Chungking Espresso

Primrose, a game that’s cooler than its core mechanic

Posted in Game Analysis by Simon Ferrari on March 10, 2009

Just took a break from writing to check out Rohrer’s Primrose. Didn’t play it until now, because I thought I’d have to set up my iPhone app store account to do so. But then I found out it’s on SourceForge like all his other games!


Anyhow, gobs and gobs have been written about it all over the place. I’m not a puzzler buff, so I’m not really interested in how “deep” it is or how it compares to Othello and Go. What does interest me is that it has an end – once you get access to all the colored tiles, a countdown starts on each one and eventually you’re left with one color (and a game over). This strikes me as rather revolutionary for a puzzler, seeing as I’ve never seen a determined ending to one before.

The other important move on his part was the instant replay feature. You can watch a replay of every game on the leaderboards, allowing you to see how they accomplished their scores. This is a unique chance to see how the puzzle gaming community develops dominant strategies to break games and derive the highest scores possible (check out the documents on how to create grids in Hexic for an example of this). So far the top scorer (I think he’s placed 1-3) only gets one massive chain at the beginning of his games – netting over 5 million points. He builds a big green block mass at the top and then has a method for chaining purple and orange blocks around the bottom and right side of the screen to set off the cascade. Then he just kind of flounders for the rest of the game until the gray blocks end it for him. Pretty neat stuff.

From a transparency standpoint this is pretty cool, but I wonder if bigtime puzzle score-junkies will avoid the game if they know that their methods can instantly be seen and understood by everyone. Certainly it detracts from the mystique of something like the highly personal grid styles exhibited by the top Hexic players. I suppose you could just go offline and prevent your scores from uploading, but this presents such a player with the a unique version of the “pics or it didn’t happen” dilemma – considering technically all the legit scores should be viewable. In sum, I think this game is more interesting for everything that went into it other than designing the actual puzzle.

Don’t be like me; support the man and his naked hippie children running through the grass – buy it at the iPhone apps store before running off to the beach next week!

PS: In case Rohrer RSS-feeds anything with his name and reads this – please make an iPhone version of Between so I can actually find people to play it with? It’s hard to figure out the mechanics or the meaning when I have to coerce my friends to try playing it with me, only to have them give up after a few minutes.


7 Responses

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  1. Stephen said, on March 10, 2009 at 10:30 am

    If you haven’t downloaded anything from the App Store on your iPhone, you are seriously missing out.

    I definitely agree about being able to watch replays of the high scores in the leaderboard in Primrose, that’s definitely the best feature.

    I too have had trouble convincing people to play Between with me long enough to really get a feel for what is going on. If you want to try it with me sometime let me know.

    Oh, and while we are on the subject of Jason Rohrer, are you going to GDX? I’ve gone the last two years and as far as I can tell it’s the best game conference in Georgia, or at least they get the most interesting industry people to come speak.

  2. Simon Ferrari said, on March 10, 2009 at 10:44 am

    I didn’t even know about GDX, but I’ll pay 50 bucks and suffer through the mincing of SCAD students to meet Rohrer. Ian didn’t even tell me he was a speaker at this… I’ll just tag along with him for the chance to shake Rohrer’s hand and invite him out to Athens for some hippie partying at Orange Twin.

  3. Simon Ferrari said, on March 10, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Oh and as far as the iPhone games go… I’m still catching up on tons of XBL games that I missed (such as Mega Man 9 and Bionic Commando RE), plus I really need to get a PS3 account on the lab console and download Flower, Noby Noby Boy, and the PixelJunk games (to name a few) before worrying about the iPhone. What am I missing out on besides Rolando?

  4. Stephen said, on March 10, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Rolando is easily the most polished iPhone game. There are tons of other games worth playing depending on what you are interested in.

    The last game I bought was Zen Bound, and I’ve been playing it a good bit. One of my favorites is a game called Dizzy Bee that I think has sort of been underrated by the press that covers iPhone games, as it’s probably the best implementation of the physics + accelerometer tilt thing that a lot of iPhone games do. Jelly Car is another good physics game, and it’s free.

    If you like puzzle games I can’t recommend Drop7 enough. It’s just a mobile implementation of Chain Factor, minus the ARG bits, but that still leaves you with a pretty amazing puzzle game.

    There are also a ton of apps that aren’t games that are worth having too. You said before that you mostly fill your memory with music, and two great music related apps are Shazam and Pandora Radio. Shazam lets you record a short segment of a song and then it identifies the artist/title for you which is pretty incredible if you’ve ever heard a song you liked and wondered what it was. Another pretty useful one I have is called Discover that lets you use your iPhone like a flash drive, except you do the file transfers over wifi rather than usb from the web browser on any PC on the same wifi network. Oh and there is the google app that lets you search google with your voice, which doesn’t always work but is pretty amazing when it does.

    There is probably a lot of other cool stuff that I’m forgetting to mention, but the App Store is full of amazing stuff worth playing around with. I’d recommend just signing up and playing around with free apps for awhile. Many of the good games have “lite” versions.

  5. Simon Ferrari said, on March 11, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Update: Ian invited me to a possible carpool down to Savannah with a SCAD professor and Rohrer. I’m nervous already.

  6. Graham said, on March 23, 2009 at 11:43 am

    As of the 19th, Between is available on Steam. I haven’t played it there yet, but that should make it a bit easier to get your friends to download and play it (and possibly play with strangers?).

  7. Simon Ferrari said, on March 23, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    OOoh yeah I should check that out before people get fed up trying to figure it out and stop playing!

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