Disclosure ‐ This copy of Expander was kindly provided to us by the developers, All Civilised Planets.
What gets longer and higher when play with it? That’s right! Your bar in Expander!
Developed by All Civilized Planets as part of the Ludum Dare #26, Expander was designed around the idea of minimalism. It is a semi-rhythmic game based on collecting tokens from the edges of a track, only made accessible by stretching and shrinking, raising and lowering your bar. So just how well does this game transition from Ludum Dare concept to retail release…
Expander is built on a very simple platform. You are the bar in the centre of the screen. You move along at a constant rate, controlling your width and level, with the aim of picking up points along the way while dodging obstacles and walls. Occasionally the game will rotate the map so that you are looking at it from a different angle. There is little much else to this game.
The map appears to be semi-randomly generated and is built from prefabricated sections. There only seems to be a very limited number of sections and as such it does get repetitive extremely quickly. There are daily challenges which appear to change the course you are playing with the goal of competing against other people in the world in addition to a global leader board which lets you know where you stand against the world with your best time.
Graphically this game is quite polished. It does look pretty, it is only as complex as the gameplay required. There are some things that I did notice however that were rather off putting. Changing between the upper track and the lower track is an instant change, it feels out of character with the rest of the game. There is no feeling of genuine movement in depth. This also make navigating the hitboxes for the walls and the on-track obstacles somewhat more tedious. There were many times when I was playing where I would hit a wall or a box and it was because I was predicting where I should be. The instant movement hindered the natural feeling of input vs response.
This tempo based dodge and grab style game is not all that uncommon, Audiosurf for example, does this extremely well. However, If you removed the music from Audiosurf it would become a very droll experience. The music the developers chose is quite poor. It doesn’t create the energy this game needs to be good. The rate you travel and the tempo of the music does not match, it is such a dull experience.
Ludum Dare has been the spawning point for many great games. It has provided a templates and foundations for games that might not otherwise be made. It is important for developers to remember, that really, these create only the basis for a new game. To take them to release is another thing all together.
I think that this game has fallen into the trap of showing how something can be done without actually then taking it through production correctly. It needs more depth, it needs more action and in general I think it needs more oomph. Further testing or development might have shown that this idea was not actually enough to make a game from. As it stands I certainly cannot recommend spending money on it.