Project Gert: Recon

Oh Lord.  Where do I begin with this one?  First off, how the FUCK is this chick not freezing to death?

That snowman started off life as her sister, Helga. Maybe you should put some more clothes on girl.  Hint hint.

That snowman started off life as her kid sister, Helga. Maybe you should put some more clothes on girl.

If I tried stepping outside in 1/10th the amount of snow as that, my body would have said “fuck it, that’s it’s.  This bitch is nuts, and now we’re going to die.”  Then I would have died.  And I would have deserved it.  Even in the Tomb Raider movie that was designed primarily as an excuse to give teen gamers a less blocky representation of Lara Croft to jerk off to, they had the decency to bundle poor Angelina Jolie up when they filmed in the snow.

There’s exactly one good thing I can say about Project Gert: Recon.  The paintings featured in the game’s cutscenes are beautiful.  So at least one person involved in this project has an amazing talent.  Seriously, watch the trailer below.  The actual in-game graphics are spoiled by awful animation and piss-poor collision detection, but the paintings are spectacular.  I would totally commission this guy to do a portrait.  But that’s where any complements end.  Project Gert is yet another December entrant to the “potential worst game of the year” category.

See?  Pretty cool.

See? Pretty cool.  Even if any rational person would be thinking “I really should have put more thought into my attire.”

The idea behind Project Gert is it’s part platformer, part physics-puzzler.  Neither part is done particularly well.    The platforming sections are slippery.  As mentioned above, the game is set in an ice world, and I have to wonder if that was done to excuse the poor control in this game.  All movement is loose, to the point that you’ll inevitably slip off into pits and die.  The funny part is, enemies are affected by this too.  There were some machines on slopes that were slipping and sliding along with me.  Actually, it’s not so funny, since a few times this led to cheap deaths where they would slide directly into me.  And fighting back was sure an adventure unto itself.  Collision detection is spotty as hell, so you practically have to be on top of an enemy to cause any damage to it.  The line between where you can hit and enemy and where an enemy is hitting you is blurry, so I found just avoiding them seemed like the best strategy.  Again, maybe the ice setting is the reason, and the poor girl is frozen numb and can’t properly swing a sword.

The main draw of Project Gert is supposed to be physics-based puzzles.  The concept is “figure out a way to get a special block to sit on a special platform.”  Solid idea.  Shitty, glitchy physics.  Once the special block starts moving, it slides like it’s sitting on a skateboard.  Granted, the game has a habit of saying “good enough” when the block is barely on the platform and probably bound for falling off it.  That’s generous of it, but sometimes it asks too much of the players, like a gas station offering 10¢ off a gallon but only if you siphon it by mouth.  An example is requiring you to fire a stone to push a block one way, then resetting the crosshairs, lining it up, and firing it the other direction to push the block onto the special platform.  Timing this is bad enough, but the physics for it are unstable and often it didn’t really push the block in the opposite direction.  It just made it fall slower, which is remarkable considering how slow it was already going.

And then there’s the times when the game engine just said “fuck it” altogether.  I would fail at a puzzle, restart it, and the blocks would not be stacked correctly.  Once, a block was aligned too far to the right.  This was one of those “fire the rock at it to move it” puzzles that presumably required pristine timing and placement, so having everything out of alignment from the start was aggravating.  This happened more than once, and sometimes I couldn’t even restart the puzzle to get the blocks realigned properly.  Or sometimes I would restart a puzzle and entire blocks would be missing.   About the best thing I can say about the puzzle system here is that the game gives you the option to skip them.  When being able to skip stuff in a game is the best thing it has going for it, it is a truly awful game indeed.

It really doesn't look that bad in still pictures.  Just watch the trailer.

It really doesn’t look that bad in still pictures. Just watch the trailer.

Besides the still paintings, there’s nothing here remotely appealing.  Bad platforming.  Bad puzzles.  Boring setting.  Terrible writing.  Awful animation.  Glitchy physics.  It’s not quite as bad as Halloween Pie or Sententia, but it’s close.  Quite frankly, I’ve never been happier to see a game crash and dump me back to the dashboard.  Which this one did.  It was right after I cleared a pit after finding out there was a flimsy wall-jump in the game, which isn’t mentioned at all during the tutorial.  Once I got past that, I encountered another glitchy puzzle that I ended up skipping.  An explosion animation went off and then the Code 4 screen appeared.  At this point, I did the only thing I could do: jump out of my chair and scream “I don’t have to play Gert anymore!  Hallelujah, it’s a Christmas miracle!”

xboxboxartProject Gert: Recon was developed by Modern Intrigues

80 Microsoft Points were so excited, they had to sing!

Hark the imperiled Gamer Chick sings:

Glory for the Code 4 screen!

Piece of shit that boils my bile.

Gert and physics won’t reconcile.

Joyless crap with cheap ways to die.

Puzzles can be skipped so why should I try?

Like Tom Selleck’s agent proclaimed:

It’s over dude, this shit is dead.

Um, in the making of this review.

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60 Responses to Project Gert: Recon

  1. Story is supposed to be the highlight, not puzzles.

    She can stay warm due to the “Zerrigweave” outfit she wears. It’s hinted at in the dialogue.

    The code 4 is a mystery

  2. Mike says:

    After seeing this game’s developer get into a long winded e-argument with another internet blogger over a bad review, I was expecting way more sparks in the comments here. Come on you guys, stop being civil and fight!

    Yeah, a good story can add 1 or 2 points to a game’s score out of 10, but it can’t be the foundation. However I can only trust that the story is absolutely fantastic, seeing as how the developer was willing to remove a vital part of hack and slash platforming (the ability to attack in the air), just because the plot demanded it be so.

    • An XBLIG Guy says:

      I like games with good stories. I tried the game and I liked the voice acting. I have an itch to try something new and refreshing. Killing zombies can only be fun for some years.

    • You should probably check out Twitter then. He has accused me of lying about the game having a Code 4 multiple times, called me a liar, and says the people who have given him a negative review are on crack.

      https://twitter.com/WilloTheNight

      • CJ says:

        Is that the guy who unfollowed you too? XBLIG takes all kinds of folks, I don’t know why people complain about sales numbers. :D

        • CJ says:

          Don’t know why he’d call you a liar about a damn Code 4 error. All XBLIG developers know it’s either cause of the right code at the wrong time(someone doesn’t know how to handle IO exceptions lmao), an unreproduceable scenario(random as fuck, blame Microsoft) or aliens. Should’ve gave him a picture of your Code 4.

      • Mike says:

        Ah yes, that’s the good stuff. I guess this makes me a jerk but I just love seeing somebody unravel like this. Every time somebody criticizes his game, he replies that it is somehow the player’s fault for not liking it: You didn’t play it long enough. You didn’t pay attention to the storyline. Reviewers are just bitter! That guy gave me a bad review because he’s biased against anime, and he couldn’t even write well enough for my school paper! They’re supposed to like it for the story not the gameplay. You made up the code 4 error!

    • Jimmy Page says:

      Have to say he’s been one of the more civil developers so far that I’ve had responses from.
      I was kind of impressed as I did slate his game quite badly really

  3. Actraiser says:

    I mentioned this game in my mini roundup of the weeks games when Project gert came out and was subjected to a string of harassment and nonsense from this Will O’Reagan character. He even followed me to a forum I am an active member of and started annoying everyone there too.

  4. Jimmy Page says:

    In terms of the review the only bit I’d say I’d disagree with is the plat forming as if you remove the stupid slow fight mechanics and get rid of some of the leap of faith moments then I would say it would fit into the fast paced platformer genre. I will also say I think the slipping on platforms thing might be more of another physics bug as I noticed that but only every so often. Mostly I seem to stop fairly quick and not slide.

    • Well he told me he’s been working with the same engine since 2007 and thus any bugs or glitches are impossible and would have come up by now.

      • Jimmy Page says:

        Yeh but from I’ve read its not an in house engine so much. I’m probably wrong but I’m sure in the credits there was information of where / who the engine was from. Not defending the developer here as its still partly his fault if there’s bugs / glitches in the engine but it could simply be not having programmed it he hasn’t run into them.

        • Three physics engines, 4 if you want to separate the “Platforming” engine, but I wouldn’t, as you are mostly interested in what passes through what…

          Platforming; Garage Games, TorqueX.(This will have hiccups during garbage collections)
          Puzzle: Farseer Physics (this is the one that will go wild sometimes)
          APE(Actionscript Physics Engine Port), this is for the balloon strings.

          I’ve actually worked on Farseer and APE a lot to get out bugs. TorqueX is almost flawless.

  5. CJ says:

    First rule of programming: NEVER assume there won’t be any bugs in your game. NEVER. :D

  6. CJ says:

    Dramatic ART sir! That means he can draw hot chicks AND evoke emotion from his viewers. Team Shuriken WATCH OUT! :D

  7. Due to the obvious run of bad press we’ve had, I’ve written a press release and made it available for public viewing. This may be late, and non-standard practice. For that I apologize.

    http://modernintrigues.com/press/press_release.htm

    • Most of the bad press is because of your behavior. You’ve been nothing short of disgraceful.

      People make bad games. Big companies do it and little indies do it. They SHOULD defend their games. I get a lot of developers who treat me like I’m a roastmaster saying “OOOH OOOH DO ME NEXT!” like they’re at the Friar’s Club. It always disappoints me.

      But calling reviewers who dislike your game liars, crack heads, or idiots? That makes you look bad. Especially when non-critics are saying “your game really is bad, here’s why” and you put your fingers in your ears and chant la-la-la-la. I mean, Will, I’m really sorry but Project Gert: Recon is bad in every way a game can be. All the physics bugs you think you fixed are not fixed. Besides that, the writing, character design, level design, and puzzle design are boring. Games are made to entertain. Your game doesn’t. People are trying to tell you that. You keep shutting them down. This is narcissism run amok. And you come across like one of those delusional contestants on American Idol who sings off key and sounds like what happens when you cross a garden rake with a wood chipper, saying the judges are all wrong. No, you really have not made anything remotely decent here. Your game is horrible, glitchy, and not in the slightest way entertaining. Even unintentional comic value is gone now, because you’ve made the whole situation just sad.

      People have reached out to you to offer you some hope and you’ve turned them off. You’re making it difficult for people to root for you. You’ve shown you’re not open to feedback unless it’s positive. If you’re not open to receiving negative feedback, you’re a lost cause because there is no hope you can improve. Your previous game was awful, and now this one is too, and you’re blaming everyone but yourself. People have tried to help you, but you refuse to acknowledge your game’s flaws. This is not healthy, Will. I hate to suggest anyone give up developing games, but I do suggest it to you. You don’t have the disposition for it. Stick with the writing, since that’s clearly what you’re passionate about.

      I’m truly sorry you put so much effort into your games and they weren’t well received. But that’s on you, not everyone else. Your goal is to create a fanbase and entertain gamers, and you’ve failed to do that. Taking out your frustrations on the people you failed to entertain is not going to help your cause. I’ve worked with many developers whose games have crashed, or had physics glitches, and all but you have been receptive towards finding those glitches. You prefer to pretend they don’t exist, and say that I lied about your game Code 4ing. Sorry, but I didn’t. Your game crashed. It also had many glitches with the puzzles and physics. You said that’s not possible, even when others have said it happened to them too. Your passion impresses me. The baseless accusations and childish temper tantrums do not. Ask yourself what’s more likely: that everyone is out to get you, or that you’re not as good at game development as you think you are?

      Nobody is out to get you Will. Talent speaks for itself. If you have to tell people how talented you are, that should tell you something.

      Good luck to you. I mean that.

      • An XBLIG Guy says:

        Marketing is a horrible beast to deal with. Some say that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
        Indeed, many XBLIG projects simply sink with no apparent reason. There are plenty of examples of games that have great reviews, have a great rating, and their sales are surprisingly low. On the other hand, some other projects have an incredible success with no apparent reason as well: They have horrible reviews, have an average rating, and yet their sales data makes them part of the “best sales today” list.
        The lesson I’ve learned is that no XBLIG developer should think that the success of a game is proportional to the reviews it gets.

      • The problem with comments like “It was right after I cleared a pit after finding out there was a flimsy wall-jump in the game, which isn’t mentioned at all during the tutorial.” is that there exists games like “Limbo” which are not only popular, but very fun, which force people to think and learn things on their own. The existence and popularity of these games proves that people can and will get past any part in a game, even if it means running to youtube to figure it out. Also, the fact that wall jumping comes up in level 4, means people may have already bought the game anyways, and will probably want to figure it out on their own. The other thing is, there are other walls before there where you may have learned that you can wall jump. I could be wrong, but that’s my take on it. I think it’s a center piece of the game. It’s not there by accident. It was put there by someone who has known about wall jumping since he begged his mom to buy Ninja Gaiden for NES(me). And yes, she did buy it, miracle of all miracles. Anyways, it’s really sad that wall jumping is now expected these days. It used to be a nice little gimmick, but I think it’s very over-used, and that’s why it’s only appearing once in this game as a requirement. I realize I sound silly at this point painstakingly explaining things to the press which should have been detailed in a press release, but what the hell… I screwed up. It could be all these little facts and details are completely worthless, and all someone needs is a megaman-upgrade (Bleed). I really enjoyed that game, but my view is a bit tainted by the complete absence of compassion we have gotten from the social bloggers.

        • “The problem with comments like “It was right after I cleared a pit after finding out there was a flimsy wall-jump in the game, which isn’t mentioned at all during the tutorial.” is that there exists games like “Limbo” which are not only popular, but very fun, which force people to think and learn things on their own.”

          Which is fair, but Limbo and it’s ilk had engaging gameplay, smooth play control, clever design, good physics, and a plot that makes players care about what’s going on. Project Gert is like the Mirror Universe version of it. Boring gameplay, awful play control, redundant level-designs with leep-of-faith platforming, glitchy physics, and a horrible plot with bad writing.

          I think you’re mistaking compassion for honesty here. I feel bad for you that you made a game and it’s terrible. I really do. But you did ask me for an honest assessment of what I thought of it. Well, you got it. Compassion is not telling you your game isn’t deeply flawed, glitchy, or something outright broken when it is all those things. And I feel bad for you that you can’t comprehend that.

          You seem to think people don’t “get your game” and that’s why it’s getting bad feedback. No, they get it. It’s just that Project Gert Recon is a bad game that is not fun. If it was fun, it would get good feedback. It’s not, so it’s not.

          • Yes, you could say Project Gert does mirror Limbo in many ways, as Limbo came out while we were on the white board for Project Gert, before Moonbreaker or a puzzle we’re even a twinkle in anyone’s eye. I’m just going to ignore your dishonesty about all our features being bad, for now, and address the one comment I think does have some validity. The leap of faith moments are a property of the final level. I’m considering starting out even more zoomed out for the final level. The problem is, the final level is 2X zoomed out in comparison to the rest of the entire game. Zooming out even more, for an initial look at the level would probably just cheapen the design, but I’m considering it. The problem is, only 125 people have bought the game, so the sample of complaints is relatively small, and limited almost entirely to the social XBLIG bloggers. I think most people don’t even notice that the level is zoomed out already. The other interesting part is the silly chain that takes you on a trip to all three moonbreakers, that part should balance the sanity a bit. It’s not like I’m just taking things away and demanding things from the player. They have a platform and a chain which is totally weird, and a unique idea as far as I know. An incredibly simple design which results in a ton of deaths usually. I think the issue with you reviewers sometimes is you are saying leap-of-faith moments are always bad. There are technically zero leap of faith moments until level 5. The problem is, many get over-zealous with platforming and blindly jump at any opportunity.

            Anyways, even though it is level 5, I’m going to tweak the camera movement a bit to see if we can increase visibility. I’m pretty sure there are no other leap of faith moments in the game.

            • What percentage of those 125 people do you think actively talk about their games in social media? XBLIG has almost no social-awareness outside of the XBLIG community. But your telling yourself that only those actually writing about it think it sucks. If it’s almost universal dislike of your game among those who are talking about it, what does that tell you the sentiment is among those who aren’t talking about it?

              Your decision to “tweak” level 5? That’s a good one. That shows a desire to improve. When you called me a liar over your game crashing, that was not such a good decision. Nor was saying people who dislike your game are on crack. Nobody wants your game to suck. I want the best for everyone in the community. These are my boys, ya know. But if your game sucks, I’m not going to tell you “oh no, it’s great Will! Keep it up!” All the critiques in this review are legitimate, even if they’re done in a style done to make it more fun for others to read. You’re getting the same critiques from others in a more polite fashion, but it’s all the same complaints. Take that and fix your game. You’re never going to realize your potential with your attitude. You’re going to continue to be the laughing stock of the community.

              And there’s nothing dishonest about your features being bad. They are. They suck. Your game sucks. The ideas might be good ones (maybe), but the execution is just awful.

              • Well if you are aiming to be an “editor/critique” for your “boys” as you call it, you should try being more accurate. I’ve been through +30 editors on my novel, and the main difference between ones you listen to and ones you don’t, is their accuracy. When it comes right down to it, the difference is this: If you want to be heard, be 100% accurate. Anything less and you are wasting people’s time. If you want to be entertaining, you might try video or podcasting, because then you can be sarcastic, too.

                • CJ says:

                  As far as your wall jump mechanic is concerned, you should play Super Metroid, that game did it best. You just have a NPC do it in front of you. It doesn’t technically help you figure it out all that much, but it does tell you that there IS a wall jump mechanic in the game and it’s up to you to figure it out. The timing is kinda late in the game though. You know what? Instead of doing that, check out Egoraptor’s Sequelitis series on Youtube, especially the Mega Man X episode. ALL EXPERIENCED AND PROSPECTIVE XBLIG DEVELOPERS, WATCH THAT! Most XBLIG developers make some pretty retarded game design decisions(not referring to you specifically Will). That video will help you guys out some, promise. :)

                  I thought Limbo was retarded though. :D Play a platformer in the dark, and not know where half the traps/enemies/obstacles/items are. The novelty wore off after a third repetition of the first trap, where that time I couldn’t see it clearly enough(INNOVATION!!!) IMO, that game had NONE of what Cathy was talking about. I equate games like Limbo to reality TV – just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s any good. If you haven’t noticed, I didn’t have any fun with Limbo :P

                  • If you don’t finish Limbo, then yeah, it sucks. Sounds like you are in that camp. Of course I had watched Sequelitis. I tend to not mention it that much, because then it sounds like I’m advocating not doing your own research. But sometime in September, I watched that for my first time. It gave me a few ideas, specifically with being more blatant with enemy placement. For awhile I thought it was cheap to put an enemy higher on the platform, but what he says in the video is correct, having an enemy in a position where you wouldn’t expect them makes the platforming more of a thinking game. I really don’t see the wall jumping area as an issue. You are put in an area with almost nothing to do except look at the lights, which not to toot my own horn, cool in themselves. The only thing you need to do do is learn to wall jump or catch the small ledge, not sure if you saw that, which if you are a gamer you may have figured out already. I’m sure if people were getting stuck, I would have heard of it by now. The NPC idea is obviously interesting, because I do that on level 3 with having a robot crawl into the water. The other major thing I learned from Sequalitis is that the timing on the whip became a tool the developers used to make the game more challenging. I had already done that with the sword, but knowledge of this affected a few more enemy placements as well. In all, it’s only a 25 minute game or so for experts, so it’s not like these ideas are so prolific. The important thing is that the ideas are there, and they can be explored. The sad thing is, with only 125 units sold, it’s not likely that they will be explored by me personally. Best part about Sequalitis?
                    “MEGA MAN MEGA MAN!!!”
                    “SSHUUUTTTUPPPPPPP, I KNOOWWWW!!!!”

  8. Mike says:

    Can I do a little experiment on you guys? Which of these two sentences is more clear?

    A) He was forced to move out of his comfort zone while in a classroom environment, and had to make a game on Android, when he normally had dreams of and had been practicing on XNA.

    B) He had been following his dreams and practiced making games on XNA, but the classroom took him out of his comfort zone and taught him to create a game on Android as well.

  9. Argamae says:

    I hear high praise for the in-game art. But to be honest, the cover art turned me off immediately. Looks like some sort of swimming game to me.

  10. The trailer doesn’t look so bad. I’ll give it a try. It can’t be worse than Halloween Pie.

  11. Wow 38 comments thus far, impressive stuff! You must be willing to accept criticism as critique and therefore let it inform future improvements in your game design. Indies have a massive up hill struggle as it is in terms of marketing their games so anything that is said as reaction to the press should be balanced and humble. We made changes before our first game’s xblig release suggested from peer feedback, still encountered a code 4 that had to be sorted and have made many further changes to the upcoming phone version. Listening to & acting upon critical & gamer feedback whether it be negative or positive is crucial to developing a fan base and becoming a better designer.

    Side note: don’t ever release a game on Steam Greenlight if you haven’t got a thick skin and can’t deal with some seriously harsh feedback, often making Cath’s reviews seem positively charming by comparison. Remember she is analysing the mechanics of your game in relation to their effectiveness and how fun they are, not personally attacking you!

    • CJ says:

      I heard Greenlight was full of next-gen idiots – polygon whoring, postprocessing-obssessed, flash-hating(for good reason I admit), violence worshipping, FPS boot-licking, realism overdosing junkies who can’t step away form their computer and go look at the real world for an hour. Confirm, OR DENY!? :D

      • Jim Perry says:

        For the most part, that’s true. The majority just seem to be looking for CoD/WoW/whatever clones and wouldn’t recognize good gameplay if it slapped them in the face. It’s sad, Greenlight had a lot of potential, kinda like XBLIG before crApp developers took over. :(

        • Jimmy Page says:

          In fairness to a certain developer known for poor games. Silver Dollar have seemingly been shaping up or trying to with their past couple of games going for a very different artistic approach.

          Also greenlight wise its still possible to get through it, just make sure you are ready to plug your game to try and get it through and try to get it on things like Indie static and others with a following to try and speed it up a bit.

          • CJ says:

            But Silver Dollar released a LOT of *ahem* games before getting to that point… :P I don’t consider that worth mentioning IMO. What I can definitely say in defense of that developer however, is that he is one of the most active XBLIG testers/reviewers at App Hub. Even though he didn’t test MY game(on the grounds that it was actually well-tested and higher quality than most of the stuff on there maybe? LOL), I see that guy a lot when it comes to others games.

            • Silver Dollar also fails a lot of games, which is good. I fail a lot of games too, and choose not to review a lot, too. Failing a game is harder, because you know half the devs aren’t going to understand why you are doing it. Not to say this has anything to do with the negative press in blogs. I think that has more to do with what’s popular right now. Lot’s of views on “Best Friends Play XBLIG,” etc.

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  14. Niall Taylor says:

    What everyone in this discussion seems to be missing so far is that the review is actually extremely fair and objective. From the way its been described, I was expecting an huge rant filled with expletives and hyperbole – instead its a well thought out list of the issues AND POSITIVES of the game, BACKED UP BY EVIDENCE.

    The animation isn’t very good – I can see from the trailer alone that the run animation is awkward and broken looking. It totally breaks up the handpainted artstyle (which IGC was positive about.)

    The paintings look great! Gives the game a ton of personality. IGC’s right there, learn from that, use that technique again.

    The collision detection is terrible! The controls are too loose! In a game that involves platforming, close-quarters action and physics puzzles, that isn’t good enough, its what we call game breaking. Things that get in the way of core gameplay loops are called “issues”. You need to accept that issues are negative.

    And finally, puzzles not resetting themselves? Game breaking. That needs fixed. And the game crashing? That’s a massive issue! Nobody would “make that up”.

    TLDR IGC hasn’t been “brutally honest” or “without mercy” – she’s merely explained the problems she’s found in the game, all while being very nice about your artistic choices. Its a great review to learn from, so learn from it.

    -@nialljtaylor

  15. Niall Taylor says:

    Also that press release is borderline narcissism.

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