Default Dan

Default Dan is a novelty platformer, the hook being the game does the opposite of traditional gaming tropes. Coins kill you. Power-Ups kill you. Pitfalls don’t kill you. Springboards can’t be jumped off of. Spikes act like springboards. Sounds wacky and weird. And it is, until you realize that really it’s just any other platformer with the enemy and traps being reskinned. The only such gag that kept getting me were the coins. My brain, like the brains of all gamers, is wired to be like “OH, COINS! YOINK!” Even an hour into the game, my mind would wander just long enough for me to get snatchy with the coins and die. Otherwise, the gimmick gets old really quickly. Even the story, which flips the roles of a Bowser lookalike and a princess didn’t really work for me because the princess looks too, well, psychotic. Actually, she looks like a grown-up version of Elmyra from Tiny Toons. Which, yea granted, she’s one step below Annie Wilkes in the “chick you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a room alone with” scale, but still.

Anti-capitalist hippies!

Anti-capitalist hippies!

Default Dan is a decent platformer. It takes only a couple of stages for the gimmick’s novelty factor to wear off. That’s an occupational hazard with comedy games. For Default Dan, really, the concept should have been done as a little three or four stage free flash-game, while the developers put their efforts towards something with a little more meat behind it. Strangely, it doesn’t quite feel like they got the most out of the idea. The boss fights, for example, feel just like any old boss fight in any platformer. You would think they would make the gimmick “you have to get the boss to kill you” or something to beat it. Really, the only difference is the boss throws power-ups at you instead of projectiles, but they’re the same power-ups you’ve spent the last few levels avoiding. Again, it’s all just a glorified reskinning and it feels like it doesn’t go far enough. They should have just gone balls-to-the-wall nuts here. Mushrooms that make you small instead of big (as it is, they just kill you. Really, Mario Lost Levels already fucking did that). Bosses that you have to let kill you. Ice levels with spectacular play control. What’s actually here is downright tame.

Thankfully, Default Dan does have some decent level design. Nothing exceptional, but the stages scale well, add new mechanics through-out, provide a relatively fair challenge, and the game ends before it wears out its welcome. If you want more after the credits roll, there’s a second quest with tougher stages, or you can challenge the leaderboards for previous levels (the second quest’s stages did not have working leaderboards when I played this). The controls are solid, if slightly unresponsive. The collision detection is the biggest strike against Default Dan. Most of the enemies are beaten by jumping up into them. You have to be square under them for it to kill them. Otherwise, you die. Against the final boss, there were a couple of instances where I would hit her and it would register as hitting her, but then I would immediately die because of either how I was positioned when I hit her or because it switched from her “can be hit” sequence to her “invincible, can’t be hit” sequence while I was still midair and touching her. Yea, that was a bit of a run-on sentence. Sorry.

I had an idea for how Default Dan could have been a little more substantial: some kind of mechanic where you switch between the conventional gaming and the opposites stuff. So like, sometimes the coins help you, but then other times the coins kill you. Maybe have like an evil witch cause the game to switch back and forth between the two.

I had an idea for how Default Dan could have been a little more substantial: some kind of mechanic where you switch between the conventional gaming and the opposites stuff. So like, sometimes the coins help you, but then other times the coins kill you. Maybe have like an evil witch cause the game to switch back and forth between the two.

So, kind of mixed bag for Default Dan. The concept did catch my attention on the Steam marketplace. But, the novelty isn’t really strong enough to carry a $5.99 game whose main quest ends in well under an hour. The bosses are boring and don’t really defy convention, which is a big disappointment in a game whose sole hook is defying convention. But, there’s some inspired level design here, enough extra challenge to keep players happy after the credits roll, and a couple laughs to be had. It doesn’t reach its potential, but I had fun with Default Dan, so it wins my seal of approval. And not just by default.

Default Dan logoDefault Dan was developed by Kikiwik Games 
Point of Sale: Steam

igc_approved1$5.99 conceded that for an ice stage to have markedly better controls, the rest of the game would have had shit controls, so it’s probably a good idea they didn’t use that one in the making of this review.

Default Dan is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

Hyphen and Love

Two-for-one special today. Two games I probably shouldn’t have played in the first place, as I’m not the type of person who enjoys games that have nothing else going for them besides extreme difficulty. As my father put it, some people break bricks with their bare hands, while others plop on the couch and watch the Karate Kid.

First up is Love, which I think beats an XBLIG by the name of Dark as the biggest violator of the Google Rule I’ve ever encountered at IGC. The Google Rule states that when you type a game’s name into Google, a link that points to the game should be within the top 5 results. Call it a hunch, but I suspected that there were more than five sites that dealt with the subject of love ahead of the game. I did search. “Love” by itself has the game’s steam page as the 175th result. I’m actually kind of surprised it came up that quickly. Now granted, “Love Indie Game” resulted in the 4th link pointing to the game’s Steam page. But I stand by my point. It’s a lazy, uninspired name. I’m of the belief that if a game’s name is generic, with little thought or effort put into it, most gamers will assume the game itself will be generic, with little thought put into it. I have no idea how much thought was given to the gameplay, but what is here is pretty generic.

The hook is, you have 100 lives to finish the game, but to take the sting out, you can lay a checkpoint any time, any place. Otherwise, the design is very minimalist. No enemies to kill. Just dodge, jump, wait, jump, jump, jump, dodge, jump, wait, jump up the trampoline, dodge, wait, jump, repeat. It’s been done to death, and unless you either have exceptionally inspired level design (Love doesn’t) or a novel hook (ditto), you’re going to bore most non-masochistic players. And the whole dropping checkpoints thing can screw you royally during some stages. Like one where you hop on platforms that you then steer. If you set a checkpoint and then die, the platform stays where it’s at, and you fall to your death again and again until you run out of lives. Then again, only an idiot wouldn’t figure that out and lay down a checkpoint during this section. Cough.

Not one of my proudest gaming moments.

Not one of my proudest gaming moments. (Screenshot is of Love)

And there’s Hyphen by developer Marc McCann of FarSpace Studios. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been friends with Marc for quite a while. But being my friend doesn’t really help devs when it comes to me reviewing their games. Do I display bias? Only if you count applying Neosporin to them after I nail them to the cross. What are friends for?

Hyphen is a spinning-stick game, similar to the Irritating Stick, which was later expanded upon by Nintendo in a series of Japanese-only games for the Game Boy Advance and GameCube called Kuru Kuru Kururin (which I was told after I wrote this also came out in PAL regions. That doesn’t help us Americans much). Maybe I’m spoiled by that series, but Hyphen feels like such a step backwards for the concept. Like Love, you can place your own checkpoints down, though there’s a limit on how many you can use each stage. That’s pretty much all it does different. Sigh.

This obstacle is used semi-frequently in Hyphen, and it's annoying as all hell every time.

This obstacle is used semi-frequently in Hyphen, and it’s annoying as all hell every time. (Screenshot is of Hyphen)

Hyphen is designed with one thing only in mind: drive players mad. The challenge is so incredibly extreme, with so little margin for error, that I just couldn’t get into it. And again, the formula for this series has been around long enough that anyone making an indie based around it simply must either add new ideas to the concept or have extraordinary level design. Hyphen does neither. In fact, it takes away some conventions in a way that only serves to make the game more frustrating than it should be. Like not being able to make the stick rotate faster. At times, there are projectiles fired at you, and not being able to speed up the rotation means you have to manually dodge those projectiles. But, you don’t always have enough clearance to do so.

I lumped these two games together because they both demonstrate the lack of what I call “Glorious Victory.” It’s my term for the idea that one of the most rewarding aspects of super-difficult games are those rare times where you clear a stage on your first attempt. We’ve all had such moments. Imagine being multiple worlds into Super Meat Boy. You reach a stage after burning approximately two and a half trillion lives, and then by the grace of God, you finish a stage on your first attempt. You jump out of your seat, looking around you as if to say “HOLY SHIT, DID ANYONE ELSE JUST SEE WHAT I DID? FUCK ME, I’M AWESOME!”

Many players live for such moments. But if a game is designed around blind leap-of-faith platforming or trial-and-erroring where the errors are almost certainly unavoidable, you deprive players of those opportunities without giving them anything positive in return. For example, look at this leap that Love wants you to make.

2015-03-14_00006

You can’t see where the spikes are below you. You have no idea what you’re leaping into. You don’t know if you’re supposed to just fall straight down, fall to the side, or what. Not dying here on your first attempt is based completely on random chance.

2015-03-14_00007

When random chance factors in, that takes the glory away from not dying on your first attempt. You didn’t make it using your skills. You just lucked out. There’s no glory in luck. So many indie devs simply don’t fucking get it! They think it’s about the dying. No. Punisher gaming is at its best when players don’t die.

Hyphen is guilty of this too. Like in this spot of the game. Sometimes Hyphen has bombs scattered throughout the map. When the bombs blow, they scatter projectiles. Now, the point of Hyphen is to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. You’re on a timer. There’s a sense of urgency. So when you see the bomb, a player’s instinct will naturally be to move past it and get away from it as fast as you can. So here I am moving past the bomb.

2015-03-15_00004

And here I am getting trapped in a section where I have no clearance to dodge out of the way just as the projectile from the bomb is about to kill me.

2015-03-15_00005

This “GOTCHA!” moment is going to probably kill the overwhelming majority of players on their first attempt at this stage. I would actually be surprised if there was a single player who made it past it on the first attempt. Now granted, some people like games like this, and you can still get satisfaction when you finally beat a stage. But because you’re going to certainly die from that projectile, the possibility for a “Glorious Victory” is taken from players. Gaming at its apex should have as many chances at being exhilarating as possible. Marc just took one such chance away from players, and gave them nothing in return, except for frustration.

There are players out there that don’t complain about this type of level design. But I think the majority of players probably would prefer games to be skill-based, not luck based. Deaths in gaming should because the player failed, not because the game gave players a no-win situation. Jesus Christ people, did you learn nothing from Star Trek? The Kobayashi Maru test wasn’t fun for anyone!

Love was developed by Fred Wood. Point of sale: Steam. $2.99 didn't love it in the making of this review.

Love was developed by Fred Wood. Point of sale: Steam. $2.99 didn’t love it in the making of this review.

Hyphen was developed by FarSpace Studios. Point of Sale: Steam. $7.99 said that price is an outrage, a practical stick-up in the making of this review.

Hyphen was developed by FarSpace Studios. Point of Sale: Steam. $7.99 said that price is an outrage, a practical stick-up in the making of this review.

You Have to Win the Game

You Have to Win the Game is the prequel to Super Win: The Game. Before I go any further, let me first congratulate J. Kyle Pittman on coming up with one of the most unwieldy names I’ve seen at IGC. It’s awkward to type and speak, which means the game will inherently struggle with spreading via word of mouth. Remove the “You Have to” part, add a colon, and just call it “Win: The Game.” Still a crap name (so is Super Win, quite frankly), but at least it’s easy to relay the title from one person to the next.

I am NOT up there!

I am NOT up there!

Anyway, I liked Win: The Game more than its super counterpart. Both titles attempt to pay tribute to classic gaming platforms. Super was focused on the NES, a platform I had little nostalgia for. This one is a tribute to old 80s personal computers, something I have even less fondness of. I’m not the target audience of games like these, so my fondness for them might say something profound about their quality. Win: The Game has similar power-ups to Super, but eliminates all the bullshit. There’s no overworld map that breaks up the action. The game is much more focused on precision platforming, and that tighter focus led to better level design.

It’s sort of hard to pick apart a game that costs no money. It’s even tougher when that game has few flaws. It’s not a big game. It took me about an hour to beat (I clocked in at 90 minutes, but that included leaving the game running while I ran errands, a bad habit of mine that I really need to stop), which isn’t especially deep. But then again, it has a lot of extra modes and achievements for multiple play sessions. The biggest omission is the lack of a map. I’m not sure what Pittman has against maps. Maybe as a child, his family left the opera early and was ambushed by a map in a back alley. Maybe a map forced him to play Russian Roulette in a Korean P.O.W. camp. Both Win and Super Win would have benefited hugely from having some kind of map on-screen, and both games suffer the needless tedium of aimless wandering by excluding one.

I super won.

I super won.

Oddly enough, the thing that strikes me most about Win is that it could have cost money and doesn’t. This is a quality title that costs nothing. Sure, being free served some purpose. It got J. Kyle Pittman’s name out there and built up hype for his future projects. Still, considering all the lazily produced garbage out there that costs $2.99, a genuinely fun game for free is sort of startling. Maybe he is an artist and just wanted people to appreciate his work, and goody on him for that. But he could have easily charged $1 for this and nobody would have complained. Like the man who sawed off his legs to pay for his farm, he sold himself short.

You Have to Win the Game was developed by J. Kyle Pittman
Play it for free on Steam

Winigc_approved1Win: The Game (it should be called that damnit!) is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

Schein

This is the first official “Money Where Your Mouth Is Challenge” from Indie Game Riot. The idea is, they will select a game that has fallen off my radar for me to review. I purchase the game, and they match the price of the game as a donation to the Epilepsy Foundation (in one big donation at the end of the year). In theory, they’re looking for good games for me. But I’m not so sure. I think they might have been trying to cause my blood pressure explode and give me a massive coronary with today’s game.

Dick Move

Schein is a platformer with a neat idea: certain platforms and traps only appear if the right color light is being is shining on them. This could, and in fact did, lend itself to some nice puzzles. The problem is, Schein wanted to be a puzzler, but it also wanted to be a punisher. Not just a punisher, but one that subscribes to the “no warning instakills” theory of challenge design. Forcing players to die as the only way of discovering a trap doesn’t make your game challenging. It’s not really a challenge if you have no hope of succeeding. All it really does is make you repeat the same section, now with full awareness that there is something that can kill you in a specific location. A real challenge is having something there that can still take you by surprise, but you also have a reasonable chance of reflexively avoiding.

Dick Move 2

Some people call this trial-and-error gaming. Trial-and-error gaming is perfectly fine, as long as the game is based just around that mechanic, such as The Impossible Game. Otherwise, trial-and-error only works as long as there’s a chance, even a remote one, of clearing an obstacle on your first attempt without needing luck. When you can’t, that’s just making busy work for players, and it’s not fun.  In Schein, you’ll sometimes be forced to turn your light on to see a platform. Sometimes though, the spot you’re standing on has a vine that is only deadly when you can see it, when the light is on. You had no way of knowing that vine is there and you die. Schein does this a lot. It’s such a common mistake among indie developers of punishers.

Dick Move 3

In the above example, the vine isn’t challenging. When you learn about it and die, you didn’t die due to difficulty. You died because you had no way of knowing it was there. Let me put it this way: let’s say you have a game where you’re in a town and you talk to one person in the town. That person tells you they’ll only give you what you need if you go to a person on the other side of the town.  You have to walk across the town to talk to that person, grab what they had, and then walk back. Was that a challenge? No. It’s just walking across town. Well the unseen vines in Schein are pretty much that. Run into a vine to discover its awareness, respawn at the check point, walk back to the spot where the vine is and hop over it before turning the light on. There was nothing challenging about it. All the vine did was make busy work for you. Go from point A to point B, watch unavoidable event, return to point A and go back to point B.

I wish Schein had just been a puzzler. It does puzzles fairly well. But the platforming mechanics are not suited for the type of game Schein might want to be. It’s a confused game, unsure whether it wants to be a punisher or a puzzler. There’s too many instakill spikes and vines, and because the game uses rectangular collision detection instead of mapping it to the character, the margin of error is razor-thin. Combine this with the bleak, joyless visuals and I just couldn’t get into the game. It was practically exhausting.

Dick Move 4

I quit Schein after putting four hours into it and not really enjoying any of it. My early optimism that this was going to be a less bleak take on the type of platforming Limbo made popular was gone within just a few minutes. If this hasn’t been IGR’s challenge against me, I wouldn’t have played it as much as I did. I wanted to find something to complement other than the voice acting and character design. But even the puzzles that I slogged through the platforming sections to get to became tedious busy work. The concept behind Schein is really solid. But the forced-repetition of the puzzles, bad collision detection, and some just plain bad design choices sink this one. On the opening stage, the area of green “revealing” light is fairly small. Why? It doesn’t help the game. The light stuff becomes significantly better after you beat the first boss and the light becomes bigger. Also, the placement of the checkpoints is mind-boggling too. Sometimes a fairly simple puzzle is sandwiched between two checkpoints, while at other times, the checkpoints are spread out so far that you’ll be practically begging for one to show up, so that you don’t have to run through a dull platforming section more than once. I spent more time wondering why such design choices were made when they only serve to contribute to the game being less fun. There is a satisfying puzzler somewhere in this mess, but it’s buried under so many bad choices that I personally can’t recommend Schein. I like puzzlers. I don’t like Schein. It’s boring. I wish I could see why so many people are raving about it, but I guess I’m in the dark.

ScheinSchein was developed by Zeppelin Studio
Point of Sale: Steam, Desura, Indie Game Stand

$9.99 said Geoffrey Rush was unavaiable for comment in the making of this review.

 

Short Subject Saturdays: Plug & Play and The Plan

igclogo

In my review of The Old Tree, I said I would like to see more indies tackle short subjects. This got me thinking: why don’t I do a feature where I look for these games? So, I put out a call on Twitter asking for suggestions on games that could be finished in under twenty minutes. I didn’t really think this through all that much. Most developers pitched their own games under the guise that hypothetically, if you never make a single mistake and do none of the side quests, a game could be finished in twenty minutes. Or people pointed me at arcade style games that can be played in bursts of a minute at a time if I so wished. Sigh.

So, here’s my unofficial definition on a short subject indie game. A game with a beginning and an ending that unfolds in a linear fashion, where a player can see 99% of the content in a single play-through, all in under twenty minutes.

Every Saturday, I’ll take a look at a couple such titles. You can hit me on Twitter with your suggestions.

First up is Plug & Play. Originally, my definition of short subject indie games mentioned that they were story driven, but I realized that didn’t apply to this one. There really isn’t a story. Plug & Play is a series of vignettes. Take power plugs, stick them into sockets. Or there are Plug People: anamorphic plugs and sockets that you might end up having to plug into each other. Even David Lynch was like “whoa, slow down there, bro, that’s too weird.”

Human Centiplug?

 Plug & Play. Human Centiplug?

Plug & Play was developed by Mario von Rickenbach and Michael Frei ($2.99 were similtanntious creeped out and turned on in the making of this review. Available now on Steam)

Plug & Play was developed by Mario von Rickenbach and Michael Frei ($2.99 was simultaneously creeped out and turned on in the making of this review. Available now on Steam)

Plug & Play is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Plug & Play is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Gameplay is just typical point and click puzzle fare. I really wish more short subject indies would incorporate conventional gameplay mechanics into their work. But what’s here is enjoyable enough. It successfully got me to shake my head and say “wow” several times, which I’m guessing was its goal. Heck, it even caused me to laugh out loud a few times. Is there a point? No. Is it worth ten minutes of your time? I think so. Is it worth $3? Maybe not. When I tweeted that I enjoyed this title a lot, many of my fans balked at paying $2.99 for a game that takes ten minutes to finish and has no replay value. If this had been my title, I would have priced it at a dollar. $1 feels more comfortable for a game that is, for better or worse, a novelty. It’s not meant to compete against the likes of Shovel Knight or Super Meat Boy. It’s meant to compete against over-sized gumballs and temporary tattoos. $1 for a game falls into the realm of impulse buy. $3 puts you head-to-head with some more lengthy titles. Why compete against them when you don’t have to?

Jeff Goldblum was unavailable for comment.

The Plan. Jeff Goldblum was unavailable for comment.

Not that being cheap is an indication of having value. I nearly died from boredom playing this next title, which is free on Steam. The Plan puts you in the role of a fly who has to, well, fly. You fly up. At one point you escape from a spiderweb. Then you fly up some more. Than something happens and the game ends. It lasts about five minutes, and I thought it was boring. It felt more like a tech demo. A “get your feet wet coding your first game” experience. Solid graphics, and maybe it was trying to make a point, but I didn’t get it if it was. The Plan is one of those art for the sake of art titles that some people get and others don’t. Those that don’t get it and call it fart-sniffing, pretentious fluff are right. But those that are moved by it and call it a work of genius are also right, because art is always in the eye of the beholder. But I thought it was duller than being trapped in a conversation with Siri.

The PlanThe Plan was developed by Krillbite Studio
Available for free on Steam.

Thank you to Nate for creating the Short Subject Saturdays logo!

 

 

Block Legend DX

UPDATE: Hours after this review went live, a patch that addresses the majority of stuff I bring up here went live. A second chance review is coming soon.

Do you know why I could never be a game developer? Because I suck at whack-a-mole.  Hit one mole, three pop up in its place. I don’t have the patience for it. I always wonder why I don’t just drop a stick of dynamite in the hole and just blow the little mechanical fuckers to kingdom come. Being a game developer is like being stuck in an endless game of whack-a-mole. Find one bug, and two pop up in its place. And, in the case of Block Legend DX, the whack-a-mole playfield has 100 holes in it. I literally hit some kind of glitch for every twenty to thirty minutes of gameplay.

By the way, it’s not as if mainstream games don’t have this problem. So if I sound unsympathetic, remember that I nearly threw my Wii through the window when I got permanently stuck without hope of finishing Metroid Other M, or that I shit my pants in terror when a half-man, half-animal thing crossed my path in Red Dead Redemption. Games can glitch. We’re not asking for perfection. Cars break down but we don’t stop driving them.

What a shock: I face a boss and the game stops spitting out attack tiles. Sigh.

What a shock: I face a boss and the game stops spitting out attack tiles. Sigh.

Block Legend DX is a match-the-pairs puzzler mixed with an RPG, though the RPG stuff is fairly minimalistic. Your character randomly encounters beasties and you fight them by matching tiles. Each tile has a specific attribute that either attacks a creature (or gives you extra experience points between battles), restores your shield and life, casts magic (magic only does two things: attack during battles and restore life between battles), collect coins, etc. You can only match similar tiles that are touching each other. The more that are connected, the stronger the action. Of course, this also means that your ability to do anything is based totally on luck. I’m not the luckiest of gamers when it comes to gaming and random chance. I swear, whenever I got to the boss, the game stopped spitting out attack options, dropping plenty of shields and coins. This happened to me so frequently that I asked the developer if the game did this intentionally, so as to beef up the difficult. It didn’t. The game just hated me. I don’t blame it, considering all the glitches I found that I had to alert the developer about again and again. It would be like telling someone there’s a booger hanging out of their nose.

Like this one for example: sometimes I would go to use an item and the damn thing just wouldn’t work. There’s a couple of items that are supposed to clear all of a particular tile from the board. Considering that there’s no way to shuffle the board (outside of doing so at a shop, but never a way in battle), being able to clear all of one tile is a very valuable item. It could free up the bottom of the board, which you can go a long time without ever touching if no tiles match down there. So I made a habit of buying these whenever they were sold in a shop. Then I would go to use them. And the special effect for using the item would happen and all the tiles would have an explosion. Only, once the effects cleared, the tiles were still there. Oh, it would give me the “value” for those tiles. If it was a “destroy all attack tiles” item, the total damage of all the sword would hit the monster, but the swords would still be where they were. In a game where the tiles you get are determined solely by luck and where digging yourself out can be impossible, this twist of fate screwed me several times. Like, dozens of times. Almost always against bosses too. It was uncanny. This is not by intention. This is a glitch.

Or sometimes the special effects would freeze to the screen. So like, the little explosion effect would just stop in the middle of animation and be stuck there. Forever. Or, until you quit out. And I wouldn’t recommend quitting out, for reasons I’ll get to later. Here’s the effect in the battle I first used it.

Block Legend DX 1

And here’s the same effect several battles later, still on the screen as I walk to the next fight.

Block Legend DX 2

This happened frequently. Now, while I was in the middle of playing this game, the developer patched it, so I don’t know how much of this is still up. I think this one is still live to some degree. It isn’t so bad because you can still see the tiles and use them. Annoying? Yes. But hey, it beats the tiles simply disappearing from the screen and not reappearing. That happens sometimes too.

I thought this was some kind of "blind as a bat joke." It wasn't. The game was just broken.

I thought this was some kind of “blind as a bat joke.” It wasn’t. The game was just broken.

Or there are things like starting a quest to get starblocks. Starblocks help you to unlock new characters, or to pre-equip items that boost your stats at the start. You can get more starblocks by completing quests throughout the game. There’s a problem though: the game simply refused to acknowledge when I finished a quest. But then it gets weirder: if I would buy a new quest from the shop, usually I would get credit for finishing a quest in the VERY NEXT BATTLE! Even weirder: it was a quest that wasn’t listed among the three active ones. I just turned on the game to give it one last kick at the can. I purchased the “complete 5 levels” quest. Which I did do, by the way. I didn’t get credit for it though. However, in the very next battle after I purchased that quest, I was given credit for completing a “inflict 3,000 damage” quest. Mind you, I had inflicted 3,000+ damage multiple times over during this play-through by this point. The glitches on display here are absolutely bizarre.

The final straw for me involves unlocking stuff. As I stated before, starblocks unlock stuff. I was avoiding using items when I started missions because I wanted to save up my starblocks. I’m also a game critic who takes a lot of screencaps, especially for this game, where I was alerting the developer to glitch after glitch after glitch. So I would quit out of the game, send him my latest screenshot, and then open it for another round. I did this a lot. As weird as this sounds, Block Legend DX ranks third at Indie Gamer Chick in total hours I put into the game prior to review.

Then I found it. The mother of all glitches. I noticed that items were costing more and more to unlock. I could have sworn the last time I checked, an item cost 70 starblocks. Suddenly, it cost 73, or something like that. Then I crashed the game and had to reopen it. When I came back, the unlockable characters cost 77 starblocks. What the fuck? So I exited the game, came back, and the price had gone up again. Just by quitting the game and restarting it. Check it out. I just took this screencap a few minutes ago.

Block Legend DX 3

I immediately quit the game and restarted it. Here is the new price of the items to unlock.

Block Legend DX 4

Up until I found this glitch, I couldn’t get enough of Block Legend DX. As buggy and frustrating as it is, it has an undeniable charm and a quirky, time-sinky quality to it. But this glitch? It killed my interest, dead. I know now that there’s no way I can ever unlock everything. The stuff I have unlocked? I’ll have to start over from the beginning once the game is patched. I’ll never be able to afford everything now. It sucks that all the time I put into this is worthless. I’m actually pretty pissed at this. It’s so sloppy and so poorly handled, and the developer quite frankly should have caught this himself. Glitches pop up so frequently in Block Legend DX that I can’t believe this was play tested at all, since anyone can discover them simply by playing the game. Terraria was a game infinitely more complex than this, and yet Block Legend DX easily has passed it as the glitchiest game I’ve ever liked since I started IGC.

It’s not even funny anymore. I’m just pissed off. I have a rule that if I like a game more than I dislike it, it wins my Seal of Approval. I did like Block Legend DX, right up until I found this. Yea, it bothered me that the difficulty scaling goes off its nut after you’ve beaten the third boss (this was noted in user reviews as well), but I figured if I unlocked enough stuff, maybe I would have a shot at it. But now that the unlockables are so out of reach, I don’t even care to try. This game is fucking broken. I have to stick to my own rules, so it wins my seal of approval. And a dead last ranking on the IGC Leaderboard, because I’m not sure I would choose to play this before any other Seal of Approval winner. It’s just too busted, and starting over from the beginning doesn’t sound fun to me. Not after putting THAT much time into it. Maybe when it’s patched you’ll get to have a fun time with it. But wait until then. I would like to note that the developer has been extremely apologetic and vows to get to work on these issues. I hope he enjoys whack-a-mole, because he’s about to play the biggest game of it ever.

Oh, and hopefully that IS a glitch (I wasn’t given verification that it was). If it’s not a glitch, it wins the award for worst play mechanic in gaming history. Please, God, tell me it was a glitch. I don’t want to lose faith in humanity.

Block headerBlock Legend DX was developed by Dot Warrior Games
Point of Sale: Steam

igc_approved1$4.99 said the glitches spread to her fingertips because she kept typing “titles” instead of “tiles” for some damn reason in the making of this review.

Block Legend DX is Chick Approved because a made a rule that says if I enjoyed a game more than I disliked it, I have to give it my seal. I put 30+ hours into Block Legend DX (34 hours to be exact, that’s why I haven’t updated my site in a week) and genuinely did like it, glitches and all. I do have to stick to my own rules. It is also ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. But I truly do not recommend anyone buy this game until it gets significantly patched. Watch for a “Second Chance with the Chick” review from me for Block Legend DX in the (hopefully) near future.

 

 

 

 

8BitBoy

I’m reviewing far too many neo-retro games. 8BitBoy lured me with a siren song of colorful, convincing retro graphics and a modest $0.99 price tag (when it was on sale. Price is now $3.99). An opening narration eases you into the charming, Neverending Storylike setting of a man who discovers that one of his beloved Sega Master System cartridges from his long-lost childhood has a label with a missing title. He plugs it in, and suddenly he’s in the game. I loved the idea. So it’s a real shame that the storyline never pops up again, at least until you beat the final boss. Only it does the Bubble Bobble thing where you have to get all the correct items to unlock the true ending. I didn’t bother trying, but for those who purchase 8BitBoy, you’ll be happy to know that it put a lot of stock in replay value. That is, assuming you can look past some of the worst play control seen in a good indie platformer that I’ve experienced.

Sigh. No, I can't ship the dev off to the Turkish prison. They have no room left for people who make ice stages. Because that would be like 99% of all platform games. Nobody likes ice stages. Stop making them.

Sigh. No, I can’t ship the dev off to the Turkish prison. They have no room left for people who make ice stages. Because that would be like 99% of all platform games. Nobody likes ice stages. Stop making them.

8BitBoy handles awfully, at least with an Xbox One controller. Part of that is on me and my clearly-demonically possessed left thumb. No matter how many times I rest it on the d-pad and tell it “you will use THIS! The stick is no good!” the damn thing has a life of its own. Serves me right for smoking nutmeg that one time. But, actually, stick or d-pad, movement is ultra slippery. The best example of how movement needed a lot of tuning up are the Super Mario like vines. Sometimes you’ll hit a block and a vine will come out. The act of climbing this vine should not be a chore, but simply going up it in a straight line is agony. I kept wiggling to the left and right. I’m told this is much easier with a keyboard. Um, yea? So what? Who wants to play a 2D hop-‘n’-bop platformer with a keyboard? I don’t. I haven’t spoken with the developer so I can only speculate what happened, but I’m guessing he designed the game to be played with a keyboard and the controller support was only added afterwards. When you turn on the controller, the cursor for selecting stuff from the menu is also mapped to the controller, even though it still handles like it’s mapped to the mouse.

There’s a lot of other weird control issues. The game does the Super Mario “hit the block to reveal the item or get coins” thing. Only in 8BitBoy, you have to be perfectly lined up with the block or just bonk off it to no effect. There’s really no benefit to making a player be perfectly lined up. It’s just busy work. Like Three Dead Zed, 8BitBoy feels like the all the movement physics are transplanted from a different game. There is no one-sized-fits-all style of movement physics. Two of my favorite-controlling platformers are Super Meat Boy and Shovel Knight. Both couldn’t be more different. Take Super Meat Boy’s controls and put them in Shovel Knight and the game would be a disaster. Put Shovel Knight’s into Super Meat Boy and the game would be unbeatable. As a developer of a 2D platformer, you need to make sure the play control is perfect for your game, based on nothing else but how your game should handle. Don’t say “I like how (Game) controls. I’m going to make mine handle that way!” Because what you’ve designed might not lend itself well to that. And for God’s sake, don’t stop testing with complete strangers until the moment you go gold. Once you’ve released, you’re sort of locked in. Ask the Three Dead Zed guys.

I’m really frustrated with 8BitBoy’s loose controls because everything else about it is sublime. I almost never talk about the graphics of a game, but what’s here is practically an 8-bit siren call. 8BitBoy is colorful, inviting, and beautiful. Well, opening level rainstorm not withstanding. Seriously, why would you start your game with a rainstorm? Rainstorms are depressing. Christ, is there some kind of unwritten rule that indies must be at least THIS bleak? I shudder to think of what an indie reboot of Mappy would be like. “Act One: Mappy’s mother just died of cancer. Mappy laid down in bed and began to cut himself. Going too deep, Mappy nicked an artery. Our adventure begins with Mappy slipping into unconsciousness..”

Gene Kelly is the only person who made rain seem less than bleak. For everyone else, rain is like liquid sadness. What was the tummy symbol on the unhappy Care Bear? RAIN!

Gene Kelly is the only person who made rain seem less than bleak. For everyone else, rain is like liquid sadness. What was the tummy symbol on the unhappy Care Bear? RAIN!

And that level design? Sorry to quote Inspector Gadget, but I’m feeling it here: wowzers. Perfect use of old school tropes here. Excellent moving platforms. Well placed spikes. TONS of hidden pathways and rooms. No matter how bad the controls were, I wanted to experience these stages. When I found a warp zone early on and skipped to the midway point of the second world, I was kind of bummed out. But, the fact that the level design is so inspired only serves to frustrate me with the controls more. How could a developer get one aspect of the game so fucking right and completely and utter airball an equally important component? You know, a common theme in indie gaming is final stages that go out with a whimper instead of a bang. Where you can tell the developer rushed the finale out just so they could see the game released and hear what people have to say about it. 8BitBoy doesn’t have that. The last levels are some of the best in the entire game. Normally that would have me looking to give the closest person a tearful hug of relief. Here, that made me just shake my head and wonder, what if they had got it right?

8BitBoy by all rights should be a top 25 game on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. Does it do anything new? No. Instead, it feels like an all-star version of an old school tribute. Every conventional 2D mechanic is here and damn near perfect. Even though I spent my entire run cussing the controls, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any fun. 8BitBoy is a lot of fun. It’s yet another one of those “dream game come to life” titles. But this dream game is a bit of a nightmare. The controls are completely unacceptable. I do absolutely recommend 8BitBoy, both to love-sick nostalgic types and cynical nostalgia-hating cynics such as myself. But I also recommend it as an example of a game that does everything right except the thing it needed to do most. Giving a game like this to a fan of platformers (such as myself) is like handing someone a Porsche without a gas pedal that has to be started like Fred Flintstone’s car. Hey, it’s still a Porsche, right! Just be ready to pick glass and rusty nails out of your feet.

8bitboy logo8BitBoy was developed by Awesome Blade
Points of Sale: Steam, Desura

igc_approved1$0.99 (normally priced $3.99) didn’t note above that there’s a nasty glitch where sometimes you have a reserve item, go to activate it, and the item is lost with nothing happening. They really ought to fix this in the making of this review.

8BitBoy is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

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