I Can’t See the Berries – Gaming with Color Blindness

Last year, I wrote about my experiences with epilepsy and gaming. The response from the gaming community was great, and it’s had an impact. Since I started Indie Gamer Chick, many Xbox Live Indie Games and assorted PC titles have started to include “effects switches” in games. And recently, Towerfall on PlayStation 4 became the first PlayStation Network title with “the switch.” I’ve had a lot of fun and done a lot of cool things through Indie Gamer Chick. Spreading awareness of gaming and epilepsy? That has probably been the most rewarding bonus. Something I never expected to influence.

Here’s the thing though: epilepsy is relatively rare. In developed nations, there’s between 4 to 10 cases for every 1,000 people. That’s not all that much. And of those people with epilepsy, only between 1 to 3 for every 100 have what’s called photosensitive epilepsy, also known as the kind that sucks if you’re a gamer. It’s also more commonly seen in girls than in guys. But it’s the thing I live with, so it’s kind of my pet cause.

But, most of my readers are guys. When I started to talk more often about the epilepsy thing, I had a lot of male readers say they know what having a health-imposed limitation is like. They have color blindness. Now granted, their condition is not actively trying to kill them (at least when they’re not at a four-way stop), but I was shocked by how common I heard it. I would venture a guess that, oh, 1 in 12 of my male readers have it. That’s probably because 1 in 12 men have some form of color blindness. I had no idea it was that common. That’s 8% of the male population. That’s a hell of a lot of people who struggle with this condition. And by the way, it’s a myth that girls can’t be colorblind. Around 1 in 200 are. Thankfully it seems to be the one medical problem I currently am not dealing with.

1 in 12.

Wow.

I can’t even imagine what it’s like. Thankfully, I don’t have to. I found someone to describe it to me. His name is Gordon Little, a network administrator from Newfoundland and a father of three. This is his story.

Oh, and please forgive his use of the Queen’s English. In America, we dropped the “u” from “color” thus making us 16% more efficient.

I Can’t See the Berries

by Gordon Little

During my childhood my mother would take myself and my twin brother out berry picking. Raspberries to be specific. Big red juicy things hanging out among the green leaves and stems. We each had a bucket and after an hour Mom would check our progress. Her bucket was full. My brother’s bucket was halfway full and his face told the story of berries that never made it into the bucket. My bucket though… my bucket was lucky to have 2 or 3 berries in it. “I can’t see the berries,” I would tell her. She’d point at a berry on the bush and like magic it would POOF into existence. She thought I was just lazy. I was a kid and I didn’t know what to think, except I hated berry picking.

For people like Gordon, you can forget about using radar in Crysis 2.

For people like Gordon, you can forget about using radar in Crysis 2.

Years later, myself and my brother had to get eyeglasses. One year the optometrist said “Have you ever been checked for colour blindness?” Nope. So he opens a flip book of strange coloured dots. “What do you see here?” Nothing. “And here?” A squiggly line. “Here?” Nothing again. “Are you sure you don’t see the number 13?” Nope. Nada. Zilch. The 13 was a berry and I couldn’t see it. It was unobtainable. “You have red-green colour deficiency.” My brother, you might ask, he did not. His colour vision was fine.

Red-green colour deficiency never really impacted my childhood. I had a NES, then a SNES, then a PC and video game life was good. When video game resolution and the ability to display colour increased, then the problems began. I could tell the difference between bright reds and greens, but it was more subtle shades and hues that caused problems.

The first time I played a game that I actually couldn’t play was a gem matching title like Bejeweled. All the gems were the same shape, just different colours. Ok. I can do this. Why won’t they join? Oh, two are green, one is yellow.

Real Time Strategy games can be great. Except when the units look 90% identical on both sides expect one has green shoulder pads and the other red. And the mini map doesn’t help either. It’s just a giant orgy of coloured dots and I can’t tell which are mine.

Turn Based Strategy and RPG games can be great. Except when the tiles change colour to indicate different things. Green means you can move here. Red means you’ll get attacked. Yellow means you MIGHT get attacked. All of that info is useless when you can’t tell which tile is which colour.

Like most of us, Gordon can't tell what's going on in Grotesque Tactics. Unlike the rest of us, he has an actual medical excuse.

Like most of us, Gordon can’t tell what’s going on in Grotesque Tactics. Unlike the rest of us, he has an actual medical excuse.

First Person Shooters are usually okay.  Except when part of the screen flashes red to indicate you were hit… somewhere… from behind?  The side?  Sometimes I don’t even notice it’s happening.

So what are some suggestions to developers to assist colour blind gamers? The number one suggestion is never (EVER) make colour the sole source of information for the player. There are lots of gem matching games out there, and most of them now have different shapes and symbols inside them to indicate which ones are which. You could take the colour out and still be able to play. For turn based / tactical / RPG don’t colour code the tiles on the ground, or if you do, put hit percentage numbers in the tiles for the player to see.

Every time a game uses colour as the sole provider of information you risk it being the berry in the bush. And I can’t see the berries.

Visit Gordon’s site.

Indie Gamer Chick supports Game Accessibility Guidelines, a not-for-profit that provides free information for game developers on how to make their games more accessible to people with epilepsy, color blindness, and various other conditions. Support it. Use it. Live it.

UPDATE: Within two minutes of this being published, gamers and developers living with color blindness started to sound off. Here is ArcadeCraft’s developer:

Colorblind 3

 

PAX East 2014 Overview

PAX East 2014 is over and I’m beat. The four days of adrenaline kept me going without much food or sleep but now it’s time to recuperate. While I sniffle and hack away at my desk, recovering from PAX Plague, here are some previews and first impressions to a handful of the indie games that were there. I wish I could do a “Best of PAX” but there is no way that I was able to play everything that was shown. Maybe this time I’ll give out the, “Indie Gamer Chick: Not a Bad Build Out of the Relatively Few Games I Was Able to Play Because There Are So Many Here” Award.

Note, the following are not all-encompassing previews. They are synopses based on a very short amount of time with the games and there may be inaccuracies based on where the presenters decided to start the game or how much background to give me. (Case in point below, Flem would have appeared far different if I hadn’t asked for more info.)

Always Sometimes Monsters (by Vagabond Dog)

The feels, this game gave them to me. Here the player is asked to witness the results of their choices in life. In the demo I played, I played a man whose roommate wanted me to scope out his crush and see if there was any chance the guy he liked, liked him back. I don’t want to spoil what happens but what you decide to do once you do it changes how the game continues.

One of the more mentally deep games I played, this one promises to make you think.

Assault Android Cactus (by Witch Beam)

A dual-stick shooter that’s influenced by bullet hell games. In this 1-4 player game, you’re killing seemingly endless waves of monsters as you make your way through the end. You get to play as a number of cute androids, blasting the ever-living hell out of everything, trying to rack up combos and get the best grade you can. It’s fun and if you can get a few friends locally to play with you, it’s even more of a blast.

The three folks that I played this with kicked the crap out of it, allegedly the first folks of the con to beat the boss at the end.

Bik (by Zotnip Games)

A point-and-click adventure where you play a young boy who was abducted by aliens. Teaming up with some fellow mercenaries and other aliens met along the way, you go through a number of adventures before returning home. Inspired by the point-and-clicks of yore, their focus wasn’t on trying to make you wonder about all the ways you can’t Get Ye Flask and let you have fun experimenting different things. The game even auto-saves for you so you don’t have to worry about being unable to undo the horrible things you’ve accidentally done.

The demo had me set up in a spaceship as one of the aliens. There was a fire in the engine room and I had to save a crewman and stop the fire. It took me a few tries to complete the section for apparently turning off the air supply and killing us was not the immediate solution (I PUT THE FIRE OUT THOUGH!) and sticking a mop into the fire (don’t ask) didn’t do a thing.

Bounden (by Game Oven Studios)

While playing another game in the Indie Mini Booth, out of the corner of my eye I caught some folks making some strange motions while holding a phone between them. Intrigued, I dropped the controller and shoved everyone in my path out of my way.

This mobile game makes heavy use of the gyrometers within the phone to have you “dance” with a partner as you both hold onto the screen as you move together to move objects on the screen. It had us rocking the phone back and forth and even at one point, holding it overhead and twist in a ballet-like maneuver. It had me intrigued as a little party thing to share a fun experience with your friends.

Buddy and Me (by Sunbreak Games)

Adorable. You play a child who is racing through a dream world with his Never Ending Story-like pal named Buddy. It’s meant to be a non-stressful version of an endless runner where you can still “lose” easily but the pace isn’t too fast and you have the cutest imaginary friend to travel with you and help you out over some obstacles. I was able to play a preview of the new female character, which the dev says will be available soon to players in an upcoming update.

The dev tells me that the level generator determines your skill level as you play and makes things more or less difficult for you as you go (but still providing a challenge).

Darknet (by E McNeill)

I talked about this game a little in my “Oculus Rift: Second Impressions” article posted from the show floor (https://plus.google.com/115383603237792435980/posts/JttdvUQb8Pp).

This is a strategy/puzzler that makes use of the Oculus Rift to give you a virtual reality version of cyberspace akin to those of the 90s hacker movies. The goal is to hack into servers, break the security, and retrieve the data you’re after. Once you retrieve that data, your reward is money to buy various hacks (power-ups) to help you break into other systems.

It was one of two experiences I had with the Rift over the weekend and stood out as a one of the better examples of what it can do.

Delver’s Drop (by Pixelscopic)

This is a dungeon crawler which had its camera angle inspired by The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. This build was a bit early and it was missing many of the game assets and enemies, leaving things a tad barren. The dev had to point me in the right direction a few times because I’m an explorer.

It has a number different characters, all which move and attack differently. I admit, in the short time I was able to devote to it, the “fluid” control and momentum felt clunky but it was by design as each character you can select plays with slight differences. I suspect that after a bit more time, the player gets used to it and it’s a non-issue.

Distance (by Refract Studios)

The only game on my list here that I didn’t get to play up front but I did get to chat with the dev at length while watching a few folks play. This is a survival racer heavily inspired by the racers of the late 90s (Rush, Extreme-G) where you speed through a high-tech city, avoiding obstacles on the track that trashes your car. The game is gorgeous and flashy and hits all the right buttons for this TRON-lover.

Interesting note, this game is based on another game of theirs they worked on while attending Digipen. Since it was a Digipen project, the school owns the game so they wanted to do with again under their own names.

Flem (by Henchman & Goon)

Walking by this display and seeing some folks play, my mind immediately went, “Super Meat Boy” clone and I almost kept walking. The crowd around the screen left and I was the only one there which inclined the presenters to ask if I wanted to play. I said sure and thought there may be there’s something here.

It started off just as I suspected. Difficult levels that try to kill you and you restart immediately to keep you going. The presenters (these gentlemen did not work on the game but were marketing students) were telling me about the game and it felt like they were describing Super Meat Boy. I don’t know if they hadn’t played it or not but I had the sense they didn’t know the comparison at all. It wasn’t until I had the chance to ask, “What makes this game differ from it? What makes it stand out?” That’s when I got it out of them.

A few stages in, you gain special powers that allow you such moves as to hover temporarily among a few other things. It requires a different kind of precision to finish a level than jumping, jumping, and more jumping. I asked if I could test out those special powers and they seemed surprised as if no one else had brought it up before me. They were right for at that point, the game changed and was much more fun.

I have a feeling that folks may pass this one up prematurely because of the initial few levels. Stick with it!

Future Unfolding (by Spaces of Play)

In a randomly created, gorgeously styled world, you are one person trying to find your way out of a forest. There are no weapons, no health bars, and no mana – you are one person who uses clues in the environment to find which way you need to go next. “Using” a pair of stones in the ground that don’t quite fit may open up a path in the forest. Connecting some unusual trees together may make bad creatures appear which give chase. You don’t know what’s going to happen until you experiment.

If you are one who loves exploration, keep your eye on this one.

Hand of Fate (by Defiant Dev)

This game weaves a tale like no other that I’ve seen before it. Using tarot cards, the story is told with randomized encounters and events based on your draw. Once a combat card is shown, your character slips into a battlefield in which you fight using a combat system that’s simple but fun as you get to not only punch and smash your way through enemies, but dodge their blows as well.

Over time and as you complete aspects of the game, you’re granted more cards that are shuffled into your deck. It all makes for a fun and random game each time you play.

This one is a bit on the expensive side for an indie game but it may very well be worth it once it’s released for PC and PS4.

High Strangeness (by Barnyard Intelligence Games)

Readers may soon be cluing in on a a weakness of mine. If your game reminds me of A Link to the Past, there’s a good chance I’m going to like the game. Harking back to the late 80s and early 90s, this game mixes up 8-bit and 16-bit, creating what they call a 12-bit experience. This adventure has players bouncing between the classic era and … slightly less classic era to solve puzzles and kill monsters. When you’re in the 8-bit world, enemies may not have complex attack patterns, but they hit harder. In the 16-bit world, game assets are more detailed so you can see where you need to place a certain object.

The Phantom P.I.: Mission Apparition (by Rocket5 Games)

Another game in the adorable category, you’re playing a ghost buster of sorts in a puzzle/adventure game which places you in a spooky, maze-like mansion to put an end to the chaos caused by the thief ghost, Baublebelly.

Along the way, you encounter traps and puzzles which you need to solve by collecting objects and using them at the right moment. You may need a fuse to activate a switch, or bucket of water to put out a fire.

All in all, it’s a cute little package that works well on a touch screen.

Revolution 60 (by Giant Spacekat)

Set in the future, our hero is tasked with trying to find out why a weapons platform has gone offline which sets you on a course of killing baddies and robots and all sorts of futuristic things. Combat is a mixture of quick-time events and tactics strategy and the narrative combines a choice system that determines the reactions your character has to certain situations. Our hero is this badass woman who stays calm under pressure and looks good doing it. Basically, it’s like playing a blonde version of me. Har. Har.

Normally, I hate quick-time events (QTE). I don’t find it enjoyable in the least when a game is prompting me to smash the hell out of X at just the right moment or move the joystick in just manner so sitting down to play Revolution 60, I was rather skeptical about what I was going to experience. It turns out that I now have an addendum to my hatred of QTE and that is, on touchscreen devices they make much more sense. Why is that? One thing I hate even more than QTE is trying to use controller-like controls on a touch screen and I’m so glad they didn’t do them here. QTEs fit well as they don’t require intense button smashing and still allowed me to enjoy the story.

I introduced myself at the Revolution 60 booth as Bri and the woman who I talked with made a comment about how great that was since their head was also named Bri (Brianna). Interesting fact, the team is entirely (or nearly so) women and I had the opportunity to see Brianna at a panel the shortly before playing the game (that’s me in the pink dress up front in a picture she took: https://twitter.com/Spacekatgal/status/455690195468554241/photo/1).

Rollers of the Realm (by Phantom Compass)

Obviously, these folks have some sort of randomizer for the folks behind Rollers of the Realm somehow got the combination of pinball and RPG. You know what? It’s fun! Set in a medieval world, the main character is a thief girl who is trying to make it on her own with her pet dog. The two, and lots of people you meet along the way, are represented in-game as pinballs, each with their own physics. The playfield is based on the location the storyline is in such as a village with people standing around, boxes to destroy, and more.

Sentris (by Timbre Interactive)

I suck at music. I have no rhythm and typically I couldn’t tell you who sings what. For example, if you know it, it took 20 years for me to be able to pass the Yoshi Island on Mario RPG before I finally “got” it. Always up for a challenge though, I walked up the Sentris booth and said, “Girl, I’m going to try your game. I’m going to suck and you’re going to pretend I’m doing well to help my ego.” (This conversation may have only taken place in my head.)

The playfield is sort of like an LP that spins constantly, playing a background song that you can affect by inserting colorful segments of different sizes into the playfield. Different beats and… other music words… (sorry, I told you I’m inept) begin with each additional segment, leaving you with a unique song that’s truly your own with each play.

Completing certain color matches, you “beat” each stage. That is a bit of a misnomer for you don’t actually beat anything, only move yourself to the next stage to create another musical wonder.

Vertiginous Golf (by Surprise Attack Games)

Long gone are the crazy golf games we used to have; Wicked 18, Kirby’s Dream Course, and so on. When I saw this steampunk-themed, mini golf game, I had to try it out. Given a steampunk controller to control the action, I was given a large number of obstacles to use and bounce off of and hazards to avoid in reaching the pin of each stage. The stages are large and have plenty of going on with plenty of ways to try to reach the end.

There was an Oculus Rift version of this game but it was not demo-ing when I had the opportunity to play.

We Are Doomed (by Caffeine Monster Software)

Another dual-stick shooter to add to the large volume of this type of game, but this one is really, really pretty with bright, vibrant colors that almost has a papercraft-type feel to it. It doesn’t add anything new to the genre but it is fun and doesn’t break the budget. Something about this title kept me interested longer than a lot of dual-stick shooters do.

Woah Dave! (by Gaijin Games)

I broke this game when I played it. Sorry Dant.

Unashamed to admit that it is heavily influenced by the classic Mario Bros. game and Joust, Woah Dave is a mash-up of the two where you are trying to destroy bat-like monsters that get really angry and when they touch the lava on the bottom of the screen. When they hit it, they jump back up to the top of the level, hoping to reach the lava so they can get more pissed. …or something. In any case, it’s fun. It doesn’t try to be anything more than a simple game that is enjoyable and it succeeds.

If you want to know any more about the above games, check out their pages in the associated links. PAX East was an amazing experience for me and if you haven’t been there before, I highly suggest going if you can. Thank you to everyone I got to talk with and meet. Our time was short but it was a blast.

Fez

I had to wait a couple of years longer than most people to experience Fez. I did play it on Xbox Live Arcade back in 2012, and it became one of the first titles I attempted to review at Indie Gamer Chick that gave me a seizure. Which, to be clear, is not the fault of Phil Fish or publisher Polytron. It’s my fault. I took the risk of playing it, and with my condition, gaming is always a risk. I wasn’t sure I would ever get to play it, but by the glory of God, it’s finally on PlayStation Vita. Vita is a great platform for me, because if a game relies heavily on my personal epilepsy triggers, I can significantly dull my risk by dialing back the brightness of the screen. The back-lighting can’t be turned completely off, but it’s far and away my best, safest option to play a lot of games. Please note: this works for me. If you have photosensitive epilepsy, consult your doctor before trying to play any video game.

Has any indie game ever come with the crushing hype of Fez? Indies ideally shouldn’t have this much hype attached to them. It’s asking for a letdown. When it finally released on XBLA two years ago, the critics loved it, but I saw a bit of a mixed-reaction on social media. I’m sure some of that has to do with hostility towards creator Phil Fish. But I think most of that is the game was possibly over-hyped, at least from their perspective. It was featured in magazines, major websites, and a feature-length documentary. This is an independent video game we’re talking about here, not a first-round draft pick or a Rhodes Scholar. Getting excited about it is one thing, but some people were expecting some kind of life-changing experience out of it, and screamed “OVERRATED!” when it didn’t happen. Well, yeah. With those kind of expectations, of course you were. Fez didn’t change my life or make me see the world any differently. But I didn’t expect it to. I was hoping for decent indie platform-puzzle and nothing more.

It's a game, people. Not a pilgrimage.

It’s a game, people. Not a pilgrimage.

Well, I didn’t get a decent indie platform-puzzler.

I got the best indie platform-puzzler.

I’m two years behind the party, so I’m sure everyone knows the idea, but here’s a quick recap: you’re a baby Stay-Puff Marshmallow who lives in a world that’s 2D. A magical something happens, the game reboots, and when it’s back, you can rotate the world 90° at a time for a full 360° perspective, which alters the way you travel the land. You thus embark on a quest to find cubes. The rotation gimmick is one of the most inspired gameplay mechanics in a 2D game I’ve seen. Yea, it’s been done before. Super Paper Mario used a similar mechanic. But, where Super Paper Mario bored me to tears (the whole game felt really lazy and phoned in), Fez uses the gimmick almost flawlessly. That alone kept me interested from start to finish.

Truthfully, there really isn’t anything in Fez that hasn’t been done before. Fez almost plays out like one of those “Now That’s What I Call Music” CDs. They could call it “Now That’s What I Call Indies!” Name any major indie gaming trope and it’s here. Retro graphics? Check. Self-aware 4th-wall-breaking jokes? Check. Minimalist story? Check. Call-backs to classic games or platforms? Check. Lots of games do this and it often comes across like trying too hard (see Guacamelee), but Fez has just the right balance of it all. I’ll admit, the story didn’t work for me. The minimalistic quirk stuff is over-saturated these days and I’m over it. For me, I can get a good story from any number of mediums. I play games for the gameplay. And Fez’s gameplay is something special.

I have to admit, even with the duller back-lighting and extra precautions, I had to hand off Fez a couple times.

I have to admit, even with the duller back-lighting and extra precautions, I had to hand off Fez a couple times.

You can tell Fez was crafted with care by people with a genuine love of gaming. There’s almost nothing to complain about with the controls. They’re sharp and accurate. Jumping is spot-on. I honestly can’t think of a single knock on the controls. Or the graphics. Or the sound effects. Or the music. The puzzle design is not only clever, but I really dug the extra-circular stuff that you practically have to solve with pen and paper. I know this review is getting boring, but it’s hard to be snarky with a game I enjoyed this much.

My one and only gripe is sort of significant: it’s easy to get lost, and not know what to do next. The game doesn’t point you in the right direction, which I’m sure a lot of the old-school readers I have will enjoy (I swear, the next time I hear “back in MY day games didn’t hold our hands” I’m personally going to donate money to Trump for President, which will no doubt result in the collapse of society as we know it. TRY ME MOTHER FUCKERS!). But there was a lot of time I spent wandering aimlessly trying to figure out what exactly I missed to move the game forward. There is a useful map system that tells you when you’ve cleared every possible part of a stage, but I almost wish there was something more, for those who don’t wish to spend hours just plain stuck.

Perhaps a small non-complaint complaint is that Fez takes the "you're in a glitchy game world" concept too far a few times. The game starts with a sequence that mimics an old-timey PC reboot sequence, then does it again during the finale. It was cute the first time. The second time felt like a person saying "GET IT?" after you've already laughed, indicating that you indeed "got it."

Perhaps a small non-complaint complaint is that Fez takes the “you’re in a glitchy game world” concept too far a few times. The game starts with a bit that mimics an old-timey PC reboot sequence, then does it again during the finale. It was cute the first time. The second time felt like a person saying “GET IT?” after you’ve already laughed, indicating that you indeed “got it.”

That is literally my only complaint. Fez is a love letter to gamers. It practically dares you to not fall in love with it. I know not everyone does, but it charmed the socks off me. Again, I’m convinced that a lot of the dislike and disappointment stems from it being created by an asshole. Yea, welcome to the world of consumer entertainment. Entertainment is made by unlikable people of all stripes. Racists and anti-Semites. Homophobes and misogynists. Hawks and cowards. Far-left extremists and far-right wingnuts. Phil Fish seems like little more than your garden-variety fart-sniffer. So why is he such a pariah? I’ll tell you why: because it’s annoying that someone who is such a douchebag could also be so talented and create such an amazing work of art as Fez. Get over it, people. Embrace the douchery.

FezFez was developed by Polytron Corporation

$12.99 noted that Fish’s Twitter picture is Andy Kaufman, who was noted for his douchery, so are we sure this whole thing isn’t performance art in the making of this review?

Fez is easily Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

 

 

Cubesis

Cubesis is one of the most challenging turn-based puzzlers out of the box that I’ve encountered.

You’re given a 2.5D view of a world in which you have to accomplish a few objectives for each level. Objectives typically involve collecting treasure but also can also include such things as, “gather X amount of food” or “build a thing”. Treasures are spread out across the map and to collect them, you need to figure out how you are going to terraform the world by appeasing or displeasing the gods with the use of churches and monoliths. You’ll also need to determine which buildings to build while you wait for the world-changing effects to take place. Being able to store more food, sometimes build a second city for more population, weather control devices, and so on are all important.

cubesis01

The concept of the game is simple but it takes a long time to master. Much of the difficulty lies in trying to figure out just which buildings you need to build, for if you waste your resources on the wrong one or too many of one, you may waste precious turns because the planet is often either heating up or cooling down. If it gets too hot your people burn or if the sea levels rise too high and flood the land, you’re done for and must start over.

As you progress through the game, restarting the level is very common as many of your actions are trial and error. “If I build this, that could happen and then… OH GOD NO MY CROPS ARE DRYING UP!” Game over. Fuck!

One of the more frustrating parts, but also rewarding, is the terraforming (disguised as swaying the gods). To raise the sea level or push it back, you must build a certain type of building to make them happy, the above-mentioned churches or monoliths. The annoying part is that you need the right balance, or lack thereof, to force the effects you desire but sometimes what you need to create that balance is confusing. Building one of the buildings doesn’t seem to have any effect so you overcompensate and build three. RESULT! Oh, I spent too many resources building them all? Fuddy.cubesis03

Now, is all of this fun? Yes and no. See, I had some fun with the title. There were times where I was really feeling it and into it and others where I was frustrated and didn’t want to play anymore. This IS a good game but for a certain type of person and I apparently am not that person. It is no fault of the devs as I feel it’s a quality product. If you like real thinkers and a challenge, not minding having to start from scratch when you mess up, yes. Get this game. For me folks like me who I’ve discovered are not that person, skip it.

cubesis_logo

Cubesis was developed by Ikkju.

For $5, this game will last you a while as you try to figure out how to pronounce it. “Cube-sis”? “Cube-eh-sis”?

Cookie Clicker and Banana Bananza

Earlier this week, I was browsing the XBLIG marketplace when I came across a game that caught my attention. It featured two lesbians on the cover making out and suggestively wielding bananas like they were dildos. I’m not kidding. The game, Banana Bananza, was pulled today from the XBLIG market place. I guess having two chicks make like they’re going to fuck each-other with a banana is just the sort of thing that gets you yanked. By the way, when that happens with an XBLIG you’ve already bought, they WILL remove your ability to play the game from your Xbox. Check it out. Here’s what it looks like on my “recent” tab from the dashboard.

Banana 2

Here’s what it looks like when you try to boot it up.

Banana 3

Sucks, huh? But that’s how it works. If MS deems a game unsuitable for the marketplace, they can delete your ability to play it. No refund. Welcome to the digital age.

I actually did buy it. I figured, why not? Among other things, I live in the San Fransisco Bay Area and I support gay rights, so I’m going to Hell anyway. More over, I can be just as cynical as game developers. These games get attention, and not just for devs. My most popular reviews are all, sadly, games with anime-style graphics and lots of boobies. If not for the fact that I’ve heard from a lot of regular readers who discovered me and the XBLIG scene from those reviews, I unquestionably would be leaving them alone. It makes me wonder if the boob games have been an overall positive for XBLIG as a whole.

I’m being dead serious.

Anyway, Banana was the worst game I’ve ever played in my entire life. I’m not joking. I found out it was based on a popular free web game called Cookie Clicker. The idea being you would press A to “pick a banana” and watch a counter go up. After picking enough bananas, you could spend those on upgrades that pick the bananas automatically for you. And that’s the entirety of the game. But here’s the weird part: people who were making fun of this lazy version of Cookie Clicker were also warning me to not actually try Cookie Clicker myself. For fear of losing me. “We know you. We know your addictive personality. Please don’t Cathy. We all love you.” I was thinking “oh come ON, any game that could have inspired this can’t possibly win me over.

The original marketplace page for Banana had no screenshots of the "gameplay" so I took one myself. This is the entirety of the game.

The original marketplace page for Banana had no screenshots of the “gameplay” so I took one myself. This is the entirety of the game.

50+ hours later, with my index finger swollen from all the clicking, I have to admit, yea, they were right. I was legitimately addicted to Cookie Clicker, which is less a game and more a narcotic, only more legal and dangerous to your relationships.

So yes, you click a cookie to earn cookies which you spend on “buildings” that produce more cookies, or bonus items that increase the amount of cookies you can earn. I vastly underestimated how quickly and poorly the XBLIG clone was handled, because Cookie Clicker has a lot more going for it than just purchasing upgrades and watching cookies roll in. For starters, the XBLIG clone only had six possible things you could buy, and those things couldn’t be upgraded. Cookie Clicker has twelve, all of which can be upgraded multiple times to be more productive. There’s also bonus cookies that appear randomly somewhere on the screen that set off random special effects. There’s holiday-themed special events that unlock new upgrades. There’s even an end game involving the Grandmas you hire. Plus, you know, it’s free. As opposed to not free.

That thing in the corner is Santa Claus. Don't ask.

That thing in the corner is Santa Claus. Don’t ask.

Just playing Cookie Clicker earned me a lot of scorn and “you’re not a gamer” ridicule from the usual gang of idiots. I don’t understand it myself. How do we, as a community, broaden our horizons if we don’t explore every facet of gaming. Especially stuff that’s popular, and Cookie Clicker is popular. And I can totally see why. Some things are enjoyable on a level that defies explanation. Why do people just sit around and pop bubble wrap? I have no clue. And I have no clue why I spent so long watching a glorified number counter go up like I did with Cookie Clicker. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.

IGC_ApprovedCookie Clicker was developed by Orteil (who I think is now legally my dealer)

Banana Bananza is no longer available.

Cookie Clicker is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. Banana Bananza is most certainly not.

Check out a review of Banana Bananza before it was pulled from the market from my buddy Tim Hurley of TheXBLIG.com

Circix

Just a quickie review here, since Circix doesn’t exactly lend itself to 1,000 words. In this free-to-play mobile game, you connect different circuits together to solve puzzles. Each circuit has a number on it telling you the amount of lines you must connect to other circuits. In order to solve a puzzle, all circuits must be connected to each-other while following each circuit’s required line count. It’s a relatively simple concept, but it’s pretty satisfying as a puzzler. It gets off to a slow start and some of the basic puzzles are insultingly easy, but you can easily skip them and just focus on the intermediate or advanced stages (although most of the intermediate stages are also far too easy). In the higher difficulty puzzles, sometimes you’ll have to double up or even triple-up the amount of lines coming from a single circuit. Circix is an ideal portable puzzler for killing a couple of minutes on a road trip, waiting in line, etc. Awesome game. Really, they probably should have charged money for it.

It doesn't look like much, but Circix just owned my afternoon.

It doesn’t look like much, but Circix just owned my afternoon.

And.. well.. that’s really all I have to say. Again, Circix doesn’t really lend itself to the type of reviews I do here. The gameplay is one-dimensional, works, and doesn’t give me a lot to discuss. There’s no storyline quirks or control issues for me to get snarky about. It’s just a really solid, enjoyable puzzler that nobody will talk about or remember a day after they finish it. I get a lot of requests for simple, free-to-play iPhone games along these lines. Most of them I find enjoyable enough to tweet my approval of. In the case of Circix, I’m going a little bit further with it because I realized that I enjoyed it much more than the typical “I can’t possibly write a review about this” game. In fact, it’s one of the 50 best indies I’ve ever played. So even if it’s impossible for me to be all Indie Gamer Chickish on it, it deserves recognition. And a smack in the face for forcing me to bore myself and my readers writing up this review. Yeesh guys, some kind of annoying mascot or SOMETHING I could criticize would have killed you?

PromoGraphic_180x120Circix was developed Graham Barber & Russell King

IGC_ApprovedCircix is free to play iOS and Android devices.

Circix is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Super Dungeon Quest

I booted up Super Dungeon Quest for XBLIG today. I selected the Barbarian, selected normal for a difficulty level, and started the game. I then immediately took damage, literally right as the screen faded into the first fucking level. There was an instruction overlay on the screen explaining what all the shit does, which required a press of the A button to get out of. The game was not paused during this, so the enemies, which spawned right next to me (levels are generated at random) immediately started munching on me. It was as if I was the embodiment of Old Country Buffet and the enemies were old people you see and shudder at that wait for the place to open every morning.

And thus a new Indie Gamer Chick record was set: fastest a game caused me to, as they say in the hood, “lose my shit.” 1.7 seconds. That’s how long it took me to realize that I had already lost a full heart and was still actively taking damage, as I was reading the fucking instruction screen that was on top of the fucking action. And lose my shit I did. I couldn’t even manage to swear. I literally shook my fist in anger (I didn’t know people really did that until just now) while letting out a primal scream. I’m not even kidding. At that moment, I fully believe I was capable of doing things to my fellow human beings that any rational person would label as “evil.”

All the levels are randomly generated, which is why they lack of the elegant complexity of Gauntlet. I think I would prefer developer-made stages for games like this, but randomly generated stuff is hot right now, so whatever.

All the levels are randomly generated, which is why they lack of the elegant complexity of Gauntlet. I think I would prefer developer-made stages for games like this, but randomly generated stuff is hot right now, so whatever.

Now, here’s a thought since I’m 99.9% sure the developer will read this: I’m a critic. So I felt an obligation to continue past this point. I originally didn’t. I was going to turn off my Xbox and write a review based on that 1.7 seconds of digital “fuck you” the game threw at me. But even my mother said “you know, that’s not very professional.” I guess she had a point. BUT, if I hadn’t been a critic, and this had been my first experience with your game, that would have been it for me. Presumably, I would have only been playing the demo, which I would never have touched again. You really do only get one chance to make a good first impression. And if you don’t fix this stuff quickly, you stand to lose a lot of potential players based on a bad first impression. That goes for all you indie developers. Even if the game stands to get unfair later, at least make sure the opening, ease-in levels don’t screw you right off the bat.

But, I pressed on, and I’m happy I did. I kind of liked Super Dungeon Quest (another new record set: most generic name in gaming history). Think of it as Gauntlet meets a rogue-like, only with much simpler levels, and no multiplayer (bad choice). You choose a class of hero, then hack-and-slash your way through enemies, collecting loot and waiting for one of them to drop a key to the next level. After about thirty minutes of this, the game ends. You can also play an arena mode, or an endless arena mode. And um, that’s really it.

Like any other game that involves stat-grinding, I decided to throw caution to the wind and abuse my upgrades. This time, I tried a different tactic: I threw all my XP into luck. Upgrading luck allegedly increases the odds of an enemy dropping rare items like life-refills or defensive shields by 1%. So, in theory, I should have seen a 5% increase in drops, once I maxed out my luck upgrades. Instead, enemies were dropping shit for me like waiters at a banana peel convention. Throw in the fact that the Paladin’s “special power” is being able to refill his own health, and I was able to cruise through the game on normal difficulty with minimal effort. Then I went into the endless arena mode, and lasted nearly two hours, clearing 25 stages, before I succumbed to boredom and let myself die. Had that not happened, I would still be playing it.

By the way, I attempted to play endless arena on hard with the Paladin and crashed the game with a code 4. I took it as a sign and quit trying.

In fact, I got no less than four "Code 4" crashes on this screen alone.

In fact, I got no less than four “Code 4″ crashes on this screen alone.

I feel the groundwork for a really spectacular game has been laid here, but the product that’s out now is just okay. It’s also infuriating in its unfinishedness.  I think that’s a word. I crashed the game more than once. I sometimes passed right through gold or other items, unable to pick them up (the developer is aware of this but has no clue why it’s happening). Enemies would be spawned on the other side of walls and couldn’t be reached (thankfully none of them ever had the keys needed to make progress, but in theory, it could have happened). And the game is lacking some features that I felt like it needed: more upgrades, more levels, multiplayer, online play, leaderboards, and a larger variety of enemies. What I played feels more like a proof of concept. I *did* have fun with it, so it’s at least worth a look, and possibly a purchase. But Super Dungeon Quest needed more time to cook. All spit and no polish. I don’t think that actually makes any sense, but what do you want from me? I’ve been playing Fez for the last few days and had to go to the doctor to remove a used condom from my ear on account of my mind being fucked.

xboxboxartSuper Dungeon Quest was developed by Smoodlez

IGC_Approved$2.99 nearly froze the game during 20 odd levels into endless mode by rounding up all the enemies into one cluster in the making of this review.

Super Dungeon Quest is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. I see no reason why, with more development time and more modes of play, this couldn’t be a top 25 game, so get to work, Smoodlez!

Gameplay footage via Splazer Productions. Follow him on Twitter too!

Congratulations to Master Blud on the birth of his healthy baby boy, Lucas: the Indie Gamer Ankle-Biter!

Delivered on schedule. There's mud in your eye, Fumito Ueda.

Delivered on schedule. There’s mud in your eye, Fumito Ueda.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 300 other followers

%d bloggers like this: