When one of my elementary school teachers pitched Discovery of dinosaurs to the class as “video games”, I’m sure I frowned and crossed my arms. I’ve already beaten a few of them Royal expeditionsmaybe even an Ultimaso the word puzzles (shoe into the story) felt like schoolwork on screen.
After decades of frowning at ‘edutainment’, I’m surprised to now appreciate ‘games that could be awesome in the classroom’. If I were still a high school music teacher, Amber dreams would inspire me to run to the nearest science teacher and shout, “Let’s do an interdisciplinary project on momentum and melodic improvisation,” with play as the driving content, of course.
Amber dreams is a 2D platformer but without jumping. You propel your ball left or right and hit objects in the right place at the right speed based on their physics.
So using a bubble to reach a platform requires judging its relative bounce and aiming within a useful arc. It’s possible to change momentum mid-flight, but good planning makes for an orderly game.
Designer Cuauhtemoc Moreno says: ‘It’s like pinball, except you control the ball itself.’ And yes, that’s exactly what it is.
A bubble collision will create a percussive “pop” and a platform collision will create a metallic major third, tonic, or some other interval that interacts nicely with the background music. Your journey isn’t just pinball, it’s also one long musical statement.
There are 58 playable campaign levels in early access form, with more promised. With several gameplay elements at your disposal, including collectibles, breakables, levitators, escalators, guards, spikes and more, I found that many (certainly not all) of the levels I tried were simple enough to complete, even although definitely at a significantly slower speed. than par.
There are also some clever user-made levels, and I particularly enjoyed the “Upside Down in Spider Den”, which riffs on the gravity-switching mechanic. The level editor is also very intuitive. You can choose from around 60 game elements under headings like ‘structures’ and ‘destroyers’, drag them into place and then test them out. Moreno says 200 user levels have been created so far.
Rather than aiming to create a challenging puzzle with a level editor, I found myself creating a tool or perhaps a “performance chamber” of sorts. I noticed that the default music loop in the background was built on a descending lead line with gentle chimes and pizzicato strings before a heavily processed beat was layered on. I made wooden platforms to match the muted initial tone colors, then metal posts and trampolines to play the crashes louder, over the percussion.
I spent a surprisingly long time pondering my level. Bubble solo? Why not?
I know exactly what listening and analysis tasks I could set for myself Amber dreamsPre-made levels as well as composition and performance assignments that students could fill out through the level editor. What assignment can a science teacher also associate with this game?
So am I finally ready to embrace the inevitable marriage of games and education? I recently had trouble alienating my 15 year old son at PAX Aus Gubbinswhich is explicitly and unapologetically a word puzzle. Discovery of dinosaurs it pissed me off because it was a word puzzle in game clothes – ignore that Sierra’s adventure game text parser taught me how to spell. Amber dreams it is primarily a game, but certainly also a pleasure for teachers and students.
You can find Amber dreams on Steam Early Access.
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