Battery Jam is a "territorial mayhem" multiplayer game with quite some humble roots. It was developed over twenty weeks at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia, by a team of four core people, counting with the outside support of and audio team and several animators.
Now the team goes the name by Halseo and successfully published the game on Steam, now available for $9.99
Since this is a pure arcade game, there is really no story behind to back this gameplay up. There is no campaign whatsoever. However, there is certainly a theme present in all of the game's presentation. Turbo, Rocket, Slug and love are the names of the four pseudo-characters of this game, which translate into four different playable character models in the heated battles.
Additionally, the game refers to a "boombox" when referring to an exploding cube that serves as an in-game object with the single purpose of being tossed around, exploding and adding even more to the game's chaos.
The basic core idea for the gameplay is easy to understand: move around a tile map, painting every tile you pass on top. But there is a catch: you are not the only one trying to paint the tiles. Like you, up to 3 other players are trying to do the same, in order to end the time-caped match with the most amount of tiles of their color.
This would be a walk in the park (literally) is walking was the only option for each player. Instead, you can lift tiles to block paths, fall into the holes in the pavement, straight to a lava pit or even sunk tiles or throw exploding block in any direction. There is a death / respawn mechanic which means you temporarily die when hit by a cube or by falling in lava, forcing you to wait several seconds before respawning in the map again.
In an online interview, Abraham Plato, Battery Jam Designer and team member once admittedly confessed:
"During the early pre-production phase of Battery Jam when the shouting matches had died down and we had started to agree on things, the gameplay of bomberman was brought up, specifically the multiplayer. "
In fact, that's a resemblance that you inevitably feel but you can not quite pinpoint in the begging. After you think about it, it makes perfect sense :
"Unlike pretty much every competitive multiplayer game out there, the game didn’t focus on direct attacks. Instead you placed bombs in strategic lotions and essentially tried to influence your opponent’s movements until you could trap and kill them with a cleverly placed bomb."
Due to the level of chaos this games sometimes represents, I think its for the best if I leave you with some local party gameplay footage so you can see for yourselves and really feel the intensity of a match. This video belongs to the Youtube channel Stumpt. Besides a lot of other cool stuff, they do very entertaining videos about theses kind of co-op games. Enjoy:
Additionally, you can go back to the beginning of the video to watch the tutorial part, so that you can better understand each mechanism.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
According to Brandon Swan, the project lead on Battery Jam, they saw other small teams' games as very promising regarding art ideas and ambitions but lacking charm and a distinctive execution. In opposition, they wanted to " focus on trying to get personality out of the game."
What kind of graphics do you bet on when your a tight budget but you still want to give the game personality? What would allow you to set up a theme to your game but at the same time allow flexibility and agility of execution in a sprint project like the one Battery Jam was born? Again, Brandon Swan's team found their answer to that: Robots!
"Robots were an easy decision to make, not only because they’re robots and automatically the best decision, but because we didn’t have to worry about skinning an organic model. Simple parenting and ball joints seemed like the best and fastest approach. We knew it would be easiest to share the same rig as well, and knew we could switch out components of the characters to make quick changes to the designs between each one within our schedule. "
This approach, paired up with some simple but catchy arcade tunes in the mix had a big impact in the game's feel and presentation with a great trade-off effort-wise during the development. Very intelligent choices from a project management and game development point of view, I must say, absorbing a lot of knowledge from previous arcade hits like Supermario, Sonic and even Bomberman.
For a game started on a college project, latter crowd-founded on Kickstarter, Battery Jam delivers a very straightforward, fun, engaging and challenging game mechanic, paired up with clean and vibrant visuals and sounds, which is a lot more that I could say for 80% of the games out there.
However, its origins also explain some of its weak points – from a progressing / depth point of view, the game falls short – no progression system or reward mechanic, which reflects the tight budget and time the team had to prove and launch the concept.
Overall, great potential, valid game idea, could use more in game content: Characters / weapons with specific skills, new skins, online play, ranking system, etc… Still, an excellent example that even a small starting team can escalate and develop and deliver a great game concept.
|+ Fun and challenging gameplay||– No online mode|
|+ Vibrant and clean graphics and audio||– No progression / reward system|
|– No character customization|