This Week's Waste of Time
A free game, a dog, and a wasted work day
By James Renovitch, 3:43PM, Thu. Feb. 9, 2012
What is it about dogs that make games better? Fable II's faithful companion. Megaman's helper, Rush. Ultimately you really can't go wrong adding a canine to your game. So, if you're doing a game jam and need a way to suck players in, make the playable character a dog. Case in point: Last Breath.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. A dog falls in a hole that opens up into a series of tunnels that must be scoured for red balls needed to float back up to the surface. What's worse, the dog's shadow has managed to untether itself from its owner and is out to get revenge by following you. The more balls that are collected the closer the shadow gets to you. If it the shadow and the dog touch the story has a sad ending (i.e., you start again at the beginning).
Sure, the mechanic isn't entirely new. Similar games include previous weekly waste of time One Step Back. Even Super Mario Bros. got in on the action. The player's first instinct in Last Breath is to fetch every ball they come across, but after a few failures it's obvious that some strategy will be needed to keep the shadow dog at bay. A little tenacity pays off with a heart-wrenching denouement aided by softened pixels made to look like needlepoint.
p.s., it took everything I had not to post a picture of my dog on this blog.