September 25, 2012 20 Comments
I’ve never played Minecraft. Or FortressCraft. Or CastleMiner. Or any number of other voxel-type crafting games that are more trendy now than tramp stamps. Incidentally, I don’t have a tramp stamp either. I guess I’m not a very trendy person. But, there’s no malice behind my ignorance of the crafting scene. I just haven’t played it because it doesn’t look like something I would have fun with. Yea, I started Indie Gamer Chick to have new experiences, but I was thinking more along the lines of games that simulate what it’s like to be a penguin in heat, or a game where you fling mashed potatoes at gophers. Let this be said: if you hate something without playing it, you’re an idiot. To all of you guys who denounce Minecraft, FortressCraft, CastleMiner, or any other crafting game that you haven’t even played, you’ve really lost the plot. I know trying to appeal to the irrational core of gamers is silly, but I figure I should at least try.
I can’t compare Xenominer to something I haven’t played, so this final Uprising review will be somewhat unique. I go into it with no preconceived notions of what to expect. I have no bias acquired from the games it borrows elements from. This is a slate so clean you could perform surgery on it.
So I started the game and went through a brief tutorial that made me suck up various blocks and then reposition them in the open world. First thing I noticed: the graphics are clean. Second thing: the jumping is really good. Like, almost Metroid Prime good. Third, the frame rate was really good. Hey, this might not be so bad, I thought. Then the game wanted me to suck up ice to replenish my dwindling oxygen. This was a problem. Although I got as far as “ice = shiny” I couldn’t actually tell the difference between an ice block and a crystal block. Even with a TV large enough that it’s one of the seven wonders of the world, the text that identifies the blocks is practically microscopic. It’s also written in an alpha-numeric font, which never looks good when it’s smaller than an ant’s penis.
Most of the HUD displays are too small, but I was able to suck up the ice and covert it to oxygen. And then the sun went to rise up. This causes radiation to rain down upon you. The game warned me to take shelter. So I dug myself down a few blocks and covered myself up with them. I wasn’t sure how long to wait, and I didn’t want to press my eyeballs up against the TV to find out, so I undug myself and ended up irradiated. So I redug myself and waited for the sun to pass. Most games that makes you wait for stuff to happen are probably not going to win any Nobel Prizes for Fun. I did attempt to pass the time by drilling deeper, but then my battery ran out of juice, and then I ran out of oxygen, and then I expired. Sigh.
Upon respawning, the sun was still up and I instantly started taking damage. I did survive and was tasked with building something that required copper. I fucking turned over half the world looking for the shit, going through more oxygen tanks than a 70-year-old chain smoker. After an hour (including more respawns) I had found the silicon I needed, but no copper. Xenominer was unquestionably going to be a time sink. I tend to view such games favorably. Hell, there’s two time sinks on my top 10 list: Miner Dig Deep and Smooth Operators. But I had fun with those. Once I noticed how much time had passed versus the amount of fun I had up to that point (which would be none), I couldn’t hit the power button fast enough. I’ve talked with other XBLIG reviewers and they agree: Xenominer doesn’t get you off to a quick enough start, like all great time sinks do. Some more direction. Just a big enough push to get you feeling like you’re actually accomplishing stuff. But there is none.
So my first real crafting game is in the books. I didn’t really hate it, because it controlled really well (can’t stress enough how good the jumping physics feel) and the graphics held up. Mostly. Actually, the game starts skipping the more you walk around. I wanted to test how bad it was, so I decided to walk in a straight line with a stopwatch and time how long it would take to start skipping. Ready for this? It took less than two seconds per a pause (the average was about 1.7 seconds) . When the game freezes every two seconds, chances are it might not be quite done yet. Maybe Xenominer is in an early beta stage, and something amazing will come of it. I could see myself getting totally hooked into it, just like I did with Miner Dig Deep. Xenominer’s biggest problem is that it has nothing to hook you in early. If games are drugs, then picture Miner Dig Deep as heroin. Every good drug pusher knows you have to hook ‘em early, and that game does it. Xenominer, on the other hand, doesn’t offer you the drug until it makes you watch a documentary on grass growing and the latest episode of the World Series of Paint Drying Watching. Thanks, but I’ll just say no.
80 Microsoft Points said the Uprising had a 44.44% success rate at making the Leaderboard. In other words, the promotion had the same success rate as any nine random XBLIGs would have had in the making of this review.