GAMING: Half Hour Games – The Travels of the Dung Beetle

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The Travels of the Dung Beetle is a dung beetle simulator made in Unity by Louie Zong. It was made for the “My First Game Jam!”, a game jam dedicated to people making their very first video game.

In it, you play as a humble scarab trying to find a safe place to bury its dung ball. You roll through four strange, fantastic levels trying to find the perfect place, building up extra pieces of dung along the way.

We’ll roll out our opinion after the jump.

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The Travels of the Dung Beetle is a very short game, but demonstrates an incredible level of artistic talent. Its creator, Louie Zong, is a storyboard artist for the excellent Cartoon Network show We Bare Bears and puts a full display of ability. Zong singlehandedly designed, composed, and created art assets for this game. That’s an incredibly impressive display of talent!

The primary focus of the game is rolling your dung ball around, collecing the ten extra pieces of dung in each level. Yes, it feels like Katamari Damacy, but that’s not an entirely fair comparison because Katamari Damacy took its concept from dung beetles in the first place.

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There are four levels in all, with an increasing difficulty curve. The first level is a simple sand pit that serves best to demonstrate the physics of the dung ball rolling around. In the second level, you encounter your first real obstacle: birds that move around in a patch of trees, potentially bumping you away from your precious dung. The third level requires a literal leap of faith, forcing you to take the ball of dung off of a waterfall to find more poop. We’re not going to spoil the final level here, but it’s the most magical and difficult level of them all.

Our biggest concern was its physics and level design. Unity physics can be clumsy, but the design of the levels didn’t lend itself well to rolling around as a ball. We thought this was going to be a more fast-paced game at first, involving running your ball downhill as you try to collect the dung spread across the level. Instead, each level is mostly square with the dung covered about equally across the level.

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Our first impression was that it’s a bit too video game-y, as it were – the game otherwise functions as a stunning piece of art, but the edges of the map being drop-offs with invisible walls was jarring. The latter two levels are better about this and had more varied level design; the final level is our favorite because of its unique difficulty.

After the fact…

For somebody’s first ever game, this was very well done. Although we had some struggles, we thought that this came together nicely in a way that can only be accomplished by an outsider to game design. We really enjoyed the idea of a completely naive game developer making something so beautiful, not constrained by the typical pitfalls of what game development involves. We hope that this has inspired Louie Zong to make more games in the future!

Completable in half an hour: Yes
It only took us 6 minutes and 52 seconds to beat this game. It’s very short, but we liked that length. This is a bite-sized snack of a game.

4 out of 5 – Worth Trying (Worth Playing Again)
The Travels of the Dung Beetle is a remarkable effort for somebody’s first game. With high quality audio, art, and gameplay, we would’ve expected a game like this to come from somebody with a lot more experience. The only real issue we had was with the physics, which is an Unity-specific issue that we’ve discussed before. We really hope that Louie Zong will make more games in the future!

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The Travels of the Dung Beetle can be downloaded on itch.io for free.

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