This year's Dare to be Digital competition by Abertay University saw game developer students compete to create some games and get their names out there in the development community. One arm of the competition was to make games to be played on Wacom's Bamboo interactive tablets that are usually used to draw graphics and illustrations on computers. Here's a look at the three winners from that competition.
Using the pen on the tablet (pictured at the top of this article) you must draw lines or dots on the screen for the balls to run along or bounce on in order to reach the jar. The jar must be filled to a certain level to unlock the next stage. You only have a limited amount of ink to draw on the page which is where the main challenge lies. The drawing is all done before you press the Play button which will drop the balls onto the page while you watch hopefully.
You don't have to get all the balls in the jar, just enough to reach the line marked on the side of it, although later stages will demand all of them. Some stages only give you a tiny amount of ink to get the balls traversing such a large area of open space. You'll need to make tiny platforms exactly underneath where a ball will land. You can undo any mistakes before you press the Play button. However, you can't go back from there if it goes wrong with some lines while others were perfectly placed, you'll just have to remember where the good ones were next time. There are some stages were you'll be concentrating on a long line so much, you'll miss a tiny bump much earlier that means the ball won't even get that far.
It can be very cruel, Stage 8 was a particular swine. But when you do finally crack a tough stage it's a great feeling. Stage 13 might prove the last straw for many players, but with the final stage 15 in sight, you'll desperately want to finish. 15 levels might not sound like much, but trust me, they'll last long enough.
The Bamboo tablet is good for drawing straight lines which can be difficult with a laptop's trackpad. There are occasionally a few instances where you have to keep retrying to draw a line as the game refuses to recognise the input. This happened using both the mouse and the pen, so it's not a hardware fault. On a couple of occasions a ball would get stuck between two pieces of scenery even though there was a small gap either side of it. It was consistent with it though, so you'd know to seek an alternative route.
While it's not a two-player game par se, it can be enjoyed with friends, by taking turns or making helpful suggestions. Also, having someone else next to you will put you off having a rage and putting your fist through the monitor when a ball grinds to a halt on another flat surface.
Often infuriating, but utterly compelling as you slowly work out how to manipulate the physics of ball bounces and rolling momentum with accurately placed pen strokes. Easily the most original title of the three and it offers the sternest challenge too.
This is less a game and more an attempted tattoo artist simulator. Without the potential threat of infection. Using the pen you trace a line around the outline design on a client's back. The amount of pressure you apply to the pad is represented on screen by how thick your lines are and also by how sore the skin looks! For the most part your actions with the pen are well-represented. Unfortunately you have to constantly top up your ink with the little pot at the side (on-screen), which makes things pretty dull, pretty fast.
The 'game' on offer just gives you numerous outlines to follow with little incentive to do anything well or quickly. Another mode lets you draw your own outlines, which you can then save and use later on in the colouring mode where you actually fill in the tattoos, like a colouring book. Strangely, you can't fill in any of the cool-looking outlines from the other mode, just your own cack-handed efforts. Hello Mr. Beckham, I'm the new guy, I can only do toy cars.
The lack of any sort of scoring system or ability to colour in ready-made shapes, means this will only be of interest to artistic types, who will be much better off using the illustration software they probably already own if they have a device like this.
Out of the three games this is the easiest to grasp and has the potential to go on to become a big seller, especially if it's ported to devices like the iPhone. You need to serve three customers at a restaurant from a conveyor belt of dishes. You're told what they want via a comic book-style thought bubble above their heads.
Rather than pick up and drag the items over to the table, you're encouraged to flick them towards the patron using the Bamboo's pen. Initially you might see the dishes landing short or flying past them, but soon enough you'll be flinging them with perfect precision. The tablet works really well in this game tracking your motions with ease. Dim'Licious can be played with a mouse but it can't compete with the effectiveness of the pen's flicks.
It'll become a one-more-go obsession as you try and beat your score. There aren't any online leaderboards. The regular mode has you sorting orders for three tables, while the expert has five of them and an even faster conveyor belt. There's not much else to it, but the time that the game will soak up speaks for itself.
These games are all available for free on the Bamboo dock which comes installed with all Bamboo interactive tablets. Have a look at the Bamboo site here.