Wellspring Of Gaming

I got turned on to this DIY videogame at the office this week called Ballpoint Universe. The totally awesome, spacious, and subtle soundtrack was composed by Nicholas Minniti, a 2008 Chico State Graduate with a degree in Music Industry & Technology.

Ballpoint Universe is one part sidescroller platform game, most other parts sidescrolling space shooter. You walk around talking to villagers and learning the lore of the game until you find a villager with a mission. Then it’s up into your spaceship to shoot down hella bad guys.

The real point of this game lies within the title; every single thing you see in the game has been hand-drawn with ballpoint pen on white lined paper, cut out, and then scanned into the computer. I know it sounds kind of cool, but when you’re actually in the world moving around you realize it’s really fucking cool. It’s a huge, fun, pop-up book stretching backward and forward, up and down in three dimensions, with every paper-thin piece of scenery swaying gently in the virtual breeze.

The bulk of the game is in the space-shooter levels, which I found super hard. However, after a couple of hours playing I got way better, and the levels revealed even more artistic genius.

There’s a forest level filled with floating tree saplings (that will kill you), cute owls (that will kill you), and tree saplings with guns. You gotta watch out for those ones, ‘cause they’ll try to kill you. There’s a ruined castle level where huge hand-drawn chunks of castle form a floating, rotating maze for you to navigate while ships with guns try to kill you.

Nearly every space shooter mission has a cool, paper-cutout boss with multiple moving paper parts for you to shoot at. Some of them are stupid hard, flying in hella fast from the edge of the screen to slice your paper starship with a huge paper sword. Other bosses are much more relaxed about you shooting at them; I think those were just made to be looked at.

The spaceship is its own ever-changing creation. The more you explore and the more shit you destroy, the more modifications you add to your ship. In the beginning you fly a modest pyramid-shaped thing with little paper triangles floating around it serving as wings. As the gaming hours add up, your ship becomes a strange and beautiful origami destroyer.

This game is a wellspring of inspiration and creativity, and it’s quite addictive. I’m not sure if it’s officially out yet or not, but the free demo is at bp.donthackmywebsite.com. The link is safe, I promise.

Howl is a biweekly arts primer whose intention is to showcase the artists of our wonderful area. Email me with information about your project (all media welcome!), and you’ll get published.

Photo grabbed from www.arachnidgames.com/blog/

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Howl was born in the wastes north of Hithlum, where only beasts and witches dare roam. He was raised by two old hags, Tabby and Wiles, who had an unhealthy fascination towards the literary arts. Howl now resides in a well-furnished cave off South Rim Trail, complete with an old iBook and Wi-Fi.