Shipwreck

If you’ve been browsing the Xbox Live Indie Game marketplace, there’s a chance you might have noticed a fairly convincing Zelda clone pop-up over the last month. That is, if you can see past the dozen or so Flappy Bird clones littering the new releases. Then again, you might have missed it. After all, it has box art that looks like this:

Insert Tom Hanks and/or Gilligan's Island joke here.

Insert Tom Hanks and/or Gilligan’s Island joke here.

And it has a name that isn’t likely to inspire thoughts of the game whose legacy it tries so very hard to invoke. Shipwreck? Seriously? Still, it caught my attention, even though I’m not all teary-eyed nostalgic over Zelda. Chances are, it meant more to your childhood than it did mine. Don’t get me wrong. I love the series. Link Between Worlds was my favorite game of 2013, which I’m just as shocked by as anyone else. And I admit, the thought of a really good Zelda clone had me a bit excited. But it was all for not. My rule is, if I like a game 50.1% more than I dislike it, it gets my seal of approval. Shipwreck hovers around 40%. Maybe 45%. Close, but no cigar.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The idea is, you’re a chick whose ship crashes and you have to gather four magical elements and defeat a ghost inside a lighthouse so that you can get a new ship and return home. The graphical style, sword-swinging animation, and castaway theme of the game is clearly aimed after Link’s Awakening, which I’ve always felt was one of the more overrated Zeldas. Still a solid game, mind you, but just not all that. Shipwreck still does a good job of emulating the feel of it. But then some glaring flaws pop up.

Credit where it's due: it looks the part.

Credit where it’s due: it looks the part.

For starters, the overworld has no enemies in it. For real. You just wander from place to place, looking for the next dungeon. There’s also no hidden caves, secret passageways, or surprises of any sorts. It’s an empty, sprawling, lifeless world. That worked in a game like Shadow of the Colossus (which mind you, still had SOME collectables, like the fruit or lizard tails), but in a 2D Zelda style game? It’s just so boring. Given the fact that Zeldas have been based around secret doors from the very start of the franchise, neglecting to include them in a Zelda tribute seems to miss the point of the series entirely.

There’s also not many items to collect. I got a shield (which you have to equip and activate, just like in Link’s Awakening), a crossbow, a lantern, and a pick-axe. That’s it. The game’s dungeons (one starter, four “gather the holy trinkets”, and one finale) don’t contain special items that you need to solve puzzles or advance further. Really, the more you play Shipwreck, the less tributey this Zelda tribute feels. It’s missing so many key elements of the formula, with only the boring stuff that anyone can do left in. It would be like if at Shaquille O’Neal’s hall of fame induction, they left out his four championships and focused on Kazaam and his free-throw shooting. Why would you even do that? And why would you leave the best parts of Zelda out of a Zelda tribute?

It does a lot of other fundamental stuff wrong. There’s no overworld map. The enemies “blink” when they take damage and don’t recoil enough. They also all seem to take two shots to kill. Except the boring bosses, which are spongy as hell. Oh, and you know how in some Zelda games, in order to get to where you’re supposed to go in a dungeon, you have to fall through the floor? Yea, Shipwreck does that too. Only in Shipwreck, you take damage for it. What a horrible idea! And why the FUCK does it only use two equip buttons when there are four face buttons on an Xbox controller? No, it doesn’t matter if you’re paying tribute to a two-button game. Not using all the resources at your disposal is just obnoxious.

The first boss is a giant crab monster. Of course it is.

The first boss is a giant crab monster. Of course it is.

Yes, Shipwreck does a lot of things right. I like how, instead of enemies dropping hearts (even when you have full health), they drop apples that you can save and use later. Now that’s a good idea. I liked the desert dungeon. And…….. well actually that’s the only stuff that really stood out to me. Everything else never got brutally awful or anything, but Shipwreck was bland and boring from the start and never really picks up steam. It will find an audience because it looks Zeldaish enough to warrant a purchase. I’m also not this game’s target audience, and I’m sure children of the 80s will probably enjoy this a lot more than I did. But, taken on its own merit, Shipwreck is just a dull video game experience. And taken as a Zelda clone? No secrets. No clever puzzles oriented around items found in dungeons. All that’s really left is the combat and some aspects of dungeon exploration, and even those are quite a bit off. Let Shipwreck be a lesson to everyone: when paying tribute to your favorite childhood classic, looking the part should take a back seat to feeling the part. Shipwreck is to Zelda what Lucky Charms would be without the marshmallows.

xboxboxartShipwreck was developed by Brushfire Games

$2.99 really did enjoy the desert dungeon quite a bit in the making of this review.

My amigo Tim Hurley really disagrees with me on this one. Read his review.

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10 Responses to Shipwreck

  1. Pingback: REVIEW: Shipwreck | the / . / XBLIG

  2. tarhik says:

    This game was done by Nick Gravelin. He is one of the unsung heroes at XBLIG. He himself has helped me a lot in all my projects. The fact that he decided to publish his game in the xbox 360 before any other market makes me feel proud of being part of XBLIG. I wish him luck in this new adventure!

    • Seth Battin says:

      tarhick, THANK YOU. I had to hunt down the comment link, because I had the same thought exactly. I even wrote about it. http://itsobviously.com/pbaction/get-wrecked-you-piece-of-ship/

      But the real reason I felt compelled to comment was that it sure seemed like Super Dungeon Quest was reviewed as superior to Shipwreck. No possible way. AND it yielded a code4? Back in Nick’s tenure on the XNA team, that was grounds for rejection from publishing. I haven’t reviewed a publish submission in a long time, but I am amazed that that rule is no longer enforced. Our poor beloved XBLIG has really to a new low. When a game that can’t even maintain a basic level of quality is seen as superior to something so lovingly crafted as Shipwreck..what a travesty.

      • Seth, it merely came down to personal taste in that case. I enjoyed the experience of Super Dungeon Quest better than Shipwreck. Several people will disagree with that, but my opinion is not a democracy. If it was, I would be a Sonic the Hedgehog fan.

        • Seth Battin says:

          No need to find it fun, and no need to change your opinion. I just think that quality should weigh heavily. You invited the SDQ devs to improve their game’s quality, so that it would be good. But for Shipwreck, you said (paraphrased) “not as good as one of the best game franchises of all time, ergo not fun”. It’s like you reviewed Shipwreck in an entirely different league than SDQ. Which now that I write it out…is exactly how it should have been done. There were no glaring construction flaws, so it gets measured against much harder criteria…OK.

          But worse overall? That is unfathomable to me.

          • Um, well this is my own personal blog, based around my own personal opinion, so the only thing that gets weighed is how much I personally enjoy a game. It’s unfathomable to YOU, but what makes your opinion more valid than mine? It’s not. They’re equally valid.

            I personally did not enjoy Shipwreck or find it to be as high quality as you did. No monsters in the overworld. No puzzles to solve. A lot of aimless wandering. SDQ wasn’t deep, but it wasn’t boring either. Your argument is “my standards are different from yours, but I believe my standards are superior to yours and you should go by them.” I don’t get that.

          • Also, I should point out that I feel SQD is already good, hence why I gave it my seal of approval. It has room for improvement. So does Shipwreck. Every game gets a Second Chance here. Shipwreck I found to be mostly boring, as in about 55% boring, 45% not boring. It came about as close to getting my seal and failing as any game I’ve reviewed has.

            Lovingly crafted doesn’t necessarily mean “quality” either. If you don’t believe me, you should see the stuff I made for my parents out of playdoh when I was 7.

            • Seth Battin says:

              I’m really sorry for how this back and forth has gone. I had no intention of telling you were wrong for enjoying one more than the other. Fun is a perfectly valid way to measure a game. I’m thinking I’ll have to revisit SDQ, because clearly I missed something enjoyable there. My first experience with it was roughly the same as yours, except I didn’t feel compelled to keep playing it.

              Let me try to rephrase my first post to be less abrasive: I wish SDQ was made to the same standards as Shipwreck. I wish all the games that passed peer review for XBLIG were of higher quality. You know better than anyone that they could use the bump. Sometimes games are just fun, and I understand that fun can operate independently from craftsmanship; Orbitron was awful. But Orbitron was a well-made, badly-designed game. SDQ might be a badly-made, well-designed game. I think Shipwreck is a well-made, well-designed game, with or without overworld monsters.

              I even agree with you that an absence of monsters is a flaw. But it is a totally different type of flaw from a game that kills you before you can even play, while forcing you to read instruction text during a fight, prior to throwing an unrecoverable error (which is expressly forbidden by license agreement). The beach dungeon was boring; but it was a story-integrated tutorial! So when I say higher quality, I mean Shipwreck’s devs took the time to make sure the pure crap was out of their game. SDQ didn’t; so their game is the playdoh.

              • “Orbitron was awful. But Orbitron was a well-made, badly-designed game. SDQ might be a badly-made, well-designed game.”

                See, different strokes for different folks. I really enjoyed Orbitron quite a bit. It’s one of my favorite XBLIGs. Quick-paced action. Reminded me of like a Pac-Man Championship Edition version of Defender. I included it in the Indie Gamer Chick Bundle at Indie Royale for that reason.

                As far as crashes go, honestly, close to the majority of XBLIGs I’ve reviewed have had crashes or hangs in them at this point. It’s a fun thought that the system worked perfectly and weeds out all the bugs, but it hasn’t operated that way since at least I arrived on the scene, and my understanding is, it didn’t before I arrived either. Too many people doing I-O-U peer review approvals. You approve mine, I approve yours. That’s how it’s been. It’s a shitty system. It’s always been a shitty system. But it’s produced some incredible games. I’ve crashed major XBLA releases as well, or had things like with EA-produced, indie-developed title Warp where I rendered the game unfinishable. Nobody is perfect. But the thing is, I don’t demand perfection. Just entertain me. By that standard, I think I’m easier to please than people give me credit for.

                If I took into account just thoughtful design and good intentions, I would be one of those critics who nobody takes seriously, because everything would be fourteen thumbs up and eleven gold stars. The only thing I have that makes me unique is my opinion. Shipwrecked was produced a cut above the rest, but I found it to be boring. I don’t know what else to say.

  3. Pingback: Attack of the Nintendo Clones: Shipwreck and Blue Beacon | Game Bias

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