One Finger Death Punch (non-review review)

I’m a dumbass.  I attempted to play One Finger Death Punch, the final Dream-Build-Play winner.  Both the developer and my boyfriend had declared the game off-limits to me due to my epilepsy.  However, that didn’t stop me from playing Charlie Murder, and I still had all the equipment I used to make it through that game (an older, fading projection TV and extra lighting in the room, in addition to sunglasses I was wearing), so why not?

Well, because it still wasn’t safe for me.  That’s why.  One Finger Death Punch was much more intense in its effects than Charlie Murder was.  I was only able to play a little past the first world before a flickery background made me feel a little off and it was decided I shouldn’t play any further.  Rats, I say.  Rats, because I was really enjoying it up to that point. The basic concept is using only two buttons, you kung-fu your way through wave after wave of stick figures.  You don’t even move your character.  All the action in the game is done using only the X and B buttons.  When an enemy enters your attack range, you hit them.  The violence is over the top, but really, One Finger Death Punch reminded me of Nintendo’s Game & Watch line of titles.  It’s just about timing and patterns.  Gameplay boiled down to its purest core.  Yet, OFDP is a total reinvention of some extremely old concepts, and it works well.

Theory #1 why this game bombed in sales: the screenshots are obnoxiously saturated with sales pitches for the game. I speak on behalf of all consumers when I say "we'll read the sales blurb for that shit. All we want to see is an unbranded, uncovered, unblemished pictures of the fucking game. Yeesh."

Theory #1 on why this game bombed in sales: the screenshots are obnoxiously saturated with sales pitches for the game. I speak on behalf of all consumers when I say “we’ll read the sales blurb for that shit. All we want to see is an unbranded, uncovered, unblemished pictures of the fucking game!” Yeesh. That goes double for all you iPhone developers.

At least it did until I got to the part that simply wasn’t compatible with my medical condition.  So I can’t vouch for the game completely.  That wouldn’t be fair.  I can say this: it seemed good enough that I think I would have ultimately awarded it the Seal of Quality.  I mean, you never know.  I really did suck at what little I got to play.  Once enemies started to come in different colors (green enemies take two hits, blue ones dodge your first hit and jump into the other button’s range, and I’m sure more colors were coming) I started to fail with more consistency.  I also was downright embarrassing against the first boss, losing three times before getting it right.  But I was enjoying my mediocrity.  I wish I could have played further.

Either way, One Finger Death Punch is, according to developer Silver Dollar Games (yep, those guys), a total bust in sales.  What sucks about that is this was their most expensive production, and their most critically acclaimed title.  These guys have been lambasted by the community, including me, and yet in the end they proved that they were real artists with real talent.  Let it be said, even though I couldn’t finish their game, Silver Dollar today made me proud that I’m Indie Gamer Chick.  Perhaps they’ll be the final reminder of how Xbox Live Indie Games cultivated talent.  These guys went from being demonized for their, how shall we say it, less than play-value-chalked titles to being demoralized by their best game doing poorly at the point of sale.  It’s almost like a microcosm of the XBLIG community as a whole.  Don’t let this get you down, guys.  You made a believer in me.  Stand up, lick your wounds, and go make something else spectacular.  I have no doubt you can do it.

Oh, and that spectacular thing you’re going to make?  Yea, can you do me a solid and try to make it something that won’t potentially kill me?  Thanks.

Theory #2 why it bombed: the box art sucks. Part of the charm of the game is its minimalist characters (literally stick figures), and this captures none of that. This looks like the type of generic cover you would expect on a clone of an Avatar: Last Airbender game. XBLIG developers are already screwed by not having trailers at the point of sale. Don't screw yourselves further by making the box art look generic. Well drawn, but generic nonetheless.

Theory #2 why it bombed: the box art sucks. Part of the charm of the game is its minimalist characters (literally stick figures), and this captures none of that. This looks like the type of cover you would expect on a clone of an Avatar: Last Airbender game. XBLIG developers are already screwed by not having trailers at the point of sale. Don’t screw yourselves further by making the box art look generic. Well drawn, but generic nonetheless.

One Finger Death Punch was developed by Silver Dollar Games

80 Microsoft Points are really bummed about this because the thing that made me feel ill was a darker, wavy-pulsing background effect.  Not my typical trigger.  Shows how unpredictable this shit can be in the making of this non-review review.

This review will not count against the Leaderboard’s percentage.  For a full review, check out my amigo Tim Hurley’s thoughts on One Finger Death Punch at TheXBLIG.com

Fist Puncher (Xbox Live Indie Game version)

And the award for worst timing ever goes to………..

FIST PUNCHER ON XBOX LIVE INDIE GAMES!!

Team 2Bit stands up and takes a bow.  Tsutomu Yamaguchi rips up his program and walks out of the auditorium in disgust.

You see, I think Fist Puncher is probably better than your run of the mill brawler.  Think of it as Castle Crashers without having to equip weapons.  You level up.  There are a variety of special moves and combos you can pull off, and you can earn more as you make progress.  Levels aren’t always about smacking some twats around, walking ten feet to the right, then smacking more twats.  Sometimes you’re in a poisoned subway.  Sometimes you’re riding motorcycles.  This is all set in a decidedly mature world with adult themes and occasional voice-over narration.

Sadly, it’s hard for me to get excited about this when I started playing upcoming Xbox Live Arcade brawler Charlie Murder about an hour before trying this.  I haven’t yet formed an option on that game, but playing it undoubtedly soured me on Fist Puncher.  Both games intend to take brawlers in a more progressive, modern direction.  It’s as if they’re both in a race, and Fist Puncher is running at a pretty decent pace.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter because Charlie Murder is using quantum time displacement magic to have already finished the race, give Fist Puncher a wedgie, and sleep with its wife.

Oh shit, it's Scientologists!

Oh shit, it’s Scientologists!

All games should stand on their own.  I still believe that.  But, I really am having trouble separating these two games from the same genre which released this close together.  One of which is extremely modernized and the other of which is still has some firm roots in tradition.  If I hadn’t just played Charlie Murder, I think I would have liked Fist Puncher a whole lot more.  Not too much more.  I hate brawlers and I can’t hide my contempt for them.  One of the worst times I’ve had as Indie Gamer Chick was playing the Simpsons Arcade Game with my boyfriend.  It wasn’t even an indie, but I had never played it and figured I could get a decent review out of it.  Then I dragged Brian along for the ride.  I hated every moment of it, but I thought Brian was enjoying it.  Then after we finished, he said “well, that sucked.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“When was I supposed to say something?  You haven’t stopped complaining this entire time.  I’m actually surprised you could complain that much without stopping to breathe.”

The thing with 2D brawlers is, most feel like the same game with different skins.  Even popular ones.  Look, I played Streets of Rage and its sequels when they were in Ultimate Genesis Collection.  I played Final Fight on Capcom Classics Collection.  I’m happy you old school gamers still enjoy them, but I don’t get it.  It’s just button mashing the same guys, walking to the right a few feet, then button mashing more of the same guys.  Repeat this until you run into a boss with an unfair attack pattern and button mash him.  Then maybe you watch a static cut scene before repeating the whole process for seven to eight levels.  It’s boring.  Having a variety of fighting styles doesn’t take the edge off either, because usually there’s one attack that just plain works better than everything else, of which you’ll use it so much that you’ll wear out the buttons you have to hit to activate it.

Fist Puncher, God bless it, does its very best to break up the monotony by including different objectives, branching paths, and fairly short levels.  There’s also an upgrade system that, in the tradition of Indie Gamer Chick, I attempted to abuse by simply putting all my stats into strength.  Didn’t work, because enemies become downright cheap.  I encountered a boss that has a murder of crows surround you.  If you’re unable to run away, those damn crows will stun lock you and utterly drain your health.  At this point, I had maybe two points spent on defense and I didn’t last too long.  Of course, that’s my fault and not the developer’s, but I was still pretty peeved at the cheapness of it.  Not to mention that some of the levels are clearly designed with four players in mind, like a subway that fills with poison.  You have 90 seconds to clear a few waves of bad guys and a boss.  Now, by the time I played this stage, I had nearly filled my strength meter to the brim.  It didn’t matter.  Enemies were spongy as hell, and there was only one of me to finish a stage meant to be played with friends.  The amount of enemies probably should have been scaled back a bit to accommodate solo play.

Since I missed the narration due to a glitch in the sound, I filled in the blanks myself.  in my version of the story, the guy in the yellow is attempting to sell multi-colored chairs shaped like giant assholes.  Someone off-screen claimed to match his low prices and he pulled a gun on them, because thems fightin' words!

Since I missed the narration due to a glitch in the sound, I filled in the blanks myself. in my version of the story, the guy in the yellow is attempting to sell multi-colored toilet seat covers shaped like giant assholes. Someone off-screen claimed to match his low prices and he pulled a gun on them, because thems fightin’ words!

When you play with friends, it does take the edge off.  But while the fighting style consists of more than punches and kicks, Fist Puncher still has a relatively low ceiling before combat gets too repetitive.  And while occasional minigames (such as a batting cage where I swear to Christ I could not line up to hit the fucking balls correctly) or hidden keys do try to make this something more, I just found Fist Puncher to be the type of generic brawler that has been done hundreds of times before and will continue to be done until the end of time.  Plus, the XBLIG port of the PC title is loaded with some awful glitches.  I died during one section of play and had to be brought back to life by being given CPR, which is done by hitting button prompts.  Once I was brought back to life, Brian was still bent over in the CPR position, unable to stand up.  This was not by design.  Weirdly, he eventually stood up, but none of the action buttons would work.  He had to intentionally let an enemy knock him down before anything would work again.  In addition to all of this, the sound effects (including the voice over narration after the first stage) would cut in and out, sometimes leading to playing whole stages without the satisfaction of hearing your fist smack against some asshole’s face.

I’m not scoring against the glitches (unacceptable as they are), because I didn’t like Fist Puncher regardless.  Indie Gamer Guy did, and it would seem many long-term fans of the genre disagree with me as well.  Having played through it, I do admit that Fist Puncher is a well crafted tribute to one of the industry’s most revered game types that does try to do a little bit more than they did.  But I never liked brawlers to begin with, so I was not who this game was aimed at, and Fist Puncher does absolutely nothing to try to convince people like me that we have it all wrong.  Its only ambition was to satisfy fans of games like Streets of Rage or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and it seems to do that well.  I’ll never understand why games like this are still popular when gaming has come so very far since the mid 90s.  If anything, brawlers are having a revival, and not one of those ironic ones like people watching movies on VHS or pretending to like My Little Pony.  I’m talking honest-to-God elation.  I don’t get it.  A lot of people my age don’t get it.  Then again, people of their age don’t get how we could convince our parents to murder each-other on Black Friday to score the last booster pack of Pokemon cards for Christmas.  It’s a generational thing.

xboxboxartFist Puncher was developed by Team 2Bit

400 Microsoft Points have no opinion of Charlie Murder yet, except that it does try to do more with brawlers, and that’s a step in the right direction in the making of this review.

Vintage Hero

I should preface this review by noting that Mega Man’s classic NES games have no nostalgic value for me, and the franchise as a whole I consider to be of little relevance to modern gaming.  I thought Mega Man 9 was alright.  I thought Mega Man 10 was alright, albeit slightly less so.  I tried and failed to get into the Battle Network series as a kid.  And if the amount of shit that I gave when Mega Man was announced for Smash Bros was any smaller, it would only be able to be studied at the Hadron Collider.  I’m not saying the series is a bad or that the games aren’t worth playing.  I’m saying Mega Man probably means a lot more to you (assuming you’re my average reader) than it does for me.

With that being said, Vintage Hero does Mega Man very well.  Mimicry can’t be as easy as people think.  If it were, there wouldn’t be so many classic gaming tributes on XBLIG or other platforms that completely miss the point of what the originals were about.  With platformers, it gets especially difficult.  Typically, even a game that comes really close to the original still has something off about it.  And once you latch onto what that one not-quite-right thing is, it’s all you notice.  Vintage Hero doesn’t have that.  It is so close to Mega Man in terms of gameplay and physics that it’s almost creepy.  Like one of those stories you hear where a famous actress meets an adoring fan who has built a life-sized statue of her made out of mayonnaise and caulking, and she has to smile through her teeth while waving to her agent to start filing for the restraining order.

Lloyd is a janitor. Mega Man was a lab assistant. Lab assistant. I'm not sure who wins on points there.

Lloyd is a janitor. Mega Man was a lab assistant. I’m not sure who wins on points there.

Vintage Hero’s controls are perfect Mega Man mimicry, and it makes this title a joy to play.  Of course, the spooky doppelgänger stuff comes in other forms.  The hero (with decidedly unheroic sounding name Floyd) has an arm cannon, just like Mega Man.  It fires bullets that look just like Mega Man’s bullets.  His running, jumping, and climbing animations look just like Mega Man’s.  When he dies, he explodes into smaller dots of energy, just like Mega Man.  Seriously, King Louie wants to know his secret.  If Vintage Hero had left it there, doing a very convincing Mega Man impersonation, that would have been enough to satisfy gamers.

But developer Frog the Door Games didn’t stop there.  Instead of phoning in the level design, he took it in original directions not seen in Mega Man titles.  Instead of leaving the basic gameplay mechanics intact, he added in a modern RPG-like upgrade system.  As a result, Vintage Hero stays fresh through-out.  Of course,  it’s about half the length of a Mega Man title.  There are four standard bosses (and yes, you acquire a new weapon after killing them), then two finale stages, one of which includes a boss-rush.  Is it too short?  Perhaps.  It’s sort of hard to complain when everything before the end credits is about as perfectly handled as any game designed like this could be.  If the developer ran out of time or money or patience, at least he had the good sense to stop before the game started to stagnate.  Me?  I always prefer ninety minutes where I can’t stop smiling to three hours where my mind occasionally wanders, if not outright gets bored.

Vintage Hero isn’t flawless.  I think the biggest issue it has (besides length if that matters to you), is that the game does the copy-cat thing so well that it fails to have a personality of its own.  I guess I’m in the minority on this, but I didn’t enjoy the characters, the enemy design, or especially the bosses.  It all felt a bit generic.  The story told between missions I found to be predictable, especially the big twist reveal.  It was so poorly handled that I questioned whether it was just dead-panning parody.  Then the bleak ending made it clear that this was all meant to be serious, and I just sort of shrugged.  Of course, they couldn’t just rip off the charm of Mega Man’s absurd enemy design.  Vintage Hero already straddles the line between loving tribute and lawsuit waiting to happen.  But you simply can’t replace the lunacy of “why did Wily make such impractical things like Robo-rabbits that shoot robo-carrots to kill Mega Man?” with doodles of red tentacles growing out of the ground, or things that look like hastily-drawn fetuses.

You can see what I mean about the enemy design. This yellow fellow here looks like a reject from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.

You can see what I mean about the enemy design. This yellow fellow here looks like a reject from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.

Because of that, Vintage Hero would need to have exceptionally sharp and rewarding gameplay to really stand out.  And it does.  It’s been over a year since I’ve had the privilege of saying this about a new game, but Vintage Hero is the best Xbox Live Indie Game ever made.  Here’s a game so married to an established franchise that it by all rights ought to have been saddled with the label of a well-meaning tribute, and nothing more.  Instead, it serves as an honorable homage, and a game that can fully stand on its own.  Its gameplay is fine-tuned.  Its levels inspired.  It actually pays tribute to vintage Mega Man better than Mega Man 9 or 10 did.  But most important, it’s a game that anyone can enjoy.  By the time I was on the gaming scene, Mega Man’s time as an icon had pretty much passed.  Nostalgia didn’t factor into this review.  Pure, unbridled love of gaming did.  And from that point of view, no XBLIG has ever been as well made as Vintage Hero.

(spits out Vintage Hero spunk, pops a breath mint)

xboxboxartVintage Hero was developed by Frog The Door Games

Seal of Approval Large80 Microsoft Points actively wonder why Lloyd doesn’t change colors when he equips a new item in the making of this review.  Well I take it all back, this is a shitty Mega Man ripoff.  It was all about the color swapping.

Vintage Hero is Chick-Approved and is the new #1 game on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  You should probably still click the link to bask in its #1ness anyway. 

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. 

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