Gaming can be an expensive hobby, both in terms of money and in time. Even with things like PSN, XBLA, and WiiWare offering up cheaper, lower impact games, sometimes you just don’t want to cough up the points or the minutes. The good news is that sites like Newgrounds and Armorgames are serving up thousands of games for free. Now the price is right, and you can’t beat the convenience, but… something is missing. You don’t really FEEL like a gamer. Well, I’m here to help.
The first problem is that most of the time the game is wedged in the center of a webpage. You can’t really boost the size, and if you have a reasonably high resolution it might be a miniscule little chunk of the screen you have to squint to play. When I run into that problem with a flash game, there’s a trick I use to finagle some full screen action. First, view source of the page. Search it for something ending in “.swf.” If there are a few ads on the site, chances are you’ll find more than one swf. Try to spot one with a name either composed of a mess of letters and numbers or one that looks like it was in some way derived from the name of the game. Once you find it, if it starts with www or http, copy and paste it into the browser. If it is only part of an address, paste it at the end of the site address, after the .com. If you are lucky, you will be treated to a game zoomed to fill your browser. A few warnings. First, this won’t always work. Since doing so bypasses any ads on the webpage, lots of sites will bury the file name of the flash game behind script. Second, I hope you have a decent computer. The larger the game is zoomed in, the more your computer will chug. Finally, you are going to see some of the underbelly of the game. Things outside the bounds of the game screen will be visible, so you may see things you weren’t intended to see. For many, though, these are small prices to pay for full screen flash goodness.
Another problem that plagues the hardcore gamer playing a casual game is the lack of decent controls. Plenty of the best flash games, Meat Boy comes to mind, are custom made for old school controls, but you are stuck using the keyboard. I recently found a solution for this as well. If you are like me, then when you need to use a joystick on the PC you use the XBOX wireless controller for Windows. I’d love to say I did it because I love the controller so much, but the truth is, I needed a fourth controller for my 360 and Amazon had a sale for the controller/PC adaptor combo. Regardless, it does a great job, but you can only use it for games that have joystick support, so a no go for flash, right? Well, not anymore. There is a free app called Flash Joystick from the good people at Pillowfort. This program lets you map buttons and mouse actions to the controller, even letting the control sticks map to the mouse. Trust me when I say, this breathes new life into dozens of hardcore, twitchy action games, and brings your formidable console skills back to the table. The makers of the program pack in a utility to make layouts to load into the controller, and even offer tools to enable rumble for flash games. Keep up the good work, Pillowfort.
Implementing both of these tips has made a world of difference in my short-notice gaming. Browser games are simply easier to fit into the nooks and crannies that open up in a given day, but when they stray from mouse and keyboard mainstays like tower defense, they never seem as robust as the real thing, no matter how well executed. With a solid controller in my hands and a game filling the entire screen, I feel like I am playing a game, not surfing the web. Not only that, but the familiar and comfortable control scheme makes playing the game a much more natural experience. Games that were once far too frustrating to play are now enjoyably challenging, and those that were “just okay” are genuinely fun. Obviously this isn’t for everybody, and it isn’t for every game. Having a full keyboard and mouse is utterly essential for certain games, and I would never suggest you use a gamepad for those. But when the controls are nothing but directions and a handful of actions, and the more screen real estate the better? Well, now you’ve got some more options.
I hope these two little hints will give you a more hardcore experience from your casual gaming. This is my first foray into tips and tricks, so let me know what you think.