Bips is a new Facebook game produced by Denki but wholly developed by Denki alumni at Ludometrics. The game was originally prototyped by veteran Scottish developer DMA Design (now Rockstar North, best known for the Grand Theft Auto series) back in the late ’90s, when it was known as Faster Worm Slow, and was subsequently released on interactive TV services by Denki. The new version is intended as a “21st century arcade game” — a title with retro sensibilities inspired by the games of the ’80s and ’90s, but with what Ludometrics refers to as “modern attributes.”
Bips’ gameplay is extremely simple. Players take control of a tiny dot that continuously moves at 45 degrees to the horizontal, either up and left or up and right. Pressing and holding the space bar causes the dot to reverse its vertical direction, and bumping into yellow walls at the edge of the screen causes it to reverse its horizontal direction. The aim of the game in each level is simply to collect all the sparkling dots in an attempt to score as many points as possible. Much like the classic mobile phone game Snake, a trail behind the player gets gradually longer as they continue to survive, but unlike Snake there is no means of crashing into your own tail.
As the player progresses through the levels, more and more obstacles start to appear. Initially, the player may only fail by bumping into the red walls at the top and bottom of the screen, but gradually special “block” enemies make an appearance. Initially, these are static “blockers” that simply sit in place and provide static obstacles, but later types continuously move up and down or chase the player when they get close.
The player can increase their scoring potential in several ways — they can collect golden sparkling dots to increase their score multiplier and, once they appear, they may use the on-screen “+” and “-” icons in the level to speed up or slow down their dot and gain a corresponding increase or decrease in multiplier for the modified difficulty.
Monetization is handled extremely simply. The game costs virtual tokens to start a new game, continue a game from the point at which the player failed or to “save” the game’s progress at the point where the player failed to continue later. Tokens may be sent to friends on the player’s leaderboard or purchased using Facebook credits — in a nice touch paying homage to the game’s pretensions of being an arcade game, the cost of a single token is a quarter, though the minimum amount that may be purchased at once is $1 worth.
Social features are limited to a weekly tournament in which players can see how their best score stacks up against their friends who are playing the game and the global competition. Players may also post their scores to their Timeline upon completion of a game. The game’s main menu also offers players the ability to track their play statistics, including their best ever score, best, worst and average score per token, total play time and average time per match — though the latter two options did not work correctly at the time of writing, listing play time as zero even after a fairly lengthy session. The game is still in beta, however, so it’s likely this issue has already been spotted and is being worked on.
Bips is an excellent game that is simple to understand, enormously addictive and a lot of fun. The game’s “arcade-style” sensibilities mean that its play-throttling monetization doesn’t feel out of place, and the compelling nature of the deceptively straightforward gameplay means there are likely to be plenty of players happy to keep feeding in virtual quarters. The game doesn’t clutter itself up with unnecessary features like experience levels, unlockable content or vanity items — it’s a simple, pure, authentically arcade-like experience that older players in particular are likely to respond well to. Its one-button gameplay would also make it ideally suited to a mobile port at some point down the line, but it seems Denki is keen to observe how players respond to this Facebook version first.
An excellent, addictive, authentically arcade-style game that will happily drain players of their virtual quarters.