If you are a child of the (late) nineties, you might remember Klik 'n' Play and The Game Factory. During the early 2000s kids used these programs to make generally code-free games, which could then be released as an executable file to send to all your mates. These programs offered a means to dip into the world of game design in a way that was relatively quick.

It's now 2014, and Pixel Press have decided it was high time to revive the concept. After a successful Kickstarter campaign in Summer 2013, they've released the first fruit of their labours, Pixel Press Floors.


Four to the floor

It's currently only available on iOS (though an Android version is forthcoming) but Floors (as you might guess) focuses on the humble platformer. This might seem a negative, those older titles allowed for anything (in theory) out of the box, but they also lacked any real documentation or focus. Whilst it's a shame that Floors is focused on one genre, this allows Pixel Press to provide a number of ready-made elements that can be added easily - making the basics for the platformer engine.

Pixel Press Floors also makes interesting use of the iOS camera, in that you can draw your level on a special downloadable template (complete with exercise book style grids) – and then scan your design into the program. The template gives you three "rooms" to play with that make the entire level, and 14 functions you can draw into the level; from simple platforms, to keys and portals (with new elements added via in-app purchases). Word to the wise, make sure your printer prints all of the template and doesn't use "fit to size", otherwise the scanning process might not work.

Floors allows you to draw your level within the app too, however it's a little more fiddly than the paper method. I often found I would erase lines I didn't want to erase due to my awkward fingers, and that zooming in was not enough to prevent this from happening. The other minus is a lack of customisation for art and music.


Hit the ground running

Floors offers up pre-made graphic sets to work with, but this may be considered a blessing in disguise, as it allows users to focus on the level (and seeing results with their work quickly) rather than messing about with other elements. Pixel Press do state they wish to add customisation features in the future, and even provide a guide on their website as how to go about making art assets if you're really keen to try your hand at game art design.

Once you're done creating your level and scanning it in, you then upload it to Floor's "Arcade" portal, where all uploaded levels are collected for other users to play. Rather than including a comments system, Pixel Press opts to let the levels speak for themselves, with a high-score ranking board for each level, and the number of views it's had. Players can report levels with offensive content, or that are rendered impossible to finish, so that the team can ensure the Arcade is never clogged up with bad designs. That said, the automatic nature of the design does occasionally lead to some awkward moments. For example, in one otherwise well-made level, there were a number of up and down moving platforms all over a water pit that all went too low for too long without chance of recovery. You could argue that's a user error in design more than an issue with the app, but the moderation of said levels will help cleanse levels from the community.

Pixel Press Floors won't make you a Game Design expert in a day, but it's a fun app both kids and adults can enjoy together with easy to understand tools, and even offers a way to convince the kids to give up the iPad for an hour or two. It's currently free for a limited time via Apple's App Store, with Adventure and Racing game variants due to follow.