Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Midnight Snack: Poto & Cabenga

They're so cute. I like games named after pairs of protagonists.  Pocky & Rocky, ToeJam & Earl, Sonic & Knuckles – okay, maybe not Sonic & Knuckles.  I like the dual protagonist formula not only because of how it affected 8- and 16-bit co-op gaming, but for the unique opportunities it creates for single-player games.

Poto & Cabenga is a choice morsel of dual protagonist gaming.  It’s also a stand-out entry in the Gamma IV One Button Games contest from this year’s Game Developer’s Conference.  The obvious stipulation for developers was that input be confined to one button. 

What sets Poto & Cabenga apart from other notable one-button games is that the button affects each character in different ways simultaneously.  Holding down the space bar allows Cabenga (I think) to run and letting it go causes him to jump.  His buddy Poto (I think), trapped in the belly of a beast, starts to run whenever you’re not holding the space bar and jumps whenever you press it.  As Newton said, for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It’s a conniption-inducing game of companionship.  You must time each protagonist’s jumps and dashes perfectly to keep the two alive.  It’s a delicate, mind-bending balance.  And I love it.