Soundodger 2

Soundodger 2 is a music-based bullet hell game by Studio Bean. It’s the sequel to Soundodger+, and is currently in Early Access on Steam. This game is level based, as each level is usually set to a song, similar to rhythm game levels. The main objective in each level is to score the highest possible rank, achievable by dodging all bullets and collecting hearts. The game is made up of several of these levels, some of which are locked until you get a specific amount of points needed to unlock them. The main objective of the game, then, is to unlock and beat all of the levels. There are currently 30 levels in the game. However, as the game is still in Early Access, new levels and features are constantly getting added into the game. 

Here are some levels currently available in the game:

Hopefully, after watching those videos, you can get a feel for how the game looks and sounds. As here comes the Tetrad:

Lens 9: The Elemental Tetrad – (I’m using lens numbers from the app)

Let me start with the Story, or the lack thereof. There is nothing stopping a level-based game to have a story. However, this game’s current selection of levels don’t feel like they’re telling any story. It still could, though, as this game is still in Early Access. This lack of a story is not a problem; this game does not need a story. 

As I mentioned, this game is a bullet helI at it’s core. So, what is a bullet hell? In short, it’s a game whose main mechanic revolves around the player dodging hellish amounts of bullets, usually in a pattern. In this regard, Soundodger 2 is a solid bullet hell: it has a wide variety of bullets and collectibles, and since most bullet types are projectiles, it has a robust physics engine, as bullets can be manipulated after it’s fired.

This game mechanic puts some restrictions in how the aesthetics of the game is constructed, and the combination of both requires more recent advances in technology to be pulled off.

This games’ aesthetic is made to match and extend that of Soundodger+, its predecessor, whilst keeping visual clarity for the players. Soundodger 2 achieves this through shapes. Soundodger 2 has 10 bullet types, and all 10 behave differently. To keep levels readable and consistent, these 10 will always act according to their shape. The cones (called ‘arrows’) always move in a straight line, the octahedrons (‘homings’) home in on the player, and ‘hugs’ always need to be collected.

Technologically, as this game is rendered in 3D, the game engine needs to be able to handle the physics and rendering up to tens of thousands of individual bullets, particles, effects, et cetera. It has to be able to do this whilst maintaining a consistent frame rate and physics simulation tick, so that the game does not stutter, slow down, or desynchronize from the music.

This ‘how to play’ screen actually explains the rules of the game really well, so I’m going to talk about those next.

Lens 33: Rules 

The main rule of the game is simple: dodge the music, touch hugs and hearts. These are pretty much the only rules, so the game is easy to understand for new players. But these aren’t the only set of rules in the game. 

There are rules that the bullets must follow as well. For example, bullets can only appear from where an enemy currently is, or ‘arrows’ must go in a straight line. These rules on bullets give the player a sense of security. “Oh, that ‘arrow’ is pointing away from me, I can stay here and not worry about that ‘arrow’ anymore”. However, if you had watched the videos or played this game, you would know that that’s not always true. 

Soundodger 2 likes to break its own rules. We have established that Soundodger 2’s bullets behave according to their shape, but they are also affected by level-wide ‘events’, such as timewarp and gravity, breaking that rule and player expectation.

Lens 48: Simplicity / Complexity 

These events are the main source of emergent complexity in this game. Despite being simple on their own (gravity pulling bullets up or down, timewarp changing the speed of bullet physics simulation), these events can affect the simplest of bullet motion into something challenging and complex. Not only that, Soundodger 2 lets individual bullets disobey certain effects, breaking more of its own rules, and creating more complexity. 

For example, take the passage from 12:32 to 12:40 in the gameplay video above. Observe how the brown ‘arrows’ moving backwards in time juxtaposed against the green ‘bubbles’ create a complex pattern from simple rules that are broken in different ways. Now we’ve almost reached peak Soundodger.

Lens 17: The Toy and Lens 13: Infinite Inspiration

What do you do after beating all of the main levels in the game? Or maybe, you just wish you can play a level based on your favorite piece of music. Well, Soundodger 2 offers a level editor, allowing you to play around with the game mechanics and make your own levels. And oh how people made their own levels.

This level editor offers so many things to the player. Not only does it give them something to do besides what the base game has to offer, the level editor also serves as an outlet of their creativity. With this level editor, players can take inspiration from outside of the game, whether it be music, visuals, or anything they’ve experienced in their life, and express it through this game. There are limitations, of course, but the sheer amount of features available to the players is enough to overwhelm some. The only limit here are the bullets and your imagination.

Once you have created your masterpiece, you could also share it with other players, and even play other players’ level. This activity of sharing levels around will usually lead to discussion and a sense of community (yet another lens) among players, which in turn can help the game grow and keep players engaged far into the future. I know this, as people were still creating and playing levels for Soundodger+ up until the release of Soundodger 2, 8 years later.

Library of Ruina

Library of Ruina is a single player deck-building RPG game created by Project MOON, an indie South Korean game studio. Library of Ruina is a direct sequel to Lobotomy Corporation, another game by Project MOON, but can be played as a stand alone as well.



The story follows a seemingly ordinary man, Roland, who finds himself stuck in The Library, a place created by an AI, Angela, to fulfill her wish. Without much of a choice, Roland helps out Angela with Library Receptions by fighting Guests and turning them into books when defeated. Throughout the game, the player is exposed to more of the strange dystopian world they live in as The Library is able to see the situations of the Guests before they enter The Library.

The story-telling of the game might not be for everyone due to the visual novel style of delivery. However, the depth and vastness of the world crafted by Project MOON can be felt and kept me intrigued throughout the game of what more there is to learn about this world they have crafted.


In Library of Ruina, the player plays as librarians battling the guests that enter the library. Librarians are equipped with a deck of cards that are used in a turn-based battle against guests pitting cards from these decks against each other. Guests defeated yield certain cards and abilities used by them which the player can then use in future battles.

A turn during combat.

With a plethora of card effects and abilities, there are multiple ways a player can customize their decks to suit their needs or desired playstyle.

UI during deck building.


Library of Ruina’s use of static images in favour of a visual novel style of storytelling does not detract from the enjoyment of its story. The game is able to illustrate the grotesque nature of its world without lingering on filth or gore through the use of flashing images and sound effects.

A scene from the story.

The music that ramps up in tempo as battles reach their peak and unique songs for certain boss battles really help to set the mood for the combat. Despite the voice acting being in korean, I thoroughly enjoyed the depth and emotions of the voice acting.

Lens 1: Curiosity

Library of Ruina’s tells many short disjointed stories of different people in its world which helps the player understand the setting while also slowly building up a far grander plot. The slow reveal of key information about our main cast and the world around them kept me interested to find out more of the story. The fascinating world Library of Ruina has crafted has managed to keep my attention to want to find out more about it.

Lens 2: Endogenous Value

Defeating enemies in Library of Ruina rewards the player with the cards and abilities of the characters defeated. This allows the player to progressively get stronger while being excited to defeat certain powerful enemies, knowing they would be able to make use of the power after defeating them.

Acquiring cards from defeated enemies.

Lens 3: Problem Solving

Being a deck-builder game, crafting the optimal deck with synergies between cards and the abilities of a librarian was one of my favourite parts of the game which I spent hours upon hours on. Each time the story progressed, new cards were added to my arsenal and increased the possibilities of decks.

Outside of building card decks, the combat itself poses more problems to solve. With the many different mechanics in the game to consider, such as Ranged cards versus Melee cards and different buff effects to increase the power of cards, the optimal card to use in the optimal order is difficult to discern. Planning ahead for future turns and team-wide buffs that get triggered at specific intervals also makes makes the combat difficult enough to not feel stale and straightforward.

Lens 4: Challenge

One issue that arose from complexity of the problem solving of the game is how the game might be a tad too difficult at times, and losing due to this gives rise to frustrations due to the length of certain boss fights. With that said, I really enjoyed the challenge the game provides which subverted a lot of my expectations of the difficulty of card games and feel the difficulty is just right for the game.

The game gets progressively harder as new effects of the different enemies arise. Enemies do not simply get stronger with higher numbers. Instead, enemies typically gain new effects and abilities to increase their cards power or apply debuffs to the player’s Librarians. Learning to play around these effects keeps the game fresh and exciting.

A boss fight with many different abilities and special cards.

In conclusion, Library of Ruina is a game I would recommend to anyone looking for a dark, deep story with turn-based strategic gameplay. Oh and also with plenty of time to spare. Yes, I have not completed the game even 100 hours in, but it is amazing.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

zelda-botw-10 – Tired Old Hack

Game website:

Following the tradition of “The Legend of Zelda” series, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” (BOTW) also provides little instructions to players and they can explore, collect items, kill monsters, solve puzzles and side quests. Except for this time, the adventure of our protagonist Link takes place in an open-world version of the Hyrule Kingdom. The main plot is simple, Link woke up from a century of hibernation, realized that the supreme evil named Calamity Ganon had come back and he must seek helps from 4 divine beasts to defeat the Ganon.

Lens 9: The Elemental Tetrad


Since BOTW is an open-world action-adventure game, the mechanics related to “open-world” and “action-adventure” are of critical importance.

Open-world mechanisms:

  • Physics engine: BOTW’s objects fall and interact with each other in a natural way.
  • Terrain and weather: BOTW has various terrains and weather
  • Transportation: Players can walk, run, jump, swim, climb, teleport, ride horses, glide in the sky.
  • Food: There are fruits, herbs, fish, meat(with an inbuilt hunting system), and condiment, using which players can cook meals or make potions that will enhance their abilities
  • Elemental system(fire, lightning, ice), take fire as an example: it can function as a source of light, increase the temperature of the surroundings, barbeque food (e.g. apple and meat), melt ice, and light flammable objects (e.g. grass and wooden objects).

Action mechanisms:

  • basic actions: fight with a sword, shoot with arrows, block with a shield, dodge attacks, charged attacks, attack from the midair
  • strategic actions: stealth and sneak attack, use the elemental system to attack weakness, and many special abilities (e.g. bomb, Magnesis to move metallic objects)


BOTW’s story is a perfect example of balancing catering for old players and welcoming new players. While bringing in familiar settings, characters, and music, BOTW also tells the story from Link’s perspective, who lost his memory. Hence, Link is as confused as players. Although the main story is rather simple (fighting the evil Ganon), as Link reclaim his memory piece by piece, one will discover that the settings and character building are not shallow at all.


10 Most Breathtaking Locations In Breath Of The Wild
  • Visuals: BOTW opts for an anime-like visual style that is vibrant and vivid. This anime-like visual style enables stunning graphics that are within the capability of the Switch. Additionally, since Link has various transportation means, players can view this gorgeous world from different perspectives (e.g. from the sky)
  • Music: BOTW has beautiful background music featuring piano as the main instrument (with a change in tempo at different times of day). Moreover, Nintendo made the environment more immersive by adding ambient sound (e.g. sounds of birds and owls) and foley(e.g. footsteps)
  • Haptic feedback: BOTW provides haptic feedback wherever needed (e.g. during battle).


The mobile game console Switch itself is a giant leap forward in game technology. Since Switch is a mobile console, players can play BOTW anytime, anywhere. While providing usual functionalities that a console/controller should have such as joystick and vibration, Switch also sets a great example of balancing graphics and computing resources.

Lens 8: Problem Solving

BOTW comes with a wide variety of problems solving activities. Nintendo has carefully designed the quantity and the completion time of these problems based on their difficulties. These problems usually fall under one of the following three categories:

Puzzles (with various difficulties):

Breath of the Wild guide: Oman Au shrine walkthrough and puzzle solutions -  Polygon
  • Korox seed (1 min), Shrines (5-20 mins), Big maze (40 mins), Dungeon (100 mins)


  • Many side quests require players’ innovative thinking.

Exploration and adventure:

  • Sheikah Towers: once players reach the top of a Sheikah Tower in one region the previously invisible map of the region will become visible.
  • Cooking recipe: players don’t know any recipe at first, have to experiment with ingredients to find out the best combination.
  • Hidden problems: For instance, “how to get across a mountain covered in snow and not avoid freezing to death”.
  • Battle resources (e.g. sword): Bows and swords will break in BOTW. Hence players must carefully manage the battle resources and try out different approaches to defeat enemies such as using special abilities like bombs

For the above-mentioned problems, Nintendo encourages out-of-box solutions and usually offers more than one way to solve the problem (e.g. use special power to lift a heavy metallic object and crush enemies with it).

Moreover, depending on the difficulties, solving the problems above will give players corresponding rewards with endogenous value. For instance, one can solve puzzles in Shrines to gain health/stamina, and activating Sheikah Tower will give players a clear map that can facilitate their adventure. These valuable rewards are one of the main stimulation that keeps players going.

Lens 39, 40: Meaningful Choices & Triangularity

Players have to make numerous choices during their adventures. For most choices, players can choose a risky move and potentially get more reward or play safe and only get less reward. Here are a few examples of meaningful choices in BOTW:

  • Go defeat small bosses and free 4 divine beasts vs directly confront the Ganon
  • perfect dodge (dodge right before enemies hit the player) vs safely defend with shield
Zelda Breath of the Wild guide: Ta'loh Naeg shrine walkthrough and puzzle  solutions - Polygon
  • Spend time to climb the mountain to avoid monsters vs take the simpler path and fight them
  • Aim for a small weak region vs aim for a large normal region that can be easily hit

As mentioned above, to encourage players to step out of their comfort zone, BOTW offers high rewards for risky moves that succeeded. These rewards not only immediate benefits (e.g. after perfect dodge, the time will slow down for a while, where Link can attack enemies freely), but also satisfying feedback such as ping sound when enemies weaknesses are hit.

Lens 32, 81: Goals & Indirect Control

To avoid the problem of too many objectives on the map, Nintendo made a wise decision to let players themselves decide their goals. Meanwhile, to provide guidance and indirect control, Nintendo introduced a concept called “Gravity”, which states that different landmarks or objects will attract players in different ways (e.g. Sheikah Tower is an extremely tall glowing building, which attracts players greatly).

Gravity 1

And this “Gravity” will change accordingly depending on factors like the time in the game (e.g. shrines and stable will emit light at night time, making it more attractive to players), the player’s focus (e.g. exploring vs increasing the ability).

Gravity 2

Additionally, Nintendo strategically placed those attraction points such that whenever players reach a point that attracts them, other interesting landmarks or objects are placed nearby so that the player immediately gets another goal.

However, if those towers and shrines are placed on a flat surface, the process of going from one attraction point to another will become extremely linear and players will know that this has been deliberately designed, which will impact the player’s sense of freedom. This brings us to the next point: curiosity and indirect control.

Lens 6, 81: Curiosity & Indirect Control

To make the indirect control less obvious, Nintendo brings in many triangle shapes (mountain, hills, boulders, stable, etc.) to hide what’s behind. Players will be curious about the unknown behind those triangles, which propels them to move forward. Using triangle shapes, Nintendo introduced more variables and unknowns in the process of going from one attraction point to another, which can further spark players’ curiosity and makes the indirect control less obvious.

Triangle Shapes

With “Gravity” and triangle-shaped objects, players are not overwhelmed with goals and quests, and they deem that the choices of their goals are made by themselves, unaware of the indirect control cleverly inserted by Nintendo.


Overall, all four tetrad elements interrelate with each other harmoniously in BOTW. Nintendo hides many details of this splendid world. They won’t brag about their hard work and achievements in the game. Instead, Nintendo lets players decide their goals and their ways of uncovering secrets of this world. Perhaps that’s the reason why the BOTW community remains active and there are still new secrets about BOTW being discovered in 2022, 5 years from BOTW’s release date. Needless to say, BOTW excels at all four aspects of the tetrad, making it a true masterpiece.


Hades is a roguelike dungeon crawler game developed by Supergiant Games. In this game, we follow Zagreus, who is the son of Hades and is trying to escape the underworld. Similar to other games of the same genre, the floors in the underworld are randomly generated and enemies change every run. The game ends when Zargreus kills the final boss and escapes the underworld. Upon completion of certain goals or achievements, new types of content is unlocked.

The gameplay video can be seen here.

Elemental Tetrad
The goal of the game is very simple: make it to the end and defeat the final boss without dying. The main character can be either controlled using a keyboard and mouse or by using a controller. The game’s combat system is hack-and-slash. To get to the final boss and escape the underworld, the player has to traverse randomly generated rooms, collecting buffs called ‘boons’. Upon clearing a room, the player is offered the room’s rewards, which ranges from boons, weapon upgrades and more. However, these are only temporary and do not persist between runs.

The top-down isometric view gives enough space to admire the different environments, from the starting area to the multiple areas the player will eventually traverse through. Each area of the game has its unique design and theme which the enemies residing in the area also follow. Each character in the game also has detailed and distinct models that are clearly based on ancient Greek Mythology.

Initially, the game only provides the player a brief information about the story, that Zagreus would like to escape the underworld. However, as the player progresses through multiple runs, he will understand learn more about the entire underworld and be given more information about the main story. The other characters that appear also have their own backstories for us to learn about. The player would want to keep playing to learn not only about the main story but also the environment and the characters that the player can interact with.

Supergiant Games created a custom game engine specifically tailored for this game to boost performance and provide better cross platform support. This also provided them with more flexibility and control when designing the game. The game ran very smoothly when played on my desktop and I did not experience any lag.

The Lens of Meaningful Choices
As levels and rewards in the game were randomly generated, players have to make choices that can either affect their current run, or they can collect items that can be beneficial to their overall game progress outside of the current run. In addition, the player gets to customer his character’s skills and choose a weapon before beginning a run. All of these contribute to the choices the player can make which can impact his overall experience greatly.

The Lens of Challenge
When the player first starts the game, it will feel impossible to get to the end and he needs to familiarize himself with the controls and the different information that the game does not provide you at the very beginning. A new player will find enjoyment in the challenge to finally clear the game the first time. As the player progresses through and clears more runs, he will get the option to unlock an option to customise his runs even further. In that menu, he gets to choose among several options such as enemies doing more damage or having a strict time limit to their run. By choosing these difficulty settings, the player will get an indication of how hard their run is through the ‘heat’ indicator. Because of this, players will feel challenged and be motivated to play the game repeatedly, trying to increase their clears with higher heat values over time.

The Lens of Skill vs Chance
Again because each room is randomly generated, the player will not have the same experience twice. This also means that the player may not be given ideal combinations of boons per run, or may not be able to attain a certain upgrade that they were hoping to get. This makes it seem like the player may and be unable to complete a current run due to bad luck making the power level of his character feel less strong as compared to a different run. However, this game still relies on the fundamental mechanics that the player has, as the player still has to be proficient in dodging enemy attacks and attack when given the opportunity. The player also has choices with regards to his buffs and the rooms that he enters, and skilled players can try to make use of what they get to their advantage to turn an unfavorable run into a successful one.

The Lens of Surprise
At the start, the game is full of surprises as it does not provide you with any information, whether it be items, characters or the environment. The only information provided is the most basic controls and that Zagreus wishes to escape the underworld. Therefore, any experience from then on is considered a new experience. As the player progresses through the game, he is also given choices to unlock certain items that can impact the character without the game informing us on what the items are or do. Characters also evolve and act differently as the players play through the game.



Dishonored is a first-person stealth action game developed by Arkane Studios and released in 2012. In the game, the player controls the Empress’ bodyguard, out for revenge after being framed for her death. Each of the nine missions directs the player to achieve a specific objective but gives the player great freedom in how they choose to achieve it. This freedom, expressed in the level design as well as the tools given to the player, encourages exploration and experimentation to such an extent that much of the storytelling becomes emergent in nature, varying from player to player.

Lens 8: Problem Solving

The player surveys a number of patrolling guards.

Like most stealth games, each mission in Dishonored comprises numerous enemies whom the player must pass to accomplish their objective. The basic gameplay loop is thus 90% problem solving: the player is constantly analysing enemies’ patrol routes and determining the optimal timing and route to proceed without being detected. This loop of observe-plan-execute is immensely satisfying and occurs continuously throughout each mission, keeping the player engaged.

In order to keep the experience fresh, the designers also evolved this core loop throughout the game using two main methods: increasing the variety of enemies and increasing the types of tools and supernatural powers the player has at their disposal. For example, the very first encounter of the game arms the player with just a knife and tasks them with getting past three normal human beings. Later, the player is given the ability to teleport – but must contend with enemies who can teleport as well.

By evolving the enemies alongside the player and filling missions with enemies of progressively varying types, the designers kept the core problem-solving gameplay loop familiar yet fresh throughout the game.

Lens 79: Freedom

Some of the tools and powers at the player’s disposal.

While the game is full of problems to solve, it does not pigeonhole the player by giving single solutions for them. This is accomplished by providing the player with numerous tools and powers that are accommodated by the level design. For example, in one mission of the game, the player is tasked with infiltrating a bathhouse to eliminate two aristocratic brothers. To do this, the designers provide numerous possibilities: climb the building and sneak in through a window, teleport to the roof and enter through a private balcony, or even possess a fish and enter through the drainage system, to name a few. Each mission is rife with possibilities for progress, which speaks to the designers’ strong focus on player freedom.

Lens 6: Curiosity

The labyrinthine mission areas naturally lend themselves to exploration and the designers incentivize this by hiding clues everywhere, each of which can open up new ways for the player to accomplish their objective. However, the designers also went further in encouraging the player’s curiosity on a micro level. Due to how the player’s powers and weapons can interact with each other, the player can be highly inventive even when taking out a single enemy. One of the more well-known examples involves the following, ridiculously elaborate method:

  1. Summon a swarm of rats and stop time
  2. Attach a proximity mine to one of the rats and possess said rat
  3. Walk the rat into a group of enemies before exiting possession
  4. Move away and resume time – causing the mine to explode and kill all in the vicinity
Video containing the kill described above. Timestamp at 0:26.

The player could have just stabbed the target(s) from behind and moved on, but the fact that powers and weapons can be combined in such ways taps directly into the player’s curiosity, encouraging them to experiment with the game’s systems even when such experimentation is technically unnecessary. In the following video at 4:52, a player shows off by attaching a proximity mine to a severed head and using crossbow bolts to propel that head into a distant enemy – for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that it’s possible.

It’s not about why. It’s about: why not? Timestamp at 4:52.

Lens 7: Endogenous Value

The menu where players can spend the collectibles found throughout levels.

Aside from the main objective in each mission, the designers also scattered collectibles throughout the mission areas. These take the form of:

  1. Runes, which the player uses to upgrade their powers
  2. Bone charms, which provide passive bonuses such as faster movement or quicker strangling
  3. Money, which is used to upgrade the player’s more conventional weapons and gear

As can be seen, all the collectibles are tied directly into the player becoming more powerful and thus serve to expand options during play. This gives the collectibles huge endogenous value and incentivizes the player to acquire them in each mission. As a bonus, scattering them throughout the mission areas also helps push the player to explore said areas, feeding back into the lens of curiosity on a macro level.

Lens 9: Elemental Tetrad


After examining the game through the lenses above, it is clear that the game aims to provide maximum player freedom, be it on the macro level of accomplishing each mission’s objective or on the micro level of dealing with a single enemy. Every mechanic in the game, from the player’s highly interactive toolbox to the multi-faceted mission areas filled with a variety of enemies and empowering collectibles, exists to expand the possibilities of the core problem-solving gameplay loop.


The game was built with Unreal Engine 3, but it is less the engine and more what was written atop it that proved important. As an example, the elaborate kill mentioned in the Lens 4: Curiosity section above would not have been possible had the developers programmed the proximity mine to only attach to floors and walls instead of any generic surface. This jives with how the developers have mentioned that testers often found new ways to make the systems in their game interact in unexpected ways. Such emergent gameplay likely would not have been possible without some robust programming in place.


You’ve been framed!

The main overarching story involves the Empress’ bodyguard out for revenge after being framed for her murder. Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the game as, while functional, it is not particularly engaging. However, what helps to elevate it is that depending on the number of people the player kills, the narrative of the game diverges. Kill too many innocents and other characters react by becoming darker and crueller themselves. This system helps to add some replayability to the game, although the fact remains that the game’s chief strength still lies in the emergent narratives created by the player’s experimentation during play (as written about above).


Dishonored eschews realistic graphics for a more painterly style. The characters and environment are highly stylized and reminiscent of impressionist paintings. By utilizing stylized graphics instead of chasing realism, the game remains aesthetically pleasing even now, ten years after its original release. It also helps make the game less demanding to run.


Dishonored is a game that prioritizes player freedom and expression above all else. The analysis above, done through the lenses of game design, barely scratches the surface of the game’s many design elements. Nevertheless, it is still clear that the designers did their best to ensure each mechanic made the game as immersive as possible. Even a decade after release, it remains one of my favourite games simply for how much it excels on a design level.


OMORI is a critically acclaimed RPG game developed by OMOCAT released in 2020, taking inspiration from some of the bigger hits in the RPG world, inclucing titles such as Earthbound and Yume Nikki. It features psychological horror, with depictions of depression, anxiety and overcoming fears.

Image source:

OMORI features puzzles, battles and side quests in the overworld during navigation, which rewards the player with items, weapons and new skills to defeat tougher opponents.

Battles are turn-based, and opponents gradually become more tougher as the game progresses. A three-pointed emotion system is also introduced in battle, similar to that of Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Taking inspiration from the classic JRPGs, the player explores as OMORI along with three of his friends around the overworld, with the objective to find one of their friends who have mysteriously disappeared. As the story progresses, we learn more about the nature of HEADSPACE, the relations between the characters and the dark truth about the events and a forgotten past that occured in the story.

Image source:

The three major sections of the game have different color palettes, with one area having bright, contrasting and vibrant colors to give the impression of a dream world or paradise, one area having more muted colors to give the impression of loneliness and represent reality and the last area being dark, intense and glitchy to induce horror, anxiety and represent the darker elements of the human subconscious. The color palette also has an influence on the battle screen and some of the overworld mechanics as well.

Some portions of the game also integrates photographs of real-world objects and integrating it into the visuals in a pythonesque style to create a sense of surrelism and disjunction from the overworld.

Image source:

The game was developed in RPG Maker and prominently features 2D sprites, hand-drawn graphics and a not so complicated AI for enemies, not requiring powerful graphics card to run. The simplicity suits the game style especially when combined with the more surreal aesthetics of the game, such as on-screen glitches and the usage of images of real-world objects.


  • Curiosity: As the game progresses, the character’s dialogues slowly reveals bits and pieces of the storyline, which leads the user to connect the dots and keeps them on edge and making their own predictions about the past events, until the final reveal is depicted.
  • Endogenous Value: The game has traditional RPG mechanics where OMORI and friends battle enemies and bosses throughout their exploration, with them being tougher as the game progresses. They give rewards such as in-game currency and experience points, where they can level up and learn new skills to fight tougher opponents, and to buy items for healing or to aid them in battle.
  • Problem Solving: The battle mechanics include a three-pointed system with emotions as its theme, where it boosts or reduces the stats of either the characters or the enemies, including attack, defence, speed and luck. The player has to strategize with this mechanic to give themselves and edge over the enemies and bosses to win battles.
  • Freedom: Like most RPG games, OMORI has a mostly linear storyline, but the player gets to have some degree of freedom in navigating around the overworld to explore, gain more experience and levels and perform side-quests in other areas before progressing on the main storyline. This enables the player to learn more about the story, and also enables every player to have a slightly different experience of the game from others.

When I played the game in January 2021, I was just recovering from the experience of loss in my life. I had played games like Undertale and thought that OMORI would give off a similar experience. Throughout my playthrough it was clear just how much love was poured into the game and all the characters, and how much attention to detail was made to create an exceptional experience for the players. The characters, setting and themes truly resonated with me, and I found myself laughing, crying, symphatizing and loving all the characters present in that world. OMORI is not just a game, but a medium to tell a story true to its themes of adolescence, loss and overcoming fears, as well as inspire the player with its iconic and thematic question: “Waiting for something to happen?”

Super Kirby Clash

Game Analysis: Super Kirby Clash

Image source:

Super Kirby Clash is a free-to-play action game for Nintendo Switch. Kirby and his team must protect the Dream Kingdom by fighting in quests to defeat bosses. In each quest, players can choose to play solo (alongside AI characters) or multiplayer with friends. 

Game website:
Gameplay demo on Youtube: 

The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad (Lens 9)
– In the game, there is a storyline about Team Kirby being in the constant pursuit of the final boss. As certain levels are cleared, the story progresses along as the team moves to a new location to find the final boss.
– The story aspect is linear and quite straightforward, so it is not immersive for me. It does not add value to the gameplay of fighting bosses at individual quests. 

– The game is published for the Nintendo Switch. It supports local and online multiplayer gameplay, allowing the player to appreciate the cooperative aspect of the game when playing with others.

– The game is aesthetically pleasing with 3D graphics, and there are distinct soundtracks throughout the game, both of which keep me immersed in the gameplay. 
– Animations for fighting and gear are designed well and are very dynamic, which adds to the gaming experience.

– In each fight, there are four members in the team. Some members may be controlled by AI if there are not enough players. The members can fight as any of the four roles: Sword Hero, Hammer Lord, Beam Mage, or Doctor Healmore. Each role has unique mechanics for attack and defence. The first two roles are attacking roles. The Sword Hero fights with a sword and moves very quickly while the Hammer Lord uses a hammer with a very high attack but moves very slowly. The latter two roles are supporting roles. The Beam Mage can stop time and the Doctor heals the other members of the team. This allows every player to choose their preferred role to attack the boss and help the team to win.
– Although graphics appear 3D, the gameplay is mostly in 2D. Some bosses can move in 3D as well (jumping further away from or towards the screen), giving variety to the mechanics and making the game a unique experience.

Overall, the improved aesthetics and large range of mechanics work well with the relatively new technology, while following the main storyline. As such, the four elements work together to elevate my experience of playing the game.

The Lens of Essential Experience (Lens 2)
– The essential experience of the game is to fight alongside teammates and defeat the bosses. In the game, fighting can be varied through choosing different roles to play as, since each role has its own strengths and weaknesses.
– Different bosses also come with their own individual attacks, so fighting in each quest is slightly different from others. As new levels are unlocked, players also meet the same bosses again but with an increased difficulty level and more intense fighting mechanics.
– The variety in mechanics keeps the game interesting for players while they can still enjoy the core experience of fighting and defeating each boss successfully.

The Lens of Endogenous Value (Lens 7)
– Gem Apples are the main currency of the game and are the most valuable item to the players in the game. They can be used to upgrade gear which helps players level up and defeat stronger bosses.
– Initially, it is easy to earn Gem Apples by completing simple missions. As the game progresses, missions get more difficult, making it harder to earn Gem Apples. In addition, stronger gear becomes more expensive, so Gem Apples become more valuable to the players. Earning and spending Gem Apples serve as a motivation for people to continue playing the game.

The Lens of Problem Solving (Lens 8)
– Different bosses use distinct methods to attack the players, such as flying, jumping, rolling and more. In turn, the player must put together a team of four players that includes the best roles to defeat each boss. For instance, Sword Hero and Beam Mage are able to move very quickly and are best suited to fight enemies that fly, and it might be best to omit the Hammer Lord who moves slowly. Omitting some roles can potentially lead to a better result, which provides a strategizing aspect to the game.
– As the game progresses, the quests get more difficult. The player must find ways to increase their attack or defence, such as by upgrading gear. This problem-solving aspect allows players to feel even more accomplished when completing difficult levels.

The Lens of Time (Lens 27)
– Each quest has a time limit. If the players cannot defeat the boss within the time limit, they are considered to have failed the level. This encourages players to beat the bosses as quickly as possible, hence the time limit given makes gameplay more exciting. 
– The total length of time that the player spends on the game is also limited by the amount of energy that the player has. Energy is used up to start each quest and difficult quests take up more energy to play. Once the player’s energy has been depleted, it restores slowly over many hours. The player must wait for the energy level to rise again before they can continue playing. Having this system encourages the player to come back and play the game another day. 

The Lens of Visible Progress (Lens 55)
– At the end of each quest, the player earns EXP and can see their total EXP as well as the amount left before they are able to level up. This screen clearly shows visible progress to the player and encourages them to continue playing.
– During each quest, some dialogue appears when the opponent is almost defeated, and the opponent will be flashing red. This provides visible progress and gives players motivation to quickly defeat the boss.

The analysis of this game has allowed me to view games more closely through different lenses and see how various aspects contribute to the gaming experience of the player. Such insights will certainly be useful to the group project and we will be able to apply our understanding of the lenses to make our game enjoyable and fun.

Brawl Stars

What is Brawl Stars?

Brawl Star is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) and third person shooting game developed by Supercell. It was released worldwide on IOS and Android on December 12, 2018. It was nominated for BAFTA Games Award for EE Mobile Game of the Year 2019 and BAFTA Games Award for Mobile Game 2019.

Lens 9: Element Tetrad 


Game modes

Brawl Star provides various game modes with different objectives. Players can choose a brawler either long range or close range from his hero pools to play the game mode. The most interesting game mode for me is the brawl ball. Personally, I am a football lover. The objective is to defend your goal and score within time limit in a team of 3. The special thing about this mode is you can use skills to kill the defenders, break the walls or slow down the enemy.


Lunar New Year’s Theme

The aesthetics parts of the game are the themes and brawler skins. The themes are updated every 7 weeks with new lobby music and wallpaper. Every time a theme is updated, a new brawler and many theme related skin for brawlers are introduced. The theme I liked the most is the Lunar New Year theme. I loved the Lion Dance skin for Brock (a long-range brawler) very much. Basically, he is wearing a Chinese jacket and shoots enemy with fireworks.


The game mechanic is to earn box tokens while you play. After acquiring enough box tokens, you can open brawl boxes to farm coins and unlock new brawlers. Then, you can play more variety of brawlers and upgrade your brawlers’ HP and damage using coins. The stronger your brawler is, the higher chance you can win the battle.


It is a third person shooting game with isometric view. Isometric view also called pseudo-3D or 2.5D. It makes 2D looks like 3D, so that the shooting experience is more realistic and immersive.

Lens 43: Competition

Players queue with players who are using brawlers with the same trophy range. Winning a game earns trophies for the chosen brawler. These mean that novices and experts can meaningfully compete at the game. The higher trophy number you get, the more skillful you are. Club recruitment is based on the skillfulness of the player which is the total trophy number of all brawlers. This trophy system determines who is the most skilled and ensure that people strive to win the game.

There are global and local leaderboards showing player with the highest trophy.

Local leaderboards

Lens 47: Punishment

Due to the existence of trophy system, players are trying to avoid reducing trophies when they feel disadvantaged, for example leaving the game to avoid trophy reduction. In other games, this method will work and the match is considered free to leave. In Brawl Star, it “punishes” the team with disconnected player by applying trophy reduction to the losing team. This means that leaving the game halfway in a team gaming mode will give extra advantage to the enemy team.

Overview of Power League

Power League is a competitive mode by generating a random game mode and allow players to ban brawlers according to team strategy. There are penalties to the player who leaves the match after matchmaking. First level of penalty will be a warning. For subsequent disconnections, the level of penalties increases. Players will be banned from playing power league for specific amount of time and rank score will be decreased. These penalties seem fair by giving chances to players with connection issues and giving penalties to those who disconnected intentionally.

Lens 96: Friendship

Player can look for friends with similar trophy range. After winning a game, player can click “play again” with the same team if they are willing to. This can help pushing trophies more efficient. Players can add each other into the friend list after the game. Team formation becomes simpler using the invitation and chat function.

Play Again button

There is also a club recruitment feature to recruit players with similar trophy range. Club members can join Club League to fight for their club reputation and earn exclusive rewards.

Overview of Club League

Lens 27: Time

One game mode can have many kinds of maps. To show a loop of maps, every game mode is refreshed with new map every 24 hrs. Player can choose the more suitable brawlers to play in specific maps. Providing different combination of brawlers and maps give players a dynamic experience to try out different strategies.

In-game timer is applied to every game mode. The timer act as a decision for winner. When the timer runs out, the team who has the higher scores win. Depending on the game mode, the duration usually last for around 2 minutes. In solo showdown, there is a poison cloud which grows in from the edges of arena, forcing players to fight each other in a progressively small area. Each match in Brawl Star takes very short amount of time and the timer ensures that there is a conclusive result when the match ends.

Timer (heist mode) at the top middle


While playing the game myself, I did not notice there are so many elements/lenses that contribute to the gaming experience. It is a fun mobile game and I always feel very excited about the new things coming out every update, like new brawler, skins, game modes and maps. Do try it out if you are interested in mobile game.

League of Legends


League of Legends (LoL) is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) video game developed and published by Riot Games. The game contains many game modes, maps, the team size match-up can be 1-versus-1 to 5-versus-5, very customizable to fit your favor, number of friends. Every player can choose one champion from the ever-expanding roster of LoL champions to play in each match, each with unique appearance and playstyle. The game is available on PCs.

Link to game’s website:

Link to game play demo:

Lens #9: The lens of Elemental Tetrad


  • Team-based, customizable team size MOBA game (the most common is 5-versus-5) with various game modes (Blind, Draft, Rank, One for All, ARAM, URF).
  • Extensive champions, item choices with unique skills, effects in the game.
  • Various character interactions, counters, strategies available for players to discover, master, have fun with teammates.


  • The main aesthetics components are character skins concept art, map art, in-game character art.
  • The concept art of character skins has expressions, details of than in-game character art, but have the same human-based, clean, tidy, colorful style of art.
  • In-game characters is designed beautifully based on concept arts, but simpler and comes with beautiful unique ability animation, appearance based on skins.
  • Character skins has various theme, comes with wide range of colors, patterns, which is very visually appealing.
  • The game includes some fantastic famous music aesthetics created by Riots Games, also published as music video.
Concept are of a character in game


  • Riots have a story behind all characters and even a map of Runeterra (LoL world map) so all characters have relations with each other tightly.
  • They bring all characters from different regions to compete in this arena as a team.
  • They bring their characters beyond of their original story to make music video or bring their original story to a film series to advertise LoL beautiful world, characters, skins.
Reason film of Riots describing story of League of Legends characters


  • LoL have a very low hardware minimum requirements to make the game accessible to a wide range of audience.

Lens #1: The Lens of Emotion

  • Leagues of Legends makes me feel very excited when waiting for game searching, very happy, cheerful, amusing and addictive to the gameplay, animation, game flow, stressful when it is a close game. But this only happens in the ideal case.
  • There are so many cases when you face much stronger players or your team plays too bad, blames allies, trolls, abandons the games. This makes a very frustrated, disappointed emotion for other players.
  • Emotion is better when I play with friends, forming a full team, we can communicate better, encourage each other when losing, share the happiness when winning a close game.

Lens #4: The Lens of Surprise

  • Players/Teams can surprise each other by strategically setting up to kill enemies. This can happen because a player cannot have vision of the whole map, and enemies can appear suddenly from bushes, walls, lanes and with their skills.
Walls setup in a part of LoL Map
  • The game supports player to make surprise like these with such map design and they also continue to add more map and character interactions.
  • The player is sometimes surprised with a new game mode where everything is different, this is also partly based on player’s idea/suggestion.
  • But sometimes, surprise comes from bugs, strange interactions in the game, which is not intended. Links of YouTube channel that keeps revealing LoL bugs after every update:

Lens #32: The Lens of Goals

  • The optimal goal of this game for every team is to destroy enemy Nexus. But of course, enemy team will try to defend it.
Nexus in League of Legends
  • These results in many small goals/ big goals that your team must achieve before winning the game. List of goals includes getting gold by killing minions, enemies, destroy turrets, inhibitors, eating important objectives around the map. All of these are to help to make you stronger to kill enemy team and destroy the Nexus.
  • There is a good balance between short- and long-term goals throughout the game so sometimes the game ends so early but sometimes very late. And this all depends on the decision of players (character choices, playstyles, strategies). I think the goals of this game is very concise, balanced, entertaining for all players.

Lens #33: The Lens of Rules

  • For main mode of games, there are so many basic rules like: you will be hit by the enemy turret if you attack enemy inside turret range, … These small rules make the game more interesting.
  • Riots Games is also adding more rules for players with every new character, map objective introduced, which keeps players’ attention towards the game.
  • As mentioned above, the game also has many other game modes, where some rules are changed. This is introduced to cater for all players’ favors.
  • All the rules in the game is prone to change, to keep it interesting for all players. But for new players, these systems of rules take so much time to familiarize with them.
One For All mode where a team shares the same character

Lens #37: The Lens of Fairness

  • Theoretically, every team has the same chance of winning because of the same rosters of champions and number of members. However, there might be some factors affecting this.
  • Players from higher rank comes to lower rank (which is called smuff in LoL) to dominate other players. This is due to attitude of players.
  • Players takes advantage of tools, bugs and too strong characters in the game to win the game easier.
  • LoL tries to fix these with their frequent patches to fix bugs and balance characters in games. However, the fairness between 2 patches is still not guaranteed. But it is good news that Riots Games is still attempted to ensure the fairness of the game.
A description of League of Legends Patch


Although the game still has many bugs, problems, Riots Games still listening to players’ feedback, developing and improving the game. League of Legends has been and will be a successful MOBA game with its player community spread around the world.


Arknights is a fantasy themed real-time strategy tower-defence RPG mobile game. You play as the Doctor of Rhodes Island, a pharmaceutical company fighting against the spread of a deadly infection while protecting the peoples hit by said infection and the strife it brings.

The in-game homepage

Over the course of the game, you will recruit new operators (characters) by means of a gacha system, power them up, and send them on increasingly complex missions. The game is set in a sprawling universe experienced through the extensive main campaign and the constant supply of events and side stories that drop approximately monthly. It is so vast that the exposition and dialogue can be rather overwhelming at times, especially for those who haven’t the time to diligently read through them. Arknights also includes an element of base building, albeit smaller in scale and significance, that adds another layer of optimization for those who enjoy it.

A Contingency Contract level, one of the hardest content in Arknights

The Elemental Tetrad


The mechanics of Arknights follows the standard gameplay of most tower-defence games. You are presented a map in which enemies spawn from certain defined spawn points and head towards certain defined goal points. You prepare a set of units you wish to use for that level and place them on the map to prevent the enemies from reaching the goal(s). Variety in gameplay then stems from enemy and player unit variations, map design, map terrain and environmental effects.


The linear narrative in Arknights follows the mission of Rhodes Island as it strives to cure and protect those affected by the infection. As one of the main themes of this game is fighting to protect those who cannot fight for themselves, the story blends exceedingly well with the mechanics of a tower-defence game.

A level where protecting fleeing civilians (top left most sprite) is a win condition


Arknights has a vast array of maps and locales, each bringing forth the feel and theme of the areas each set of missions occur in, not to mention the background art featured during story beats. This is only topped by the mind-boggling number of playable operators, 210 on the global server, all equipped with art, animation and voice lines that reflect not only their personality but also their affiliations, home towns, history and more. These aesthetics presented help make the universe feel that much more lived in and increases the immersion of the story, as well as the investment of the player.


Arknights was developed in Unity for iOS and Android. The load of real-time graphics is not particularly heavy and any cutscenes are pre-rendered. A mobile platform is more than enough to present the game’s narrative and gameplay, while maintaining the ability to be played almost anywhere and anytime.

Lens #3: The Lens of Fun

If it wasn’t already plainly evident, I enjoy Arknights. I find this game fun. Why? Well personally I enjoy the sense of progression, not just when I progress the story or clear a hard level but also and especially when I see the characters I spent time and effort developing perform well.

A portion of my roster of max leveled characters

The sense of continuity and growth definitely increases the enjoyment of many games that incorporate it and this is one of my main pull factors of Arknights.

Lens #74: The Lens of the World

As previously mentioned, the world of Arknights is set in a sprawling universe filled with nations and organizations all striving to attain their individual goals and yet inextricably intertwined with each other. The stories explored fill the world with events and relationships while the art and aesthetics bring them to life. The player is thrust into a beautiful world of fantasy and magic and yet simultaneously a cruel world of war, strife and disease. This world of Arknights may not strictly be better than ours on all accounts but it surely is different, and interestingly so.

Lens #6: The Lens of Problem Solving

Arknights is a tower-defence game, which is a puzzle game at its heart. The map, environment, number of enemies, their spawn times and the route they take are all fixed for each level. The player is then asked to use the tools they have, in this case the operators they’ve raised, and solve the puzzle. At higher levels of play, this requires immaculate planning of unit choice, placement location and timing and more. Boss stages also frequently have a gimmick or three that the player must learn and plan around if they are to achieve victory.

An example boss fight with mechanics dealing with each unit’s defence stat.

Lens #31: The Lens of Challenge

As expected, a game like Arknights can get pretty challenging at times. New locales bring new maps and new enemies and almost always introduce new mechanics to the game. These can all merge together to form a rather complex and difficult puzzle to solve, especially in the end game content the Contingency Contract levels. These are stages where the players can pick contracts that limit the power of their units and/or increase the strength of the enemies. While aiming for absurdly high Risk, the difficulty counter for Contingency Contract levels, is completely optional and provides no reward nor achievement, many players still strive for as high a Risk clear as they can. I feel this is very well designed as lower level players are not losing out by being unable to clear high Risk and yet the option still exists for end game players to show off their units and strategies.

An example Contingency Contract Risk 32 clear (rewards are given only until Risk 18)


This game has arguably taken up too much of my time, and truth be told I am very far behind on reading the narrative. But personally, it is the art and the gameplay itself that draws me back time and time again. And I am sure that if I had the time to give the story justice, The Lens of Story would be here as well.