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How My Grandfather
Won the War

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Rating: 3.7/5 (100 votes)
Comments (41) | Views (5,830)

GrinnypHow Grandfather Won the War"Settle in, little Billy, and I'll tell you a story. A story about how your grandfather fought the Kaiser with nothing but his guts. Guts and a toothpick..." You can almost see a kindly, white-haired gentleman sitting on a porch somewhere telling his enthralled grandson about his experiences when you play How My Grandfather Won the War by OneMrBean, a side scrolling avoider that captures the essence of childhood imagination in its short but beautiful gameplay.

As the scenery rolls by you control a fighter plane simply using the [up] and [down] arrow keys. The plane is equipped with a cannon that shoots water (or ink) with the [space] bar, revealing Competition third place award winner"the world as it really is" and creating a safe passage through obstacles. The objective is simple, make it to the end of the game. The execution, however, is a tad more difficult. Much of the fun of making it through to the end of How My Grandfather Won the War is in the exploration of "reality" using the water cannon. Sunbursts become clouds, fire becomes water, squid tentacles (yes, squid) become blowing palm trees, etc. You may find yourself crashing and burning a lot in the beginning as you play around attempting to see "reality" rather than avoiding the deadly obstacles.

How to even begin describing the fantastic art of How My Grandfather Won the War? It's as if little Billy — once his head is stuffed full of Grandpa's stories — ran right out and created a moving diorama using cardboard, string, and a little paint. The detail is so fantastic you can almost touch the screen and feel the rough edges of haphazardly cut items. The "reality" exposed by the water cannon is bright and cartoony, adding to the surreality of the gameplay experience. One is tempted to just sit back and marvel at the unbelievable graphics, but unfortunately that will result in a quick and fiery death. The plaintive guitar music only adds to the almost melancholy atmosphere.

howgrandfather_squid.jpgPlayers may even take up the debate: is it gameplay or art? Is it something to while away a few minutes, or is it something to experience and savor? Can it be all of those things at once?

Analysis: Once again we see a game designer pushing the envelope, blurring the line between game and interactive art. How My Grandfather Won the War can be played as a simple side scroller, but it is so much more. This is a piece that is designed to evoke emotions, whether awe, joy, or frustration.

Yes, frustration. Although the game is beautiful to look at and wonderful to experience, there are a few minor flaws. Gameplay goes from simple to breathtakingly difficult in the blink of an eye. Death (or crashing) will take you back to a checkpoint in the game rather than throw you back to the beginning, but it still can be frustrating in the extreme to try and get past some of the later obstacles, even using the water cannon to help clear the way. Due to the extreme difficulty of the later areas, some of the wonder is lost as you must spend so much time attempting to get past obstacles you lose the ability to explore that makes this game such a fantastic experience.

Nevertheless, How My Grandfather Won the War is a stunning game that is worth a second, and even third play through. Treat it as a simple side-scroller for casual gameplay or go deeper and explore every inch of its breathtaking cardboard world.

Play How My Grandfather Won the War


I hate this game.

I don't care if you like the graphics, the game play is horrible. Gameplay > graphics.

meester man November 17, 2009 4:11 PM

Let's face it, the judges treated the competition like an art contest. All of the top three had great art, below average gameplay, and almost nothing to do with the theme. No offense, but that's how I view things.


All games were scored using a common set of judging criteria that we have used for all our competitions. Only one question is about the visual medium.

While you're free to express your views, your accusations about how the competition was judged is unfair and incorrect.

Even if you can't respect the hard work that goes into holding the competitions, please at least show some respect for the winners of the competition, even if the game you wanted to win didn't.


What were the exact criteria? Many games deserved more than they got and this game got more than it deserved.

meester man November 17, 2009 4:47 PM

I am sorry. I respect the winning entries and the judges very much, even if I did not enjoy them, and I apologize if it did not sound like that. I will try to choose my words more carefully in the future.


this game was artfully created (haha pun!) and very well thought out. but one my biggest disappointments regarding it was how difficult it was. i quit after failing to beat the large airplane at the end after over 10 tries. it seems to me that this game would have been a lot more enjoyable had the difficulty been cranked down.


I wanted to like this game, and I kept trying to play through it much longer than I usually would have just because of the art style, but the difficulty kills it for me. The checkpoints aren't useful enough to keep it from being a frustrating experience. I liked looking at it but hated actually playing it.


To those who find the game too hard: have you tried it recently? More checkpoints have been instituted, and running out of lives doesn't send you back to the beginning anymore.


did you notice that the plane looks like an me 163


Thanks for the tip, zxo! I tried this several times earlier in the competition, but got frustrated and never came back (I usually was down to my last life by the time I even reached the first checkpoint, negating the point of lives entirely). I'll give this another shot!

Patreon VIP Chiktionary November 17, 2009 7:11 PM

I think that the game did fit the explore criteria of the competition in that you have to uncover and discover as you go through the game. Unfortunately, the gameplay made it too difficult to become immersed in the actual exploration. And that is such a shame when the graphics are absolutely amazing(!); I love the images made out of cardboard, and the sense of animation that was created.


Its still very hard, and the boss battles suck. I also hate how you can only go up and down,and can't change speed or anything, and I dislike the grandfather character, and just about everything in this game.


First of all, thanks to Jay, grinnyp, the judges, sponsors, and community for putting this all together.

It's been interesting to read through the comments for my game in this review, on the competition page, and on its page at ArmorGames. They all tend to fall into the same camps of thought surrounding the visuals versus the gameplay. To be honest, despite spending more time on the visuals than the difficulty, if I had more time to work on this game, I would only want to continue improving the visuals.

The game itself was designed to be difficult and I never intended for every person to beat it. I've read about a few people who claim to have completed the game to the fullest, one member of the JIG community (by the name of "Mar") going so far as to make an entire walkthrough to help people get through all of the obstacles (seen in the CGDC6 page comments, thanks Mar!). This game was made for him/her, and anyone else like him/her that sees a challenge and dedicates time, effort, and personal improvement towards completing it. To those I just described, you've made the time I spent on this game worthwhile. Thank you.

The difficulty of the game came from the fact that it takes 5 minutes to complete (5:42 exactly, from the time you gain control to the final boss being defeated). I didn't want anyone playing through in one try, and I most certainly didn't want anyone repeatedly pressing Spacebar to sail through the game without even moving (hence the limit on the shooting ability). The idea was that once you run out of shooting ability, you would be forced to physically evade the dangers by moving up or down.

Because I have no way of knowing where any given player would run out of juice, I had to make every part of the game avoidable without shooting, which is where I got the idea to:

reward the player for playing the entire game without shooting at all. This is why there are no impenetrable walls, an opening always being visible at every second. This is why the player cannot move forward or backward, as each obstacle is designed to create an opening at the exact moment that it crosses the player's path. I ended up spending the most time tweaking this flow rather than balancing how often shooting is needed later on in the game. In this regard, depending upon being able to shoot is a crutch that (in my opinion) makes the game much more difficult to complete. In reality, there is always a way through any obstacle, which is a message that would only make sense once the task was attempted.

As for the lives system and the sparseness of checkpoints, they tie back in with the short length of the game and to make the spoiler above work every time. I did eventually agree that it was too harsh and changed the game over to only restart the player at the latest checkpoint.

I don't plan on changing the game any further than this, however. I'm simply going to take everyone's feedback and incorporate them into my future projects. So, to those who enjoyed the visuals, I will continue putting as much detail into my work as possible. For those who enjoyed the difficulty of the game, you may be happy to hear that I will continue to provide a challenge. And, for the rest of the community that did not enjoy the steep learning curve and unforgiving gameplay mechanics, you should be the happiest of all, as I've clearly received the message and will be greatly incorporating your comments into my future work.

Again, I thank everyone who helped make this possible, and I especially thank those who didn't like the game that left positive, constructive criticism to help me grow as a developer.

- Bean

The Great Dane November 17, 2009 9:26 PM

I did indeed enjoy the game. And I have come back to play it again a few times, only to come close to beating the devilish spider, but not quite.

I understand and respect your motivation, Bean, but I find it a bit arrogant how you say that the game is only intended for the very few, who will put hard work into it, and can complete it.

I really did put a lot of hours into it, but it still was unbeatable - and even though I'm sure I would have learned it eventually, this game is just not interesting enough to keep me going for so many days. Does that mean the game is not for me?

I don't mean to start a discussion, but it does seem to me that it would be more enjoyable to more people if there was a difficulty-level you could choose from - that would even make a replay on a more difficult level enjoyable - especially for those elite-players it was meant for.

I'm looking forward to see some of your future work.


Bean, I think you do yourself a disservice by designing your game only for the super-talented/patient when it's easy enough to include several difficulty options, and even implement a system whereby the player starts on the hardest level but after X failures has the option to drop down to an easier setting.

As you have probably learned from the various comments about your game, people don't like being excluded from the games they play. (sidenote: They also don't like being told they were meant to be excluded from the game -- which I don't think is what you meant to say in your comment, but it's what came across.) Your game should actively encourage everybody to "see a challenge", not just provide for those who already do. There's a nice post at Retroremakes about designing games with accessibility in mind. It was written with a focus on disabled gamers, but I think the ideas regarding difficulty (points 5-7) hold true no matter who's playing the game.


I think sometimes authors, knowing their own games as well as they do, get a slightly unrealistic view of the difficulty of their game. The way the game was before, I think I would have had to replay the first checkpoint fifty more times before I had the necessary skill to get through the second. As nice as this game is, I would need to see more than the first little area in order to justify that much time spent.

The new setup is much cleaner. I'm still having a lot of difficulty, (I've lost my final life in the swarm of arrows several times now) but I get to make progress as I improve, so the experience feels rewarding and enjoyable. If anything I think the respawn after you lose your first and second lives is a little too forgiving: you get to skip past whatever just killed you.

Looking forward to whatever you make next! Keep in mind that no matter how beautiful something is, the gameplay is the only way we get to see it!


The "too hard" mentality goes way back... how many have cried out that Pac Man or Donkey Kong is too hard? I've never beat (or kill screened) either, yet I loved them. So get over it.

On top of that, I've never seen a game like this... ever. Same goes for the water cannon effect - brilliant. Why wasn't this done before?

Great job, Bean!
And I want more!


I agree that this game has stunning graphics and animations. It's a really cute eye-candy.

However, it could really use a bit more work in the difficulty.

First of all, there should be more checkpoints, or even a save function. I don't want to play a game to start at the beginning of the stage when even completing it takes too long. Or even when I'm taking a break from this game since it's more stress-inducing than stress-relieving that I have to start all the way back from the beginning when I press Q or R. I doubt most people have the patience to sit through this game that long.

Secondly, the water cannon is a very nice and unique touch, especially when you see it change the obstacles to cute thingamajiggies such as clouds, rainbows and palm trees. However, having to hold space for too long to blast through a combo of spiky rocks, shurikens and firepipes, only to be met by another long combo of sorts can be difficult since the meter gets used up. But more importantly, what frustrates me most is that when you hold and release it, the plane gets propelled TO the obstacle that you were supposed to shoot it with. And you die. Seriously, that is very frustrating.

However this game is supposed to be a feel-good cute, fluffy eye-cottoncandy with its cardboard design and animations, it's not. And it's hella hard, I believe, even for experienced gamers. A lot of frustrations can be experienced, and a lot of reviewers have explained why. Or you can experience it yourself. Aside from this, and if these were fixed, I'd go and play this game until the end.


I understand how you are aiming for the more serious gamers but some gamers just want to view with little difficulty to see the graphics.Do not want you to lower your standards but maybe in your next creative game you can give gamers a choice of difficulty. This would not compromise your goals and would allow more gamers to appreciate your talents.I really think that some gamers do not understand the amount of time that is spent creating games. I do think that you are an expert gamer and when testing your game yourself, can not see it might be quite difficult for others.
All in all, I personally can appreciate your artistry and creativity as I continue to try to complete each level.No, I can't say I did as of yet.


When I played the game the first time, I enjoyed the aesthetics, but I never could make it further than the ninja blades before I ran out of lives and restarted.

Seeing this here, I gave it another go, and was pleased to see it had been made easier. I went through the first run, and eventually 'defeated' the final boss.

Naturally, I was surprised when I finished the game and got the 'second quest'.

That's when I realized just how small your hit box is. After a while, I managed to complete this second quest, and got the third quest. Now that I have experienced the game, I feel motivated eventually get the best ending.

I'm curious to hear Mr. Bean's rationale for the "explore" theme for this game. I'm with the the other players in feeling that Small Worlds was the only prize winner that embraced the theme in an obvious way. I'm sure Mr. Bean had a reason for the connection, though, and I'd like to know how he came to this design from where he started.


Billy Nitro November 18, 2009 12:02 AM

Hrmm? Is grinnyp talking about me?

I liked the original difficulty of this game. Reaaaaaaal old school.


The thing about old-school games is that they had old-school setup: the end of the game wasn't anything more than harder than the beginning of the game. You improved so that you could earn more points. If you never became a world-class player, and never saw the end, you weren't missing anything, because there was no real end. If a game provides more content the further you go, and a rewarding "you win," then people who can't complete it are missing out on a significant part of the game. Pac Man was fun even to casual players because you weren't missing anything even if you never beat level 1.


Haven't finished it yet, but you can be guaranteed I'll be back to play it later. A good game doesn't have to be finished the first play through.


I finished the game without firing a single shot, although sadly, not without getting hit.

It was rather frustrating, avoiding the furry heart at the end, but I quite liked it - after dodging all those dangers, it's understandable why grandfather would be reluctant to touch anything that looked remotely deadly.

I will say that I was a bit disappointed with the ending though. I know it's a bit sad and all, but the message was sort of underwhelming for me - I experienced quite a bit of schmup rage dodging all of those obstacles without shooting, and I was expecting, well, maybe a sort of message that said, "Hey, you did well."

I'll be looking forward to your other games, though.


Like many of the commenters, I was frustrated by the high difficulty. But I felt even more annoyance because I kept dying unexpectedly, like the game was making me lose, by no fault of my own. Many a time I'd spray a bomb with the water gun then fly through it... only to have my plane explode. What? Was I expected to spot the tiny deadly speck bomb around the edges?

While the artwork of the game is very organic, with the jagged edges and rough outlines, it hurts the player in an avoidance game where whether a collision of a few pixels can make the difference between life and death. It is for this reason that I felt that the the choice of game mechanic was inappropriate and made the game experience more painful than it should have been.


The game really needs a pause function.


I'd like to take issue with Bean's claim that those of us who didn't have the patience to play this game are some how not deserving of it. I LIKE hard games. Demon Souls is one of my favorite games this year and I die constantly while playing it. Going back to older games I love games like Ghosts N' Goblins and the original Castlevania. No one would argue these are easy games.

The thing is, these games motivate the player to continue on DESPITE the difficulty. They motivate you to overcome it. And further they are designed in such a way is to ensure that you have fun while you're playing even if you never do beat them.

Your game did not do this. I didn't feel like you wanted me to enjoy the game at all. I suspect this isn't true, but it was the end result for me (and clearly many others). It's not fair for you to just blame the player for not being good enough to get the game. It's possible to design a game that is both incredibly challenging AND still fun for those of us who don't have the time and patience to see the game through to the end. Yes, that would be a more difficult game to design, but it would also have been a better game for it.

Finally I really feel that you ignored the name of the competition by not making the game fun for casual players. CASUAL game play design competition. Isn't loudly shouting that you don't intend Casual players to finish your game basically stating that you ignored one of the underlying objectives of the contest?

I'll finish this off by stating that while I didn't like your game much, you clearly spent a lot of hard work and effort making it. I respect this fact and I respect what you were going for. I just hope that in the future you really pay attention to what made all those old difficult games also fun to play casually.


Regarding the comments that the game isn't designed for "everybody," I unfortunately have to agree. The first day or so I played this game, I felt like it was solely designed to dash the hopes and dreams of anyone who played it. That was the reason I wrote the "guide" of sorts when I found out how to beat it. I tried to get people to realize that the game is actually beatable, and it doesn't require insane levels of skill, but rather requires insane levels of patience, to remove the feeling of inevitable hopelessness that this beautiful, beautiful game grants. It's a very similar feeling that the final boss of "The Fantasy of the Sord" gave me. Every fiber of my being told me that I should walk away.

With very small tweaks, this game could've been made into more of a casual game. For example if you die a bunch of times, a "tip" could show every time you die, showing you how to dodge certain obstacles (how to dodge the whirlpool wasn't intuitive at all IMO), or power-ups in an "easy" mode.

I do hope that all of these negative comments don't dissuade Bean from making difficult games in the future, b/c I see a lot of potential for him to make some really fun, challenging games in the future.


I tried not shooting and just dodged my way through the obstacles, and needless to say, it works! I got through the plane and almost through the shuriken, but when it comes to the whirlpool, I died.

The shuriken levels were okay, but it was ridiculous why I can just fly my way through in a straight line, without being hit by them, it would have been a blessing, but then I use up all my lives at that stage and I could not, for the life of me, get through that whirlpool. That killed the game for me.

I, along with many players and commenters, do recognize the effort and hard work that Bean has put in the game. The aesthetics say it all. And like many others, I do enjoy a good challenge. But the fact that Bean himself said that those who didn't enjoy it because of the difficulty doesn't really deserve it and will NOT do anything to improve this game? I felt disappointed.

Games are supposed to be enjoyed by everyone. (Judging from that, you can't put it on Newgrounds. Everything for EVERYONE?) And this game, clearly isn't for everyone. Especially for CASUAL gamers, as Ax puts it. And that is the most crucial thing that players look for in a game. Why do you think old school hardcore games aren't made anymore? Because people wouldn't buy or play them because they're too hard!

I understand that this game is clearly for the gaming elite, but we all want a game that we can enjoy without it inducing such stress and frustration. Like I said, games are meant to be enjoyed, by everyone, and instead of it being a stress-reliever, this game was clearly a downer, especially when Bean mentioned that it's exclusively for those who like a really big obstacle-swerving challenge.

The fact that Bean didn't want to change anything makes me feel he doesn't care about what gamers feel about this game, and this is a great disservice to himself. How can you expect us to play another one of your games, if this is the kind of game you give us, without taking our constructive criticism to consideration, for this game?

To end, I'd rate the first two levels as doable, and the shuriken levels as impossible.


Lol, at the risk of disagreeing with myself I'm not sure that I'd argue that any game could possibly be enjoyable for every person. I know some people who hate platforming games, does that make Mario a bad game?

Indeed a person who goes out of their way to make a game for everyone will probably end up making a game for no one.

Years of writing workshops have taught me that while constructive advice is useful, you can't let other people tell you what to create. At the end of the day you have to follow your heart and hope that someone else somewhere will understand what you're doing.

Bean DID after all make some changes to his game to make it easier. I'm sure he does care what we think, but should he care what we think about his game MORE than he cares what he thinks about it? Probably not.

At the end of the day this definitely wasn't a game for me and I think it could have been better, but I guess I'm just saying that I respect him a little bit for sticking to his guns. And I suspect he's likely learned from this experience and that while future games may continue to be very difficult he might do a better job getting that 'just right' balance that I thought this game lacked.


Like trying to enjoy the scenery while flying through the Swiss countryside in a rally car. You can sightsee, or you can race, you can't do both.

This game was frustrating to me because in order to enjoy it, I would need to do both.


Mar: Does this mean you actually managed to beat the final boss of Fantasy of the Sord? Please please tell me how! ARGH I've hit that giant square so many times my fingers feel like they're going to fall off, all to no avail.

To get back on topic - I feel that some people are being a little unfair to OneMrBean. He only said that he made the game for a particular type of player, and there's absolutely nothing arrogant about that. I've read his post several times, and nowhere does he say that those who didn't 'get' the game are either wrong or inferior to those who do.


Has anyone beat it without shooting and without getting hit? I want to know what happens, but I don't think I'll be able to make it through those damn teeth

Also it's easier to not shoot at all, that's true. If you shoot you get messed up, when you don't you always have a path and you can always tell where what to avoid is.


I agree with most people's opinions here. As a game developer, I've started out creating a bunch of overly hard games (#modarchive story, Operator Status and so on) that most people were never able to get anywhere in. Don't get me wrong, I like hard games, La-Mulana and Spelunky are both awesome, I even enjoyed Mega Man 9, but in those cases it's done right. In this case, it's more of a "ouch I died yet another time, now I must spend two minutes dodging 100 rockets so I can see if I survive the exact same location again".

I suppose according to the author's own view, I'm not part of the game's target audience, but I'd at least like to point out that my game development career got a major boost the first time I released a game that normal people could complete too. It's extremely common to underestimate how hard your own game is since you're its designer. I try to always consider these three rules, I think it applies to almost every game developer.

* Your game is harder than you think, probably a lot.
* Are you sure the game difficulty really is what expresses your game vision?
* Is it better to lock out all the people who the game is too hard for, or to have optional difficulty levels? Or in other words, does the game difficulty express yourself so much that you prefer that those who can't handle it should not play the game at all.


Sidenote: I have no idea how I managed to spell 'vision' as 'visition'

[Edit: Fixed. :) -Jay]


I love this game.

That being said, I will admit I was frustrated at the game and just wanted to give up at first because it seemed that I was constantly dying (as has been said by others).

However, I had failed to remember the water cannon mentioned in the instructions. This, as it turns out is pretty valuable. Although, a large portion of the fun in this game comes from maneuvering the airplane through obstacles in their current reality (read more on the water cannon and you'll understand).

Once I realized I had a useful tool in tough situations I began to gain confidence. Then, I died again and was irritated (again). But alas! I held 'space' for a longer than a split second and this led to me to learn what the (almost invisible) bar at the bottom of the screen is for.

And then, WHOOSH it all came together in a heartfelt, beautifully crafted game in which the the gameplay (albeit still a bit tricky with the timing of the cannon due to the narrowesque entrance) is fun, entrancing, and leaves you with a "I just took a cookie from the cookie jar" smile on your face.


Just saying, it's hard to really "explore" when your water bar is so low. MORE WATER PLEASE.


my keyboard doesn't work on this game, so I can't play. This happened on one other game as well. Can you help?


I have to say,I'm a bit confused by all the people saying that the game is to hard for them. OneMrBean himself said that it's supposed to be a hard game. You already know that It's going to be very tough before you even play it. Personally, I don't think that the game should be changed. I do, however, believe that a CASUAL (as it's already been pointed out) games contest was the best place to put the game.


This game is a lot easier once you realize that the little star on the back of the plane is your hitbox, and that the paint ability is never needed to get past any obstacle.

I seriously think most of the people having trouble with it would find the game much easier if they didn't use the paint ability at all.


I loved this game! The graphics are absolutey stunning, and I love that 'Grandfather' is more helpful then destructive.
Keep up the good work!


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