PEGBRJE: Crescent Loom and Butterflies Episode 1: Rudies
Crescent Loom is a biological simulation made by Olive, a duo game dev and neuroscientist combining both to create this little educational fun time. Players are wizards of evolution, given a blank slate to create a small organism using the tools available to make whatever they wish to survive in different environments of their choosing. There are neurons to control reactions and patterns, muscles and bones to create the body and a whole slew of other features.
If this sounds remotely similar, some may recall a certain game that attempted this back in 2008 called Spore, where players would evolve their little cellular organism, controlling it to grow and become a land animal, which then that animal would evolve to terrifying space conquering heights. Where Spore focuses primarily on the process from cell stage onward, Crescent Loom improves on the cell stage to make it actually scientific. Now, disclaimer, I’m no biology student, so taking my word for how scientific the game is may not be in one’s best interests. However, I do trust a neuroscientist that doubles as a game dev, so the rudimentary understand I do have seems to check out fairly well with a lot of the concepts being utilized here.
What I can comment on is the structure and how it works as a game, which it does really, really well. Players have basic components to make up the skeletal features of the structure such as spines and tails, with plates and other aspects to include as well. What’s important is that these basic structures are where the muscles are attached, which give the ability of movement to the creature. Other features include sensory groups such as whiskers or eyes for recognizing the environment, and extras to give the creature some more flair for fun. However, as with all living things, this creation only gives an empty husk — the automation and control comes from the brain.
Whenever players add a muscle/muscle group or any sensory attachment, a node is added to the brain, which is represented by a cool hexagon. Players can then add neurons to ‘power’ the brain and its cycles, which then can be attached to the muscles or sensory nodes to give them functionality. Want to turn left when an eye sees something blocking it’s path? Link them up. It almost feels like programming logic, as obvious as that sounds thanks to the common discourse of ‘isn’t the brain just a computer’. This does lead to some geniuses creating vast and complicated arrays of links throughout a brain to get their little character to swim fluidly, but I was just ecstatic to see my dude Kevin (I named my first creation Kevin) turn when he nearly ran into a wall.
Crescent Loom is everything people could’ve dreamed of in a brain creation simulation, one that grants those that wished for more from Spore something to work with. It’s super fun to experiment with, and is easily something I could see myself tinkering with for quite some time if it wasn’t the Christmas holidays for me. It’s also one of the cleanest and most accessible tools for education I’ve seen in the bundle thus far, as it has a browser demo and the creator Olive has stated that any educators that wish for keys for education purposes can contact them for more. Education is, after all, pretty rad. So if you were ever wondering what would happen in Spore if you could actually manipulate and automate your little cell character, Crescent Loom is probably as close as you can get without having to take actual science courses.
Butterflies Episode 1: Rudies is an roller blading adventure by Le Capitaine, with a strong emphasis on inline skating and graffiti. Players complete timed missions, do tricks that I could never do personally, and generally avoid people that look to be cops as Jae does the illegal activities (mostly just graffiti). It’s a love letter to Jet Set Radio, so the stylish setting and funky music are all brought together for the love of street surfing.
Let me first preface this entire overview by saying I have never played Jet Set Radio. I didn’t own a console during its release, nor did I have any close contacts that owned it. By the time I became aware of the game, I was no longer really interested. My only experience with the game is second hand from its fans and from research afterwards, so I understand what the game brings that so many adore it. If you are looking at Butterflies from the perspective of one that has played Jet Set Radio, I implore you to look for other opinions as I cannot compare the two very well thanks to lack of first-hand experience. I can give an outsider’s opinion on the series and an overview of what is possible within, but anything more would be reaching.
Butterflies Ep.1: Rudies gives players an open region to perform their tricks to their hearts contents, with railings and easily jumpable buildings galore. Tricks are numerous and can be comboed together with a ‘level’ system, which increases their coolness if players can time it right. Players also have the ability to rotate Jae, our little protagonist, to skate backwards instead of forwards, which doesn’t necessarily change much but does alter some of the combos and tricks that can be performed. Missions that players can acquire are all gated based on acquiring 100 points from the previous mission, starting with the first one after a small cutscene in which Jae just needs to get down a hill. Sounds simple enough, but the timer says otherwise and missing a single marker can spell doom for the entire attempt. I did dozens of attempts thanks to accidentally cutting a corner and missing a marker completely, since halting momentum and going up a hill is a lost cause. Thankfully, I was able to go back to the tutorial (a massive skatepark like area) to hone some skills for a bit, but there were a few moves and mechanics I just couldn’t seem to get no matter how much I tried. I even switched to M&K to see if maybe that would help, and while I actually found it somewhat easier to use there were still a few instances where I just felt a lack of control.
Butterflies EP.1 Rudies is a start of an episodic series that I’m curious as to where it plans to go and where it evolves. The game feels like many that enjoyed its main inspiration will adore, with the possibility of a narrative focus as the game progresses through development of its next episode. I may not be the biggest fan of the game, but I can definitely see the appeal for anyone that loved Jet Set Radio and would recommend it to those that do. For those of us on the outside looking in, it’s a colourful title with some seriously rocking musical tracks that may go through its own metamorphosis along the way.
Links to both below.
Knit bones, stitch muscles, and weave neurons into biologically-realistic underwater lifeforms. It's like Spore, but…