TIC

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by RedCandy Games for Xbox 360, originally released in 2011.
In the introduction to TIC: Part 1, we learn that an oil-rich planet has come under attack from the interplanetary EvilCorp – comprised of evil capitalist mining robots – with a mission to drain the planet of its most valuable resource. The peaceful Molepeople who once watched over the land are forced underground by the attackers, and it is up to an industrial robot named Tic to save the day.

Tic is a somewhat odd-looking machine. He has a smokestack on top, a drill for an arm, and he rides around on a single wheel like a unicycle. He also has a flip-top head from which a helicopter blade emerges, giving him the ability to fly around for a limited time.

From the start of the game, you can roll freely around the environment, and Tic’s movement speed is quite fast. This speed is further emphasized by the depth of the playing field and multiple layers of parallax, with objects extending well into the foreground, which go whizzing past as you move.

You do not have a traditional platforming jump but rather a helicopter blade. Use of the propeller is governed by the energy meter in the lower left of the screen. The further you fly, the more the meter will drain, and if you run out of power, you’ll fall back down to the ground. You do not have free control of your movement in the air; rather you press the trigger to throttle up and let off to fall back down, and you’ll need to balance this carefully if you’re attempting to travel in a long straight line, which tends to make your flight path a bit wobbly. In the overworld sections of the game, you don’t have to worry about it too much, since the energy meter simply limits how high and how far you can fly, but there are numerous sky-based sections that require you to strictly manage your limited energy.



Each of the game’s 3 chapters is comprised of a single large environment that has ground-based sections, flying sections, and underground sections. On the ground, you’ll spend much of your time dashing through fields of sunflowers while you dodge choreographed sets of drill-based enemies that drill up out of the ground and fly up into the air. Spread throughout the environment are acorns, which appear in red, silver, and gold varieties. Gold acorns are there for collecting purposes only, while silver can be used to pay off a couple of NPC’s, and each silver acorn restores one of your three available units of health.



Red acorns give you a nice speed boost when you are moving along the ground, allowing you to dash under rows of enemies. But the red acorns also restore some of your energy meter. At first, you’ll just be using them to get a bit of extra distance when flying, but eventually, you’ll be relying on them to keep you aloft during extended flying sequences.



Each level has a cluster of red acorns that appear in the shape of an arrow pointing up. By flying up through these acorns, you will find a platform that you can land on, and from there, you will move from one platform to the next while dodging flying drills. Your limited flight time is sometimes enough to get you from one platform to the next, but often you’ll need to maneuver yourself to collect floating red acorns along the way, which will keep you from running out of energy and falling off the bottom of the screen. Fortunately, you won’t fall back down to the ground, but you will be destroyed and respawn on a recent platform.

The structure of each chapter is the same… You start out on the overworld, and you need to collect a certain number of silver acorns in the overworld and sky-based sections in order to use your drill, which allows you to get down into the underworld.



Drillable areas are represented by loose ground, and you’ll be able to drill through horizontal sections of earth, and then drop down through shafts until you reach the underworld. There, you will find caverns filled with stalactites, strange vines, and even more drill-based enemies. The underworld is a mix of areas where you can roll around freely and areas where you must manage your limited flying ability to get through caverns without touching the ground (and preferably without hitting enemies).



You’ll also find the underground village of the Molepeople, as well as EvilCorp’s machinery that is sucking the oil out of the planet. Your ultimate goal in each level is to destroy these machines. Once you infiltrate the area, you’ll need to dodge your way through pumping pistons until you reach the engine pipeline. Drill your way through it, and the machinery stops. Pistons stop pumping, and the rig on the surface of the planet becomes still, allowing you to jump over it and continue on to the next section.



Once you complete a level, you are free to replay it in standard mode and to hunt for any remaining silver or gold acorns, or you can play one of three challenge modes. Two of these modes are just variations on your original playthrough, with one tasking you to complete the level without dying, and the other pitting you against a countdown timer. The other mode, however, is entirely flight-based.

In the flying challenge, you have to collect 100 silver acorns without being killed by enemies or falling off the screen. For every 25 silver acorns you collect, you regain one unit of health, which gives you a bit of leeway when dealing with the enemies, but you have to balance that with keeping your energy meter charged so that you can stay in the air.



There are long stretches without platforms, so you must rely on a steady stream of red acorn collection to stay aloft. Since you must collect every silver acorn, you must be precise and efficient in your movements; otherwise, you’ll fall of the bottom of the screen and die instantly. There are even a couple of areas where you may need to re-use a red acorn to give yourself enough air-time. Red acorns become inactive for a few seconds after you touch them, which means that you could hit one, bounce to another, and then return to the first for an additional boost. By the time you reach the end of the challenge, you’ll be facing multiple rows of silver acorns, interspersed with red acorns and enemies, with no platforms in sight. You’ll need to make quick adjustments to the throttle, alternate between acorn types, and try not to panic.



From a production standpoint, the different themed areas are very visually appealing. You are introduced to a colorful overworld filled with white picket fences, sunflowers, trees, puffy clouds, and beams of sunlight. Even the drills that are sucking the life out of the planet are attractively designed. Flight sections feature ethereal sky-scapes set before a moon and stars, with little glowing floaties all around. And the underground caves, Molepeople village, and industrial areas each have a distinctive look; yet cohesive designs link them together, such as the stripes on crooked vines, rocks, and pipes.



Unfortunately, these themed areas go largely unchanged from one level to the next, which can make it seem as though you’re repeating your actions from previous levels, albeit with more enemies and a few extra challenges in each. Still, this is the first part in a series, and the ending of the game suggests that you’ll be venturing into new areas in the next installment. Other minor gripes are the lack of D-pad support, which is likely to perturb arcade stick owners (particularly since the game only uses 2 buttons otherwise), and the camera occasionally has some trouble keeping up with the action when you’re moving at full speed.




2D CRED
New Jersey based developer RedCandy Games was founded in 2010 by Julian Volyn. TIC: Part 1 was the company’s first released title, and is planned as a 4-part series. TIC: Part 1 has received honors in a student showcase at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute during the 2011 GameFest, taking home First Prize in that event, which was sponsored and judged by Vicarious Visions. The game also won the Audience Choice Award at the same event.

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