The Indie Gamer Chick Mailbag: April 21, 2014

I typically get a lot of questions on Twitter about random game stuff. Thoughts on the indie scene, on mainstream gaming, etc. I’m quickly learning that Twitter is a lousy place to answer any questions. It’s tough to explain complex opinions in 140 characters or less. So I figured I would start a mailbag feature. I announce it, and suddenly I go from getting questions every few minutes to getting no questions at all. Grumble. Well, a few guys did ask some stuff, so I’ll give the whole mailbag thing a try.

@LostScarf asks

Do you think Indie games would be more successful if they took the time to add Online Co-op, or it wouldn’t matter?

It depends on the game. Some titles really could have benefited from a more robust online experience. But there are roadblocks if you attempt it. On XBLIG, getting online working was overly difficult. Developers did not have access to Xbox Live when making games that would utilize Xbox Live. But even when you’re not developing for a system that actively seems to be trolling its own developers, optimizing an online co-op experience is extremely difficult. Especially if you give a shit about the emotional and psychological experience of your game. There’s almost no way to measure how effective your work is in those areas, especially if your concept involves two strangers working together. It’s a leap of faith.

Does it make a difference in a game’s sales? I’m not totally convinced. My favorite aspect of Terraria was playing it with Brian on two PS3s and two TVs. We also very much enjoyed sharing some of our extra plunder with my fans on Twitter. Hell, I met my best friend Bob that way. But, I was surprised to learn that most of the Terraria fans that follow me on Twitter never played it co-op at all. That’s not that uncommon with many indies that have an optional co-op mode. So I guess, unless a game is designed specifically with online co-op in mind, it won’t make a big enough difference that anyone should lose sleep over it.

@iilusionofchaos asks

If you could change one thing about your favorite game, what would it be?

My favorite game ever is WarioWare Inc.: Mega Microgame$ for Game Boy Advance. It just got re-released on Wii U’s Virtual Console. Easy answer here: I wish it had online leaderboards.

@TerrorSkwirl asks

Who/what do you think is the most well written character in recent memory?

Clem from Walking Dead. Her actions, speaking style, reactions to situations, and emotional state all feel like a real person. The strange thing is, there are a lot of secondary characters in the Walking Dead games that feel like lazy stereotypes, if not outright parodies. There’s just enough of those type of characters that you wouldn’t expect to see such an incredibly authentic character emerge. Clem is a real person in a real zombie apocalypse.

I’ll give a close second to Balloon from Doki-Doki Universe. Her undying love for protagonist QT3 was so moving and, again, authentic. Doki Doki was, as of yet, the only game I streamed my entire play-session on Twitch. I had some tough guys admit they were tearful as the ending between QT3 and Balloon played out. No violence. No cursing. No high-stakes. Just love and admiration between two friends, and it was more real than many of cinemas highest-paid actors are capable of delivering.

@Scott_A_Bennett asks

if you could only change one thing about the indie scene what would it be?

The perception that the community is too exclusive for newcomers to jump in. I think people expect the scene to be populated by anti-social, standoffish artsy types. They exist, but they’re very much the minority. The indie scene at large is so very welcoming and encouraging to newcomers. Hell, you don’t even have to be an active developer. I’ve never made a game, never will, and I have a site that, more often than not, doesn’t speak highly of the games I play. If the general perception of the indie scene were true, I would have been run out of town a week after I arrived. Instead, I’ve found an endless stream of new friends and fantastic relationships. And I’m certainly not alone in this type of experience with indies. That is the story that we need to make sure gets told. Unlike a lot of other things I wish would change, this one is very easily doable.

@Rabite890 asks

do you find the reports about the number of steam games that go unplayed/uninstalled to be as bad as some do?

Whenever I go grocery shopping, if I’m hungry when I go, you can bet the shopping cart is going to be overflowing full of all kinds of stuff I would normally not pick up. Then it will linger in our kitchen cabinets until it goes past the  expiration date.

That’s probably what happens with Steam, or hell, any platform when a sale hits. I have 217 PSN games on my PlayStation 3 and there’s at least 40 I’ve never booted up. I either got them with PlayStation Plus, or I bought them when they were on sale and just never got around to playing them. I do it on my Vita too, then the shitty, too small memory card fills up and I have to start deleting stuff. I can always redownload it any time, of course, but I probably won’t. It’s impulsive behavior from people with too much disposable income, but by no means indicative of any problem on the indie scene.

And finally, @Bonedwarf asks

I’ll give you a tough one. You can give 12 words of advice to all aspiring indie devs. What are they?

Nothing will go exactly as you envision, so be patient and humble.

(points at the screen and counts the words silently)

Damn, I’m good.

Well, I had fun doing this. If you guys had fun reading it, just send me a tweet with the hashtag #IGCMailbag and we’ll do it again. It will help keep the content on this site going when I’m post seizure and unable to get my game on.

Like my new logo? The gentleman who designed it, Kenneth Seward Jr., is for hire! Visit his site and check him out on Twitter. Reasonable rates, awesome work!

Still here? Cool. I have a new blog that will contain my non-gaming related ravings.

 

Bad Bunny

Approximately nine hours ago, I started watching the new Hobbit movie with Brian. Weirdly enough, the counter on the television indicates that we only began watching it one and a half hours ago. I tried to alert scientists of the world of the bizarre vortex in space and time emanating from our living room, but they showed little interest. Probably because checking it out would require them to watch the Hobbit as well.

Thankfully, I was also playing an Easter-themed XBLIG called Bad Bunny. It was a bit disappointing in one regard: the cover art made it look like it would have a lot more personality than it did. Take a look.

xboxboxart

Not bad-looking. I figured it would be like an XBLIG version of Naughty Bear. Which, granted, was one of the worst games of the last generation, but at least it had an interesting concept. So I ponied up a dollar and fired it up. Needless to say, it was not Naughty Bear.

screen1

Yeah. So instead it’s another fixed-position wave shooter, only this time the enemies are rabbits firing Easter eggs at you. Honestly though, Bad Bunny not bad at all. It’s not good or memorable either, but it didn’t feel like a complete waste of a dollar. There’s not a whole lot for me to comment on. The projectiles fired at your stationary turret could stand out a little more, so that you could better defend yourself. And they could have really used more power-ups to keep things interesting. And online leaderboards as opposed to just a local one. And it could have used more than one ordinary play mode. Bad Bunny isn’t remotely ambitious and you’ve played a million games like this before.

BUT, it is fun for an hour, and fun is all that has ever mattered in my books. Bad Bunny is a totally harmless, borderline charming arcadey throwback and yes, I do like it a little bit. Let people moan that I enjoyed this half-assed shooter and didn’t like something ambitious and thoughtful, like Deadlight. Am I saying Bad Bunny is better than Deadlight? I guess technically I am, though that seems somehow wrong. How about “I personally enjoyed the overall experience of one hour with Bad Bunny more than I did several hours with Deadlight.” Besides, it’s just one person’s opinion. It’s not like it’s notarized by the Pope or anything. I actually did try to get it notarized but he stopped taking my calls when I wouldn’t stop calling him “Super Mario.”

xboxboxartBad Bunny was developed by Game Play You

IGC_Approved$1 Has no clue how we got from Jesus being beaten, executed by crucifixion, then returning from the dead to bunnies and colored eggs in the making of this review.

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

Like my new logo? The gentleman who designed it, Kenneth Seward Jr., is for hire! Visit his site and check him out on Twitter. Reasonable rates, awesome work!

Footage via the unsung hero of the XBLIG scene, Splazer Productions

 Still here? Cool. I have a new blog that will contain my non-gaming related ravings. Header

 

 

 

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.

There are several great developer tools available to simulate color blindness. Unreal Engine 4 has an excellent built-in color blindness simulator, under general/appearance/color. Photoshop has a more limited color blindness simulator, only covering the most common type, under view/proofing modes. Last is Color Oracle, a free piece of software for Mac / PC/ Linux that runs a single frame simulation on whatever is currently on your screen. Available from colororacle.org. For more information on how to design in a colorblind-friendly way, visit Game Accessibility Guidelines’ color-blindness page.

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

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

E.Y.E.R.I.S.

Twin-stick shooters. I’m willing to bet that I’ve played more of them than anyone my age on the planet. I’ve reviewed over a dozen here alone, and that’s not counting the ones I sampled for a few minutes before realizing that there would be no unique hook. I get why they exist in the numbers they do. It’s a relatively simple genre to pull off successfully. It’s perfect for a new developer who wants to get his or her feet wet in the whole game creation process. But I’m to a point where I’m so over twin-stick shooters. They need something that makes them stand out, or I’ll bore quickly.

E.Y.E.R.I.S., God bless it, really does try to be different. Unfortunately, it takes the art-house route to get there. There have been artsy TwickS in the past. Hell, I would say the grand-daddy of all XBLIG hits I Made a Game with Zombies is an artsy example of the genre. Here, the art vibe is less subtle and borderline pretentious, as you get motivational snippets of guidance that seemingly have no relevancy or anchor of any sort to the goings-on. Maybe it means more to the guys who made this, but for me, I just couldn’t get a feel for what concept or feeling they were trying to invoke here. It just came across as snooty.

Wait, without vision your path is revealed? How in the fuck do see the path? Without vision, I'll end up walking into walls!

Wait, without vision your path is revealed? How in the fuck do see the path? Without vision, I’ll end up walking into walls!

There is an actual game here though, and it’s a decent one. Of course it is. It’s pretty fucking hard to botch a twin-stick shooter. In E.Y.E.R.I.S. (I have no clue what it stands for, and the game doesn’t tell you) you start off on a stage where you have no ability to shoot and have to avoid the baddies for about a minute. Once you finish that, you’ll be given a choice of what the next stage will be. All the stages are the same, as far as I can tell, with the only difference being what gun you’re given. Repeat this three more times, adding additional weapons and shields with each new stage, and afterwards the game ends and simply cycles back to the opening screen, with no explanation of what this whole thing was about. I made up my own and assumed I was fighting off some kind of aggressive eye-infection.

Bad picture for the marketplace. It makes it seem like the soft-focus will be a major element in the game. It isn't.

Bad picture for the marketplace. It makes it seem like the soft-focus will be a major element in the game. It isn’t.

Again, it’s pretty hard to screw up a genre this simple. I spent a lot of time on the fence, trying to figure out how I felt about E.Y.E.R.I.S., and I came to the conclusion that it’s a decent game, and for those not burned out on the genre, or for those that get all touchy-feelly about games like this, you’ll probably enjoy it more than me. I don’t feel strongly about it one way or another, which means it gets to hang out at the bottom of the Leaderboard, but a decent game is a decent game, even if it sniffs its own farts.

xboxboxartE.Y.E.R.I.S. was developed by AbstrAKT Games

IGC_Approved$1 has no idea why I complain about people sniffing farts when I’m a world-renowned fan of picking one’s own nose. Mmm Hmmm, few things in life as satisfying as picking one’s own nose in the making of this review.

Hey, I wash my hands afterward. And I don’t eat any thing that comes out of it. Hello? Gross.

E.Y.E.R.I.S. is Chick-Approved and ranked very, very low on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

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.

South Park: The Stick of Truth

This should be relatively spoiler free, but a few plot points kind of have to be discussed.

No, it’s not an indie. But I sort of have to write this review and eat a plate full of crow. From the moment Trey Parker and Matt Stone took the stage of E3 a while back, I said there was no chance in hell that South Park: The Stick of Truth would be a decent, worthwhile title. I was just going off the property’s track record. South Park on Nintendo 64 and especially the PlayStation? Horrible. South Park Rally? Possibly the worst kart-racer ever. Chef’s Luv Shack? Possibly the worst quiz and/or minigame collection ever. The Tower Defense game? Well, I never really got around to it, but it mostly got a bunch of 7s out of 10s, which as we all know, is critic speak for “Worst thing since Hitler.” (By the way, I’m pretty sure that joke will get me banned in Germany) Hell, there was a fairly hyped Scott Tenorman based game that ultimately was a mediocre platformer. I think my doubts about how Stick of Truth would turn out were completely justified. If all you’ve ever shit out are turds, only someone delusional would expect the next turd to be a solid gold nugget.

I was wrong. South Park: The Stick of Truth is incredible. In fact, dare I say, it sets a new standard for licensed video games. In other news, crow has never been so delicious. Now, there are about a quagillion reviews of this out there, so I’m not going to waste time talking about the fun (though sometimes too button-mashy) combat mechanics, or how the fart mechanics are the only thing I really disliked about the game. Well, besides a laundry list of glitches and game hangs. That kind of stuff was to be expected anyway. The game is made by Obsidian Entertainment. That’s like putting a big banner on the box art saying “this shit will not work right for at least the first six to twelve months, not that it matters because you sheep will buy it anyway!” Hey, guilty as charged. And also, baaaaaaaaaaa.

You'll notice that the main character is a guy in all the pictures. That's because there is no option to select a girl. Do you know why there is no option? Because it didn't fit into the narrative the creators wanted to tell. I'm just pointing that out because a few weeks ago, the Big Bullshit Fake Outrage of the Day© was people whining because some upcoming free-to-play Capcom MMO would not include the option to play as a girl. Butthurt was felt across the land. I guess people thought that as a vagina-owner, I should be outraged as well. I wasn't. Which again proved that I'm a self-hating Uncle Tom that should voluntarily disenfranchise myself because obviously not being able to play as a girl in a free-to-play MMO will lead to girls being walled up in the tower and fed through a slit in the wall. That's another reason I loved Stick of Truth: because the same people whining about that game were delighted by how this turned out. The hypocrisy was too delicious to not point out, which just made them matter. Yea, it's okay to have a double standard when you're dealing with a property you love. But actually pointing out that double standard? Bad form!

You’ll notice that the main character is a guy in all the pictures. That’s because there is no option to select a girl. Do you know why there is no option? Because it didn’t fit into the story the creators wanted to tell. I’m just pointing that out because a few weeks ago, the Big Bullshit Fake Outrage of the Day© was people whining because some upcoming free-to-play Capcom MMO would not include the option to play as a girl. Butthurt was felt across the land. I guess people thought that as a vagina-owner, I should be outraged as well. I wasn’t. I pointed out that not every game has a story that a female lead-character can fit comfortably into. I guess this proved that I’m a self-hating Uncle Tom that should voluntarily disenfranchise myself because obviously not being able to play as a girl in a free-to-play MMO will lead to women being walled up in the tower and fed through a slit in the wall. That’s another reason why I loved Stick of Truth: because the same people whining about that game were delighted by how this one turned out. The hypocrisy was too delicious to not point out, which just made them madder. “Um, weren’t you one of those guys (and it is almost always guys) who was whining about that Capcom MMO not having girls in it just a couple weeks ago?” “Well that’s different. This is South Park. Girls can’t fit into the story as easily!” “Weird, that’s the same argument I used for why not every game can have a girl character and you told me I was wrong. How come it’s okay for South Park but not okay for a company whom their every move you whine about?” “HOW DARE YOU POINT OUT MY DOUBLE STANDARDS! BAD FORM! BOOOOO!” By the way, tongue firmly in cheek the whole time. I just found humor in the whole situation. I guess getting outraged over the lack of mandatory, uninspired female characters in games is serious business.

Stick of Truth feels like it could be an episode of South Park. Hell, if you cut out all the exploration and battles, what’s left would probably be an episode long. Two-parter tops. That’s fine. There’s enough gags between the main narrative to keep you laughing your ass off from start to finish. It’s unquestionably a fan service, but it never feels condescending about it, like some of the more well-liked television or movies turned into games do. Some of the bits feel like they’re shoe-horned at first, like a section involving Al Gore and ManBearPig. It felt tacked on and kind of hokey at first. Then the joke paid off in such a satisfying and unconventional way that I wanted to high-five the developers through the television screen.

I also owe a big thank you Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and all the guys who worked on this game (including former XBLIG developer Roby Atadero, creator of Spoids. Ha, there, I tied this to Xbox Live Indie Games. I’m still an indie Goddess). Because of them, I realized I’m nowhere near as desensitized as I thought I was. A section based around Planned Parenthood squashed any lingering doubts about that. I played that part with my mouth gaping open, eyes blank in stunned awe, with a knowing awareness that I’m officially going to Hell now. After digesting it………. probably the wrong word considering that I think I threw up three times in between fits of laughter………. I put down the controller and spent the next hour actively wondering how on Earth this game skated by with only an M rating.

Oh, and in the “wow, this is awkward” department, my staunch Catholic mother walked in during a scene in which I was performing an abortion. Granted, there was no scene she could have walked in on that wouldn’t have resulted in a priceless look. But I’m still grateful she walked in there. Because it was so glorious. That “every suspicion I’ve had about my daughter is true” look. Sadly, I’m not as quick-witted as people think I am. If I had been, I would have said “if you think this is bad, you should see it when you’re using Kinect!”

The only part of Stick of Truth I truly loathed was the cut-scenes where you learn to fart. Because if you screw them up, you have to listen to the long, dull, repetitive, dialog all over again. It blows.

The only part of Stick of Truth I truly loathed was the cut-scenes where you learn to fart. Because if you screw them up, you have to listen to the long, dull, repetitive, dialog all over again. It blows.

By the way, for my European and Australian readers, I guess we are supposed to pretend that abortions aren’t a thing and that if you find any humor in them at all, your countries will fall into anarchy or something like that. So if you laughed at the above story, for God’s sake, don’t tell anyone. I will not be held responsible for your respective collapses into moral bankruptcy.

South Park isn’t a perfect game, but I dare say, it’s a perfect use of an IP. Some of the stuff ran a bit too long. The Canadian section was funny for about five seconds. Then it kept going and refused to fucking end. You know, sort of like every single unfunny episode based around Canada on the show. And South Park also does that thing that nobody likes where there are collectables in a game, but some of them you only have one shot at, and if you miss them, you can’t get them later. South Park isn’t the only game guilty of this, but it stings a little more here because such TLC was put into it. This felt like something made by people who love games for people who love games. Whenever that’s the case, those awful, always bitched-about problems always seem more damning.

And yea, I have to go back on my word and bring up all the fucking glitches. They really start to pop up over the last hour of the game. I had a few game-killing hangs, where it would enter a load screen and never leave it. There is a practical fix to this, in that you can get past it just by switching which secondary character you’re using. But it seems fairly common, in that most of the people I’ve talked with have encountered it. I also had a hang while in a, ahem, “cave” in the final level of the game. Then one immediately following that. Then in the final boss battle, some of the secondary character abilities caused the animation to lag, which made correctly using those abilities a bit fickle.

By the way, this is your fault. Yes, you. And you too. All of you. If you guys wouldn’t whine like babies whenever a hyped game gets delayed (which is typically done to make sure shit like this doesn’t happen), games wouldn’t come out like this. I saw it with Grand Theft Auto V too. “Waaaaaa! They delayed GTA V! It won’t be out when I thought it would be out and I will have nothing better to do for months! A pox on your studio!” Then it did come out, but GTA Online wasn’t ready yet, and a lot of people absolutely shit a brick over it. South Park had a few delays, then was set to come out in December. It got delayed again, and everyone farted. It could have probably stood a few more months of play-testing, but given how you guys farted over the last delay, I can’t really blame them for putting it out like this. It’s basically what you asked for.

Pictured: an average gamer upon learning of a small delay in a game's release date.

Pictured: an average gamer upon learning of a small delay in a game’s release date.

But, South Park: The Stick of Truth is still an awesome video game. The best adaption of a television show I’ve seen. Possibly just the best adaption, period. I’ve heard arguments that it’s actually Escape From Butcher Bay (yea, but the movie sucked), Spider-Man 2 (ugh, try playing it today), or one of the Arkham games (okay, yeah, those were pretty good. Well, at least the first two were). Nah. South Park is the best because it feels like you’re playing the show. There’s no seams or stitches to be seen. The plot, writing, and voice acting all feel like it fits into the South Park universe, as opposed to being a video game built around it. Those Arkham games feel like video games based around Batman. The Stick of Truth simply is the South Park we all know and love. And it is so very, very wrong. You guys are sick fucks, you know that?

South Park LogoSouth Park: The Stick of Truth was developed by Obsidian Entertainment

IGC_Approved$59.99 said an episode of the show where the boys fight over making and indie game is a no-brainer in the making of this review.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is Chick-Approved.

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