Avatar Physics: Running

If I pulled out a gun and shot myself right now, then reincarnated, I’m pretty sure I would be running in my new body faster than I would as my Xbox Avatar if I just stayed alive and kept trying at Avatar Physics: Running.  Based on the popular (and free, and slightly less impossible) flash-based game QWOP, Running is a simple 100 meter dash, only you have to manually work the legs of your avatar to get there.  Of course, doing so is complicated in a way that makes the Impossible Game look like a preschool admission test.  After over thirty minutes of playing, the furthest I had made it was a little over two meters past the starting line.  Mostly, my character just stiffened up and fell down, like she had simultaneously suffered a stroke while catching a glimpse of Medusa.  Take a look at this video from my amigo Splazer Productions.

Splazer did better than I did.  Hell, I typically ran further backwards than I did forwards.  The only value Avatar Physics: Running has is bemusement at your own failures.  This is obviously meant to be the primary draw of the game, as evidenced by the one and only marketplace picture featuring an avatar that has cocked things up about as bad as you can.  The problem is, laughing at how hard this game is only lasts about, oh, two minutes.  After that, it’s just frustration and tedium.  I’m certain someone out there can finish the full 100 meters.  I’m also certain someone out there knows where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.  It doesn’t make him any less dead.

xboxboxartAvatar Physics: Running was developed by Bwoot Games (blog hasn’t been updated in over a year, always a good sign)

80 Microsoft Points could have used some performance-enhancing drugs in the making of this review.

Fishy Warfare

Fishy Warfare in the brook -

Why does your game have no hook?

Games like Fishy Warefare have historical importance.  The Atari 2600 launched with Combat (based on the arcade hit Tank), a game where players stood on opposite sides of the screen, taking shots at each other.  The first video game to have a microprocessor (as opposed to discrete logic) was Midway’s 1975 hit Gun Fight, which was later upgraded to a similar game called Boot Hill (which hit the Atari 2600 as Outlaw).  You’ll notice these games all came out in the 70s and really don’t hold that much relevance today.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t attempt to reinvent this formula that existed a decade before my father was a US citizen.  I’m saying that you have to give it some kind of hook to make it relevant today.  Or at least attempt to be better than those moldy oldies.

Fishy Warfare is a worst XBLIG of the year contender based entirely on uselessness.  It looks ugly.  There’s no multiplayer.  The AI is brain-dead.  The gameplay is boring.  The upgrades are dull.  The final nail is the insulting 240MSP price tag.  All this for a game that was hardly ambitious in concept to begin with.  You’re on one side of a screen.  Your AI opponent is on the other.  You shoot until one of you is dead.  Then you upgrade your ship and do it again.  The game presents nothing resembling a challenge until you fight a giant alligator thing that has some kind of laser-firebreath thing that can kill you in one hit.  Until I got to it, I never needed upgrade my ship.  After dying against this, I had enough money to get the best weapon, ship, hull, and propeller.  So I did.  Then I had to fight my way back to the Alligator, because the game sends you backwards and makes you replay previous fights when you lose (just to make sure maximum boredom and repetition is achieved).  At which point, it instakilled me again.  Grumble.

This is the instakilling Alligator instakilling a dude piloting the frog. Familiarize yourself with this, because it will happen to you too. You know, assuming you don't spend your Microsoft Points on THREE better games that have actual polish to them.

This is the instakilling Alligator instakilling a dude piloting the frog. Familiarize yourself with this, because it will happen to you too. You know, assuming you don’t spend your Microsoft Points on THREE better games that have actual polish to them.

Despite what people think, I do look for good things to say about even the worst games.  But, I couldn’t find one for Fishy Warfare.  The graphics look like they were drawn in MS Paint.  The backgrounds are a bit on the loud side, which sometimes makes the projectiles hard to see.  The highest upgraded weapon is also the most visually uninteresting of the whole lot.  That’s extraordinarily nit-picky, but for some reason that stuck with me long after I finished playing.  Maybe because it sums up everything wrong with Fishy Warfare.  Everything feels so rushed and not handled with care.  I don’t know what else to say.  Boring.  Bad.  Overpriced.  You could probably buy a couple actual fighting fish for the same price and make them fight to the death, then eat the loser.  And then eat the winner too, because it probably is meatier and yummier.

xboxboxartFishy Warfare was developed by Elemental Zeal

240 Microsoft Points could buy the top three games on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard for the same price as this in the making of this review.  I don’t have a joke to go with that, just thought I would state the obvious.

 

Monkey Poo Flinger

No, really.

You can file Monkey Poo Flinger.. again, no really.. under novelty games.  It has no real value as a game.  On my most generous day, I would call its gameplay mediocre.  On a less than generous day, I would probably just flip the bird and make fart noises with my mouth.  But seriously, you don’t buy a game called Monkey Poo Flinger expecting the next Spec Ops – The Line.  You get it because monkeys are hilarious, poo is hilarious, and monkeys throwing poo is the greatest comedy goldmine of all time.

BUT, if your game is going to be themed around a monkey throwing poo at people, it has to at least look good.  Covering some gawking human with feces should be a visually satisfying experience.  That’s not the case here.  The graphics look crude, so any successful shot doesn’t have any zing to it.  I mean, you just absolutely plastered some asshole in the face with a handful of shit.  When I do that to Brian, it’s the highlight of my day.  Here, it’s just hollow.  I mean, look at it.

Footage courtesy of Splazer Productions

It looks horrible.  It’s actually not as bad as it appears from a gameplay perspective, but it’s still not fun.  Monkey Poo Flinger is a pretty basic gallery shooter.  Press the right trigger to shoot.  Targets walk in front of you and you shoot them.  Sometimes there are barriers between you and then.  Sometimes they throw stuff back.  Sometimes the game forgets to take its brain pills and takes away your ability to shoot altogether in a level that is, I shit you not, themed around being constipated.  Not that I’m offended.  I’ve played games where you have to feed cows prune juice to give them diarrhea and games where you use yellow snowballs as weapons.  Do you know what all those games have in common?  The novelty wore thin pretty fast, and you’re left with a game that was average at best (Conker) or pretty terrible (South Park 64).  The novelty is a non-factor in Monkey Poo Flinger because the graphics just don’t do the concept justice.  Thus, it’s boring right from the get-go.

I’ll say this: I thought I would be playing something utterly broken, and that’s not the case.  There’s a real game here.  It’s just not fun at all.  There’s other problems too, like projectiles (especially from the seagulls) being too hard to see, or the targets not being large enough.  Probably the best thing about the game is the dialog, which is like saying the best part about getting hypothermia is you get a souvenir blanket.  The between-the-levels banter offers, at best, a smirk and a shake of the head.  But you have to play a dull as dirt game to get those meager crumbs of entertainment.  So I can’t really recommend Monkey Poo Flinger.  I also have to ask a couple of questions that really ought to be addressed: where the hell is that monkey getting all that shit from?  Does his anus contain a fucking zip-drive?  And why does the zoo leave this monkey in such a high foot-trafficked area?  I think a better concept would have been a mad monkey won’t stop throwing shit at people and we have to stop it, with the ultimate goal of dropping it off at the state department so that we can send it to North Korea as a, ahem, diplomatic gift.

xboxboxartMonkey Poo Flinger was developed by Derf ‘N’ Derf

80 Microsoft Points had a shitty day in the making of this review.

Yea, I know my reviews have sucked these last couple weeks. I promise, I’ll try to get back into form this week.

Aqua Kitty

It’s strange how Defender, one of gaming’s iconic titles of the Golden Age of arcades, hasn’t been cloned to death by modern indie developers.  I’m cool with that.  Having played an endless supply of uninspired-inspired neo-retro games, I’m not keen on seeing Defender done wrong.  Still, how did Defender fall through the cracks?  Here’s a game that was predicted to be a huge bust, but went on to become the seventh-best selling coin-operated game ever.  Maybe it’s because it was eclipsed by Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.  Or maybe because Defender’s track record since its original release has been mediocre at best.  It got one of the laziest sequels of all time (which was called “Stargate” because of some legal posturing by Williams.  James Spader was unavailable for comment).  There was an unofficial sequel by Midway that nobody I’ve spoken with has ever played.  There was an all-but-forgotten update to the format on Atari Jaguar of all systems, which means it probably sold like six copies.  And finally, there was a 2002 3D remake for sixth-generation consoles that quickly found its way into clearance bins.  Your average child actor has a more graceful flame-out than Defender has had as a franchise.

You know, for a spry young whippersnapper with a reputation for hating classic games, I sure do seem to have a love for Defender.  I even have a Defender homage in my top 25.  Then again, Orbitron: Revolution only mimics the flight and shooting mechanics of the arcade classic.  You’re actually not defending anything.  So I guess it’s not really Defender.  More like Aggressor.  Was there a game called Aggressor?  No?  Well, there ought to have been.

Aqua Kitty on Xbox Live Indie Games.  AKA the really good version.

Aqua Kitty on Xbox Live Indie Games. AKA the really good version.

If you’re looking for a modern Defender-based indie, Aqua Kitty is probably a closer knock-off.  I still prefer Orbitron’s faster pace and modern graphics.  But let it be said, Aqua Kitty is a damn fine game.  You’re a cat in a submarine that must defend little aquanauts while shooting wave after wave of enemy.  And the cat smokes a pipe, which means he’s one cultured pussy.  But, other than the setting and a couple of power-ups, this really is Defender.

Despite being a bit on the bare-bones side, Aqua Kitty is really well produced.  I played both the XBLIG and PlayStation Mobile versions.  I prefer the XBLIG port, which plays faster.  The Vita version has the advantage of being mobile, but it seems clunkier in both framerate and controls.  Don’t get me wrong: it’s still a pretty good game.  But I would go with the XBLIG port.

It’s not perfect by any stretch.  What really bugs me about Aqua Kitty is the total lack of ambition.  Defender is an old formula in need of renovation.  Aqua Kitty does some things to smooth that over, but it’s just not enough.  Turbo shots?  Good idea.  But only have one type of turbo shot?  Not so ambitious.  Power-ups?  Good idea.  But having only three power-ups, one of which is a bomb, one of which is a health-up, and one of which adds flankers to your ship?  Not so ambitious.  Plus, the flankers are time-limited.  This was presumably done to preserve the difficulty.  Given that the screen gets utterly spammed with enemies and projectiles in later levels, this was unnecessary, as those guys really aren’t that effective at combating it.  So where’s the wild, more modern weapons and items?  Nowhere to be found, and that’s a shame.

The PlayStation Mobile version.  Which, as it turns out, I could have got for free a few weeks ago but I mistook it for another, less epilepsy-friendly title.  Instead, I ended up paying more for this version than I did for the superior XBLIG port.  Smooth, Cathy.

The PlayStation Mobile version. Which, as it turns out, I could have got for free a few weeks ago but I mistook it for another, less epilepsy-friendly title. Instead, I ended up paying more for this version than I did for the superior XBLIG port. Smooth, Cathy.

Don’t let that all discourage you.  Aqua Kitty is probably the best pure Defender clone in years and a genuinely good game.  Near-perfect difficulty curve.  Distinctive enemies.  Cutesy themes.  Solid play-control.  What’s not to love here?  I’m not sure why the inferior PlayStation Mobile is priced $0.50 higher than the XBLIG version.  Some kind of temporary insanity brought on by the awesomeness of a pipe-smoking kitten perhaps.  Happens to the best of us.  I saw the pipe-smoking kitten and totally blacked out.  The next thing I know, I’ve got a tattoo and I attempted to marry my Wii U.

xboxboxartAqua Kitty was developed by Tikipod

IGC_Approved240 Microsoft Points (XBLIG) and $3.49 (PlayStation Mobile) were unaware of the existence of a Defender song until some bastard sent it to me.  It shall never leave my head now in the making of this review.

Both versions of Aqua Kitty are Chick-Approved, and the XBLIG version is ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  Even the developers admitted to me that they prefer the XBLIG port.  Go with that one.

I turn 24 on Thursday.  Want to get me a gift?  You can donate to Autism Speaks via my friend Kyle Lock’s charity event on July 12Heck, don’t wait.  Donate now.  His goal is $200.  Autism Speaks helped my childhood in ways you can’t imagine if you don’t have autism.  It’s a great cause. 

DERP of Duty and Uncraft Me !

Boob games.  They’re all over Xbox.  They make more money than most of the top-ranked games on my Leaderboard do.  Other XBLIG developers hate them.  I’m tolerate of them, and sometimes even award them my Seal of Approval.  All I want to do is be entertained, which isn’t as hard as people think.  Take the Trailer Park King series.  The three main releases (Trailer Park King 1, 2, and 3) all made the Leaderboard.  The first spin-off, Cherry Poke Prison, did not.  In part, because of burnout on the, ahem, humor, which is exactly what hurt Trailer Park King 3 as well.  DERP of Duty is the second spin-off, and now I’m so burned out that I need a fucking skin-graft.

Ha, BB!  That's a gun too. And the place has Bazookas in the name!  That's a euphemism for tits!  I haven't seen this many plays on words since I last played Scrabble!

Ha, BB! That’s a gun too! Brilliant! And the place has Bazookas in the name! That’s a euphemism for tits! I haven’t seen this many plays on words since I last played Scrabble!

DERP of Duty was developed by Freelance Games (80 Microsoft Points still think Trailer Park King is begging to be made into an animated series in the making of this review)

DERP of Duty was developed by Freelance Games (80 Microsoft Points still think Trailer Park King is begging to be made into an animated series in the making of this review)

I want to say something in defense of Sean Doherty, the developer of the TPK games: he’s a genuinely cool dude.  He was the first developer I ever talked directly with as Indie Gamer Chick.  I also think he’s probably as burned out on this series as well.  DERP of Duty feels like it’s trying too hard.  As cringe-inducing and skin-crawly as the dialog could be in the early TPK games, at least it felt somewhat organic.  Maybe Sean felt the need to top those efforts with even more shocking banter, but this time it feels hollow.  Without a compelling narrative, the overly-simple pointing and clicking simply can’t carry the game.  I think even the most staunch fans of Trailer Park King will be letdown by DERP of Duty.  It’s time to retire this series.  Sean has established he has the talent to make, ahem, interesting characters and accompanying mythology.  Now, I want to see him apply all this towards a more involved game.

And I don’t mean more involved as in getting guys to spank their monkeys harder than they already do.  XBLIG has enough games that do that, as seen in this collage by Mount Your Friends developer Daniel Steger.  Which I’m sure he compiled for market research and not as part of his newest cardio-vascular workout routine.

xbligLadies

But, the real question is: how well do they sell?  Really, boobs seems like no more a sure bet than recent Minecraft clones do.  Judging by the success of Mount Your Friends, it would seem there’s an emerging market for penis-themed games that you guys are missing out on.  So stop being boobs and start dicking around.

And while I’m on the subject of boob games, Team Shuriken is back.  The guys behind such classics as Temple of Dogolrak and Mystic Forest return with a game that has, gasp, actual gameplay!  I know they’ve tried that in the past with Dream Divers, but I still thought the gameplay felt sloppy in execution.  Here, Team Shuriken took no risks.  Uncraft Me ! is a bare-bones punisher with the hook being instead of just jumping, you use a jetpack to thrust around.  And this is Team Shuriken we’re talking about, so beating levels means unlocking risque anime girls with breasts so large I believe they’re medically considered cancerous.

It’s also their first game to win my Seal of Approval and get ranked on the Leaderboard.

Yea.

Pretty sure this was spoken of in Revelations.

Or maybe it's not a jetpack and the main guys is hovering around using highly-pressurized urine.  Which I'm sure is another fetish but I'm too cowardly to Google it.

Or maybe it’s not a jetpack and the main guysis hovering around using highly-pressurized urine. Which I’m sure is another fetish but I’m too cowardly to Google it.

Look, all I’ve ever cared about is being entertained.  If a game is 50.000001% entertaining and 49.999999% shit, it wins my seal of approval.  On balance, I had more fun with Uncraft Me ! than not, so it gets it.  Sometimes the levels have clever design.  Other times they go for precision-platforming involving, simultaneously mind you: buzz saws, missiles, and timed-barriers that stay closed permanently if you’re not fast enough.  There’s no margin of error for these sections, and the controls aren’t exactly perfect enough to validate their existence.  I had Uncraft Me penciled in as yet another Team Shuriken failure when I played it last week.  As often is the case when I dislike a game by a razor-thin margin, I boot it up one last time just to make sure.  And, what do you know, I was able to finish the nearly-impossible stages.  Barely.  My amigo from TheXBLIG.com Tim didn’t like it it, but I thought overall it was Shuriken’s first decent game.  Not spectacular, mind you.  I could probably name thirty better platformers for XBLIG off the top of my head.  But your money isn’t totally wasted here, nor is Team Shuriken’s talent.

Uncraft Me was developed by Team Shuriken (80 Microsoft Points recommend these girls get a mammogram ASAP in the making of this review)

Uncraft Me was developed by Team Shuriken (80 Microsoft Points recommend these girls get a mammogram ASAP in the making of this review)

I guess that’s the most gratifying part.  Yes, they have talent.  Not just talent to lure in the horny teenage demographic.  Actual game design talent.  They’re like Larry Flint.  Peel away the filthy exterior that makes you feel like you need a shower and you discover something downright decent in them.  Do I expect them to focus on gameplay instead of mammary glands?  No.  Then again, I don’t expect to get struck by lightning while holding the holy grail in one hand and a winning lottery ticket in the other.

Uncraft Me is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

IGC_Approved

Blocks & Tanks and Chompy Chomp Chomp (Second Chance with the Chick)

Do you know what the very toughest thing I have to do as Indie Gamer Chick is?  Find people to play XBLIGs with or against.  It’s my fault.  My friends.. well Brian’s friends actually.. have had to deal with nearly two years of complaining.  They have bad timing.  They never bump into me when I’m playing really awesome games.  Oh no, they run into me when I’m playing stuff that would better be used during enhanced interrogation.  So when the time comes to say “hey guys, I have a shiny new XBLIG party game” they all seem to have better stuff to do.  Wash the car.  Run a marathon.  Return over-due library books.  It’s total bullshit of course.  None of my friends read books.

But, sometimes I can wrangle them together.  The results aren’t always pretty, but every once in a while a game provides us with a level of entertainment that we can’t get from a movie or, quite frankly, some mainstream games.  Take Chompy Chomp Chomp.  It was a smash hit last year during a Memorial Day party, and since then, has been on the top ten in my leaderboard.  But it wasn’t without issue.  The game could spawn players unfairly, and some of the maps were poorly conceived.  It’s been a year since I last sat down with it.  I know the game got patched, but I never got around to trying it again.  Well, on Sunday I had the chance.  And guess what?  Chompy Chomp Chomp is better than ever.  It is, unquestionably, the best party game on Xbox 360, indie or otherwise.

Pictured: absolute multiplayer bliss.

Pictured: absolute multiplayer bliss.

First off, go check out my original review.  Nothing has changed with the core gameplay.  What’s different is nearly every complaint has been fixed.  For starters, spawns are significantly more fair.  Before, it wasn’t rare for you to spawn too close to someone that’s designated to eat you.  In a couple hours of playtime, that never once happened.  Nor did the game ever spawn me or anyone else playing into a live trap.  That alone makes Chompy Chomp Chomp so much more fun to play.  In our previous play sessions, fits of laughter and general happy chatter would occasionally be interrupted by the random scream of “that’s bullshit!” when the game would screw you with a shitty spawn.  Now, it’s all happiness all the time.  The only other way that could have been accomplished was with laughing gas, but that wouldn’t have been cost efficient.  Fixing it was much easier.

Chompy Chomp Chomp was developed by Utopian World of Sandwiches (80 Microsoft Points admit that the Xbox 360 hasn't exactly been the best platform for party games, but regardless, this is still the best on it in the making of this review.)

Chompy Chomp Chomp was developed by Utopian World of Sandwiches (80 Microsoft Points admit that the Xbox 360 hasn’t exactly been the best platform for party games, but regardless, this is still the best on it in the making of this review.)

Yea, there’s still some really horrible levels where you can get cornered with no hope of escape.  The guys at Utopian World of Sandwiches insist that there are people who swear those are the best stages.  They’re not.  They’re unfair and stupid.  Thankfully, they made up for their continued existence by throwing in more stages.  These new levels, based on classic gaming themes, are fricking awesome.  Finally, some of the dumber traps, such as gaseous time bombs that drain your score away, can outright be turned off.  Previously, turning off items was an all or nothing type of deal.  Now, you can select which ones you want to use.  That’s perfect.  The online play was totally hiccup-free as well.  I can’t stress how amazing this game is.  You simply have to play it, whether you do it locally or online.  Make sure you’re playing with real players though.  The AI goes from being too easy to too hard.  When I was playing with my buddies, it was probably the single best multiplayer experience I’ve had since I’ve known them all.  Chompy Chomp Chomp is Fuckity Fuck Fuck excellent.

But, if the whole “no shooting, cutesy characters” stuff is an affront to your heterosexuality (seriously, at least one moron on Twitter said of Chompy Chomp Chomp that it “looked like gay children’s shit”.  How this guy is an expert in gay children’s shit is beyond me), you can try Blocks and Tanks instead.  In a way, it’s getting a bad shake here, because I’m comparing it directly to Chompy Chomp Chomp.  Both are simple party games for XBLIG with online play.  But while Chompy’s gameplay reminds me of old school arcade games, Blocks is more like a Nintendo 64 era arena-shooter.  Not a whole lot to it.  Aim and shoot, one shot kills (with the cannon), most kills wins.  The fact that it revels in its simplicity is part of the charm.  It’s a shooter stripped down to its purest, most refined fun.

Of course, Blocks and Tanks is also a voxel game.  When I announced that this game was on deck and next to be reviewed, people immediately dismissed it as yet another Minecraft clone.  It’s not.  But, the voxel angle is a neat one, as the environments are destructible and it opens some pretty neat strategies.  In addition to the tank shells and machine gun, you can shoot blocks from your turret, which immediately cling to the environment and change colors to fit that.  In a way, this crippled one versus one multiplayer, as whoever was able to get the first kill could immediately burrow a hole and fill it in to remain hidden until time ran out.  Of course, only a total coward would do that.

Don’t shake your head at me, Brian.  You’re only mad because you didn’t think of it first.

Pictured: the developers of games I was less than kind to waiting for my car to get within range.  It's a Honda Fit! Do your worst!

Pictured: the developers of games I was less than kind to waiting for my car to get within range. It’s a Honda Fit! Do your worst!

Blocks and Tanks is a lot of fun and does a lot right.  The controls are very responsive.  There is a bit of a learning curve to aiming, but once you get over it, it does the trick.  It also has some very well designed arenas, many of which take after famous locations.  It handles eight players online.  I was never once able to get into an eight player game, but when I had six players going, it was super fast-paced and very enjoyable.  But, the game has more problems than an algebra book.

We’ll start with the spawns.  They’re among the most unfair I’ve ever seen.  Sometimes the game will respawn you right in front of someone else.  You’ll literally die immediately upon respawning.  More often than not, you’ll be put back to life in the thick of a battle.  There’s no rhyme or reason to it.  The game needs to place you away from the action.  Movement speed is decent, and maps are not that big, so there’s no reason to have to drop people in the middle of a firefight.  It gives the game an unpolished feel.

But the biggest problem, as of this writing, is online stability.  The developer is aware of the issues and asked me to go forward with this review, as long as I note that he will continue to improve the game.  Duly noted.  Over the course of seven play sessions and about three hours of total play, I experienced a magnitude of connectivity problems.  Players would be dumped at random.  Brian got a rare “code 3″ error on his Xbox, while mine simply froze solid.  Again, the developers are on top of it, and the current build is easily the most stable yet.  The first time I played, we had problems with synchronization, where shots would register as a hit and a kill on my end, but on my opponent’s side of things, they would still be alive and actively fighting.  This is no longer a problem.  Actually, the weirdest problem is totally out of the hands of the developer.  It’s the type of people playing.  I kept finding myself in sessions where players were not trying to kill each other, but instead building stuff.  When I would go in to attack, they would boot me out.  Huh.  I mean, sure.  It’s not like there are different, more appropriate voxel-based games on XBLIG that cater to that type of gameplay.

We had a ton of fun on stages that had cliffs, trying to blow the ground out from underneath each-other.  What would have been really neat is if the game had to rely on structrual integrity and you could cause massive cave-ins.  Hint hint Maximinus Games.

We had a ton of fun on stages that had cliffs, trying to blow the ground out from underneath each-other. What would have been really neat is if the game had to rely on structural integrity and you could cause massive cave-ins. Hint hint Maximinus Games.

Blocks and Tanks was developed by Maximinus Games (80 Microsoft Points wish the build-gun worked better on water in the making of this review.)

Blocks and Tanks was developed by Maximinus Games (80 Microsoft Points wish the build-gun worked better on water in the making of this review.  Yea, that’s not a joke, but I had to squeeze that in somewhere.)

Having said that, if you look around enough, you should be able to find a real game where people have the courtesy to kill each other like civilized people.  It’s not as supported as, say, Shark Attack Deathmatch, but Blocks and Tanks does seem to have a growing community.  There’s a reason for that.  It’s quite good.  I feel bad for the guys behind it, that it’s going to be ignored by a lot of people who feel it’s just another generic Minecraft clone.  It’s almost unbelievable that such an art style can now be considered a handicap on XBLIG, but that’s what it is now.  If Blocks and Tanks had come out three years ago, it would probably be one of the biggest sellers on the platform.  Talk about bad timing.  It’s a genuinely good game that is worth your time and money.  Unless you want to use it to build stuff.  It’s not made for that you block heads.  Tanks for nothing.

Blocks and Tanks is Chick Approved and Ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  Chompy Chomp Chomp already was, but hey, it moved up five spots! 

IGC_ApprovedReview copies were provided for both games by the developers.  The copies played by Cathy were paid for by her with her own money.  The review copies were given to a friend to test online play.  That person had no feedback in this review.  For more on this policy, consult the Indie Gamer Chick FAQ.

Mount Your Friends

Okay, so the name is as absurd and juvenile as a title can possibly get.  But, we are talking about a game by Daniel Steger here.  His previous hits include a game called Baby Maker Extreme (the ninth all-time selling XBLIG), This is Hard, and Blow Me Up.  But the really weird part is, his games tend to be pretty decent.  Blow Me Up and Lots of Guns both are Chick Approved and ranked on my Leaderboard.  And now we have this, a game about building a human pyramid.  In keeping with Steg’s tendency towards gratuitousness, it features Team Ninja-like jiggle physics.. for penises.  This is a game tailor-made to generate scorn and ridicule from the XBLIG scene.

It’s also Daniel Steger’s best game by far.

Schwing!

Schwing!

This is exactly the type of weird, experimental game that I had in mind when I started Indie Gamer Chick.  Okay, maybe I didn’t picture those games having dicks that behave like bobbleheads.  But I figured I would play a lot of games unlike anything I’ve seen before.  Mount Your Friends does that.  It’s like a video game version of the popular Catalonian pastime known as Castell.  In other words, people climbing on each other to build the tallest human-building they can make.  Only here, there’s no worries about the laws of physics or structural integrity.

The way you go about moving at first seemed like it would be overly complicated.  Each limb is controlled by a separate button.  You move one limb at a time, with limbs automatically clinging to the bodies already placed.  Each turn, you must climb higher than the highest body on the stack.  Once you’ve above the line, you can press start to end the turn and start from the bottom with a new body.  In the normal mode, you have 60 seconds to get above the line.  It sounds dull, but it can be exhilarating.  Especially when time is running short.  There were multiple situations where the timer was nearing zero and I just barely got my hand over the line.  This always resulted in hooting and hollering.  Well, just from me, while my friends told me to sit down and shut up.  But hey, I was excited!

Simpsons already did it!

Simpsons already did it!

Where Mount Your Friends really shines is in the multiplayer mode.  Here, each player takes a turn trying to cross the bar at the highest point in the stack.  Play continues until one player can’t make it to the top in the time limit.  I’m shocked to say this, but this is one of the best multiplayer experiences to ever hit XBLIG.  It even has online play that went off without a hitch.  My biggest overall complaints relate to the movement physics.  Flinging yourself instead of moving one hand at a time feels loose in terms of gravity and imprecise.  I also had issues keeping limbs I didn’t want to use from going limp and getting stuck to one of the guys on the stack.  I mean, wait, probably shouldn’t use the term limp in relation to this game.  I mean they had trouble staying stiff.  NO, erect.  NO!  God damn, this is tough to write about.

Okay, so the Mount Your Friends might be embarrassing to pull out to show friends and.. FUCK!!  See what I mean?

Stegs, I fucking hate you.  You make this really awesome game that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen or played before, but it’s almost impossible to describe without receiving an awkward stare.  You know what?  I don’t care.  Mount Your Friends is fun, plain and simple.  It’s not very deep.  The best concepts rarely are.  But you simply have to try it, because there’s nothing else like it.  I’m not the most athletic person in the world, and I’m afraid of heights, so this is probably the closest I can come to climbing a rock wall.  Well actually, this is probably more like one of those walls where you hold a peg in each hand.

Don’t do that Cathy.  Just don’t give him any more ideas.  He’s incorrigible enough as is.

When I first saw the cover art and heard the name, I figured it was going to be a professional wrestling game.

When I first saw the cover art and heard the name, I figured it was going to be a professional wrestling game.

Mount Your Friends was developed by Stegersaurus Games

IGC_Approved80 Microsoft Points said “he’s French Canadian, so that probably explains it” in the making of this review.

Mount Your Friends is Chick Approved and mounted on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

A review copy of Mount Your Friends was provided to Indie Gamer Chick to test online functions.  The copy purchased by Cathy was paid for by her with her own money.  The review copy was given to a friend to test out online components.  The person receiving it had no feedback in this review.  For more on this policy, consult the Indie Gamer Chick FAQ.

Avatar and the Deadly Tomb

From the studio that brought you the Oozi games comes an utterly generic, avatar-based punisher with bad level design.  Can’t get enough of those.  This is also one of those annoying auto-scrollers.  Hate those in general.  Especially hate them when they’re done vertically.  I probably should have researched my game selection better, because there was almost no way I would have enjoyed Deadly Tomb from the get-go.  Yea, it was a bit of a dick move for me to pick it.  And if you’re expecting some Planet of the Apes style “it was a good game all along!” twist, think again.  I played Avatar and the Deadly Tomb on the easy difficulty, because I’m shamefully bad at punishers and blunt in my admission of this.  Even then, I found it to be beyond frustrating.

So boring I can't even muster the humor to make a funny caption.

So boring I can’t even muster the humor to make a funny caption.

But, I think I must stress the difference between a fair challenge and an unfair challenge.  I feel a fair challenge means you have a realistic (if far-fetched) shot at getting past an obstacle on your first attempt, using nothing but your reflexes and gaming acumen.  When a player of any skill level has no remote shot of clearing some spots on their first try, that’s when a game crosses the line for me.  It’s the difference between “smart-difficult” and “asshole-difficult.”  Auto-scrolling punishers almost always fall into the asshole-difficult category, and Tomb is no exception.  Things like timed-trap platforms combined with vertical auto-scrolling are just cruel, since your vertical field of vision isn’t as large as your horizontal vision.  Not only that, but some sections of the game require you to clear timed sections, then drop down to a lower platform before climbing up.  This is while a column of fire continuously rises.  Unless you are 90% flawless in your run (which you probably won’t be), you have no reasonable chance of clearing these sections on your first attempt.  By time you drop to those lower levels, the fire is probably already there and you’re doing your best impression of Frollo.

I’ve had this review sit unfinished for nearly a week now.  I’ve made several attempts to finish it, but as of yet have been unsuccessful.  Part of that has to do with the utterly generic theme.  Whether or not I thought the Oozi games were ambitious, at least they aspired to look good.  Avatar and the Deadly Tomb features a bland theme and boring graphics.  It doesn’t exactly control that well either.  The biggest problem is the wall-jump is handled the same way as the ledge-cling.  Sometimes for those timed puzzles you’ll need to cling from a ledge.  But most of the time you’ll just want to do wall jumps, but the clinging will get in the way of that.  Screw it.  I give up.  There’s no way to describe my experience with Avatar and the Deadly Tomb in a stimulating way.  The game was dull as a book on cooking with tofu, although I would recommend reading that over playing Deadly Tomb.  At least you’ll get something to eat out of it.

xboxboxartAvatar and the Deadly Tomb was developed by Awesome Games Studio

80 Microsoft Points noted their avatar would never actually have the guts to explore a deadly tomb so the game made no sense from a story perspective either in the making of this review.  Then again, my avatar wouldn’t snowboard, do parkour, or run across the top of a moving train either.  It’s kind of a coward.  

H.i.v.e.

H.i.v.e. is a digital version of a moderately popular, award-winning tabletop game.  It’s also one of those rare Xbox Live Indie Games that is officially licensed.  You can think of H.i… you know what, fuck it, I’m not using the periods.  Think of Hive as a cross between chess and dominoes.  You’re given a collection of hexagonal tiles, each with its own movement properties.  One of the tiles is a queen bee.  You have to place the queen on the board within your first four turns.  Gameplay continues until one queen bee has been completely surrounded on all sides, whether the titles belong to you or your opponent.  In addition to the bee, there’s also ants, grasshoppers, spiders, and beetles.  Ants can move to any free space as long as there is a path to get to it.  Spiders must move three spaces at a time.  Beetles can walk over and cover other tiles.  And grasshoppers can only move by jumping over pieces.  If you want to read the full rules, you can click here.  You probably should too.  Our first game didn’t involve any rule reading, because Bryce thinks rules are for squares.  We didn’t know fuck all what we were doing, which explains why I lost to.. sorry Bryce.. a FUCKING MORON!

Of course, that doesn’t explain why I lost eight straight games to Brian immediately following that, but you shouldn’t dwell on that.  I certainly haven’t.  Sniffle.

Because there is no board, the camera sometimes has to pull pretty far back.  But, worry not, because all the tiles are distinctive and easy to recognize.

Because there is no board, the camera sometimes has to pull pretty far back. But, worry not, because all the tiles are easy to see and distinctive from each-other.

H.i.v.e. is a lot of fun.  I’ve never played the board game that it’s based on, but the interface created by BlueLine Games is well handled.  I’ve always questioned the existence of video-board games that only strive to recreate the exact experience of the corporeal version.  But actually, I think in the case of games like H.i.v.e., they serve a purpose of making complex games easier to learn.  It lays out for you exactly what moves are legal, what pieces can be moved, where they can be moved, etc.  It takes the edge off the learning curve to a huge degree.  But, it still is a no-frills video game version of a board game.  I firmly believe that the best video board game do things that only can be done in the realm of games, and that doesn’t apply to Hive.

Hive is also not without faults.  As of this writing, online play is unstable.  In thirty attempts at playing online, only eight games successfully connected.  If both players are able to make an opening move, the connection won’t drop, but that barely happens a quarter of the time.  The developers are aware of this issue, but I’m actually not grading against it.  I preferred playing locally against human opponents sitting right next to me.  You can play against the AI, which actually isn’t that bad as far as video game AI from a first-time developer goes.  Early on at this site, I played Avatar Chess, which had genius-level AI even on the easiest settings.  While the AI in Hive can lean towards the fierce side on medium, the easy setting is a good way to break into the game, but not so dumb that you’re embarrassed to play it.   I can’t tell you how good the hard mode is, because I didn’t really try it.  I had enough difficulty beating Brian, who isn’t exactly a rocket scientist.  Not that I’m obsessed with the fact that I couldn’t beat such a simpleton.  I’m not.  Really.  DAMN YOUR ACCUSING EYES, STOP LOOKING AT ME!!

So let it be said that Hive, a simple adaption of a cult board game, is the game that ended the Leaderboard’s losing streak.  Despite having no apparent talent for it, I had a great time playing it.  I even played a few rounds against my father, and it was very fun to bond over.  I mean, he wiped the floor with me too, but I still had fun in my failure.  I liked H.i.v.e. so much that I ordered the actual game off Amazon.  So while it doesn’t really need to exist as a video game, I’m happy it does.  And by the way, Brian can’t even remotely come close to beating me at chess, so obviously I’m better than him.  I think that’s how it works.

xboxboxartH.i.v.e. was developed by BlueLine Game Studios

IGC_Approved240 Microsoft Points have a boyfriend who noted that he routinely kicked my ass at Spectrangle too, the cocky fuckwad.

H.i.v.e. is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

A review copy of H.i.v.e. was provided to Indie Gamer Chick by BlueLine Game Studios.  The version played by Cathy was paid for by her with her own money.  The review copy was provided to a friend just to help test online functions.  That person had no feedback in this review.  Consult the Indie Gamer Chick FAQ for how this policy works.

Life in the Dorms

After fumbling around with what might be the worst point-and-click interface I’ve ever encountered, my patience was stretched to the limit during one sequence in Life in the Dorms.  While on a scavenger hunt, I accidentally clicked one of the beds in my room.  What followed was an interaction system so comically awful that I was convinced that I had broken the game.  Upon clicking the bed, the dude you control (named Dack, poor kid) walked over to the door.  Then back in front of the bed.  Then back to the door.  Then back to the bed.  Then the door.  Bed.  Door.  Bed.  Door.  Bed.  I couldn’t stop it.  Door.  Bed.  Door.  Bed.  Door.  Bed.  No interrupt button.  Door.  Bed.  Door.  Bed.  Door.  Bed.  Door.  Bed.  WHY IS IT DOING THIS?  Door.  Bed.  Door.  Bed.  Door.  Bed.  A minute straight of walking back and forth.  Door.  Bed.  Door.  Bed.

Finally, Dack sat down on the bed, and sputtered out a one-liner bitching about how hard the mattress was.  I turned to my boyfriend and said,

“Brian?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Please turn off my Xbox before I murder it.”

Despite the clunky interface, the puzzles of Life in the Dorms seem about as logical as your average point-and-click game.  Such as "Use lightsaber to get toilet paper down from shelf."

Despite the clunky interface, the puzzles of Life in the Dorms seem about as logical as your average point-and-click game. Such as “Use lightsaber to get toilet paper down from shelf.”

I’m sure the above CPU brain fart was due to a criminally horrible design choice that required the lead character to physically touch every object you point-and-click on.  Though for the life of me, I can’t bring myself to the mindset where anyone could believe this was a good idea.  Point-and-clickers are slow enough without having to watch your character lock into the appropriate place.  The above example with the bed actually happened, and it kept going because the character couldn’t properly line up in the spot that triggered the “sit down” animation.  That’s the only explanation I could come up with for why he staggered back and forth like a flash bang had gone off next to his face.  But it wasn’t the only time I had problems.

I didn’t make it out of the first chapter of Life in the Dorms before my patience wore thin.  I wouldn’t have even bothered going as long as I did if the writing didn’t at least hold the promise of being good.  Unfortunately, the awful interface negates whatever potential the dialog had.  Like going through a box of DVDs.  Instead of being able to collect every DVD, the game plays out like this.

Step one: click on the box.  Make sure you click the eye, which means you want to look at the contents of the box.

Step two: wait for the camera to hover over the box.

Step three: select one of the DVDs in the box.

Step four: Slowly pull the DVD out of the box and put it in your inventory.

Step five: Click another DVD in the box.

Step six: Dack will address the camera directly saying how he better put one of the DVDs back.

Step seven: you watch Dack put the DVD back, then the camera pulls back, then zooms in again when Dack grabs the next DVD you selected and puts it in his inventory.  The length between steps five and seven is fucking atrocious.

It's even worse because the dude who addresses the camera (and occasionally has awkward hugs with various NPCs) has no expression on his face except "I will steal your immortal soul." Shit will haunt my nightmares.

It’s even worse because the dude who addresses the camera (and occasionally has awkward hugs with various NPCs) has no expression on his face except “I will steal your immortal soul.” Shit will haunt my nightmares.

This is one of the most clunky, cumbersome, awful interfaces I’ve ever seen.  It’s like Life in the Dorms is overdosing from that slow-motion drug from Dredd.  I just want to move the plot forward with as little resistance as possible.  Yet every rinky dinky action requires Dack to turn and face the camera to address the situation, in what I can only guess is an attempt to break down the fourth wall.  I’m actually embarrassed that I gave up on a game this quickly, even though I was an hour in and had made almost no progress.  The only thing I could think about was “this is a point-and-click game.  Those typically require lots of insane logical-leaps and guesswork.  That means I’ll be seeing a whole lot of wrong guesses where the punishment is more slow movement from Dack as he turns to address the camera.  Fuck that.”  I think what happened is the developers forgot they had made a story driven game.  Imagine if the only way you could watch a DVD was to fumble with the controller and push a random sequence of buttons, then wait for the next portion of the movie to slowly load up.  So slowly that you see five minutes worth of story over the course of your first hour in.  Nobody would find it unreasonable if you just moved on to something else.  With that in mind, I’ll move onto something more exciting.  Like sleeping.

xboxboxartLife in the Dorms was developed by Moment Games

80 Microsoft Points said “wouldn’t chain-locking the only exit to the door be considered a major safety hazard?” in the making of this review.

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