Shutshimi

With my last two reviews landing in the top ten on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard, I’m now worried that my readers will think I’m going soft. Or possibly that I’ve been replaced by my nicer, goatee wearing Mirror Universe counterpart. Neither is true. As far as you know. But really, I have a reputation to maintain here. So what I need is a game from a genre that is my least favorite. Something that looks like it’s been done a zillion times before. Something I can rake over coals and murder with my malicious words. I need a shmup.

So I picked Shutshimi, and it’s one of the ten best indie games I’ve ever played. Well, fuck me.

I should have known better. As many of you are aware, the original Wario Ware on Game Boy Advance is my personal choice for the best game ever made. Probably a sign that I have ADHD or something. But other games based around time crunches have also owned me, such as Pac-Man Championship Edition, Bejeweled Blitz, NES Remix, or XBLIGs Orbitron and Minigame Marathon. I’m wired for shit like this. And Shutshimi is essentially the Wario Ware of shoot-em-ups. Stages last ten seconds. Sometimes less, but never more. Between stages, you enter a store where you have a choice of three different items. The items have overly-long, elaborate descriptions (that are often not very helpful) and you have exactly ten seconds to make your selection. You fight a boss every few rounds, but only ten seconds at a time. And that’s pretty much the entirety of the game. And I call it a game only because it might be slanderous to call it what it really is: a drug.

Hell, it even looks like how you picture being on drugs.

Actually, going off this picture, maybe I’m on to something with the whole drug thing.

And an addictive drug at that. I have no love for this genre. I find the majority of shmups to be boring, samey, typically unambitious, and designed strictly to target those that are nostalgic for shooters. I’m certainly not nostalgic for them, and thus I’m not these games target audience. More over, shmups are the most high-risk genre for my epilepsy triggers, something I honestly haven’t minded up to this point. I don’t want to sound like I’m milking my condition.. even though that’s exactly what I’m doing.. but it’s a genre I do go out of my way to avoid. I skipped this one for weeks. I only gave it consideration to begin with because it came via Anthony Swinnich, a long-time Indie Gamer Chick fan, and because he put “The Switch” in it. In other words, they included an option that made this game more epilepsy friendly.

Ten hours. That’s how long I played Shutshimi the first time I booted it up. Shock doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played. And it did it the same way Wario Ware did: simplifying the play mechanics, and then weaponizing them by throwing them at you in fast-paced, bite-sized chunks. Because the game is randomized, you really can’t count on anything. An item that does one thing will do a different thing the next time you see it. No two play-throughs are the same. The lightning-fast approach is only detrimental because the writing is so damn funny, you’ll want to read it all and simply can’t.

Oh, that’s not the only fault here. Shutshumi is one of those games that is so good, the mistakes it makes frustrates me to a greater degree, because they’re so fundamental they shouldn’t exist. The top of the list for me is the lack of variety of enemies. The opening enemies, the sharks and squids, are too easy to dispose of. It takes too long for newer, more challenging baddies to appear. It’s also too easy to get a feel for enemy patterns. I wish the ordering of enemies had been every bit as random as the items. If Shutshumi had gone for full-on random wackiness like Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, I think it would have made the game stronger. Despite the awesome randomness of the items (which often determine the effects of the next stage instead of giving you a power-up), because the levels unfold more or less in a linear way, Shutshimi almost becomes too easy.

Not that I know how good I am. There’s no online leaderboards as of yet. When the game gets Greenlit on Steam, they’ll come, but that’s no help as of yet. My top score is in the 9,000 point range. I’m not especially skilled at this, but I don’t have to be good at stuff to enjoy it. If that were the case, I wouldn’t still be golfing. But without those leaderboards, the ceiling of addictiveness for Shutshimi is significantly smaller. I’m also annoyed that only the PC version contains the epilepsy switch, meaning I couldn’t play the XBLIG version. Me, Indie Gamer Chick! If you look up XBLIG in the dictionary, there’s a picture of me urinating on Sententia. I mean, I appreciate the switch’s presence, but why did only one platform get it? Epileptics play consoles too, you know.

The lack of variety in enemies (along with the lack of online leaderboards) is the only thing that finally got me to put the controller down. As Brian pointed out, maybe that's a good thing.

The lack of variety in enemies (along with the lack of online leaderboards) is the only thing that finally got me to put the controller down. As Brian pointed out, maybe that’s a good thing.

My other concerns are nit-picky. There’s no variety in the backdrops, except stuff caused by random item pick-ups that result in party effects or for the game to be shrouded in darkness (I’m guessing with epilepsy mode turned off, there’s lightning flashes for that section). And some of the items are just stupid. One of them eliminates enemies altogether for a single stage. Technically that helps you advance an extra wave for free, but it also means you score no points. Just a really bad idea. I also think the shotgun weapon is now my choice for least favorite item in a good game. Fucking thing is worthless.

I’m sure shmup fans will be appalled that this game, which is admittedly overly simplistic, is the only game of its breed to capture my imagination. But it did. For all of its flaws (most of which, oddly enough, seem to be due to lack of ambition), it’s the first game in a long while that I had trouble putting down. It took me an extra couple days to get this review up because I would go back to check something about it and end up putting in an extra hour or two of playtime. Shutshumi is such a breath of fresh air. A great idea, something that will hopefully kickstart a new era of creativity for a genre that often lacks it. It also proves that the best ideas are often the simplest. Shutshumi has not a single mechanic that hasn’t been done before. Every part of it is tired. But it’s how it used its mechanics that makes it special. They should show it off in game design classes. I commend the developers at Neon Deity Games. And I only call them developers because I think it might be slanderous to call them what they really are: a drug cartel.

Yep, I ran that joke into the ground.

xboxboxartShutshimi was developed by Neon Deity Games
Point of Sale: Xbox Live Indie GamesIndie Game StandHumble Store

IGC_Approved$1 noted that “the wacky smoking animal” stuff is getting tired. First the pipe smoking cat from Aqua Kitty and now a cigar-smoking goldfish? Give it a fucking rest, guys in the making of this review.

Shutshimi is Chick-Approved and Ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

 

 

Super Broken Games

This isn’t going to be my most glowing review. So before I get to the guts of this game, I want to talk about the game’s developer. His name is Daniel Navarro, and he’s a class act all the way. I stupidly downloaded Super Broken Games off the Xbox marketplace without screening it. I took a look at it and thought “oh hey, it looks like WarioWare! Fucking sold!” But, as it turns out, the game was not remotely accessible by me due to my epilepsy. I later found out that some of the effects were able to be switched off, but the way that was laid out was confusing, and it didn’t catch everything.

Daniel showed tremendous concern for me. He patched the game for myself and potentially others who live with photosensitive epilepsy (if you do, you should consult your doctor before attempting to play any game, as there is no such thing as “epilepsy safe” if you have it). Within a week, Super Broken Games had its potential triggers rendered optional. Not removed from the game. I’m not trying to activate a Jester’s Cap on developers and remove the fun stuff for everyone else.

screen1

Effects switches (or “The Switch” for short, which I’m trying to get popularized in gaming lexicon) are becoming more common, but I always get very emotional when a developer includes one. I didn’t like Super Broken Games, but I have much love and respect for Daniel. Thank you.

Now then, Super Broken Games. The idea is a series of dexterity tests that require you to move a ball (or balls) into a goal. The hook is there is some sort of control quirk in every stage that brings the difficulty level somewhere between “hard” and “homicidal rage-inducing.” The controls are awful, but it really is by design. Super loose, designed to aggravate, and maddening to a fault. Sometimes it involves the cursor moving too fast. Sometimes it can’t move in a straight line. Sometimes you’re controlling two at once with the left and right sticks. No matter what method (except maybe the dual-stick stuff, which isn’t so bad), you’re going to be screaming in emotional agony.

screen2

I appreciate Super Broken Games for its truth in advertising. Given the circumstances, I wish I could say I had fun with it, but I didn’t. I don’t know if the effects I had to turn off to avoid the epilepsy risk add a lot to the gameplay, but I found SBG to be sterile and dull. I’ve never been a fan of any game that’s only goal seems to be to cause a spike in your blood pressure. A multiplayer mode doesn’t help because finding other people willing to play a game that’s entire hook is having mangled controls is next to impossible.

I have nothing against games that are difficult, but they need to have more than just difficulty going for them. Super Broken Games only has hardness going for it. You know those things they have at carnivals where you have to take a hoop and run it across a bent piece of mental without touch it? Super Broken Games is as frustrating as one of those, only without the reward of winning a teddy bear if you succeed.

xboxboxartSuper Broken Games was developed by Feel Good Seal

$1 clubbed the feel good seal in the making of this review.

 

MULLETMAN

MULLETMAN (has to be written in all caps, like it’s being screamed), is the latest title from Total Commitment Games.  My only previous experience with them was briefly playing their Escape from Robot Doom, a very good-looking 3D title that I had to quit playing after around ten minutes because it wasn’t compatible with my epilepsy.  But, from what little I did play of it, I honestly thought it had the worst play control of any 3D game I’ve ever played.  Like someone played Bubsy 3D and tried to emulate it, only they made it worse.  I’m not exaggerating.  It’s one of those games where, if I had been able to put more time in it, might have been a contender for the worst game I’ve ever played.

MULLETMAN is not quite that bad, but it is one of the worst games I’ve played in 2013.  Like Escape From Robot Doom, it comes down to terrible play control.  Essentially a run-and-gun platformer, MULLETMAN stars a very close Mega Man lookalike, which is what attracted me to the game in the first place.  Having played the truly amazing Vintage Hero just a few months ago, a game I consider to be, as of this writing, the best XBLIG ever made, I figure that games inspired by the Blue Bomber might generally be of higher quality.  But beyond having a similar character design, including a blatant copy of Mega Man’s iconic jumping posture, MULLETMAN is nothing like Capcom’s franchise.  There’s only one type of enemy, along with various traps and timed-jumping areas.  Good character models are really the only positive thing to say about the graphics.  They’re not bad or anything, but it’s very bland and drab.  Certainly not something that gets you excited to be playing it.  Atompshere matters.  If you don’t believe that, go live on the moon.

For some reason, the main character's arms flail up and down, like he's trying to fan his armpit BO at enemies.

For some reason, the main character’s arms flail up and down, like he’s trying to fan his armpit BO at enemies.

Where MULLETMAN really falls apart is the jumping physics.  Apparently by design, a game centered around running and jumping requires you to stop moving before attempting to jump.  This is a mind-boggling choice.  As a result, I often slipped off ledges while attempting to maneuver from platform to platform.  When you go to jump and you don’t stop moving, your character does a silly little bunny hop thing.  Mind you, because the controls are slightly unresponsive, sometimes you will stop moving and hit the jump, only to not jump.  Responsive controls are an absolute must for any platformer.  If you can’t get those right, the game should not be released.  MULLETMAN feels like the child of one of those parents that shoves their kids out the door at the stroke of midnight on their 18th birthday.  Ready or not, you’re out of here.

The controls don’t exactly lend themselves to the level design, either.  Many sections are single-block platforms that fire missiles vertically after you land on them.  These sections require tight jumping controls and fast movement physics, neither of which MULLETMAN possesses.  The jumping is slow and floaty, reminiscent of the Bubble Man sections of Mega Man 2.  It worked there, in stages designed around avoiding spiky walls.  Here, damage is almost inevitable.  The game is generous in the sense that you have infinite lives and checkpoints are liberally scattered around, but it never helps ease the frustration brought on by the terrible control.  On top of all that, the game has problems with choppy, stuttering frame-rate on occasion.  The developer was puzzled by this one, though every player I’ve spoken with has had issues with it.  Splazer Production’s gameplay footage shows it a few times.  For me, it was frequent, nearly every time I jumped with any other moving object on-screen.

You can see the choppiness early on in the vid. It seems to hit different, but consistently, among most players. By buddy Kyle, whose Extra Life charity events you should totally check out, also had issues with MULLETMAN.

Even without the problems, I don’t think MULLETMAN has a particularly high ceiling in terms of potential.  It only took me thirty minutes to complete the game.  At least I think I did.  I ended up in a jail cell with “The End” written above it.  If not for the bad controls, bland graphics, unfair level design, floaty physics, and technical issues, I’m not sure MULLETMAN would have been much better than mediocre.  Though I must say, the developer seems to have something resembling talent.  Escape from Robot Doom, horrible as it was, at least looked really good.  Very few XBLIGs look like they could pass as honest-to-goodness professional games, and it did.  And MULLETMAN would catch on just by being a Mega Man lookalike, if it could spread by word-of-mouth, which it simply can’t in the state it’s in.  Both games were ruined by poor control, which tells me that Total Commitment Games needs to bring someone in that can handle that aspect.  As it stands, their games are good for little more than causing players to invent entirely new swear words.  MULLETMAN controls are Fruckenrchist and the game is Arserunoff.

I know the feeling, buddy. If I had to play ten more minutes of MULLETMAN, I would have handed my boyfriend some nails and a mallet myself.

I know the feeling, buddy. If I had to play ten more minutes of MULLETMAN, I would have handed my boyfriend some nails and a mallet myself.

MULLETMAN was developed by Total Commitment Games

$1 said “watch, Fruckenchist is probably German for “Dazzling to the Senses” or something in the making of this review.

Poker Date

Poker Date combines a Royal Deck variation of five-card stud poker with the tired and true XBLIG staples of anime boobies and inept programming.  The result is one of the most hilariously awful games I’ve ever played.  First off, Royal Decks are constructed using everything 9 through Ace out of two decks.  Poker Date only uses one deck worth of cards.  Granted, this is simply a heads-up match, but still, it limits the amount of hands to work with.  Second, when the AI folds a hand, it pronounces it “I foiled.”

I foiled.

I swear to fucking God.

I.  F-O-I-L-E-D!

Maybe Sabrina thought she was at a fencing tournament.

Maybe Sabrina thought she was at a fencing tournament.

Now I’m certainly not one to cast stones at speech impediments.  I have enough trouble pronouncing my own name.  But seriously, you can’t say “fold” correctly?  Good God.  This totally trumps Capcom’s use of Sally from accounting in the all time horrible and lazy voice acting department.  And if any other aspect of this game had been remotely competent, “I foiled” could have become the next big gaming meme.  But, nobody’s going to stick around long enough for that.

The biggest problem is actually how damn smart the AI is.  Without fail, if I was dealt a good hand, the AI would foiled on the spot.  Unless it knew that it had me.  And by knew, I mean it could then change four cards in its hand while I’m holding a two pair, aces and tens.  It then wins with a full house or a flush.  This isn’t luck, we’re talking.  Every single time the AI chucked four cards or more, it won.  The only explanation is the AI could see what cards it would get, or which ones I would get.  But, most of the time, whenever I got anything remotely nice, it foiled immediately.  Fucking clairvoyants aren’t this good.

For some reason, none of the marketplace shots actually show any cards.

For some reason, none of the marketplace shots actually show any cards.

Oddly enough, after changing out cards, the AI almost never foiled.  I actually counted it out over the course of 100 hands that went to the second round of betting.  The AI never once foiled, and won 87 out of 100 hands.  What the fuck?  Which is not to say the AI doesn’t bluff.  During the first round, I took to raising every chance I had, because when I did this, out of 38 opportunities, the AI foiled 25 times.  So after a couple of hours of play, I settled into a rut where neither me nor the AI would gain enough ground to actually win.  Betting is slow and limited and you certainly can’t put all your chips in play.  Finally, I realized I was playing the single worst video poker game ever made and foileded myself.  Poker Date is pretty much the worst thing to happen to the game since Darvin Moon.

xboxboxartPoker Date was developed by Mikirius

$1 said “Poker? I barely know her” in the making of this review.

 

 

 

 

Strange Japanese Game Whose Name WordPress Won’t Let Me Put in the Title

Today’s game is called 一>◇.  No seriously, that’s the name.  一>◇.  It’s a name that search engines and headers will not put up with, so for the purposes of today’s review, I’ll be calling this game the Strange Japanese Game.  Not that anyone would actually want to Google it or see it on YouTube.  It kind of sucks.  Which is a shame because the concept is original and quirky, but a horrible control scheme fails the vision.

Strange Japanese Game is a God Game where you play a giant green hand.  There’s little sentient beans walking around, reminiscent of Pikmin.  They even grow little spouts on their head.  When they have a sprout, you can poke them into the ground.  Then, you grab a handful of water from the lake that is the main focal point of the game’s challenge and dump it on the sprout.  The sprout then grows into a tree.  You can flick the tree with your finger to knock more Pikmin-like-things out of it, but ultimately you want to masturbate the tree (I’m not joking) to shape it into a spaceship.  Once you’ve beaten your bush into the shape of a shuttle, you have to load it with the Pikmin-like-things.  Doing this will make the ship blast off, scoring points.  The object of the game is to score as many points as you can.

After beating your bush, the tree becomes a rocket that blasts off in a shaft of fire and two black balls of smoke.  Sickening thought: someone, somewhere is getting horny thinking about this.

After beating your bush, the tree becomes a rocket that blasts off in a shaft of fire and two black balls of smoke. Sickening thought: someone, somewhere is getting horny thinking about this.

First off, props to the developers for taking the God genre and trying to make a quick actiony arcade game out of it.  That took a creative spark and balls, and I appreciate that.  Having said that: why on Green Skinned God’s blue Earth did they map every action to the X button?  The Xbox controller has four face buttons (six if count the clickable analog sticks) and four shoulder buttons.  Strange Japanese Game only uses ten percent of the total available buttons, but the actions performed are very different from one another and possibly consequential.  For example, flicking.  You have to move the hand and press X to flick.  If you stop moving and press X, it becomes grab instead.  Except there’s a problem: there’s a slight delay in the game recognizing that you’ve stopped moving, even if you release the stick.  Thus, there were times when I let go up the stick and pressed X in an attempt to grab a not-a-Pikmin and instead flicked it into the water, killing it.  This isn’t the fucking Atari 2600.  Why couldn’t grab had been one of the different available buttons?

There’s also no way to separate the little not-a-Pikmins from each-other.  When they bunch up, even an action as simple as planting one in the ground can likely result in killing ones next to it.  This gets really frustrating when the creatures turn evil if you let them sit around too long (perhaps they ate something after midnight when I wasn’t looking) and start to attack the good ones.  If you let THOSE linger too long, they become tentacles (it’s Japanese, OF COURSE they become tentacles).  In order to prevent that, you need to flick the critters into the water.  Of course, that typically will result in killing a bunch of innocents.  Really, imprecision is Strange Japanese Game’s biggest sin.  If you grab a handful of not-a-Pikmins to drop them in the spaceship, it’s hard to line it up in such a way where all of them fall into the ship.  Any that don’t die upon hitting the ground, even though they fall the same distance and land safely when you knock them out of the trees you grow.

For all I know, there's more mechanics to the game that I didn't find out. 一>◇ has NO instructions in-game.

For all I know, there’s more mechanics to the game that I didn’t find out. 一>◇ has NO instructions in-game.

There’s a really cool and quirky concept at play here.  Again, an arcadey God game?  Madness!  But the slow pace, awful play control, and imprecision of the action kills all potential it had.  I truly do feel that the groundwork for something fun and addictive has been laid with this strange Japanese game.  With fine-tuning to the controls and something added to the gameplay that would speed up the pace, I think this could be a sleeper hit.  Maybe.  I should probably note that all the gameplay mechanics above are left up to the player to figure out on their own.  There are no instructions in the game, and no on-screen indicators of what to do or how to do it.  The only instructions are found on the game’s marketplace page, and in Japanese.  I’m a fan of quirk, but being quirky doesn’t have to mean leaving a player to figure out stuff on their own.  Then again, this is a game that involves jerking off trees.  I imagine writing instructions for such things is a crime in many countries.

xboxboxart一>◇ was developed by Hitmark Brothers

$1 was warned by their father that if they kept doing that, their hand would turn green in the making of this review.

Seriously: horrible name for a game.  Horrible.  If the game had been good, the name would have doomed it.  It’s a game whose title cannot be spread by word of mouth.  Sigh. 

 

Mechanician Alex and Pablo’s Fruit

I’m baffled when unambitious games come along that strive only to look and play kind of, sort of like the classics of ye olden days.  All I can think of is: why?  Why not make them better, or at least give them a different hook?  Especially since those old games already fucking exist and have been played to death.  Hey, not everyone is creative.  But even if you’re uncreative, you must have actually played the games and know what works in them and what doesn’t.  I don’t expect perfection from an indie developer, but I also expect that, as gamers, they know the difference between fun and boring.

I'm going somewhere with this, I swear.  This is Mechanician Alex, a game that from 2013 designed for fans of 80s PC games that fans of PC games from the 80s would have shit on.  In the 80s.

Mechanician Alex, a game from 2013 designed for fans of 80s PC games that 80s PC gaming fans would have shit on.

Then you get into the realm of pure raving insanity, where you try to ape a gameplay style that wasn’t all that good to begin with.  Mechanician Alex wants to be one of those old-timey, single-screened platformers from the Commodore 64 or ZX Spectrum era.  I know a lot of my readers are still gaga over them.  When I reviewed the official XBLIG port of one of the all-time cherished members of that genre, Manic Miner, the old farts that read me were less than receptive to my take on it.  Fine.

But would those gamers be receptive to a game that looks like it could have been a lost game in that series, and plays almost like them, only everything is a little worse?  I’m guessing not.  Strip away the attempt at making a player nostalgic, and Mechanician Alex is simply a bad game.  The controls are atrocious.  Unresponsive controls are a signature of these type of games, and getting used to the wacky delayed timing is supposed to be part of the charm.  I guess if you’re playing a game legitimately made in that era, that’s acceptable.  Well, at least if you’re a child of that era looking to reclaim your youth.  But fans of those games aren’t in denial about the controls being shit.  Why the FUCK would a game made in 2013 try to emulate that?  Manic Miner fans aren’t going to Tweet each other saying “Oh my God, this game controls even worse than Manic Miner.  IT’S FUCKING AWESOME!!”

Mechanician Alex was developed by 3T Games ($1 got a teeny tiny chuckle out of the level where enemies consisted of Rubik's Cubes and the female symbol ♀.  Perhaps the developers were not fans of me or Xona Games)

Mechanician Alex was developed by 3T Games ($1 got a teeny tiny chuckle out of the level where enemies consisted of Rubik’s Cubes and the female symbol ♀. Perhaps the developers were not fans of me or Xona Games)

And the levels are poorly designed too.  The game has a real issue with height.  For example, on one stage you’ll be walking on a cloud that is bumpy, like clouds tend to be.  There’s almost no clearance, and an enemy is scooting back and forth above your head.  Unfortunately, the collision detection is spotty enough that you’re bound to burn lives just trying to get a feel for it, and there’s so many variables on the height that never seem right.  It immediately stinks of a stage that was rushed through production.  Beyond that, if you slip off the cloud, you can’t finish the level regardless of whether you land on a platform or not.  This is really fundamental level design stuff and I shouldn’t have to have explained to you why its bad.  It’s a worst game of the year contender.

Sadly, the same developer recently went on a release spree, and they also brought out a side-scrolling platformer called Pablo’s Fruit, and it’s even worse.  Taking it a step further than Mechanician Alex, it’s a contender for worst XBLIG ever made.  Every gameplay aspect of Pablo’s Fruit is terrible.  Here, the idea is you have to collect all of the fruit in a level to open up an exit.  Movement is slow and jumping is floaty, which makes playing through the levels a tedious chore.  And then you get to the technical issues.  When you take damage, you don’t recoil from it, and you don’t get much (if any) invincibility to prevent further damage.  Thus, it’s conceivable that you could go from 5 “lives” to 0 in a second just from getting pinned next to an enemy.  That’s just utterly lazy, sloppy programming.  This is coupled with poor level design.  In one stage, the level opens with a fruit above your head, out of reach.  At the end of the stage, by the exit, there’s a teleporter that drops you back at the start.  You collect the fruit, but you have to walk all the way back to the exit.  All enemies you’ve taken out are still gone, which begs the question: WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU MAKE SOMEONE DO SOMETHING SO FUCKING BORING?  Didn’t it occur to anyone making this piece of shit?

And it’s got dumb logic too.  Enemies are beaten by jumping on their heads.  But it’s not always clear which enemies will die when you do it and which ones you’ll pass-through, taking damage along the way.  I made a video to demonstrate.

What the fuck?  By the way, that vulture that’s flying back and forth?  You die from jumping on it too.  Why the hell does a ghost (hypothetically a transparent, dimensional being) die from being crushed but not an insect or a bird?  Is this some kind of PETA subliminal message?

An annoying aspect is there are these butterflies that contentiously fly around.  They're supposed to be in the background, but it's done poorly and thus they often look like enemies in the foreground.

An annoying aspect is there are these butterflies that continuously fly around. They’re supposed to be in the background, but it’s done poorly and thus they often look like enemies in the foreground.

If I sound too negative, please keep in mind that I actively, for days, tried to think of something nice to say about these games.  I came up completely empty.  The sad thing is, both these games are courtesy of the developer of Naoki Tales.  I didn’t like it either, but really, its only true sin was being boring.  These games represent a gigantic step backwards.  Pablo’s Fruit came out a day after Mechanician Alex, and those came out a few days after another game by the same guys, Paper Galactica.  I’m not doing a full review on that (click the link, because Tim Hurley did), but it was pretty fucking boring as well.  Three games, all released in one week.  If I had to ask these guys a question besides “have you ever actually played a video game?” it would be “why didn’t you guys focus on one project?”  Granted, it’s possible that all three games sat in peer review purgatory until the community came out of a coma and put them through to the market.

Pablo's Fruit was developed by 3T Games ($1 asked if Pablo washed his ass in the making of this review)

Pablo’s Fruit was developed by 3T Games ($1 asked if Pablo washed his ass)

Actually, I would have one more question, and this is the most obvious one: would you actually want to play these games if you hadn’t made them?  Would you pay money for them?  Hell, would you play them if they were free?  Yea, that’s three questions, not one, but all of them are valid.  Look, these games suck.  You’re not going to make a lot of money on them.  They don’t even have the absurdity or the charm of Silver Dollar’s low-end, quick cash stuff.  Bad games DO make money on XBLIG, but your stuff isn’t falling into those niches that have such potential.  So don’t rush your games out.  Polish up your work.  Do something wild and creative.  I’ve played four of your games.  Not one of them managed to entertain me or any of my colleagues for a single second, nor did any of them display the slightest bit of creativity.  If I had to guess, I would guess the developers were bored silly making these.  Their existence seems almost cynical.  Both are trying to capitalize on nostalgic memories.  But unless it’s a port of something, you’re not going to lure in day-dreamy nostalgic types.  Being primitive shouldn’t be confused with being a classic, and these games are so primitive that they sacrifice virgins to the sun gods.

Magic Racing Rally

I don’t mind racing video games, but I’m bored silly by any real form of automotive racing.  So naturally, I ended up with a boyfriend that’s a gibbering, foaming-at-the-mouth Formula One fan.  Magic Racing GP 2 was made for him, not me.  It was a game with old-school top-down gameplay, and that’s fine.  Where the game made itself inaccessible to me was in the insane intention to detail of the nuances of racing.  You had to calculate and adjust for every thing, right down to the types of wheels used.  Yea, not for me.  Then again, Brian and his F1-loving friends liked the concept more than the execution.  The controls were pretty rough for GP 2.  If they had been smoother, I think Brian and Bryce would still be playing it to this day.  Hell, I think a lot of people would have.  It had such raving devotion to the simulation aspect of F1 that I think people might have used it as an honest-to-God league, in the same way people set up Madden leagues or even Tecmo Bowl.

This is one of those games that looks better in screens than it does in motion.

This is one of those games that looks better in screens than it does in motion.

Magic Racing Rally is a much more simple game.  There’s still a wide variety of race classes and cars (based on real cars but with thinly veiled name changes) with different attributes, but it’s nowhere near as terrifying for non-fans of the sport.  Also, the controls seem more manageable.  But, I was still quite bored by it.  Mechanically, it’s just too basic.  From a graphical point of view, it reminds me of one of those preschool race car toys with the magnets.  Just a static screen with the cars and the skid marks they leave behind being the only moving parts.  It’s quite low tech and not very stimulating, even though the courses are well designed.  Hell, some of the courses are downright beautiful, but when you superimpose a little eight-bit car on them, it kind of looks silly.

The big draw of Magic Racing Rally is the sixteen-player online racing.  Giggle snort chuckle ha.  Look, kudos to them for thinking to include support for sixteen players, but you’re more likely to see Sasquatch rollerblading on UFOs before you find sixteen players at the same time.  The best I could do was three players.  Unfortunately, even with what felt like better controls, all of us kept crashing into the walls repeatedly.  Only on the slowest class were we able to come somewhat close to staying on the road.  Otherwise, it was like trying to trace a doodle in the middle of an earthquake.  I’m sure with patience and practice, I probably could have gotten the hang of it, but I was not engaged enough to want to get good at it.  I hate doing this, but I wasn’t Magic Racing Rally’s target audience.  I think fans of rally racing might enjoy it, assuming that any of the dozens currently available titles from that genre no longer “do it” for them.  The weird part is, the racing was never the best part about their original game.  It was the simulation aspect.  With that significantly toned down, I wonder who this was made for?  I didn’t really like it, and actually Bryce didn’t like it either, and he’s into this kind of stuff.  Oddly enough, as intimidated as I was about Magic Racing GP2, I think that was the better game.  The marginally better controls don’t make up for the lack of customization.  I do think the audience of devoted GP2 fans might enjoy this, but otherwise, this race is permanently stuck in a yellow flag.

xboxboxartMagic Racing Rally was developed by Magic Studios

$1 said “Rest in Peace, Microsoft Points jokes” in the making of this review

A review copy of Magic Rally Racing was provided by Magic Studios to Indie Gamer Chick.  The copy played by Cathy was paid for by her with her own money. The review copy was given to a friend to test online play with her.  That had minimal feedback in this review.  For more on this policy, consult the FAQ.

Gameplay footage via Splazer Productions

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