SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft's pride in its XNA development tools was easily noticed at this year's GDC, and we've been able to check out a number of the easygoing delights that have resulted from their use by creative developers. The latest is Little Gamers, a 2D side-scroller that lets game players play the role of the webcomic's characters. In this case, the big-headed gamers also wield chainsaws, shotguns, and rocket launchers.
The game's irreverence is apparent right off the bat. The first level features Mr. Madsen, proportioned to look like a Fisher-Price miniature figure, knifing hippies in a dorm. But it is it ever really that simple? You don't just use a knife, after all: You've got your bare hands, a baseball bat, and the appropriately named poking stick available to you. You've also got a pot of coffee as a power-up, and if you activate it, the screen goes blood red and you're on a rampage. According to Madsen, he read somewhere that caffeine makes you violent, and as far as Little Gamers is concerned, if you read it, it must be true.
The end-level boss didn't put up much of a struggle, though his poking stick did some damage. In the end, our baseball bat reigned supreme, and we next trudged through a zombie-laden cemetery and managed to grab some new weapons, to boot. Soon, our available inventory included shotguns, machine guns, pistols, a chainsaw, and a rocket launcher. The chainsaw was the most gleefully enjoyable weapon, and even our onscreen character counterpart cried "woot" to express his joy.
Subsequent levels included a typical building-climbing level, with enemies shooting at us from above and below, and a mech level, in which we were represented by a bazooka-wielding mechanical juggernaut. This level wasn't as challenging as the prior one, though the game tries to trip you up by sending in enemies from behind and in front, and their EMP rifles brought us down fast if they made contact. The end boss was another mech piloted by a rival gamer wearing a camouflage cap. Thanks to some well-timed jumps and our handy built-in bazooka, we managed to take him down.
Other levels include a Ninja Gaiden-inspired battle, complete with Eastern-themed music and shurikens. Along the way we encountered power-ups such as beer, which slows everything down to a crawl, and flowers, which destroy everything on the screen (so much for daisy petals maintaining an image of pacifism!) As you can guess, Little Gamers manages to be both hysterical and surprisingly enjoyable in it simplicity. We'll bring you more news on this charming little game as it develops.