that this game is drawing me to study the natural world? So, OK, building your game on a simulation of the natural world makes players more interested in the natural world, but will it make a good game?
Tiny Bubbles is fun! The puzzles involve a time aspect that is unexpected, challenging and always just a little unpredictable. It really draws in my brain in a way that many other puzzle games do not.
Tiny Bubbles is well-made, engaging and whimsical. Tiny Bubbles does science game really well: The simulation is very nicely crafted. The bubble behavior is easy to understand and really fun to play with. The way the bubbles are represented, the way they move, the speed, sound --everything about playing with the bubbles is really fun to do. The thing that makes Tiny Bubbles a unique game is the way the game was built around the simulation. The Tiny Bubbles developer let his game develop on the simulation. The game became special and different and unique because of the way the simulation works. Sometimes Tiny Bubbles is a puzzle game with endless amount of time and no stress. But sometimes Tiny Bubbles is twitchy time-dependent fast-acting game. And there really is no way to know at the beginning of each level whether the level will require special timing and twitchy reaction or whether it's a simple puzzle game. This makes Tiny Bubbles really unique! Playing Tny Bubbles is a mind stretching experience. It might frustrate some people who think a game should be the same every level. Some might argue that a twitchy game should always be twitchy, and a puzzle game should sit still until you move something. But this is a bubble simulation! Bubbles act like bubbles. And so the game is unpredictable while still feeling logical. I really like the way each level of Tiny Bubbles has so many different possibilities and I think it's fun it's really part of the fun trying to figure out whether you need to act quickly or not to solve the puzzle.
Basically you can tell that the Tiny Bubbles developer spent a lot of time playing with this funny simulation of bubbles, figuring out how to make a game with it and figuring out how to represent the rules to the player figure out what rules would be fun to play with and figuring out how many different ways the player could play with the bubbles.
The simulation is a single layer of bubbles with a few funny rules introduced. The bubbles will pop if four bubbles of the same color are touching. The player is allowed to magically inject color into the bubbles. Adding color enlarges the bubbles a little, and so they shift around a bit and which bubbles are touching changes just a little bit, as bubbles do. This leads to delightful experiences. Delightful is when you as the player develop a hunch, try out a maneuver based on your hunch and are delighted when your maneuver meets with success! Alternatively, your maneuver doesn't work but you may still be on the path to delight if you learn something about the bubbles that you can try next time.
The developer created about 4 different types of puzzles in this game and each level is based on a different kind of puzzle: sometimes the puzzle requirement is to reduce the size of the bubbles, sometimes it is to pop all the bubbles, sometimes the requirement is to pop a certain number of one color of bubbles. The variance is refreshing and delightful. This is how you mind is stretched while playing, the variance and the unpredictability of the bubbles. One minute you think you are playing a cute mobile game with pretty colors, all the time in the world to beat each level and no stress and the next minute you are realizing that four of your purple bubbles just starting touching and now they are fading away and you are never going to be able to get rid of that one last purple bubble!
Tiny Bubbles is an evolutionary step forward for science games as well as mobile games. I hope many more games follow from this developer and many others!!
Fun rating: 5 out of 5
Learning rating: 3 out of 5
Science rating: 3 out of 5
11 / 15
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