Don't you hate it when your day gets ruined by floating block platforms? If you're a crocodile-pilot named Ebul whose airplane crashed on account of one, you certainly do. After a collision and spectacular fall, Ebul finds himself stranded on a pixely, block-like world with a broken airplane. There's nothing to do but to search for various objects to try to fix his plane and continue on his side-scrolling journey.
But wait, this is no ordinary pixely, block-like world. The same blocks that caused Ebul's misfortune can be brought to life and made to bridge gaps, attack enemies, or get from point A to point B. Thus begins "Ebul", Benedikt Hummel's platform adventure and recent entry in the "Sandbox" 8th Casual Gameplay Design Competition.
You control the titular character (and his birdpal sidekick) with the keyboard while you click various onscreen blocks with the mouse. Some blocks disappear when clicked, while others grow legs or eyeglasses and can be moved around with the keyboard and repositioned anywhere on screen. This allows you to access otherwise unreachable areas in your quest to find critical items to repair your plane, such as plungers, hats, and floating cow udders. Later levels introduce the bad guys — an assortment of mean-looking blocks and wedges hell bent on Ebul's destruction. Some can be dispatched with blocks, while others are unstoppable and must be avoided at all costs.
Analysis: Ebul's challenge mostly comes from figuring out which blocks to activate and where to place them to your hero's advantage. Most levels give you plenty of time to sort this out, while others require you to think and move fast with the keyboard and mouse to avoid your fate as a squashed or chewed-up crocodile. The rest of the game involves nimble keyboard presses to get Ebul moving and jumping properly. Failure may happen often, but fortunately each level can be reattempted without too much trouble (with the programmer's assurance that "It's okay!").
I enjoyed playing Ebul even though I felt it could have been presented with a little more polish. The whole game (about two dozen levels) has a minimalist feel to it, from the music and sound effects to the frugal use of animation. Everything seems to follow this cutesy and pseudo-retro approach, which works on the whole, but I still felt something was missing. A more interesting boss battle at the end and a better variety of music throughout would have helped.
Regardless, a "sandbox" platformer is an interesting approach to the genre, and in Ebul, the result is a fun and unusual gameplay experience. Give it a try and see if you can get your crocodile flying again.