Physics Games and Physics-Based Game Downloads

Barrel of Fun? Or Barrel of Frustration?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 by Ancil in Physics Games
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (Rate this game! 112 votes, average: 2.88 out of 5)

Most physics-based puzzle games involve getting an object (it’s usually round) from point A to point B. The physics model – gravity, inertia, friction – handles most of the moving. Working out how to make the physics do what the player wants is the puzzle. Reaching that solution is a kind of experimentation. Look at the puzzle, imagine a possible solution. Patch it together using the tools the game provides. Press the “start” button, observe what happens. When something goes wrong, make modifications. Eventually, this process of observing and refining leads to the true solution.

Which brings me to CGS Software’s Barrel Mania.

Big Puzzles

The critical object in Barrel Mania is, of course, the barrel. Like most physics game lynchpins, it rolls, bounces, and falls. It’s blown up by a variety of hazards, from lava pits to mines. To make sure it isn’t destroyed on the way to its destination, the player is given a number of “gadgets”. These stick-like objects can be drawn anywhere at any angle, serving as platforms, ramps, and rails.

The player gets a bunch in each stage. The stages are enormous, usually several screens in length and width. The player is scored on how many pieces are left unused at the end, like in most physics puzzle games. However, the game’s secondary goal is to collect stars, which are scattered in difficult-to-reach nooks in each stage. To reach all of these stars, the player can’t be shy about using lots of gadgets. Barrel Mania encourages the player to build big.

It’s not a game of quick flashes of insight, but one of dedicated building and measured progress. Huge stages need to be mentally broken down and worked on one a piece at a time. The reward for a slow, dedicated effort is the sight of a vast, seemingly insurmountable landscape slowly transforming into a neat pathway of rails. The only way through is experimenting, observing the results, and refining a solution until it works.

Unlucky Breaks

What makes working out that solution difficult is a surprising amount of randomness in the game. I can run the same experiment twice and get two different results. On one try the barrel might get to the goal; on another, it might bounce into a pool of lava. One time the barrel might grab every star; the other time, it might miss one. It makes the game more exasperating than it needs to be. It’s hard to refine a solution based on the results of a test run if those results can’t be counted on. In a physics-based puzzle game, physics should be more important than luck.

There are also timing-based objects that exacerbate the problem. Some stages have lasers that fire periodically, sometimes missing the barrel, sometimes destroying it instantly. Worse are the spinning platforms, which might be in any position by the time the barrel reaches them. In the ten demo stages I played, I tried to avoid the spinners as much as possible by directing barrels around them. When contact was unavoidable, I built funnels that would compensate for a variety of possible outcomes. It feels sloppy and inefficient. What’s unfortunate is that the simple solution would have been to have all the objects in a stage reset to their starting positions each time the experiment is run.

Barrel Mania Screenshot Screenshot of Physics Games
(Barrel Mania Game Screenshots)

How Many Barrels Do You Really Need?

Despite an identical premise to a number of games which came before it, Barrel Mania caters to players who want larger problems to wrestle with. For twenty dollars, though, it’s hard to overlook the jarring presence of luck in a game about controlled experimentation when there are so many other games about exactly the same thing.

Download Barrel Mania (24.9 MB)

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10 Responses to 'Barrel of Fun? Or Barrel of Frustration?'

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  1. Endox said,

    on August 1st, 2007 at 1:48 am

    nod32 says there’s a viruns in the instalation :(

  2. Diego said,

    on August 1st, 2007 at 4:41 am

    When I click on the right game Screenshot, there comes a screenshot from a another game, Crayon Physics.

  3. Jokker said,

    on August 1st, 2007 at 5:00 am

    Game was fun while I played it. Formatted, lost the game, forgot about it.

    Now I want to download it, but the download link is blank. Just a white page. No download.

  4. TheKnife said,

    on August 1st, 2007 at 7:22 am

    I couldn’t help but notice you used music from the game “The Neverhood” for the video.

  5. Dennis said,

    on August 1st, 2007 at 8:19 am

    Fun for a while… And for the Randomness… Well, it`s a barrel, and barrels don’t are EXACTLY round..

  6. Ajjeko said,

    on August 1st, 2007 at 11:48 am

    I LOVE the game the Neverhood. It’s amazing.

  7. Jokker said,

    on August 1st, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Could someone please post a mirror? It appears that the whole site is down for me. Their server refuses my connection attempts.

  8. Relys said,

    on August 1st, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    This is the biggest barrel of frustration I have ever blown up.

  9. Chris/Bolt said,

    on August 3rd, 2007 at 4:10 am

    I’m not a big fan of this game. I got it a few days ago, funnily enough so I think I have the same view as you, Matthew. The thing than annoys me is the continuous environment. The paddles keep on spinning the whole time you are playing so you need to time it right if you involve them in your path to the pit. The graphics were great though. I like the 3D effect that was given from the barrel which gave it a deeper feeling to it, even though there isn’t much shown in anything else. The minimal amount of tools annoyed me too. There is only 5 (I think) tools and that doesn’t leave much room for imagination. I’m basically comparing this to Armadillo Run. Wouldn’t AR be frustrating if physics took place while you were editing? Building a structure while it was being pulled down because the supports havn’t been made? Well that’s sort-of what this is like… Since the level moves the whole time it gets irritating, which you’ve probably found out if you play it.
    But still, I got a bit of fun out of it. I’d give it a 3/5.

  10. soad667 said,

    on August 3rd, 2007 at 8:10 am

    I was pretty excited when i learned about it at first,another little “physics” gem i thought. But after playing the demo,i lost my whole excitement for many reasons (bored to write them down now :P)

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