Five commercial games

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Exclusive delights

The Ubuntu Software Center provides some exclusive game titles that are not yet commercially available or on the Internet. We take a look at five especially interesting games from different genres.

Despite a persistent myth to the contrary, Linux users are totally okay with spending some money on programs, especially when it comes to games. And, Ubuntu users are lucky: They don't need to do any cumbersome downloads from project websites or distributors, such as Desura [1]. They can order games directly off the integrated Software Center. As if that were not enough, some of the games are created exclusively for Ubuntu. At the time of writing, you can get, among others, Bit.Trip Beat, a skill game; Fieldrunners, a strategy game; the Psychonauts jump-and-run game; the Splice puzzle game; and the Torchlight role-playing game.

Bit.Trip Beat

In Bit.Trip Beat, the player needs to strike at incoming beats with a paddle. It sounds monotonous and boring, but you soon find yourself breaking a sweat as the beats relentlessly come at you from every angle or change direction midstream (Figure 1). Later, special beats cause the paddle to shrink or split into two, with two parallel streams of beats. Bit.Trip Beat also gradually ups the tempo and increasingly distracts you with its moving outer space background.

Figure 1: In Bit.Trip Beat, you need to repel the speedily oncoming beats (here in yellow) coming from the right. The graphics are more impressive when seen in motion.

Bit.Trip Beat

Developer: Gaijin Games
Cost: About US$ 8
Age rating: Not rated by ESRB
Requirements: Current Linux distributions with activated 3D graphics, 2GHz processor, 512MB RAM
Figure 2: Bit.Trip Beat: The bar at the bottom grows with each missed beat. Once it reaches the end, you enter a probationary period.


In Fieldrunners, heavily armed villains run from left to right through a small forest clearing. With skillful construction of defense towers (turrets), you try to prevent the scoundrels from reaching the right side of the screen. If more than 20 villains get through, the game is over.

Unfortunately, the enemy arrives in ever-increasing waves, and marching soldiers are later joined by other units such as motorcycles and airplanes. Consequently, you need to build more and more turrets, which you pay for with opponents you shoot down (Figure 3). Other mowed-down opponents provide additional points.

Figure 3: Fieldrunners: Build defense turrets to ward off the approaching red army. The green circle shows the active radius of a turret gun.

Turrets come in four types with different strengths and weaknesses. The machine gun fires only when an opponent is nearby and causes relatively little damage, whereas a rocket launcher has a larger range (Figure 4). The flash generator can maim with electric shocks from the rear, and a slime thrower can slow down the enemy. Ideally, you would use the slime thrower first and then pelt the enemy with rockets from the rear while the machine guns do their job at the front.

Figure 4: Soldiers need to circumvent turrets; helicopters can simply fly straight overhead.

Various game modes provide some variety. You can select different battlefields, such as deserts or icy landscapes. With different terrains come different attacks, with soldiers advancing from other directions. On some maps, you also get different or additional turret types, such as ice streamers. Extended mode provides even more turret types, including flamethrowers. In perpetual game mode, attacks never cease, whereas normal games are usually over after 100 attacks. The three difficulty levels will satisfy beginners, advanced users, and experts.

CONCLUSION: Fieldrunners is a clone of the classic Plants vs. Zombies game [2], although its 3D graphics are more serious and military-looking. Even though it has only relatively few turret types for a strategy game, it still allows for sophisticated tactics. Fieldrunners is easy to learn and the difficulty levels increase at a good rate. Bottom line is that Fieldrunners is a nice tower defense game for short breaks or lunchtime.


Developer: Subatomic Studios
Cost: About US$ 5
Age rating: Not rated by ESRB
Requirements: Current Linux distributions with activated 3D graphics, minimum 1.6GHz processor, 512MB RAM

CONCLUSION: You need fast fingers and good reaction time for Bit.Trip Beat. If you've seen the game only in photos or videos, you'll hardly believe how motivating and habit-forming it can be. A big factor is the background music that adapts to each game situation. You soon find yourself in infamous "just-one-more-try" mode. Because of its quick transitions to more difficult levels, Bit.Trip Beat can also be a bit frustrating.

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