One of the most fascinating aspects of Crane Wars — the newly released game from Minotaur China Shop and Blush creators Flashbang — is that, for essentially the first time, we’ve been able to watch the development of the game from its very earliest conception straight through to completion.
That early prototype video and alpha trial were effective as very base technology: the physics were there, the crane worked well, the destruction was fun, but what they weren’t was a game, and it’s been just as fun watching the bits that made it such being layered on top til now.
What’s come out the other side, is, put plainly, the best game the team have done since Minotaur (we’ll rightfully chalk up Paper Moon‘s success to original creator Infinite Ammo): a game that’s just as beautifully and deliberately balanced between destruction as much as the construction at its core.
What Flashbang have done is take that original crane demo and lattice-build a rigid structure over top: now, your static crane oversees a site with a tic-tac-toe grid of possible foundations and three spawn points of new “floors”. Very much akin to one-button mobile favorite Tower Bloxx, your new goal is to stack those floors in any given arrangement until the spawn point lets loose a ‘roof’ — stack that roof on top and your ramshackle blockwork becomes a nice, beautiful, more invulnerable new skyscraper.
Why invulnerable? Because at the adjacent lot, a group of ruthless (and vaguely French) scabs are threatening your staunchly union-ized business with both hurled insults and, more often, hurled dumptrucks, barrels, and flaming blocks of skyscraper.
And so here lies in the destructive rewards, and the Wars of the title: for as much as you can gain ever increasingly combo-multiplied high scores from proper stacking, you can take the secondary path of ensuring the scabs never fully manage to keep their buildings intact by hurling your own rubble into their lot, with new combos for bringing down buildings and achievements for covering their spawn points.
Most importantly, Crane Wars is one of the ‘stickiest’ games the studio’s released in some time, as well: the grid system opens up a number of trial and error strategies that beg to be discovered — setting up a wall of defensive completed scrapers seems to be an initial best bet until you discover it also stifles your best throws, etc. — and the usual Blurst timer (here represented by a dwindling budget) is an ever present reminder that there were always precious shortcuts and efficiencies you could have taken this go-round.
With any luck, this’ll become the new web favorite it deserves to be: as I guessed several days ago, it’s the best indie development we’ll see all week (and the latest best instantly-hummable indie background score, courtesy Infinite Ammo’s Alec Holowka), and barring some outrageous upset, the bar’s set very high for game of the month.
Crane Wars [Flashbang]