Algebra Meltdown (Web/Flash)

Mangahigh.com // July 2009 – January 2010

Algebra Meltdown was another game that had its roots in an idea by Dr Richard Lissaman, who suggested balls rolling down ramps that changed value as they passed through function machines. Rich had a big thing about balls rolling down ramps – still does, bless ‘im. (Only joking, Rich – love you!)

It was an interesting concept, but not really a game. After some discussion, this evolved into an idea about a ‘number factory’ containing a network of ramps and function machines; trucks would turn up at outlets waiting for a certain number, which the player generated by inserting the correct base value into the factory’s input chute and then guiding it around the function machines to the outlet.

Unfortunately, this still didn’t feel quite right, especially the fiddly aspect of tilting ramps to guide the base value – it meant the player would spend more time ‘playing’ than doing maths, which is not good. There wasn’t a great sense of tension, either; I mean, who can get concerned about factories and trucks?

Eventually – and with a little inspiration from the likes of Diner Dash – the idea was refined into its final form. The game is set in a hi-tech lab where scientists queue up demanding atoms of specific values to do their work. To generate them, you insert base values into an atom processor and guide them through the function machines to the waiting scientists.

If scientists are kept waiting or are sent the wrong atom, they get angry; if they get too angry, they storm off and you lose a ‘life’ – of course, lose all your lives and the game ends. In a cute touch (if I do say so myself), if things are getting too hectic you can call a tea break and calm everyone down with a refreshing cuppa.

Unfortunately, the headaches didn’t end there as the game was pig to develop: MP Game Studio handled the coding and did a good job, but it was a complex project – getting the function machines to work properly took forever, especially as there were several ‘special case’ function machines throwing a spanner in the logic.

We got there in the end, though, and I’m fairly proud of the finished product. I feel it lacks a little polish here and there, but as an algebra game I think it achieves its aims.

Gameplay Video  Play Game

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White-haired men and women in glasses - all the scientist stereotypes are here!
Better get working – the scientists’ speech bubbles are turning an angry red!
As the game progresses, two- and three-stage equations are introduced.
Be warned: Algebra Meltdown gets *really* tough later on…