Physics Games and Physics-Based Game Downloads

The Question Mark is There for a Reason

Saturday, January 19th, 2008 by Ed Harrison in Physics Games
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (Rate this game! 119 votes, average: 4.13 out of 5)

Occasionally, a game just sticks out. Sometimes for it’s cinematic polish, or it’s finely tuned gameplay…but every now and then you happen across a game that’s simply a labor of love – a game that conforms only to the unique creativity of the developers and not to market demands or existing conventions. Golf? (golfquestionmark), despite being a game of golf with standard golf rules, is one such game. Its unique visual style and its unrestricted physics-based movement both create a refreshingly new experience out of a tired old concept.

One Cup, Abstract Minimalism

The first thing to leave an impression is the art direction. The ground is more or less standard golf course stuff, though colored entirely in shades of grey. Each course is contained within a giant black cube with a glowing ceiling. Birds made of single lines fly overhead. Trees litter the grounds, many looking like they belong on the corners of playing cards, others with bursts of solid color which contrast the surroundings, and some which are simply vector outlines off in the distance. Some courses are inhabited by giant, abstract robots (boxes with legs, I suppose) frozen in mid stride to provide obstacles for your golf ball. Player models are brightly colored, low polygon, robots whose heads might be anything from guns to teapots depending on what you’re doing. Your caddy–who doubles as a controllable free camera–is a flying box robot with a respectable face on the front of his rectangular head, though he seems to enjoy his low-polygon grog. The flagpoles at each hole are adorned with a little robot wearing a top hat.

This is a game which celebrates its digital nature, outlining polygons with artistic, surreal pride, rather than trying to fool you with some attempt at realism. It’s classy, silly and atmospheric all at the same time.

A Teaspoon of Physics

None of which would mean a great deal if the game wasn’t fun to play. Thankfully it is, and this fun is complemented by the complete physical freedom the player is given at all times. When taking a shot, you swing your club manually using the mouse. The ball’s path leaves a permanent dotted line in the air, allowing you to analyze the trajectory and find your ball. Rather than simply moving you to the ball, like most golf games do, you have to make your way there yourself. Walking around the courses plays like a standard first person game, although to help speed you on your way, you are given a “rocket sauce” powered golf cart which you can drive around freely, bouncing over hills or flinging yourself off ramps which appear on and around a few courses. The physics engine behind all movement in the game is straightforward yet effective, making cart movement entertainingly bouncy, and ball movement reliable and solid.

Most importantly, the free physical approach does not detract from the depth of traditional golf gameplay. You can select from a complete range of golf clubs, and each acts on the ball differently and as you would expect. At first, you might find the freedom of club swinging a bit loose and uncontrolled, but you will quickly learn to ‘feel’ it, as you would with a real golf club, and you will most certainly improve with a little practice.

Golf? Screenshot Screenshot of Physics Games
(Golf? Game Screenshots)

Stir and Enjoy

Overall, Golf? provides a distinctively unique, and surprisingly polished gameplay experience (especially considering it’s just a beta). Four players can play simultaneously over the internet or a network, but even the solo experience is fun and rewarding. The game has nine holes, and the occasional creative surprise which, when noticed, can put a slightly different spin on gameplay. The game is highly replayable (it gets more fun as you get better), and feels more or less complete in it’s current form, so there’s not much reason not to give it a try. Just ensure your graphics card handles OpenGL comfortably, grab the download, and have a swing.

Download Golf? Public Beta (22 MB)

Or visit the Golf? website for more information.

Related Posts:

Slightly Miswired Robot Ragdolls Shuffle About

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008 by Ancil in Physics Games
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (Rate this game! 191 votes, average: 4.04 out of 5)

If Sumotori Dreams is a game about sumo wrestlers learning to walk, Kaneko’s NekoFight is a game about capoeiristas struggling with melancholy. NekoFight is a simple ragdoll fighting demo, but the participants seem to be as much victims of world-weariness as of a gravity simulation.

The Saddest Control Set

The game and documentation are in Japanese, but the controls are simple enough that players who can’t read the language shouldn’t have a problem. The arrow keys cause the Blue fighter to shamble around the arena forlornly. The X and C keys control the left and right legs (respectively). Tap X for a moment, and Blue’s left leg will twitch. Hold X for longer, and the sullen polygon model will whirl into wild spin kick.

Holding X and C at the same time causes Blue to spring into a mighty backflip, usually flying out of the arena and into the moat around it (the game’s only disqualifier). Tapping the keys just right causes Blue to fall over and lie prone on the ground. Then use the arrow keys to make Blue grope around wearily.

I Just Want a Hand to Hold

Probably the most interesting of the game’s mechanics is the grab. When the Yellow enemy fighter is close, press and hold the Z key. Blue will reach out and take Yellow by the hand, or leg, or head, whatever’s available. Now the two are joined into a single ragdoll, each affected by the motions of the other. Drag Yellow by the head, wrestle. Use a kick to launch Blue into midair, then release Z to send Yellow flying. Lie down near the water and, when your opponent shambles close enough, grab an ankle and tug it over the edge.

NekoFight Screenshot Screenshot of Physics Games
(NekoFight Game Screenshots)

What’s the Point of it All?

NekoFight provides little in the way of direction or challenge, and your opponents are as eager to off themselves as you are. This is another game (or toy) that requires one be willing to create one’s own amusement. Try playing without using the arrow keys. You can effect a kind of walk by alternating between the X and C keys. Better, try to force your opponent from the arena using only the grab button.

You can also turn gravity off by toggling the third option on the pull-down menu. In the midst of a kick, this might send the fighters careening around the arena. More often, it will leave them floating in space, flailing their limbs, forever.

For players who think they might enjoy the antics of robot ragdolls who got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, NekoFight is good for hours. And it’s totally free.

Download NekoFight (12.0 MB)

Related Posts:

The Finest Power Shovel Simulator on the Market

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008 by Andrew in Physics Games
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (Rate this game! 95 votes, average: 3.86 out of 5)

Power Shovel, developed by Taito and published by Acclaim, is a power shovel simulator released in 2001 for the Sony Playstation. The game is split up into various wacky game modes where players are given tasks ranging from digging holes to pouring spicy curry into bowls of rice. At first glance it seems like a childish game, and it is to a degree, but it can get very complicated with its unforgiving controls and time limits.

Mechanical Advantage

The main gameplay mechanic in Power Shovel is mechanical advantage. Most of the gameplay modes revolve around digging holes in dirt, and loading the dirt into some vessel, and since each joint of the power shovel’s arm is controlled by a button on the controller, it’s up to the player to manipulate the arm segments in order to scoop up the most dirt. It takes some time getting used to the controls, and even then, getting used to them is only half the battle. The real challenge comes in when determining the best way to bend all of the arm’s joints. The idea is generally to extend the arm, lower the shovel, and then drag it back in order to dig the most. The dirt is physically simulated, so you have to adjust your technique with each scoop, as the level of the dirt gets lower and lower. Also you have to be careful not to spill any dirt or bump any objects with the shovel, as points are deducted for such violations.

Many Game Modes

While the most physically interesting gameplay is found in the digging-related modes, there is an abundance of other gameplay modes. There’s an obstacle course, a math game, and a few modes based around destroying buildings or cars. In one game mode, there is a pile of dirt, and you have to level out the top of it by knocking dirt off with the shovel. There is an extensive amount of unlockable content, including new game modes, videos, a music gallery, and even a level editor for the obstacle course.

Power Shovel Screenshot Screenshot of Physics Games
(Power Shovel Game Screenshots)


The game is somewhat rare, especially since most video game stores have stopped carrying original Playstation games. It took nearly 6 months of fevered searching for me to find a copy. Ultimately it’s a pretty cool game. It has a bit of a learning curve, but if you can get over the game’s first hurdle of mastering the complex controls, there’s a lot of fun to be had. From its zany music and hilarious gameplay modes to its plethora of unlockable content, the game is simply addictive fun. And it’s fun that will last a while. Even after you’ve mastered all the game modes, you’ll still find yourself wanting to come back for more. A sandbox mode where the player could dig holes or make dirt piles to his/her content would have made the game last for much longer, but it’s still a fun game on as it is. With its various game modes and unique challenges, there is a lot to do if you can get your hands on a copy.

Related Posts:

« Previous PageNext Page »