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.

 

 

Cubesis

Cubesis is one of the most challenging turn-based puzzlers out of the box that I’ve encountered.

You’re given a 2.5D view of a world in which you have to accomplish a few objectives for each level. Objectives typically involve collecting treasure but also can also include such things as, “gather X amount of food” or “build a thing”. Treasures are spread out across the map and to collect them, you need to figure out how you are going to terraform the world by appeasing or displeasing the gods with the use of churches and monoliths. You’ll also need to determine which buildings to build while you wait for the world-changing effects to take place. Being able to store more food, sometimes build a second city for more population, weather control devices, and so on are all important.

cubesis01

The concept of the game is simple but it takes a long time to master. Much of the difficulty lies in trying to figure out just which buildings you need to build, for if you waste your resources on the wrong one or too many of one, you may waste precious turns because the planet is often either heating up or cooling down. If it gets too hot your people burn or if the sea levels rise too high and flood the land, you’re done for and must start over.

As you progress through the game, restarting the level is very common as many of your actions are trial and error. “If I build this, that could happen and then… OH GOD NO MY CROPS ARE DRYING UP!” Game over. Fuck!

One of the more frustrating parts, but also rewarding, is the terraforming (disguised as swaying the gods). To raise the sea level or push it back, you must build a certain type of building to make them happy, the above-mentioned churches or monoliths. The annoying part is that you need the right balance, or lack thereof, to force the effects you desire but sometimes what you need to create that balance is confusing. Building one of the buildings doesn’t seem to have any effect so you overcompensate and build three. RESULT! Oh, I spent too many resources building them all? Fuddy.cubesis03

Now, is all of this fun? Yes and no. See, I had some fun with the title. There were times where I was really feeling it and into it and others where I was frustrated and didn’t want to play anymore. This IS a good game but for a certain type of person and I apparently am not that person. It is no fault of the devs as I feel it’s a quality product. If you like real thinkers and a challenge, not minding having to start from scratch when you mess up, yes. Get this game. For me folks like me who I’ve discovered are not that person, skip it.

cubesis_logo

Cubesis was developed by Ikkju.

For $5, this game will last you a while as you try to figure out how to pronounce it. “Cube-sis”? “Cube-eh-sis”?

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.

Wind-Up Knight

Wind-Up Knight is a pretty decent game, and Ouya is in short supply of those. I figured I should say that in the first sentence of this review since I have a lot of not-so-nice things to say about it. It’s yet another take on BIT.TRIP RUNNER, a game so frequently cloned that it’s posed to be a genre in and of itself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Gamers really need to remove the corks from their blowholes regarding the issue. Popular games get cloned. They have since the dawn of time. Some people seem to think indies shouldn’t be subjected to this, out of respect or something.

Heh.

Haha.

WAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Oh God. Good times.

Annoying marketing covering the game's pictures? Yep, it's a mobile port.

Annoying marketing covering the game’s pictures? Yep, it’s a mobile port.

Seriously, what planet are you guys from? All forms of entertainment are based on the principle of monkey see, monkey do. And in the case of indie games being copied, it really doesn’t bother me because this is how genres get established. In the case of Ouya, BIT.TRIP isn’t on here. Never mind that there probably isn’t a single person on the planet who owns a Ouya but doesn’t own a platform that you can find RUNNER on somewhere. That’s not the point. Personally, I think it’s cool that a reasonably good facsimile of RUNNER is on the little indie box. Cool in the same way that someone with one of those fully functional Optimus Prime cosplay costumes is, the ones that make you stare in awe and wonder “how the fuck did he make that out of caulking and used paper towel tubes?”

Not that Wind-Up Knight tries to copy BIT.TRIP entirely. To its credit, it really does try to be something more. Unfortunately, “more” involves micro-transaction oriented upgrades. Yes, you can earn the cash to get these over the course of the game, and maybe most players will do better at it than I did. I’m a busy person, and I was trying to fly through Wind-Up Knight as quickly as possible. Hell, I completely forgot about the upgrades until there were only a few levels left. At which point I bought a sword that shoots a beam out that kills enemies quite far from you. I guess my forgetfulness was lucky in this case, because that sword pretty much stripped more than half the difficulty out of the game. I call this the “scissors on a tube of toothpaste effect.” But, if I hadn’t forgotten about the upgrades and had at any point purchased anything, I almost certainly would never have owned that sword unless I paid extra for it. It makes it feel like a free-to-play mobile game, which it in fact is.

Wind-Up Knight’s biggest problem, besides doing that thing most decent Ouya games seem to do where the seams from the game’s mobile roots stick out like a sore thumb, is the difficulty curve. Too often, a moderately challenging stage is immediately followed up by multiple levels that could be generously described as a cakewalk. (By the way, that term has meant “something incredibly easy” since the 1860s. Who even knew they had cake back then?)

Is wall jumping really something worth advertising? It's so commonplace these days it would be like having a car advertise that it comes with wheels.

Is wall jumping really something worth advertising? It’s so commonplace these days it would be like having a car advertise that it comes with wheels.

Or maybe not. Until the 47th level (of 48 total), I absolutely flew through Wind-Up Knight, which is weird because I got off to a rough start over the first ten or so levels. The same thing happened to me with BIT.TRIP RUNNER 2. I have to consider the possibility that I just got really good at it. Then it took me a few days to finish level 47, though a combination of seizures and having my annoying boyfriend around might have had something to do with that. Funny enough, once I beat that stage, I cleared the final level on my third attempt. Sadly, it was unquestionably was easier, and only serves as the final stage because the graphical backdrop is more climatic. Sigh.

Oh, and in the really petty complaint department, I have a policy at Indie Gamer Chick that I pay for all the games and avoid demos. The Ouya obviously isn’t a system suited for this, even though you can now purchase a game without the mandatory play through. So I purchased Wind-Up Knight for $7.99. After finishing the first book, it gave me the option to purchase it for $4.99. I don’t know why, but that really pissed me off. It’s like punishing me for buying it earlier than expected. A lot of games do this, and trust me developers, it always annoys the consumers. Stop doing this.

Maybe my counting is off, because I only noticed 48 stages. Meh, whatever. I got an ending screen and thus I'm satisified. I mean, the ending screen then wouldn't go away. It was laid on top of the menu. The menu still worked under it though. It's weird, but I've had that happen at least a dozen times over the course of Indie Gamer Chick.

Maybe my counting is off, because I only noticed 48 stages. Meh, whatever. I got an ending screen and thus I’m satisfied. I mean, the ending screen then wouldn’t go away. It was laid on top of the menu. The menu still worked under it though. It’s weird, but I’ve had that happen at least a dozen times over the course of Indie Gamer Chick.

You know what though? I would be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy Wind-Up Knight a lot from start to finish. It’s a pretty satisfying game. With a PlayStation 3 pad, the controls were responsive, the graphics worked, the level design was mostly good (unavoidable GOTCHA! style traps don’t appear until the very end of the game), and there’s plenty of extra challenges to extend the gameplay. Where Wind-Up Knight falters most is in personality. Or, more specifically, not having any. Characters are bland, writing is bland, levels look bland, weapons look bland, the music is bland, and the sound effects are bland. It’s almost tiring in how joyless the atmosphere is. Wind-Up Knight was inspired by BIT.TRIP RUNNER, but the inspiration begins and ends with gameplay. It has none of the charm or quirkiness of BIT.TRIP, which is one of the major attractions of that franchise. The developers at Robot Invader are making a sequel, and if they take away only one thing from this review, I hope it’s this: have more fun making it. I can always tell when developers were too serious when developing a game, and I suspect that’s what went wrong with Wind-Up Knight. So please, pull the sticks out of your asses and put them where they belong: up Ben Kuchera’s ass.

windupWind-Up Knight was developed by Robot Invader

$7.99 (Grumble) said Robot Invader could make me feel less butt-hurt over that extra $3 I spent by donating the difference to Autism Speaks in the making of this review.

IGC_ApprovedWind-Up Knight is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. I also played the iOS and Android ports, and they also are Chick-Approved. Levels 13 through 48 can be unlocked for 1,200 “notes” (in-game currency) or $1.99 for each pack of 12. Go with the Ouya version if that’s an option.

Gunslugs

If I waited until I was good at Gunslugs to write this review, it would basically never go up. Roguelikes are just not something I’m good at. I get accused all the time of disliking certain games only because of my lack of skill with them. Instead of wasting time defending myself, I’ve taken to waving Spelunky back-and-forth with one hand while flipping the bird with the other. I *suck* at Spelunky. I’m fucking terrible at it. And yet, it’s the only game I’ve played for review at Indie Gamer Chick that I play every single day, especially since they added Daily Challenges to the console and handheld ports. Mind you, my skill level is still nowhere near being classified as “respectable.” But I love it.

Or, a more recent example would be Don’t Starve. I put a lot of time into Don’t Starve, fulling expecting to review it here. While I liked it.. a lot.. I was so bad at it (as people who watched me play it on Indie Gamer Chick TV will testify to) that I didn’t experience 90% of the content. I still play it and plan on being good at it some day. But, considering how little of the game I’ve as of yet seen, reviewing it now seems somehow unfair. I typically have no problem slamming bad games that I don’t make it far into. I’ve never yet encountered a game that was bad or boring for the opening hours suddenly become worth playing. On the other hand, I’ve played a LOT of good games that went bad later on, and for all I know, Don’t Starve is ready to jump shark on me.

Okay, okay, I'll start talking about Gunslugs now. Yeesh. Impatient much?

Okay, okay, I’ll start talking about Gunslugs now. Yeesh. Impatient much?

There’s really no worry of that happening with Gunslugs. It is what it is: a fun, quirky, simple, and charming roguelike-like shooter. Think Contra or Metal Slug, only with a lifebar instead of one-hit-kills. Oh, and the graphics are ultra-cute 8-bit fare. I’m kind of over the whole “cutesy graphics juxtaposing FUCK YOU levels of difficulty” thing, which is about as common in gaming these days as the ability to jump is, but at least Gunslugs does it well. I can’t stress enough how tough this game gets. I’ve had multiple instances of where I thought I was having a good run only for some cunt with a flamethrower to jump out and drain my health almost instantly, resulting in me screaming unintelligible gibberish that my boyfriend believes translates to “I’m appalled that you would ambush me in such an unbecoming, ungentlemanly manner and I wish to state my displeasure over the situation.”

He’s wrong. I’m trying to say “fuck you, you fucking fucker!” but I get choked up on my own rage.

But, the formula works. Difficult enough to be addictive, like loading a Pez-dispenser. Gunslugs is genuinely fun. It’s not perfect by any means. Like any randomly-generated game, not every run is equally as fun or rewarding. Or fair, for that matter. Gunslugs has all kinds of quirky ideas, like being able to enter levels modeled after Game Boy stuff. But the problem is, that all costs coins. Just now, as I was writing this section, the first randomly generated level asked for 50 coins to enter an “art school” minigame thing. The problem is, I had just started. I couldn’t have possibly had 50 coins by that point. So I went off to murder some enemies, all of whom liberally drop money, ammo, and health refills. By time I had the 50 coins, the door to the art thing was locked. Shit like that happens constantly in Gunslugs, and it’s infuriating.

The random weapon drops often lack “oomph” too. I kept getting stuff like the double gun, which allows you to shoot in both directions. Sounds great, except 90% of the enemies you encounter are in front of you, and thus shooting behind you is about as useful as a snorkel is for exploring the Mariana Trench. The ratio of double-guns to anything else was about 10 of them for any other item. When the most boring item is far and away the most common pick-up, it lessens the entertainment value of the game.

Enjoy this screencap, because I died attempting to take it. Paid 75 coins for it. This job sucks sometimes.

Enjoy this screencap, because I died attempting to take it. Paid 75 coins for it. This job sucks sometimes.

Basically, every problem I have can boil down to the random-generation engine not being refined enough. On one stage, I was able to get a bottle of alcohol (a spendy 25-coin purchase), which makes everything move in slow-motion. “FINALLY!” I screamed. Sure, it had a limited timer, but at least I would be able to put that bad-boy to good use while it lasted. Unfortunately, I got this at the very end of a level. As in, the exit was right next to the building I got it from. As I hopped in the escape helicopter, I watched in fucking horror as the power-meter for it instantly disappeared. No, what remained did NOT carry over to the next level. Sigh. What a dick this game is.

Gunslugs is a lot of fun, in the same way hanging out with one of those whack jobs that blows up bullfrogs for giggles can be. But, unlike a game like Spelunky, it lacks a certain intelligence in design. Not that Spelunky is a genius or anything. Anyone who has seen the damsel stuck in ten feet of solid rock when you’ve almost certainly not had a chance to collect enough bombs to get to him or her can attest to that. Gunslugs is too dumb though. Not so dumb that I would say “skip it.” Fuck that. At $2.49 ($1.99 with PS+ discount), it’s one of the best steals in gaming at this point in 2014. But I feel they had something special going here, and blew it by being too lax in how the computer can spit out the layout. And I’m not saying that because it would make Gunslugs easier. The difference in difficulty fixing all this stuff would result in is negligible. No, I’m saying all this because it would make Gunslugs more fun. That’s what you guys are supposed to be doing. Entertain us. I’m ranking Gunslugs as the 68th best indie I’ve reviewed as of this writing, and that’s somehow disappointing to me. It should have been better. It *deserved* to be better. Instead, Gunslugs is like one of those prodigies that by all rights should be lecturing at Harvard but instead is flipping burgers.

GunslugsGunslugs was developed by OrangePixel

$1.99 with PlayStation Plus discount ($2.49 normal price) shot a man just to see him die in the making of this review.

Gunslugs is also Chick-Approved on Ouya ($2.99 there). The best version to get is the Vita version. Cheaper and portable.

IGC_ApprovedGunslugs is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

*Note: only the PlayStation Vita port is approved here. The iPhone/Android versions are horrendous, like any game that features on-screen digital control schemes. Can we all agree those suck and abolish the fucking things?

MushRoom Bounce!

Ouya’s biggest problem is it has a lot of games that sound like they’ll be fun and look just fine when you’re browsing the marketplace. Then you actually get them and you realize they’re, if not awful, bland and uninspired. MushRoom Bounce! looked decent and sounded unique. It didn’t take too long after booting it up to figure out that it’s actually pretty boring.

Pretty much anything movable can be pocketed, though the points don't seem worth the effort.

Pretty much anything movable can be pocketed, though the points don’t seem worth the effort.

There’s been games like this. You take various mushrooms or “interactive” objects and push them into holes (sort of like billiards) for points. Once you’ve pocketed all the mushrooms, the stage is cleared and you move on. I guess it’s kind of similar to Namco’s 1985 coin-op/compilation seat-warmer Motos, only with no sense of danger and a lot less polish. And although there’s not a whole lot technically wrong with it, MushRoom Bounce! is just plain not fun. That makes it kind of tough to talk about.

I guess I can focus on how the physics doesn’t always seem stable. To hit stuff, you simply walk into it. This one time, a mushroom was on the edge of one of the holes. I walked straight into it from the right side. In theory, this should have immediately pocketed the mushroom. Instead, it flew straight upwards. It was baffling. Not that this was a regular thing, but there was more than one instant where a mushroom seemed to take an unexplained irregular bounce. Other times, I would see the mushrooms get stuck in corners, or stuck behind objects, or lose all momentum for seemingly no reason. Controls are slightly clunky, which makes aiming a bit of a chore. Then again, since the game has no real sense of tension or ways to fail, the game feels more like a chore-simulator so I guess that’s appropriate.

A bigger problem is the menus themselves. I went to customize the PlayStation 3 controller I was using, but none of my actions with the controller while attempting this seemed to correspond to what was happening in the menu, and I was ultimately locked completely out of the game. Until I restarted my Ouya at least. I’m not just picking on the developers of MushRoom Bounce here, either. Bad menus have been a recurring theme during my adventures in Indie Land. Surely you guys that are making these games have yourselves played games at some point. And, when I go to the developers to ask them what happened, it typically boils down to “I never really checked them because I didn’t think they were important.”  That’s not the case with MushRoom Bounce, by the way. I haven’t talked with the devs since they requested the review. But for God’s sake, check the damn things before you send the game out.

I didn't play this far. I got to level 20 before I couldn't take any more. I think the premium levels don't start until a little bit after that, meaning I totally threw away a dollar. I could have gotten an over-sized novelty gumball or fed a starving African child for a week. My teeth thank you, Two Squid Games. The starving African child might not.

I didn’t play this far. I got to level 20 before I couldn’t take any more. I think the premium levels don’t start until a little bit after that, meaning I totally threw away a dollar. I could have gotten an over-sized novelty gumball or fed a starving African child for a week. My teeth thank you, Two Squid Games. The starving African child might not.

Despite what people might think, based on my reputation, I always look for positive things to say about games I review. I couldn’t come up with anything for MushRoom Bounce, besides the fact that it might be an okay title for very, very young children. There’s just no point to it. You can go for high scores on the online leaderboards, but with gameplay this tedious, why bother? You have items to shake things up, but there’s no limit on them, and thus I stuck to laying out large bombs and letting physics take over, then tapping in anything that wasn’t pocketed by the explosions. Maybe if this had been multiplayer, it might have been more tolerable. As is, it’s like playing Hungry-Hungry Hippos by yourself. As someone who was one of those sad kids that played Hungry-Hungry-Hippos by herself, I assure you, that’s about as fun as it sounds like. Which is to say, not at all.

Mushroom bounce logoMushRoom Bounce! was developed by Two Squid Games

$0.99 said doing mushrooms has never been so dull in the making of this review.

*Note, the video makes it look like there might be a multiplayer mode, but if there is on the Ouya version, I couldn’t find it, and we looked.

Adam’s Venture: Chronicles

Cathy’s notes on Adam’s Venture

I’m supposed to be taking notes when I game for reviews now. Stupid brain. It used to soak up information like a sponge. Now it soaks up information like, I dunno, a washcloth or something. Stuff still clings, but it gets wrung out whenever I have a seizure. Now I have to write down everything like a fucking savage. And what is my first game I’m doing under this primitive system? Some piece of shit religious game that feels like it fell out of a time warp from 1999. Oh, and get this, it’s called Adam’s Venture. The only problem is, the character is called Adam Venture. It’s Adam Venture’s Venture. Works for me. My name is Cathy Vice. Cigarettes are my vice. They’re Cathy Vice’s Vice. I should use that in the review. It’s fucking clever.

9:18 AM: Okay, well let’s just fire this fucker up. Yes, I’m aware that this game autosaves. What kind of idiot just randomly turns off their console when a little circle-thing is spinning in the corner, indicating that the game is saving? Oh shit, Judge Judy is on. A…….. oops.

10:11AM: All system errors are now fixed. Stupid short attention span. Now I feel like an idiot. Later today, I’ll go on Twitter and get all preachy and self-righteous about Nintendo or how much cooler I am than everyone else. That always cheers me up. Okay, onto the game.

Da nanana, nu nu nuuuuuuuu. Da-nana, nah nu nah nah nah.

Da nanana, nu nu nuuuuuuuu. Da-nana, nah nu nah nah nah.

10:30AM: Ugh. I can’t believe they still make games like this. The character moves like he’s shit his pants. He jumps like he’s liquid-shit his pants and it’s seeping through his underwear. Dude, I have epilepsy. Been there, buddy. I’ll save my own panty-oopsie stuff for later, when I say something stupid on Twitter and need to get sympathy. Suckers. So easy to manipulate.

12:15AM: Adam’s Venture is trying to do the Indiana Jones thing. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. Which was an alright game back in 1999, when I was stupid. All kids are stupid. I was STOOPID stupid. I watched Big Bad BeetleBorgs. Oh, set a reminder to bring that up on Twitter at some point, preferably when someone talks about their superior 80s shows. Even though I found their shows better, I will stand my ground and insist my shows were better. Hell, the retweets I get for mentioning BeetleBorgs will up my geek cred and probably land me at least six new followers.

Anyway, the set pieces are nice. It really does kind of feel like I’m exploring a vast, abandoned, booby-trapped cavern. If not for the Dreamcast-era graphics, I might be positively immersed right now. Oh, and I’m now being followed by an evil cloud-monster-thing that reminds me of Dark Heart from Care Bears II. But it only shows up in cut scenes. There’s no enemies or combat. It’s just about getting from point A to point B by solving rudimentary math and logic puzzles. It’s really linear, so it’s almost impossible to get lost. In a way, I appreciate that. But it all comes back to those controls. It’s like the designers of this game went into full-on panic mode as the millennium neared and locked themselves in a fucking bunker for fourteen years to escape the Y2K fallout. Then they spent the next fourteen years kicking themselves for not hanging the “We’re in here, Jesus!” sign that they had lovingly quilted and figured the rapture had passed by without them being saved . Then, one day, they emerged, blurry-eyed, and discovered the world hadn’t ended. After the initial disappointment, and trying to figure out their cover story for why they only waited two weeks to cannibalize their buddy Harry when they had plenty of rations, they tried their hand at game making. They had a PlayStation 1 and a copy of Tomb Raider and Legacy of Kain to play endlessly to pass the time, and that shit was so cutting edge that there was NO WAY the format was improved over the last fifty-six seasons. Oh, and this is a religious game, so stick a snarky “what a surprise, a religious game that disproves the theory of evolution” quip in the review. Maybe too obvious and lazy a joke, but fuck it, I’ve got shit to do today.

12:20PM: Brian just pointed out to me that I, in fact, don’t have anything to do today. Whatever. You know what? Fuck him. No sex for him tonight.

The settings are the best part of the game. A lot of care went into them. It makes it look like the game will be exhilarating. It's not. It's very slow paced.

The settings are the best part of the game. A lot of care went into them. It makes it look like the game will be exhilarating. It’s not. It’s very slow-paced.

1:15PM: There’s really not enough story to sink my teeth into. Just lots of vague religious stuff. Some of the puzzles involve arranging three lines of scripture in the correct order. I’ll bring up that I’m actually a practicing Catholic here, even though I don’t actually believe that shit. Just hedging my bets, in case when I repent on my deathbed God sees my fingers crossed. Still though, it’s not horrible or offensive. A little old-fashioned, but then again, so is religion. You know what? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this will win my seal of approval after all.

1:16PM: OMG, fuck this game. Fuck it in its mouth with a hepatitis-laced rusty scrub brush.  It has timed environmental puzzles. And the timer is too short. For this one puzzle, you have to light two torches, climb a rope ladder, jump up on a platform, and duck under a door before one of the torches goes out and it closes. Why that sucks is, lighting the torches is done via context sensitivity. Simply pressing the button doesn’t light the torch. When you do press it, the game takes over movement and gingerly stumbles back and forth until the character is locked into place. Then, it slowly lowers your torch into the torch you’re trying to light. This whole thing DOES NOT STOP THE TIMER, which wouldn’t be an issue if there is only one torch. But, because there’s two, if you don’t hit the button in the very small space that is lined up most ideally, you’re going to watch while the game operates your character like it’s trying to not break a nail.  Mind you, even if you do it correctly, you still have to line up correctly with the ladder, get up it fast enough, then get to the ledge and jump on it. Jumping on it isn’t smooth either. In the very first part of the game that required you to jump, I had to try five times to jump up a ledge that was about six inches off the ground. This is not a game designed with dexterity or speed in mind. I spent forty minutes trying to get this room correct. I was convinced I was doing it wrong and looked for an item or something else I was missing. I can’t believe this made it through play testing without the poor sap playing throwing down his controller in disgust and converting to Scientology. Suddenly, the whole religious thing makes sense. By the time this room was over, I was praying. “Please God, don’t let there be another room like that.”

2:04PM: There was another room like that. This one had four torches that seemed to have even shorter timers. They were all spread out in the corner of a large room. The only thing I had to do was light the torches. No other hoops to jump through. It took me another thirty-minutes to do it, just because of the animation thing. It felt like one of those plate-spinning gags, only it would be like if the plate spinner had to tie his shoelaces before spinning the plate more. 

2:35PM: I’m finally done with Adam Venture’s Venture. Well that was short and…………

2:36PM: Shit. I forgot this is a compilation of a game that had been released episodically on PC. Well, I’m done. I can’t take anymore. If they patch the torch thing, which I’m sure can only be done by increasing the timer on the torches or stopping the timer while the auto-animation is going, I’ll come back to it. I don’t even know if there are going to be more rooms like that, but the fear of it is stronger than my fear of cigar-smoking clowns. Damn that Are You Afraid of the Dark? show. Twenty years later and I still have nightmares. Those sections really were the only things remotely challenging, but not in a good way. I’ll wrap up the review by reenforcing that Adam’s Venture Chronicles is far from horrible, but it really is too old-fashioned for anyone expecting a game released in 2014 to have control-sensibilities from the last ten years. Maybe this would have been a terrific game in 1999. But it’s not 1999. 

Seriously, Vertigo Games. Patch those timed-puzzles and I think I would be ready to award this my Seal of Approval. Also, you guys need to flog yourselves with a cat o' nine tails for committing such a sin in the first place.

Seriously, Vertigo Games. Patch those timed-puzzles and I think I would be ready to award this my Seal of Approval. Also, you guys need to flog yourselves with a cat o’ nine tails for committing such a sin in the first place.

I bet if I had been a kid when this came out, Mommy and Daddy would have gotten this for me. I mean, assuming they could find out about it. How do you find out about games of this nature, anyway? The religious aspects of the Adam’s Venture Chronicles aren’t even mentioned on its PSN profile. Imagine if a militantly secular family accidentally bought this. It seems like it wouldn’t go over well. More over, to not boast of the nature of the game itself defies the scriptures. Timothy 2:15 tells us “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Of course, it also tells us to kill every mouthy child, homosexual, or person who works on a Sunday. Grand Theft Auto isn’t this bloodthirsty. But it would be facetious if I put that in the review, even if the liberals who read me would lap it up. In truth, if parents only want their kids playing games of this nature, the kids life wouldn’t be ruined by Adam’s Venture. It’s mostly only a bad game because it’s so outdated in the way it’s executed. Had this controlled like Tomb Raider 2013 did, it wouldn’t have been amazing or anything, but I probably would have liked it a lot more. Hmmm, executed wrong. I should probably work in some kind of really inappropriate joke here. Something involving Jesus and an electric chair or something.

Now for the crappy part: I have to turn these notes into a review. I could just post them like this, lazy as it would be. But then people would realize I’m an aloof, pompous, self-indulgent, self-righteous, stuck-up bitch, instead of the awesome crusader for indie developers people think I am. Hey, wait a second. I’m a game critic. I’m SUPPOSED to be those things.  And…. published.

Adam's LogoAdam’s Venture: Chronicles was developed by Vertigo Games

$9.59 with PlayStation Plus discount ($11.99 MSRP) probably didn’t stick to the concept behind this review well enough in the making of this review.

There are two Vertigo Games as far as I can tell. One of them should consider changing their name to avoid market confusion. The link above points to the guys behind Adam’s Venture. But these guys are also Vertigo Games. It’s an uninspired name anyway.

A review copy of Adam’s Venture: Chronicles was provided to Indie Gamer Chick by publisher Playlogic before the game’s scheduled release on February 4, 2014. At Indie Gamer Chick, all games reviewed are paid for in full by the writer. Upon the release of the game, Cathy provided a $20 PSN card to a friend who purchased the game. The friend has a PlayStation Plus subscription, meaning the purchase price was $9.59. For more on this policy, check out our FAQ.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 300 other followers

%d bloggers like this: