Have you ever wanted to be a game developer? Well, that’s kind of what’s happening with Please be nice :(, a freeware game from Aran Koning & Friends. You go to the website and download the current edition of the game, then try to be the first person to complete the most recently added level. Your prize? You get to determine a feature which will be included in the next level!
The catch is, as the name suggests, whatever you ask them to include must be nice. Nothing mean. Nothing potentially damaging. Just nice, silly things, like monkeys or giant butterflies or ponies. Or a monkey-pony with butterfly wings. Or a cheese sandwich.
Although my test was performed on a slightly outdated version, which had already been beaten, I forged ahead. I started out laughing straightaway when asked to choose my avatar; options include various small blue birds, what looks to be a Pokemon, or Nicolas Cage. I chose Nic. You then select a gun, although what benefits the different guns have, I haven’t quite worked out.
The title of Please be nice :( may seem like a bit of a misnomer, and perhaps that’s why the frowny face is part of the name. The absolute most basic premise is a very simple one – use the arrow keys to make your way to the checkerboard in the lower right corner of the screen, which is your passageway to the next level. Complicating this are two things: One is a selection of blue birds and flying pigs, who apparently adore you and want to be near you while randomly shouting Japanese phrases. The other is a series of floating pointed bombs, which explode whenever they come into contact with you, the pigs, or the birds.
You’ve probably already guessed what you have to do: Turn the piggy and birdy love in your favor by luring them near a bomb, then darting away quickly so you won’t be caught in the explosion. This can also cause nearby walls to detonate, which can make your path to the checkerboard clearer – but can also make it easier for the surviving bombs to get to you.
Along the way, you’ll also be collecting stars. The stars and the fast-moving timer seem to be the only way of keeping score in the game. The stars are quite challenging to acquire, as they are in obscure parts of the level; more than once I reached the checkerboard only to realize that I’d completely overlooked the star.
It’s not a perfect game; the background graphics are mostly simplistic, like something from an Atari game, which make Nicolas, the birds, and the pigs look almost jarringly high-definition by comparison. Also, animations in the background look rather like traveling through space or time, and these can be a little distracting. It takes a little time to get used to the controls. The music is appropriate for the fast pace of the game, but rather loud, and can get tiresome if it’s not to your taste; it certainly wasn’t to mine. Fortunately, you have the option to shut it off if you prefer. It does require a fair bit of trial and error in each level to figure out the best path to your destination, so expect to be blown up… a lot. The prospect of user-contributed content is clever, and makes for a great hook to bring players back every time it updates, while the race to be the first to complete a level and thus add to the design of the next is alluring.
Free to play, Please be nice :( is an interesting way to pass a rainy afternoon. Follow the developer on Twitter for updates and announcements.