Gearheads: Terrain Features

I did another stream. I’m still having the same framerate problems, which I mysteriously didn’t have in my first session. But instead of describing that, I want to go into a little detail about some mechanics in Gearheads that I haven’t described previously.

In addition to varying the toy types available to both sides, most levels distinguish themselves by varying the terrain. Outside of the special levels, which all have unique graphical themes, there are four main variations, apparently called “kitchen”, “garden”, “frozen pond”, and “factory”. The kitchen levels are just plain tile floors without any special features. Garden levels sometimes have strips of mud, or heavy rocks, or insects crawling around and getting in your way — all things that impede your progress and force you to wind your toys more.

Rocks are also sometimes found on the Frozen Pond levels, but Frozen Pond’s more distinctive feature is the cracked spots that turn into holes when trodden on repeatedly. One the game’s merrier points is watching the computer AI obliviously send toys into these holes. Diagonal-moving toys (the kangaroo and the zap-bot) seem particularly prone to this. I have to admit that I myself can’t always predict the trajectory of a diagonal mover with any accuracy, but at least I notice when it leads into a hole and stop launching more along the same path. Even without these features, though, ice levels are slippery. This greatly affects how toys interact. Less friction makes it harder to immobilize a heavy pusher like Big Al by throwing mass in front of it, but also means that collisions tend to send the lighter toys careening backward. And that means that they tend to escape collision effects that require proximity, like the Deadhead’s scream or Disasteroid’s blaster. So you have to get used to things operating by different rules, although the result does kind of come down to “Try to win quickly with fast things”.

Factory levels tend to be the most complicated. They have three distinctive elements: impassible obstacles that raise and lower in a set rhythm, pusher tiles that act like conveyor belts but don’t look like them, and portals. The pushers can be oriented in any cardinal direction. If they’re oriented horizontally, they’ll make things easier for one player and harder for the other, and presumably for that reason, they always seem to be placed in symmetrical pairs. Portals always come in pairs, one that’s an entrance for left-going toys and an exit for right-going, and another that’s the reverse. I tend to think of portals in games as shortcuts, but in this game, they tend to function as the opposite: two rows will have paired portals poised to catch toys just before they reach the finish line and send them back to traverse the same distance again. Not good for scoring points, but great for keeping defensive units like Krush Kringle on the screen longer.

2 Comments so far

  1. matt w on 28 Dec 2018

    commenting on this late, but the end of this post seems to have been redacted.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 31 Dec 2018

    Huh, weird. Looks like I was trying to make a point, too, but I’ve forgotten what it was. I’ll just trim the extraneous words.

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