September 6, 2011 15 Comments
Chester received a Second Chance with the Chick. The game has changed a lot. Read the updated review.
Update: Chester is now only 80 Microsoft Points.
I’m coming to the end of the 2011 Indie Game Summer Uprising. Thank God. To recap, of the eight games chosen by developers, 2 were pretty good (Cute Things Dying Violently and Take Arms) one was just okay (Doom & Destiny) and one was pretty ho-hum but had potential as a multiplayer game (SpeedRunner HD). The other four were so bad they almost defy classification. I hear that my reviews are not going over so well with some developers on the App Hub. I don’t really know how to respond to this, so instead here’s some music for you.
Do you want to know what it takes to please me? Don’t make a shitty game. Need an example of that? There are ten games on the right that make up my leader board, the ten best Xbox Live Indie Games I’ve played since starting IndieGamerChick. Do you want a more specific example? How about Chester, the title currently slated to take over that leaderboard on October 1st as the new #1 game on it. Yea, sorry for the spoiler there. I suppose Rocks in Spaaace! could derail its chances so make sure to check back at the end of the month.
Chester is a 2-D platformer that tries so damn hard to not be generic that you have to tip your hat to it. This is mostly due to the inspired graphics style. Or should I say styles. There’s many different ones, ranging from the default hand-drawn look that makes Chester feel like it’s a Nicktoons game to sketchbooks to Gameboys, etc, etc. It’s as if the developer couldn’t decide on which specific direction to take the game, so instead of choosing one he just said “fuck it” and included all of them. Every stage has a default theme, with extra themes being hidden throughout the quest. At any time you can use the bumpers to switch between themes. As of this writing, the themes don’t have any direct effect on game play, but future updates will include hidden areas that are exclusive to one particular graphics style.
The game play is a tad more traditional. Playing as Chester, you run, jump, double jump, and wall jump your way through three worlds, each with a different amount of levels totaling about twenty all together. The level designs tend to be straight forward, with paths branching only when you’re near a hidden object that unlocks an extra graphic skins or pieces to a rocketship. I haven’t quite gotten all of them, but I plan on going back through the game once the next patch hits that will provide a fourth world and a boss battle. Meanwhile, you collect stamps throughout the adventure which unlocks ten other characters for you to use, each with unique abilities. That said, the first dude you unlock is all you really need, and I was easily able to complete the game just using him. The other nine guys (hell, ten if you count the original dude) I never bothered using, which relegates them to “Princess in Super Mario Bros. 2″ status as being there just for show.
Things are not always perfect. The jumping is a bit stiff. The auto-wall-jump that was just patched in, has a bit of a learning curve to it. I’m not sure why they added it, but it’s hardly a deal breaker. From a design perspective, sometimes the graphics put style ahead of playability, making it difficult to tell what’s a hop-onable ledge and what’s in the background. This is also true of the bodies of water that you can swim in and bubbles that you need to hop across. Switching to different skins did help, but it’s still not always clear. Finally, sometimes the level design is really fucked up, especially a level where the end goal is right next to the starting area. I asked the designer about this and he said that his girlfriend designed the level. Well this set back the women’s lib movement by about fifty years, so thanks a lot.
In a way, I feel like I shouldn’t have liked Chester as much as I did. To be absolutely content while playing it almost defies explanation. It’s neither innovative nor original. And yet, it’s undeniably charming and loaded with spectacular design choices. I hate to go back to the graphics, because I’ve never been about how a game looks, but my hand is sort of being forced here.
I remember hearing more than one mentally malnourished nitwit tell me that Raventhorne was worth it’s price on its graphics alone. Which is silly, because no matter how good Raventhorne looked, it only looked good for an Xbox Live Indie Game. Compared to 99.9% of all the games released over the seventh generation of consoles, Raventhorne looks like total shit. The animation leaves a lot of be desired, backgrounds constantly repeat, enemy designs are laughably bad, and it just really stinks of a cheaply designed game. Again, it looks good for an Indie game. But that’s not exactly worth the brownie points to the general public that XNA insiders seem to think.
By comparison, Chester‘s stylized graphics look good, period. Whereas Raventhorne, if placed alongside Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade releases, would look low-rent and out-of-place, Chester would actually blend in really well. In fact, there were many times where I turned to Brian and said “this should be an Xbox Live Arcade release.” It would fit in perfectly alongside art-house titles like Limbo, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, or Braid. Even with decidedly old-school game play, it has a modern style with mass-market appeal. I can’t think of a higher praise for it.
The first release of Chester was apparently riddled with bugs. I guess I somehow missed most of them, but they’ve been patched out so that’s no longer an issue. I do have to say that if I was running events like the Uprising, I would try to make sure games were more complete and less glitchy. Some in the community feel that pushing games regardless of merit or polish is all that should matter. I can’t see things from their point of view, at least without some kind of paint thinner and lots of huffing. Pushing glitchy games seems to me like a good way to sour people on Xbox Live Indie Games. That’s just sanity and reason talking there though, so pay no heed.
Chester is not the most original game I’ve played since starting Indie Game Chick. It’s not even the best looking game. It’s certainly not the most complete game. But it is the best game I’ve played yet. I spent two play-throughs and four hours with it, and I enjoyed every single minute of it. With new levels to be added over the coming months, I’m certain to continue going back to it. It’s funny to me that I got multiple warnings from developers and play testers who told me that Chester either “sucked” or “was a total loss.” Some later told me that they figured “well, you hate everything else, so I figured you would really hate Chester.” Of course, I don’t hate everything. All that I care about is how much fun I have with a game. No Indie game has entertained me more. That is why I approve so much of it, why I give it my highest recommendation, and why it’s slated to take over the #1 spot on the Indie Gamer Chick Top-10. It almost made slogging through some of the really bad Uprising games worth it. Well, almost. Okay, it did. Ugh, I feel so dirty now. Oh well, thank God it’s over and.. wait, what? One more? Well son of bitch.
240 Microsoft Points feel Chester A. Arthur was a vastly underrated President of the United States in the making of this review.
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Thank you so much to Gear-Fish, an awesome source of Indie news and reviews, for the IndieGamerChick Uprising logo seen above!