Abduction Action! Plus (XBLIG) and Hypership Still Out of Control (iOS)

Full disclosure: Kris Steele, developer of today’s two games, is my friend.  Our relationship got off to a rocky start.  When I was brand new to the scene, barely two weeks after I launched Indie Gamer Chick, I interviewed Kris.  By this point, I hadn’t won the respect of the community, but they were happy to have ANYONE covering XBLIGs besides the two or three sites that already did.  I was someone new to talk to.  Or, more accurately, someone to gossip to.  At the time, I was interviewing developers for the second XBLIG Uprising event, and one of the candidates for it was Volchaos, a game by Kris.  The only problem was Kris was also organizing the event, and there was skepticism on how good Volchaos was.  (Side note: Volchaos did not make the Uprising.  It wasn’t finished in time.  The next year, the developer of Sententia organized the third event, and his game most certainly DID make it in, and it basically soured the whole thing).  At the time, I was still kind of finding my identity, so when the time came for the interview, I was still in “pretend to be a serious writer asking tough-questions” mode.  By the time it was over, I’m pretty sure he didn’t like.  Nor should he have.  I was a douche.  Straight up.

But, he was never unkind to me.  By the time I figured out that I should drop any pretense of professionalism and just be myself, he was still there and willing to help me.  Even after I didn’t enjoy Volchaos, he was encouraging of me, and endorsed me to the community.  Fast forward to today.  Kris is my friend.  A really, really good friend.  I’m proud to be his friend.  All bullshit aside, he’s a good man, and I consider our relationship a privilege.  He’s always there for me to answer questions about game development, indie politics, or if I need his fingerprints on a bloody crowbar.  It’s really a sign of his character that he became friends with me.

And now I'm going to put that character to the test by calling one of his latest games digital dog feces.

And now I’m going to put that character to the test by calling one of his latest games digital dog feces.

One thing I never imagined when I started Indie Gamer Chick is that I would form a close relationship with any developer.  Today, I have just that with a few dozen.  For many of them, I’ve reviewed at least one of their games.  If that’s the case, there’s roughly a 55% chance I didn’t like their effort.  At first, I was worried that people might accuse me of going soft on those that are my friends.  Even if it’s not true (and if you ask Kris Steele or Dave Voyles, they’ll tell you it’s not.  And probably cry), that perception is there.  I take great pride in the fairness of my reviews.  People might think that someone might expect their critic friend to show mercy on them.  To those that believe that, nothing I can say or do would convince them it’s not otherwise.  Anyone with real friends knows that real friends would never ask that of their critic friend.

So, what did my friend release recently?  First up, I looked at Abduction Action! Plus on XBLIG and Ouya.  I had heard of this game days earlier, when a child psychologist recommended that the average punishment for a disobedient child be changed from grounding to playing Abduction Action.  Less timing consuming, faster results.  No child will fuck with mommy and daddy again.  Okay, I’m kidding, but it is a pretty awful game.  The idea is you’re a UFO that must torment Earthlings for shits and giggles.  Using a tractor beam, you’ll abduct humans, or crush them with various objects, or drop them from lethal heights.  In theory, this is the game you give evil little children to break them of their habit of torturing ants for the lulz.

In Iowa, they call this "Tuesday."

In Iowa, they call this “Tuesday.”

Unfortunately, Abduction Action! Plus is let down by poor controls.  Many of the challenges in the game, such flying into birds, requires precision movement, and that’s not really an option.  It gets bad when you’re forced to accelerate into objects using the turbo boost.  For those watching me, it was probably comical.  I tried to splatter a birdie on the UFO, and instead overshot it no less than a dozen times, until it finally flew off the screen.  It was maddening.  And that’s ultimately why I couldn’t enjoy AA+.  It’s a game about lining up to do stuff.  Line up to grab a rock and drop it on a jock’s head.  Line up to pull someone up in your tractor beam.  Line up bullets to turbo-boost through them.  That shit is hard to do when the UFO only has two speeds: too fast and suicidally fast.

Abduction Action! Plus was developed by Fun Infused Games ($2.99 would rather get an anal probe than play this shit ever again)

Abduction Action! Plus was developed by Fun Infused Games ($2.99 would rather get an anal probe than play this shit ever again)

Then there’s the problem of having to remain stationary while you suck up the people and objects.  If a projectile hits your UFO, the beam is deactivated and you drop whatever you’re carrying.  This is kind of tough when you have people shooting you pretty much non-stop anytime you’re low enough to grab anyone.  I’m not sure why a standard gun or even a shotgun would cause a UFO to do anything but laugh.  You mean to tell me these things are designed to travel through space and torment any living creature they happen across, but a single bullet fucks their mojo up?  I tried to find something positive to say about Abduction Action Plus’s gameplay, and I couldn’t come up with anything.  That is unfortunate, because the writing is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and the concept is solid.  But gameplay is king, and AA+ controls like a game in dire need of an AA meeting.

What’s shocking about Abduction’s badness is Kris released another game recently, this one on iPhone, and it is fucking awesome.  It’s called Hypership Still Out of Control.  It’s a sort-of-sequel, but not really, of a couple earlier games.  I reviewed both Hypership Out of Control for iPhone and Hypership Still Out of Control on Xbox Live Indie Games last year.  Like Abduction Action, the XBLIG version of Hypership was overly-sensitive to control.  On iPhone, the control was near flawless.  Still Out on Control offers more of the same, only the levels are different.  Same graphics, same control scheme, and the levels themselves progress seemingly the same way.  The meteors are in the first stage.  The eyeball wall things are the second stage, etc, etc.  So, despite Kris’ objections, I’m basically calling this more of a DLC pack.  A very good one, mind you.  I highly recommend it.

Damn game won't take the sky from me.

Damn game won’t take the sky from me.

But, the honeymoon with Hypership is over, and now a lot of the glaring flaws are starting to be noticed.  Stuff like how sometimes setting off a bomb is too hard.  You have to double-tap the screen to do it.  I don’t know if it prefers you to tap in the same spot or not.  It’s sometimes a difficult thing to pull off, and setting off a bomb when you most need to is very challenging because the screen is usually too full to safely stay still long enough to detonate it.   Also, when you’ve built up a stockpile of 3 bombs, which is the max, why doesn’t picking up a 4th bomb automatically detonate it?  It wouldn’t make the game too easy, but it’s too hard to see the new bomb on-screen and react fast enough to detonate a bomb you’re holding before picking it up.  Since you can’t use a finger on your spare hand (for those that have such a thing, and to those who don’t, you shouldn’t have played around with firecrackers like that) to set off a bomb, the system is just too busted.  This is a game based around speed, lots of it.  You probably won’t have enough time to safely take your finger off the screen for the less-than-a-second it takes to use it.  I would kill to be able to play Hypership with a mouse or a trackball.  The joystick controls of the XBLIG were too damn loose, while the phone version lacks buttons that would make the game so much better.  A marriage between the two might make one of the best space-shooters of the modern era.

Don’t let any of those complaints turn you off.  They’re here because I’m hoping like hell Kris gets the message and makes some fixes to his already excellent game.  Hypership, no matter which version you get on your iThing, is a truly special game.  One of my favorite iPhone games, indie or otherwise.  One of the few space-shooters I’ve ever enjoyed.  One of the few games on any platform I play on a regular basis.  And my enjoyment of it isn’t based on my friendship with Kris.  If friendship somehow softened my thoughts on his Abduction Action! Plus, then you should be scared because it might be so bad that it causes cancer.  No, I like Hypership purely because it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played.  You know, I’ve had a bad break lately with health issues.  I don’t know what my future holds.  I don’t find out until February 27.  I am lucky that I have friends who will be there for me.  And here’s where the friendship thing matters to me: how fucking cool is it that one of my friends, who will be there for me through the worst of whatever I face, also is someone who made one of the best games I’ve ever played?  It proves once again something I’ve known for a long time: I’m the luckiest person I know.

Hypership loloHypership Still Out of Control was developed by Fun Infused Games

This is for Hypership. For Abduction Action! Plus, picture Sweetie with pock marks on her face, blood dripping out of her nose, the stench of death on her, with skulls and crossbones all around the edges saying "not approved for any use besides enhanced interrogation."

This is for Hypership. For Abduction Action! Plus, picture Sweetie with pock marks on her face, blood dripping out of her nose, the stench of death on her, with skulls and crossbones all around the edges saying “not approved for any use besides enhanced interrogation.”

$1.99 said Kris could remake the same game, only set it on I-80 in California and claim it’s based on a true story in the making of this review.

Hypership Still Out of Control is Chick-Approved and Ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Solar Flux

Games such as Solar Flux rarely hold my interest for very long, so I was very surprised when I found myself in the last few levels of this 82-stage game.

Hiding from a flare.

Hiding from a flare.

Solar Flux is a space-themed action puzzler not all that unlike Angry Birds or Cut the Rope where you have objectives for each stage and are rewarded with skill stars the better you do. Here you’re saving dying stars by shooting plasma into them. You collect this plasma with your ship, which has limited fuel and which cannot get too close to the stars without the risk of exploding due to the loss of its heat shield.

A fun physics system plays a part in this game which has you holding orbit around planets, coasting around space while trying to use as little of your fuel as possible, hiding behind planets to avoid the intense heat of the stars, and riding the solar waves of the stars as you restore energy to them.

The game’s visuals are gorgeous for a game of this kind and the music is great, definitely feeling appropriate for the environment. The colors of the celestial objects are vibrant and stand out nicely. The music is soft and gives you a feeling of solitude as is fitting with the environment. Nothing looks or sounds cheaply done.

(At this point I should mention that for the most part I played the PC version of the game. I cover the differences between this and the Android version later. In short, they are essentially the same.)

A maze of asteroids.

A maze of asteroids.

All in all, the game isn’t terribly difficult if you’re only interested in seeing each level. If you’re after a full clear, achieving three stars on each level, you have a big challenge ahead of you. In most of these games, you only have one thing in mind: collect all the things or kill all the things with as few flying swine as possible. Solar Flux adds some variety and asks you to perform different tasks for various stages. The game may challenge you by requiring you not to use much fuel, not to lose X amount of your heat shield, or to complete your objective within a time limit.

I zipped through the stages, having only an occasional hang up that took more than a few tries to get around. The graphics are rather pretty, and I felt that the game makes good use of the controller, even though the tooltips suggest one use the keyboard.

I decided to try out the mobile version on my Nexus 5. The download is free; however, you only get a few stages at a time, and you MUST complete all of the stars for what few stages you do have in order to advance. Ads appear between every few missions, but at only a dollar to remove them, it’s worth the price if you find you like the game.

Coming from the PC version to this was incredibly difficult due to the controls; movement of your ship isn’t as intuitive as it is with the controller. It took quite a bit of practice to get the hang of it, but eventually things became fluid.

Between the two versions, I think the desktop version is the better choice both because of how it’s easier to control and because you don’t need to collect all three skill stars in order to advance. However, I do suggest trying out the mobile version first since it’s free. Think of it a trial version.

If you enjoy this type of game, I recommend picking this one up. Should you be one who is not into puzzlers, skip it as there’s probably nothing here that will change your mind.

solarfluxlogoSolar Flux was developed by Firebrand Games.

“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space, listen…” – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on the subject of space.

IGTlogo-01

Solar Flux has earned has been awarded the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval by Miko.

Home: A Unique Horror Adventure

A couple of months ago I reviewed a game for iPhone called Year Walk, and stated my opinion that I don’t think horror can be done properly on a platform like iPhone.  Well, a few days ago, a fairly popular PC indie made the jump over to iOS, and it happens to be a horror game.  People were telling me “even if I think you were wrong about Year Walk, you have got to try this.  It really is scary.”

No.  Home isn’t really scary.  It’s creepy.  It does creepy well, but I feel there’s a difference between that and scary.  The basic idea is you play as Conan O’Brien (that’s who it looks like, and until someone says otherwise, I’m pretending it’s him) who wakes up with no memory of how he got to where he is.  His leg is injured and he has no idea how it got that way.  Oh, and there’s at least one dead body nearby.  I don’t know why he’s so fussy over it.  It’s basically how every Sunday morning begins for me.

Other candidates besides Conan O'Brien: Ron Howard pre-baldness, my boyfriend (though I've never seen him wear a sweater in my life), or Andy from Toy Story.

Other candidates besides Conan O’Brien: Ron Howard pre-baldness, my boyfriend (though I’ve never seen him wear a sweater in my life), or Andy from Toy Story.

All of this is told through a pixel-art point-and-click adventure.  If it sounds interesting, you’re right, it is.  The problem with Home is that it’s one of those fireworks where you light the fuse and nothing happens.  It took me all of five minutes to guess what the big plot twist would be.  Was I right?  I don’t know.  The solution to what happened I guess changes depending on how many clues you find throughout the hour-long play-through.  At the end of my session, the game saw fit to give me no ending at all.  It didn’t crash or anything.  It just ended with no resolution.  Conan walked to the final door, some text pondering the nature of what just happened popped up, and then BAM, credits.  The fuck?

All choices you can make happen in the form of questions.  Like if you find a knife, the game will ask you what happened in a past tense form.  “Did you pick up the Knife?  Yes/No.”  Here’s the weird part.  Near the end of the game, I was asked if I thought one of the other characters in the game was the murderer.  I said no, because all the clues from the get-go said otherwise.  But now I’m mildly curious whether that would have become the solution if I had said yes.  Not so curious that I’ll play through it again.  Once was enough.

The thing is, there’s no actual game here.  You walk, you click stuff, and stuff happens.  There’s no real puzzles to solve besides typical lock-and-key stuff.  At most, you might have to hit a switch.  So while the graphics are pretty good, the atmosphere hits the mark, and even the dialog is well done, Home is actually kind of boring.  Mechanically speaking, at least.  It tells a story well, but it’s not a game in the strictest sense.  It’s a visual novel where paragraph breaks come in the form of having to walk around trying to figure out where to go next.  It does very little to take advantage of the medium, and that’s a shame.  Unlike a lot of misfires I deal with here, I can’t chalk this up to poor writing or over ambition.  It’s just a dull game. 

I took this picture at the worst possible time.

I took this picture at the worst possible time.

One last thought on the whole “multiple ending” thing which I’ve never been a big fan of.  Here’s why I’m against it: because I don’t know if I’m going to end up with the same ending if I play through again.  I played once and the end result was NO ending.  I felt I played pretty well the first time.  I clicked everything.  I backtracked occasionally to place items where they belonged.  What the fuck more do I need to do, Home?  Well whose to say if I do things differently that I won’t fall into that one and only trap that sets off the exact same ending I just got?  If a game is going to base itself around having multiple endings, it needs to set up a way to take advantage of that besides “replay the whole thing again.”  Especially stuff like point and click adventures, which just don’t lend themselves to multiple play-throughs.  My usual way around this is to simply look up the other endings online, but as it turns out, a game called “Home” isn’t the most Google-friendly title.

I was a bit on the fence about this one.  On one hand, I think the game successfully achieved its goal of having a well written story with genuine suspense and chills.  On the other hand, the gameplay is boring and the hook requires multiple play-throughs, which will certainly mute those chills and shrink the suspense.  I’ve spent more time trying to figure out if I liked Home than I spent actually playing Home.  For that reason, I can’t recommend it.  The deciding factor was if I had a magic “undo” button that would give me the hour I spent playing it back, would I do it?  I can quickly answer that: yes, because the ending sucked.  Results will vary by player, but for me, I felt borderline cheated by the ending I got.  It literally had no closure at all.  Every single question left unanswered.  That’s just plain stupid.  If the power had gone out while I was watching the series finale of Lost, I probably wouldn’t have called that a brilliant ending.  Though in retrospect, that would have been an upgrade.

HomeHome: A Unique Horror Adventure was developed by Benjamin Rivers Inc.

$2.99 admits that I hate replaying games anyway and thus the odds of me playing through Home again was probably slim to begin with in the making of this review.

Plague Inc.

Plague Inc. is a game where the goal is to unleash a deadly disease onto the world and drive humanity to extinction.  It’s the feel-good game of the year!  I played a game with a similar idea a few months back called Infectonator, but the activities in that title were more hands-on.  In Plague Inc., your actions are mostly indirect.  You choose a starting country for the disease, then spend the next fifteen or so minutes gradually evolving it.  Give it resistance to climates, bacteria, or make it easier to spread.  Ultimately though, you have to jack up what it does to humans, to the point that it causes them to die.  Victory is achieved only through total human extinction, as I learned when a handful of healthy shitheads in New Guinea survived my first attempt at the game on Brutal difficulty.  Fuck them.  If I ever visit there, I’m going to walk around coughing on people out of spite.

I've been trying to warn people about this for years.  Nobody listened.

I’ve been trying to warn people about this for years. Nobody listened.

Let’s get the good out of the way first: Plague Inc. is about as grim a concept as I’ve ever seen in a game, and without cutesy graphics or an over-emphasis on tongue-in-cheek humor (it’s there, but just as garnish), it can be kind of depressing to play.  But, I can’t deny how exhilarating it is to watch the final healthy countries finally come down with the plague, or how satisfying it is when you get a pop-up informing you that humanity is going to go extinct and there’s nothing they can do about it.  There’s also a variety of scenarios for you to mess around with, each with unique properties.  Some plagues might give you less material to evolve the disease with, or it might kill too fast and you have to slow its progress down.  Play sessions are short, lasting ten to twenty minutes.  It’s not visually pleasing in the slightest bit (and sometimes the sound will cause your ears to bleed) but Plague Inc. is a perfectly good waste of time.

Now, in the immortal words of Marlon Brando circa middle age, here comes the but.

There are seven “stages” in Plague Inc., each representing a different form of disease to spread.  The problem is, the strategies for those are all pretty much the same.  I found what worked best was starting the virus somewhere in Africa (typically Egypt, which had both sea and air ports, plus after Moses I figured they’re used to this kind of shit), pump up its resistance to heat and cold, add a couple spreading agents, NEVER actually beefing up the plague myself until everyone in the world had it.  Once I had this down, the game was almost too easy.  Even the later twists and turns like the Bioweapon plague that kills victims too fast was a piece of cake.  I never understood why “piece of cake” became the defacto nonchalance word for “easy.”  Ever had my Daddy’s fruit cake?  Shit will break your teeth.

There’s also some DLC, although there seems to be some confusion as to whether or not it can all be unlocked over the course of the game.  I bought two pieces of it: the first was a worm one that I’m fairly certain can be unlocked by beating all the stages on Brutal difficulty.  The second, a zombie mode, cost $1.99 and if it can be unlocked through the normal channels of the game, that’s news to me and to the game itself, because no reference was made of it.  What’s weird about that mode is the price.  The full game of Plague Inc. costs $0.99, yet this one single stage which is not significantly different from the main game (instead of a virus it’s zombies, which you also have to spend attribute points on. Yawn) costs $1.99.  The game comes with one starting stage and seven more that can be unlocked, not to mention three “cheat” stages that completely remove all the gameplay (and thus fun) from the game.  So for $1.99, you get an extra stage that costs double what the game costs and provides you with 11.1% of the content.  I do believe that is one of the worst values I’ve ever seen in gaming.  And I own a couple Vita memory cards.

Get used to screens looking like this, because there's not a whole lot else to see. Except menus.  Menus and a world map.

Get used to screens looking like this, because there’s not a whole lot else to see. Except menus. Menus and a world map.

A couple technical aspects to complain about: sometimes the “click here” bubbles that pop up to give you DNA points are right on top of the pull-down menu, making them impossible to click.  You have to zoom in and then scoot the map over to click it, and by time you do that, it’s probably gone.  Also, some of the scrolling text is just lazy.  There is no such country as “East Asia.”  Yet, when the population of East Asia is wiped off the planet, the game says “East Asia’s government has fallen.”  Okay, which one?  All of them?  Some of them?  The important ones?  Would it have been too much to ask that non-country regions in the game have different text?  Guess so.  But that’s really nit-picky.  I do wholeheartedly recommend Plague Inc., even if the DLC left a bad taste in my mouth.  It’s fun, and it’s a perfectly acceptable time sink.  Maybe not as addictive as some similar titles (this one certainly won’t mess up my week the same way Infectonator did) but it gets the job done.  Who knew destroying the world could be so fun?  Now I know how congress feels.

Plague IncPlague Inc. was developed by Ndemic Creations

Seal of Approval Large$0.99 (plus $3.98 in DLC) left no survivors for Randall Flagg or Mother Abigail in the making of this review.

Plague Inc. is Chick Approved.

Year Walk and Ridiculous Fishing

You know what I don’t understand?  Portable gaming consoles.  I get the concept, I think.  It’s a console, but you can take it anywhere.  Cool, right?  Except, when I think of situations where I use a portable gaming device, I typically only have a few minutes to play.  I’m not into gaming in car rides (even the nice Vita screen is unplayable with the sun glaring), I don’t do a lot of plane rides, and when I’m at home, I would rather play a game on a proper console.  The only times where it makes sense for me to play a portable game are when I’ve got ten minutes or less to kill.  Waiting in a line, or out having a cigarette, or with whatever time I have to spare during a lunch break.  That’s why I’m baffled at the types of portable games that are popular on Vita or 3DS these days.  Hey, I loved Persona 4 Golden as much as the next person, but I would have loved it just as much if I had played in on the PlayStation 3.  Probably more, in fact.  Why does Uncharted even need a stripped down portable version?  Why did Nintendo make a port of Ocarina of Time one of the flagship launch-window titles for 3DS?  These aren’t games designed to be portable.  These are console games that require significant time investments.  What if I just want to play something for five minutes while taking a dump?

The only valid argument I’ve heard is “what if you have to share the television with others?”  Granted, that was never a problem with me.  Only child here that had her own television from an early age.  I guess my parents weren’t keen on watching endless reruns of Barney and Sesame Street.  Still, as someone who is very fond of consoles, I’ve oddly never had the desire to carry one around with me.  Brian says I’m almost certainly in the minority on that.  I say that just proves how much smarter I am than everyone else.

And don’t say I don’t know humility.  I do.  It’s what measures moisture in the air.

The kind of portable gaming sessions I want are readily available.  They’re typically found on phones.  Most of the time.  Year Walk is a bizarre horror-adventure game based on Swedish mythology.  It seems like it could be a decent title, but this is one of those cases where the game failed to grab my interest right out of the gate and I just couldn’t get into it.  I’m not a big fan of point and click games.  This is more exploration-oriented than average, but I fucking hate games where you wander around with no clue of where to go, what your objectives are, or what the ultimate goal is.  Plus, it had features I’m not too keen on, like sound-based puzzles.  I typically play my iPhone games with the sound turned off, because I have a strong desire to not annoy those around me.  I mean, more so than usual.

I don't deny Year Walk is spooky. It really is. But I don't feel it's put to good use on iOS. I would have rather played this on a television.

I don’t deny Year Walk is spooky. It really is. But I don’t feel it’s put to good use on iOS. I would have rather played this on a television.

I didn’t finish Year Walk.  Not even close.  I spent most of the game just aimlessly shambling about.  Yea, the settings were spooky, but I would have rather played this on a console, or the Vita.  I probably should have fired this up on the iPad, where at least I could have seen things better.  But, the truth was, I didn’t want to play it anymore.  I was bored.  I think horror-adventure fans might get a lot more mileage out of this than I did.  Really, I was just disappointed that this wasn’t a game about Wicket’s first birthday.

. .

. .

. .

Get it?  Wicket was an Ewok.  Ewok sounds like Year Walk?

. .

. .

You know, Brian told me that one was no good.  I didn’t listen to him.  And now he’s gloating.  He said “it’s too obscure a Star Wars pun and you have to make too large a logical leap to draw the connection.”  Fine.  Trying again: I thought Year Walk was boring.  Would have been better if it had starred Luke Yearwalker.

. .

. .

. .

Ridiculous Fishing has absolutely no connection to Year Walk, other than being on iPhone.  When I told someone I was reviewing this, they said “I’ve never liked a fishing game.  Never ever ever.”  Although I can’t say the same (I was quite fond of Sega Bass Fishing when I was ten),  saying this is about fishing is like saying Punch-Out is an authentic boxing simulator.  Here, you use the tilt-controls of your phone to lower a fishing lure to the bottom of the sea.  While it’s descending,  you want to avoid touching fish.  Once you touch a fish, the descent stops and the lure starts to surface.  Any fish you touch at this point are on the hook and being reeled in.  When you reach the surface, the fish fly up in the air.  At this point, you whip out a gun and shoot them.

No, seriously.  You shoot them.  With a gun.  Okay, so it’s not the most ridiculous form of fishing I’ve ever seen.  These Lithuanians I believe have that covered.

God bless YouTube.

Fishy fishy in the brook.. I wonder if Brooks Bishop hated that rhyme as a kid?

Fishy fishy in the brook.. I wonder if Brooks Bishop hated that rhyme as a kid?

I’ve never, ever liked tilt-controls.  Ridiculous Fishing is the first game that I truly enjoyed because of tilt-controls.  It just works.  It’s accurate, it feels natural, and it makes the game more fun.  And Ridiculous Fishing is perfectly suited for micro-gaming sessions.  Got five minutes to kill?  Cast a line, scoop up some fish, shoot those fuckers up, and get back to what you were doing.  It also has actual depth to it, with time-sinky upgrades and a decent (not spectacular) variety of fish to catch.   In a sense, it’s the perfect mobile game.  My biggest complaints are how there’s no jelly-fish repellent among the items.  Well, that and the Game Center leaderboards are sort of limited.  Oh, and maybe the game is a teeny-tiny bit overpriced at $2.99.  A little steep for a game with no variety at all, especially on the iPhone market.  Of course, Year Walk cost $3.99 and it’s on the wrong platform.  It would probably make an excellent PC game, but at its price, it’s like paying LeBron James to play on your cricket team.

IMG_1040

Wait, you mean we’re not going to eat them?

Year Walk was developed by Simogo and I really want to try it on a console at some point. Ouya, perhaps?

Ridiculous Fishing was developed by Vlambeer and is Chick Approved.

Seal of Approval Large

Infectonator

Where have I been the last two days?  Well, I’ve been working, hanging out with Brian, going to church (that’s right, Indie Gamer Chick goes to church), and while I’m doing all that, I’ve been utterly hooked on an iPhone title named Infectonator.  Day and night for the last 48 hours.  And it’s all Brian’s fault.  He bugged me for a while, saying “I found this game on my phone that’s really fun and pretty addictive and I think if you liked that OMG-Zombies!, you’ll really like this.”  Spot on he was, although on reflection, he might have been looking for a way to get a break from me.  If so, another point for him, the crafty bastard.  Infectonator is an utterly addictive time sink, sort of like OMG-Zombies! on steroids.

And it’s free.

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Really, this scene could have been done without the zombies. Make a game called “Black Friday” and instead of unleashing a virus, you throw the year’s hot Christmas item into a crowd of people. Would probably have a bigger body count too.

Oh sure, the game offers you a chance to pay cash in lieu of grinding, but I never found it necessary.   I didn’t really play it totally non-stop.  In truth, I put about six hours and change into Infectonator this weekend, but it felt longer.  In a good way.  The concept here is the opposite of OMG-Zombies!  Instead of trying to exterminate the undead, you’re trying to create them, and wipe out humanity in the process.  In the beginning, you’re given a single dose of a virus.  Tapping the screen, you place the virus near humans, causing them to turn into zombies.  They run around and kill humans, who may or may not turn into zombies.  Every time you kill a person, you get coins that you can spend on upgrades, new zombie classes (that’s classes of zombies, not classes on zombies, but I think I’m onto something there if you’re short on game ideas), or special powers.  Unlike some games like this, even the smallest upgrades feel like they make progress, which makes the gameplay very rewarding.  An average game will take you about two hours to play-through.

I can sum up how potently addictive Infectonator is by saying that I played through it four times.  Do you know how many games I’ve ever played through four times before this?  None.  Never once.  Nor have I ever played through a game even three times.  At most, I’ll play through a game once on one difficulty and once on a harder difficulty, then move on to something else.  For whatever reason, I had trouble putting down Infectonator.  A second play-through became a third.  Then I realized I still hadn’t played the game with the super power-ups, so I saved up my cash in the third play-through and rolled it over to the fourth, immediately bought the super power-ups, and then beat the game a fourth time.  I will admit, by this point, I wasn’t really having fun.

The first time around?  Sublime.  You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face (or the time-sink-induced drool from my mouth) with a jackhammer and dynamite.  The second time around, I was waiting for “harder” mode to be, you know, harder, and it never came.  But I was still having a good time.  The third time around, I was just playing to save money to see how over-powered the super power-ups were.  The fourth time, I was shaking my head at how easy the game was now that my virus spreader was passing through people and walls.  Not only that, but I had so much money saved up (over $500,000) that I was also fully able to upgrade the amount of directions the virus spread in and beef up my zombies to the point that they were practically indestructible.  I’ve always said I enjoy abusing leveling up systems, but I think I took it to a new extreme here and consequently ruined a game I had been having a damn good time with.  I’m ashamed of myself, I really am.

This scene is begging to be made into a movie. Just don't fuck it up by making the star Jack Black or Will Ferrell.

This scene is begging to be made into a movie. Just don’t fuck it up by making the star Jack Black or Will Ferrell.

My only other complaints are the typical ones associated with iPhone games.  Infectonator crashed every single time that I tried to “report” my score.  The way they implemented Game Center support is among the worst I’ve ever seen on an iPhone title.  Infectonator also bogged down several times.  Never once did I have a problem on my first play through, but each subsequent game had slow-down issues.   Plus I seriously question whether “hard” mode actually was hard, considering that I beat the game with fewer upgrades on my third play-through then I did the first time.  I also found the endless mode to be quite dull.  Of course, all these complaints are slightly muted by the fact that Infectonator is free.  Free is a good price.  Considering how horrible the values for Infectonator’s micro-transactions are ($9.99 nets you 100,000 gold coins, which isn’t enough for even one of those super power-ups that only works in one play-through), I wonder why they didn’t just slap a $0.99 price tag on their game?  Maybe indie gaming really is a race to the bottom.  If that’s the case, the guys behind this game strapped anvils to their backs and flung themselves down the Mariana Trench.  No word on whether they waved to James Cameron on the way down.  Or maybe they turned him into a zombie while they were at it.

I still enthusiastically recommend Infectonator.  It’s free on iOS and Android.  Are you one of those troglodytes that doesn’t have a phone?  Well then you can play it for free online too.  If I ranked non-XBLIGs on my Leaderboard, Infectonator would be somewhere near the top.  It’s a glorious little time sink that does what any good time sink does: ruin your fucking life.

InfectonatorIGC_ApprovedInfectonator was developed by Toge Productions

Infectonator is Chick Approved.

Centipede (PlayStation Home Arcade), Centipede & Millipede (XBLA), Centipede Origins (iOS), and Bad Caterpillar (XBLIG)

Probably the biggest misconception about me as a gamer is that I’m anti-retro or anti-old games.  I’m not.  I’m simply of the opinion that some games age better than others.  I wouldn’t want to play Space Invaders or Pac-Man as they existed back in the day.  I’m perfectly fine with modern remakes of them, like Space Invaders Extreme or Pac-Man Championship Edition.  On the other hand, some of those older games have aged pretty gracefully.  Centipede is one such game.  In fact, it’s one of the few golden age coin-ops that I feel blends in perfectly with the current generation.  Its twitchy, fast-paced gameplay lends itself perfectly to ten minute portable sessions.  It released recently on the Vita’s Home Arcade platform, and I snagged it for $1.49 in preparation for today’s review.  That’s about what I would have spent to last 15 minutes on the coin-op if I had been alive in 1983.  Did I mention I really suck at it?

Centipede on PlayStation Home Arcade (Vita)

Centipede on PlayStation Home Arcade (Vita)

So what do I think of Home Arcade?  Um, hmmmm.. you know, in the four years its been around, I never have really used PlayStation Home too much.  I would rather just be able to launch games straight off my Vita’s dashboard without having to open Home Arcade.  The interface is clunky and half the time I’ll be stabbing the ever-loving shit out of the “your games” button and nothing happens.  Having said that, the prices are pretty good ($1.49 each) and it has the advantage of being portable and on the coolest gaming gizmo in years.  I don’t even have Home installed on my PS3, and I don’t plan on it, but you don’t need it to use Home Arcade.  I can’t speak for the rest of the games (get back to me the next time an Asteroids clone hits XBLIG) but Centipede controls well.  I guess you can’t ask for more.  Which is a good thing, because what you get is a bare-bones port of the arcade original.  They could have thrown in ports of the Atari home versions, but hey, it’s called making a lazy dollar.

I picked up Centipede on Vita because I wanted to compare it to Bad Caterpillar, a new Xbox Live Indie Game from Kris Steele.  I like Kris, but the dude fucking aggravates me to no end.   His games always have something glaringly off about them.  Volchaos would have been fun if the movement physics weren’t so damn loose.  The same goes for Hypership: Out of Control on XBLIG.  If a gnat so much as farts in the direction of the analog stick, it sends your ship flying.  In a game that involves lining up your character to shoot smaller targets, precision control is kind of needed.  Hypership is actually sublime on iPhone, and very addictive.  Of course, that has the advantage of having drag-the-ship touch controls for extra-accurate firing.  His track record of acceptable controls on XBLIG is about as good as THQ’s record with bankruptcy avoidance.  Considering that Bad Caterpillar looked really close to Centipede, a game which requires precision movement so much that the arcade original used a trackball, I braced for the worst.

Bad Caterpillar on Xbox Live Indie Games.

Bad Caterpillar on Xbox Live Indie Games.

As it turns out, my worries were misplaced.  Bad Caterpillar handles pretty well.  Not perfect.  No joystick-based Centipede can possibly be perfect.  But, I can honestly say that it plays better than any other version of Centipede I played today.  That’s a lot of versions.  For the sake of comparison, I also bought Centipede & Millipede, a 2-for-1 Xbox Live Arcade port of the arcade games.  Movement for these is too loose to be acceptable.  I’ve always had a difficult time in Centipede lining up shots correctly, especially when the last segments of the Centipede are near the bottom of the screen.  That’s not a huge problem in Bad Caterpillar.  It’s a fucking chore in the XBLA arcade ports.  If it was any looser, it would hang out on dimly-lit street corners and be considered a bio-hazard.

The "evolved" version of Centipede & Millipede on Xbox Live Arcade.

The “evolved” version of Centipede & Millipede on Xbox Live Arcade.

The biggest disappointment with the XBLA ports (besides the awful controls) is how the “modern” versions are really just the same old Centipede with some new (re: 15 year-old) special effects added.  On the flip side, Bad Caterpillar looks old, but it features some nifty new ideas such as power-ups and bombs.  Should probably clear this up: by new, I meant “new for Centipede.”  My problem here is that they don’t get spit out often enough.  I played full games where the item drops were nothing but points.  The game should go nuts with them.  I mean, I can already play a Centipede-like game that doesn’t offer power-ups.  It’s called Centipede.

Centipede Origins on iPhone.

Centipede Origins on iPhone.

I guess I should bring up that I also played the iOS update, called Centipede Origins.  It’s a micro-transaction oriented shooter that tries to controls like Kris Steele’s Hypership does on iPhone.  But I found the drag-the-shooter controls to be too glitchy, with the cursor being unable to keep up with my finger, even as I dragged it slowly across the screen.  Only played it for like five minutes, would never want to play it again.  I also dug around and found my copy of Centipede for the Sega Dreamcast, but decided against spending any time digging around for the actual machine to play it on.  Honestly, I’m all Cenipeded out.  So what are my thoughts?  Well, the Vita version is a worthy use of money for a solid portable version of a masterpiece.  The iOS version is just about the worst thing to happen to iPhone since Siri.  The XBLA ports of Centipede & Millipede come across like quick, effortless cash-ins and should be avoided like the clap.  Finally, the XBLIG update Bad Caterpillar is actually a decent game with a few problems.  The moths are unfair, there’s no online leaderboards, and the heavy metal soundtrack is so out-of-place.  It would be like going to Ozzfest to listen to country music.  But I do recommend it, because it’s the best (and cheapest) version of Centipede you’ll get on your Xbox.  Kind of sad that an XBLIG port made by a guy I consider to be a bit of a twat completely slays the official versions of Centipede.  Just kidding, Kris.

xboxboxartIGC_ApprovedBad Caterpillar was developed by Fun Infused Games (80 Microsoft Points don’t think Kris is a bit of a twat)

Centipede & Millipede were developed by Stainless Games Ltd. (340 Microsoft Points think throttle monkey sounds like something found in the Kama Sutra)

Centipede Origins was developed by Atari (Free, except all the stuff that cost money in it)

Centipede on PlayStation Home Arcade was developed by Atari ($1.49)

Bad Caterpillar and Centipede on PlayStation Home Arcade are Chick Approved, and Bad Caterpillar is ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Storage Warfare

I had never seen Storage Wars on A&E before I picked up Storage Warfare on XBLIG yesterday.  I got it because the concept seemed weird and different.  When I tweeted that this was the next game up for review, I had a few people ask questions like “is there an annoying guy who screams “YEAAAAAH” when he bids?”  Mostly people just bitched about how this was obviously a lazy attempt to capitalize on a semi-popular, semi-obscure cable-based reality television show.  Obviously schlock like Storage Warfare will usher in the fall of gaming as we know it, rendering all previous games obsolete, and burying your Zeldas, Metal Gears, and Skyrims under a mountain of games based on Dog the Bounty Hunter or Honey Boo Boo.

I guess that means the guys behind Storage Warfare must be especially diabolical, seeing how it’s been on iPhone and Android long before it’s XBLIG release yesterday.  Not content to toil in obscurity on iPhone, they had to port to XBLIG, where their title is certain to sell at least 73 copies.  Greedy bastards.

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Who in their right mind would keep a safe with stacks of cash in a storage locker? Wouldn’t that cash have been put to better use by, I dunno, using the cash to pay off the debt to the facility so that they didn’t auction off your shit?

In all seriousness, who gives a shit what the game is based on?  Is it fun should be the big question, which oddly enough, only one person out of twenty asked.  Everyone else moaned in disappointment like they just got done having fellatio performed on them by a dust buster with a broken motor.  Shouldn’t the “is it fun?” question trump all?  I’m open to a game based on pretty much any TV show, as long as it’s fun.  Dead serious.  It could be a game based on PBS’s Charlie Rose Show and I would slap my seal of approval on it if I had fun playing it.  So is Storage Warfare fun?  Kinda.

The concept is you have one year to make as great a profit as possible by bidding on storage lockers.  You start with $1,500 in seed money.  Every month, there’s three auctions, each with three lockers to bid on, and each has a different level of wealth associated with it.  The first auction every month is a skid row style storage unit, the second is the middle class one, and the third is the ritzy one.  You don’t actually get to inspect the items beforehand.  Instead, you see a graphical representation of what is found in each unit.  You bid on the whole locker, not individual items.  If you win, you get to see what you’ve won, and it tallies whether you turned a profit or lost money.  After you’ve completed one full year (36 auctions, 108 total lockers to bid on) the amount of money you have left is ranked on a local-only leaderboard.  That’s the whole game.

I like the idea and I had fun here, but the concept certainly doesn’t go as far as it should.  Among other problems, there’s not a huge variety in items.  Barely halfway through the “year” and I had seen off all but two or three items on the checklist.  Of course, the phone version has had a couple stand-alone expansions, which I’m sure will make their way to XBLIG sooner or later.  A bigger problem is how much luck factors into things.  I tried to play the game smart and cool, passing on some auctions that I felt were getting bid-up by the AI too much.  I finished the year with a profit of about $20,000.  And then I fetched my dear mommy, a fan of the source material, to let her have a go at it.  Unlike me, she bid on EVERY SINGLE LOCKER.  And she won.  She beat me by about $5,000, even though she employed nothing remotely resembling strategy or skill.  I hate that bitch.

It kind of turns Storage Warfare into a video scratch-off ticket.  No skill needed, success is totally based on chance.  The best strategy seems to be figuring out what the average bid the AI opponents will top out at and trying to hit just under that mark on your first bid.  But even then, you’re at the mercy of dumb luck.  Plus, the gameplay is shallow and the replay value is too limited.  Not to mention they missed out on an obvious local-only multiplayer mode where friends and family bid against each-other.  Even my Mom questioned why they didn’t include that.  It’s such a no-brainer that someone without a brain couldn’t understand why such a mode is not included.

I guess comic/guitar/

I guess comic/guitar/samurai sword/Rembrandt collectors have trouble paying their bills.

For all those reasons, I should have probably hated Storage Warfare.  But I didn’t.  It takes about a half-hour or so to run through an entire year and I had fun with it.  Once it was done, I wouldn’t want to play it again, but I don’t feel I wasted my dollar.  What’s here is limited, but undeniable enjoyable.  They probably could go a lot further.  My mother noted that the show (which has an official game on Facebook) is more about conflicts and possibly artificial drama than the actual auctions, none of which is really present here.  Maybe they could make a deeper, character-driven RPG-like experience, but they didn’t.  Storage Warfare is the perfect poster-child for casual gaming: a shallow, stupid time sink that you’ll ultimately ask others to join you with, like some kind of cult indoctrination.

xboxboxartStorage Warfare was developed by 24KT Studios

IGC_Approved80 Microsoft Points noted that a Charlie Rose game could be okay if they did it L.A. Noire style in the making of this review. 

Storage Warfare is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

The Impossible Game

The Impossible Game is, as of this writing, the biggest selling Xbox Live Indie Game of all-time that isn’t a Minecraft clone.  It’s a punisher, sure, but since you can’t improvise anything and every jump you have to make is predetermined, it’s more akin to trying to ace a Guitar Hero song set on expert.  I’m not really into those kind of games, and my early experience playing the demo of this long before I founded this website left me feeling self-mutilatious.  And no, I don’t care if that’s not really a word.  It is now.

I’m guessing anybody that has hung around the XBLIG scene has probably at least played the demo for Impossible Game.  Until last month, that was my only experience with it.  Now that I officially do not play demos, I sprung for the full version, with the intent of catching up to all the top-selling games.  The first thing I noticed about it?  How clunky the jump button is.  It’s slow.  There seems to be a slight delay in the game’s reaction time.  In a game that requires perfect precision with no room for error, I found the control scheme unacceptable.  I found it baffling that this was a top game.  #3 all-time selling and #10 in total rank.

Part of the problem is the only way to jump is with the A button.  None of the other face buttons are used at all.  What it could have used was jumping mapped to the bumpers.  The least resistant buttons should have had jumping on them, which would have allowed for quicker actions and smoother play.  Alas, it was not to be.  I said to myself “the idea for this game isn’t bad or anything.  If only there was a platform that did not have clunky buttons and inputs were almost completely instantaneous.  Too bad such a device is purely hypothetical.”  And while I was doing this, Brian was waving my iPhone at me.  Weeks later, I figured out why he was doing so.

So I bought Impossible Game on iPhone, and it worked just swell.  First off, the layout of the level is completely different from the Xbox version, which is a nice touch.  There’s no “push here” area.  You can pretty much push anywhere there isn’t some kind of overlay to cause the cube to jump.  There was no delay in the jumping, leaving the only challenge as the actual challenge the game is meant to have.  Fancy that.  I still wasn’t convinced the game was anything special.  You jump a cube over spikes.  It scrolls quickly.  You need to memorize the layout.  Whoopee do.  Then I noticed that over an hour has passed.  Okay, so maybe it’s a little addictive.

This was back in late April.  Since then, the Impossible Game has factored into my bathroom time, smoke breaks, TV watching, waiting rooms, and traffic jams.  Every time I made it one space closer than my previous best, I would check the stat bar to see what percentage of the first stage (we’re only talking the first of five stages here) was finished.  Finally today, after 603 total attempts (it keeps track), I fucking did it.  I beat it.  I beat a shallow, one-dimensional, total time-sink of a game.  Brian asked me if all the time I had put into it was worth it just to get this:

Totally.

The Impossible Game on Xbox 360 and iPhone was developed by FlukeDude

80 Microsoft Points and $0.99 said this is the biggest case of false advertising since the Neverending Story in the making of this review.

My intent had to go without placing any practice flags down, but I slipped at one point. Damnit all, oh well.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode I

My intent here had originally been to review both parts of Sonic 4.  However, after slogging through Episode I and encountering the single most boring final boss in the history of video games, I don’t think I have the strength in me to even try it.  It doesn’t help that most people are telling me that some of the stuff I will be complaining about below got fixed, yet the game is still worse.  How is that even possible?  It’s like unclogging a toilet by blowing up the building and calling it a job well done.

Long time readers probably expected me to hate Sonic 4 before I even started it.  Whether it was my hate-article against Sega, my review of Sonic CD, or the fact that my Twitter picture was typically me figuring out different ways to torture and kill a stuffed Sonic The Hedgehog doll, I think the message is clear: fuck Sonic.  By the way, I would have kept up with the Sonic killings, but wood-chippers are shockingly expensive and there’s a bullshit 7-day waiting period on flame-throwers.  To me, the franchise represents everything wrong with gaming: generic character with committee-designed personality that’s best viewed through nostalgia goggles.  Sonic is the gaming equivalent of Poochie.  Every attempt at modernizing Sonic has failed, with fans rightfully bitching that they suck and they just want an old-fashioned 2D Sonic game.  The only problem is, those old-fashioned 2D Sonic games weren’t really all that good to begin with.  As a child, they were neat for you because they pushed new technology and did stuff games hadn’t done to that point.  Today?  They don’t hold up, and neither do attempts at recreating the magic.  Stuff like Sonic Colors and Sonic 4 continue to get lambasted.  And whenever something with Sonic that is borderline not shitty comes along, like Sonic Generations, fanboys treat it like Jesus just emerged from his tomb.  You guys are easier to please than my dog, and all I have to do to make her happy is throw her a teeny piece of pizza crust.

I honestly don’t even think the graphics look that good.

I had only played the demo of Sonic 4 Episode 1 (which ought to have been subtitled The Phantom Appeal) when it came out back in 2010 and I honestly thought it was just a remake of one of the earlier Genesis games.  Can you blame me?  Same stupid opening level, same enemies, same rings, same abilities, same loops, and same power-ups.  I imagine anyone with just a passing interest in Sonic would think this was just a graphical upgrade of an existing title.  The full game’s other worlds include a casino, an underwater temple, and an industrial zone.  I mean come on, Sega!  This is like trying to rob your own home.

Everything bad about Sonic games is also here.  Same cheap ass enemy placement, same “gotcha!” level design, and every single thing people never liked in Sonic games to begin with.  I have never once met a person who said they enjoyed the water stages in Sonic The Hedgehog.  I’m sure there might be one or two stragglers out there who insist they’re brilliant, just like I’m sure that there’s one or two people out there who genuinely enjoy squirting wasabi up their nostrils, but it doesn’t mean anyone else would want to do it.  The water levels here are particularly painful because of how bad the controls are.  Sonic runs like he’s wearing concrete shoes, so building up speed becomes an issue.  Once you actually get some momentum going, good luck stopping when you need to.  I tried holding back on one of those accelerators just to see how long it would take me to stop and go back to it.  I had to press the left directional button nearly 100 times to get there.  Granted, nobody is going to play the game like that, but when you design a game around something that is moving fast and then punish people playing it the way it is intended, you’re a colossal asshole.

Of course, things are totally the opposite in the water stages.  They give you a game where you’re supposed to run fast, then submerge the character in maple syrup.  It becomes so slow and clunky that I honestly wonder if they keep putting these fucking stages in these games hoping that fans will start taking their own lives in protest.  I’m telling you, I think I’m on to something here.  There are parts in the industrial stages where you have to outrun a giant, um, not sure what it is besides a hunk of metal, and if you die you go back to a check point.  From there, you have about two seconds to run up a series of slopes or risk dying.  The problem is, you’re not given the ability to build up the required speed to get up them.  I had to spin-dash up one, hope to stop, do it again, hope to stop again, and then do it one more time.  Once you get past that, you basically just have to hold forward and wait for the game to start playing itself for you like every Sonic game seems to do.  Once again, I took a running count.  Not sure how accurate it is because I think I might have accidentally counted a couple of sections twice after dying, but regardless, I counted 77 times where I could advance forward in a level without pushing anything.  That’s over the course of only twelve stages.   Whether it’s bouncing off springs, rolling through tubes, or running past accelerators, Sonic games sure have a hard-on for not letting you play them.  As I pointed out in my last review, Sonic was originally designed by Sega to be Mario for idiots, but game design like this strikes me as Sega having outright contempt for its own fan base.  Are you getting the message Sega is sending you, Sonic fans?  THEY HATE YOU!  What do you think they were trying to tell you with all those 3D Sonics?  They weren’t fucking Valentines!

Come on! They didn’t even change the first boss from the first Sonic game! Short of knocking you out with chloroform and shitting in your mouth, what else can they do to show you they don’t like you anymore?

I pressed forward and eventually got to the last boss.  Well actually, before you fight it, the game ends with a boss rush.  I guess Robotnik felt that all those previous attempts at murdering Sonic with various contraptions that often failed within twenty seconds were worth a second look.  Once you dispatch them, you’re placed against one final, giant robot.  At first, it didn’t seem like such a big deal.  It was slow.  It was easy to attack.  So I started to bonk it.  And then I kept bonking it.  It would fly up in the air, crash down, and I would keep bonking it.  After EIGHTEEN coma-inducing bonks, the boss finally entered its second phase.  It takes eighteen hits to get there!  Mind you, this thing doesn’t put up anything resembling a real fight.  It just sort of lumbers around, waiting for you to smack it.  In the second phase, you can’t attack its body directly, so you have to wait for it to fire one of its arms at you.  Once you avoid it, it floats downwards, and you have to bonk it back to the robot to stun-lock it.  Of course, the game is kind of fickle about when something constitutes “hitting it” versus “getting hit by it.”  The arms have spikes on the bottom, so I would wait until I could attack it at a downward angle, hitting the top of the arm and thus avoiding becoming a Sonic Skewer.  This worked, oh, about half the time.  The other half the time, I would do a lock-on attack directly to the top of the glove and still die.  Grrrrrrrrrr.

Once you die, you get to go back to the 18 bonks before reaching the second phase and hoping like hell your lock-on attack doesn’t crap out on you, forcing another restart.  Well, on one such attempt, luck was on my side, because I had kept all three rings I got at the checkpoint, I had gotten to phase two, and I was able to successfully attack the boss another dozen or so times.  I’m not sure how many shots are actually required to kill it.  Possibly it’s some hypothetical number, like a quajillion, but I won’t know because the game had one final dick move supreme to pull off on me.  You have exactly ten minutes to beat every stage, including in boss battles.  I had eaten up about four minutes getting to the last encounter, and another three minutes getting to phase two of the final boss.  Well, as it turns out, the last boss has random attack patterns, only one of which opens itself up to attack.  After getting a bunch of hits on it, with about two minutes and change left until time expired, the game flipped me the bird and never again did that one attack I needed it to do.  You have got to be fucking kidding me.  Time expired, life lost, back to the start of the fight, cuss words screamed, controller thrown, power off, and Sonic 4 and go fuck itself.

“Dear Sega, less water stages in Sonic games please.” “Did you say more water stages?” “No, less. Preferably none. Nobody likes them.” “More water stages it is!”

And that is when it hit me: the guys Sega stuck this project with hated making it as much as I hated playing it.  They just didn’t care.  That’s the only explanation I can think of for sticking such a tediously boring boss at the end yet another redundant Sonic game.  Maybe this was their attempt at killing the franchise once and for all.  Maybe this was their attempt at trying to avoid drawing the Sonic assignments any further.  Maybe they were outright trying to get fired.  Whatever the explanation is, Sonic 4 Episode 1 is one of the worst pieces of shit I have ever played.  But the games sell, so they’ll keep making them.  I bought this one and I just bought Episode II, so I’m part of the problem.  Excuse me, I need to go flog myself now.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Part I was developed by Sega

I honestly don’t remember how much I paid for this.  I think it was like $1 at Christmas on PlayStation Network or something like that.   Quite frankly, I can’t justify spending any amount on this game.  

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