It’s said that every story is based on just a few basic archetypes—man versus man, man versus nature, and so on. The same can be said for computer games. Despite improved graphics, new characters, and special embellishments, you mainly end up playing the same basic game over and over again. Little Gods, an arcade action game by Grim Inventions, embraces this fact by taking a couple of basic ideas that go back to the dawn of video games and giving them a unique twist that’s both challenging and entertaining.
Little Gods channels two age-old games: Pong, where two players move paddles to volley a ball back and forth across the screen; and Breakout, where you bash objects against a wall to break through successive layers of bricks. It also throws in an elaborate power-up system, dynamic level design, and unique characters for good measure.
In Little Gods, you are a disembodied spirit battling with other disembodied spirits in a surreal, colorful, and animated world. Your goal is to collect enough points to win—and maybe someday return to your own reality. You do so by deflecting a ball past your opponent and through a playfield populated by colorful bricks and other objects that move, disappear, undulate, and spin—all of which affects the velocity and trajectory of your ball as it passes by or hits them.
The bricks possess a mystical energy, called Mana, which is released when you smash them. If you collect enough of it, you can trade in the Mana for mystical powers. For example, you can shrink your opponent to make it more difficult to hit the ball, or quicken the pace of the action. Your mystical powers typically only last for a short while, so you’ll need to use them strategically.
You can earn extra points by capturing creatures called Gobblers, which levitate across the playfield. You capture them by positioning your character in front of them. Grabbing sacred Totems will earn you Karma points, which you can then use to unlock new characters, visit new arenas, and more.
Little Gods benefits from a compelling—and slightly haunting—soundtrack and beautiful, surreal graphics (it’s the first Mac game to use GarageGames’ Torque 2D Engine). An Options window lets you adjust the game’s volume, resolution, full screen or windowed mode, and a few other variables. However, the window is a bit jarring—it appears to be ported straight from the Windows version, with squared off buttons, tabs, and pop-up menus.
The game’s help system could use some improvements. Although it does gives you an idea of basic play mechanics, it doesn’t offer much more. You’ll have to go online to learn the who, why, and what of the game.
You’ll need an 800MHz CPU with 32MB VRAM and 128MB RAM or faster to play. However, I found performance occasionally sluggish on a 1.5GHz PowerBook G4 that well exceeded the game’s requirements.
The Bottom Line Little Gods takes two games we’re intimately familiar with—Pong and Breakout—and adds its own unique spin with plenty of extras to keep us entertained.
PRODUCT SUMMARY Little Gods RATING: Grim Inventions Interactive.PROS: Offers good of variety with plenty of powers, characters, and games to unlock; great music and sound effects. CONS: Sluggish performance; weak in-game help system. PRICE AS RATED: $20 OS COMBATIBILITY: OS X 10.3, OS X 10.4 COMPANY: