Flash Bang: Nitrome

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Nitrome

[This is the first in a series of articles profiling some of the game developers in Flash – and their games – that you need to know about.]

Where to start? When talking about Flash games, there is a lot one can assume. The Flash platform isn’t exactly a pyramid – you can’t simply point in a direction and say: “There’s the big-budget stuff”. There is no area called triple-A, indie, casual or mobile. Sure, you get big games, but they are flashes in the pan (no pun intended). As development teams get better, they make better games and they build a following. In turn, they rely on the growth and reputations of the Flash hub sites. In a way these are publishers. They draw the big traffic numbers and make their cash off ads. A big game is a big draw and means lots of ad spend. That stews a real natural selection, or in the lyrics of Billy Joel: “You will forget my name and I won’t be here in another year if I don’t stay on the charts.”

So there is no hierarchy beyond a developer or site’s reputation. The hubs themselves form little galaxies. The users on Newgrounds , Kongregate and Candystand tend to have very different tastes on what the hot game of the moment is. There’s no real censorship, other than what those communities impose. But you would have to make something devastatingly cruel to attract the same mainstream media ire that, say, GTA’s Hot Coffee scandal did. Yet a hugely successful flash game might easily reach an audience rivalling a GTA-esque 15 million-plus. Flash games are rarely exclusive and they hover on a lot of different sites (that’s also why Flash developers don’t make Rockstar-esque money). The Flash universe is broad, extends in every direction and driven by passion.

wormfood

But what would a good universe be without a few anomalies? Nitrome is as much a part of the struggling developer process as everyone else, but it does a few things differently. Practically a Flash hub, it focuses nearly exclusively on its own work and rarely lets other sites host its games. All that makes it the ideal candidate to kickstart this series, because Nitrome is known for its cutting-edge, entertaining and gorgeous games, which you can only see at its site.

chisel

Made by a bunch of students who were initially looking at making mobile games, it has grown to prominence with a signature art style and some really creative titles. When playing a Nitrome game, you can expect at least a clever twist on a familiar genre, but often something well outside what the rest are doing.

In the Chisel games you jump head-first into a planet to reduce its size and hit your quota of terra-destruction. Test Subject Blue and Green are clever platform puzzle games involving teleporting enzymes (that are armed). Worm Food  hands the world something it has wanted since Tremors: control of a giant man-eating earthworm-like monster. Or you can rescue vikings in the ice-cutting puzzle game IceBreaker. Other highlights include Onekey, Final Ninja , Tiny Castle and Fault Line.

steamlands

Nitrome’s latest new IP is Steamlands, a side-scrolling real-time strategy game where you grab blocks and weapons off a wasteland to construct an impromptu mobile fortress that makes Howl’s Magic Castle look like Bauhaus architecture. It’s the new poster-child that shows why Nitrome is at the top of its game and can get away with holding onto its own universe instead of joining other Flash hubs: flashy, original, easy to understand and brilliant to play.

Last Updated: May 12, 2011

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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