Nezumi Teku Teku

Nezumi teku teku (ねずみてくてく), by nezutako (2016)

The aggressively cute puzzle game Nezumi teku teku (roughly translated, Plodding Mouse) by cartoonist and game designer nezutako descends from a host of games that charge the player with protecting, guiding, or assisting mindlessly marching characters. The lineage that goes back to at least 1991’s Lemmings, but in this instance most resembles the games from the Gussun Oyoyo (1993, Banpresto/Irem) series. That game features the mechanic of Tetromino-like falling blocks and bombs that the player uses to build stairs, platforms, and walkways to allow a little walker to reach the end of the stage.

Nezumi teku teku instead builds the movable platforms in as permanent parts of the stage. With mouse or touch screen controls (the game was designed to be played in browser on either your desktop or your smartphone), the player drags these movable objects across empty space and around corners. Rather than simply being blocks, these can be whole chunks of platform stages, complete with ladders that the pudgy little mouse will climb and other environmental objects. This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it situation, though. The solutions to most stages require each piece to be moved more than once in response to the real-time movement of the plodding mouse, necessitating forethought, a careful hand, and quick reflexes.

The game is appealingly and cleverly designed from the outset, but it becomes something more special as it opens up to reveals more elements. For one, later stages introduce Pac-man-style screen loops that reinvent the game’s approach of space. Later stages that require the mouse be led somewhere to open up a barrier sealing away a movable platform essential to the solution are especially nifty, giving the sense that the player and the slowly plodding mouse are solving these puzzles in actual collaboration with one another.

Play Nezumi teku teku in your browser on nezutako’s site here. Also, see its Freegame Mugen page (Japanese only).

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Notes for people who don’t read Japanese:

Generally speaking, the game uses yellow buttons for positive things (like “yes” or “resume game”) and blue buttons for negative (“no” or “restart stage”).

This is a translation of the pause screen:

And here’s a translation of a results screen:

 

Daddy!, Don’t Explode Me

Daddy!, Don’t Explode Me, by Fi Silva (2015)

I should let readers of this blog know from early on that I have an incredible fondness for and fascination with Lemmings (DMA Design, 1991), which I’m sure will continue to come through in my posts. In my own game design, this fascination with has resulted in two decades of games that try to build on or reinvent the Lemmings formula. One of the difficulties of making a good game in a Lemmings vein is that even DMA struggled to improve on the mechanics of their own formula, only really blossoming in levels that explored those mechanics well. The eight abilities from the original Lemmings are ingeniously simple and actually quite comprehensive for navigating two-dimensional, side-view space. As you can see from numerous games that followed in Lemmings’s wake, reworking–rather than just remaking–Lemmings is a challenge that partly owes to difficulty in imagining around the original set of abilities.

Made for 2015’s Ludum Dare 33 competition, Daddy!, Don’t Explode Me reimagines its little walkers as eager-to-please minions of a faceless villain and further reinterprets two of these abilities–the blocker and the exploder–into three abilities with an added elemental theming. The blocker turns into a block of ice, while fire can melt ice blocks. In addition to turning your little demons into ice blocks, there are ice blocks in the stages themselves. This twist allows for a different approach to the game’s physical spaces, producing a distinctive iteration of an old formula. (And the adoring little demonic minions are kind of adorable.)

The bombs, mercifully, are less demanding of precise, anticipatory timing than their Lemmings counterparts since they detonate right where you click your demon. However, the timing of where to light them on fire proves more fussy, fidgety, and hard to hit precisely, leading to some frustration. Compounding the frustration, the game soon gives you very little or no wiggle room to meet the minimum number of demons that need to reach the goal of each stage (little houses they set on fire). On the whole, though, this is an incredibly charming, clever take in a genre that needs charming, clever takes.

Download for free from itch.io (Windows).