Save Jesus

Shock value sells. Sacrilege sells. Counter-culture sells. Maybe you won’t be building a Scrooge McDuck-style money silo with your earnings from it, but in Indieland, being outlandish certainly helps you stand out in a crowded field. Even if the games that rely on gimmicky “yep, we went THERE” satire tend to suck. I’ve reviewed so many games dependent on a novelty shock concept that you would think I wouldn’t fall for it anymore.

Yet, here we are.

Generic Physics Puzzler: Jesus Edition.

Or Save Jesus.

Whatever.

The guy in the UFO thing is apparently someone going back in time to assassinate Jesus. Seems like it could be easier. Just replace the wise man giving gold with one giving enriched uranium. That seems like it would do the trick.

The guy in the UFO thing is apparently someone going back in time to assassinate Jesus. Seems like it could be done easier. Just replace the wise man giving baby Jesus gold and instead give him a piece of enriched uranium. That seems like it would do the trick.

The idea is there’s a giant ball that you must somehow cause to bowl-over Romans while sparing Jesus, and sometimes his disciples. You can’t directly move anything. Rather, you use the mouse to clear out certain blocks that starts the chain reaction with the ball. The Jesus theme is completely unnecessary. You could plug any theme into this and it wouldn’t make a difference. But they chose Jesus because LOL blasphemy am I right? “It caught your attention, didn’t it?” said Brian. Well, yea. But I figure I’m going to hell anyway because.. well.. anyone that’s read this blog knows why. I might as well get a leg up on the type of stuff that I’ll be playing once there. Stuff like this.

I exaggerate the blasphemy part. Besides a colorful splash of blood, there’s nothing really all that M-rated about this title. This really compounds the “why even bother?” question. I played a truly horrible brawler called Fist of Jesus once upon a time. It was among the worst games that I ever played at IGC. But, damnit, it went all-in with its gimmick. This included implied homosexuality between Jesus and Judas. The type of stuff that will earn you a protest at your office and all the free publicity that comes with it. With Save Jesus, all you get is a cartoonish “squish” sound and a puddle of blood if you accidentally kill Jesus. Oh come on, the Romans could at least lap up his blood with their tongues, because it’s basically red wine when you think about it.

The biggest problem is the game is just so damn bland. Physics-puzzlers are one of the most over-saturated genres these days. You need more than a clever and/or offensive theme to stand out. You need solid, original gameplay. Save Jesus is just boring. The physics are a little wonky too. Sometimes stages would clear themselves before I even got the ball rolling, just by the Romans dropping into pits. Other stages required me to time detonating a dynamite crate to launch the ball up to a higher platform. But the physics are so unforgiving that it required several attempts before I timed it on the correct microsecond that would solve the stage. Stages like this don’t feel like you solved them based on any skill, since you know what you’re supposed to do and it just comes down to clicking the mouse at the right time. A puzzle in the same sense that waking up when your alarm clock tells you to is.

I clicked one block here and the stage beat itself. I didn't get any stars for it, but really by this point I just wanted it to be over with.

I clicked one block here and the stage beat itself. I didn’t get any stars for it, but really by this point I just wanted it to be over with.

I’m not religious, so I don’t really care if Save Jesus is designed with the shock-value of “it’s funny because it’s Jesus” in mind. Heck, I’d even be prepared to name such a game my favorite indie of all time if it was that good. But, no matter the gimmick, games have to stand on their own. The biggest sin Save Jesus commits is being boring. There’s nothing worse a game can do.

It did do some carpentry in my house though, so it has that going for it. And it fed an army with a fish. Cured my cataracts. Walked across my swimming pool. Resurrected my 108-year-old neighbor. Hardly seal-of-approval worthy stuff if you ask me.

headerSave Jesus was developed by Almighty Games
Point of Sale: Steam

$1.59 said “John 11:35 never felt more appropriate” in the making of this review.

The I in Team: Introducing IndieGamerTeam.com

I started IndieGamerChick.com in July of 2011. Serving my readers for the last over the last five-and-a-half years has been an honor and a privilege. I wish I had the time to cover more games, but the truth is I hadn’t even turned 22 when I started IGC. In my first year, I was posting four to five reviews a week. These days, I’m lucky if I have time to post a couple a month. While I do truly intend to create more content at Indie Gamer Chick, I also regret that so many hidden gems are sliding under the radar.

And so, IndieGamerTeam.com The goals of this project are as follows.

  • To provide more reviews of overlooked indie gems in the same review format as Indie Gamer Chick.
  • To provide writers struggling to find an audience a chance to find that audience.
  • Provide developers with a less formal format to post editorials.

With the exception of writers being required to pay for their own games, which is not practical for everyone, all Indie Gamer Chick rules will be in effect here. There will be no review scores. Writers will be expected to disclose their genre biases and have critical thoughts towards games. Since we’re not professional writers, we won’t behave like them. We’ll have fun. Crack a few jokes. Make you laugh while making you think. Video games are supposed to be fun, right? So, why should writing about them be boring?

So, hopefully everyone will enjoy Indie Gamer Team as much as they’ve enjoyed Indie Gamer Chick since 2011. And if you don’t, hey, it’s ALL THEIR FAULT!

-Cathy “Indie Gamer Chick” Vice
February 5, 2017

When an Indie Gamer Team member likes a game more than they dislike it, it will win this Seal of Approval. Because really, liking something more than not liking it is all that should matter.

When an Indie Gamer Team member likes a game more than they dislike it, it will win this Seal of Approval. Because really, liking something more than not liking it is all that should matter.

Switch It Up

No, I don’t hate Nintendo. There seems to be this perception among my fans and my critics that I’m overly critical on Nintendo. I’m not. If you’re a slobbering fanboy for the Big N operating under the delusion that Nintendo and you are besties because they played an important role in your pop-culture upbringing, anyone who is remotely critical of them comes across as too harsh. So if I say that I think the Wii U was a deeply flawed and ill-conceived console, or that having a controller remarkably similar to the one that was the final nail in THQ’s coffin was probably not a good idea, I come across as a total hater, at least in comparison to you. In reality, I am a fan of Nintendo. Fandom and obsession are not the same thing.

For example, I am obsessed with Power Rangers. A franchise designed for children with acting, writing, and special effects so cringe-worthy that my family and friends are all in danger of suffering Bell’s Palsy from being forced to watch it with me. When the teaser trailer for the big-budget Power Ranger movie hit, it was so horrible, so wretched, that I know my family was literally ashamed of me. It looked like a cheap parody trailer, a mix between Breakfast Club and Chronicle that looks and sounds nothing likethe source material, but there’s the faintest hint of the original show’s theme song riff just to make those truly obsessed fans squeal.

And I loved it.

Being obsessed, I came up with every possible excuse to justify its awfulness, and even as I type this, I feel I’m justified in it. “It’s Power Rangers, it’s supposed to be badly acted. It’s okay if it’s silly. It doesn’t need to make sense. Hey, doesn’t Rita look cool? Wow, I love how the morphing looks!” I’m twenty-seven-years-old, and I say this with no shame: I’m more excited by the Power Ranger movie than any person my age has any right to be. I honestly expect it to get a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but that doesn’t matter! I’m obsessed. That’s why, when the second, better trailer hit, I wasted no time rubbing it in the face of my boyfriend. Getting him to admit “it didn’t look bad” was perhaps the biggest victory of my life, even if he was trying to find the right words to break-up with me after I had to wipe tears from my eyes when Bryan Cranston said “it’s Morphin Time!” I mean, that’s Walter White! Saying “it’s Morphin Time!” Holy shit!

Brian would like to note that "doesn't look THAT" still means "looks bad" with the emphasis on "that." Yea, well, phooey on him.

Brian would like to note that “doesn’t look THAT bad” still means “looks bad” and that the emphasis is on “that.” Nuts to him.

Because of my epilepsy, I have to rent a theater to be able to watch a movie at cinemas. I usually get to do this twice a year, for my birthday in July and for Christmas. My family knows I won’t be able to wait for Power Rangers. I need to see it as soon as it comes out. I won’t be able to think straight until I do. I know it’s going to be shit. My heart sank when I saw the toy version of the film’s Megazord. It was so crappy looking that I could barely muster up the enthusiasm to finger myself over it.

So yea, I don’t just love Power Rangers. I am obsessed with Power Rangers. I don’t need to be convinced to see it. I was sold the moment it was announced.

I’m not that way with video games, even though they played a much bigger role in who I am as a person today. I am a fan of games and certain game companies. Obsession? That’s unhealthy. In 2015, I did two editorials on Shenmue III’s Kickstarter campaign. One defended the idea of a AAA using crowd funding to stake a high risk revival of a failed franchise, which is what a sequel to Shenmue is. The other said the actual pitch of the campaign was pretty bad. I got more anger over the article defending the campaign from Shenmue fans than I did the one that called it out for being a terrible pitch. Why? Because I noted that I wasn’t a fan of the series. I don’t get getting angry at something like that. Who cares if someone doesn’t like it? Shouldn’t all that matter to you be how much you like it?

Hey, remember how Vita became on of the biggest busts in gaming history due in no small part to necessary accessories like memory cards costing too much money? Well, this package here costs $79.99. That's a fairly big investment just to play multiplayer.

Hey, remember how Vita became one of the biggest busts in gaming history due in no small part to accessories like memory cards costing too much money? Well, this package here costs $79.99. That’s a fairly big investment just to play multiplayer, and you don’t even get the whole controller (the middle portion is sold separately for $29.99, bringing the total cost to $109.98). Buying just one costs $49.99. “But Cathy, Xbone and PS4 controllers cost $59.99!” Yea, but you get a whole controller for that, not half of one. EDIT: Excuse me, the non-charging center piece “grip” costs $14.99, meaning a complete setup is $94.98. Um, what a bargain?

Nintendo fans get that way too, though I noticed the oomph was taken out of their venom towards the end of the Wii U’s life cycle. When I got Star Fox Zero and said it sucked, it apparently didn’t ruin anyone’s life. But the explanation there was easy: Star Fox Zero fucking sucked. Even the most slobbery fanboys couldn’t believe how borderline-unplayable it was. But, it was the exception, not the norm. The truth is, the Wii U wasn’t horrible and gave us plenty of decent titles. It just looked like a barren wasteland compared to its rivals. Before release, third parties promised support that never arrived. Bayonetta 2 became the crown jewel that Nintendo waved around like a prized pig. Why Bayonetta 2? Of all the franchises Nintendo could have staked, why that one? Maybe the answer is that it’s all they could get. It reminds me of the 2010 NBA free agency season, where the New York Knicks had cleared insane amounts of cap space in hopes of landing LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, or some other prize. Who did they end up with? Amar’e Stoudemire. Bayonetta 2 was the Amar’e Stoudemire of gaming. A perfectly fine pick-up for your console, but nothing to get that excited over, nor are you going to win a lot of people over with it.

I’ve always felt that Nintendo landing Bayonetta 2 was more like settling for Bayonetta 2 after trying and failing to land something more mainstream and desirable, the same way the Knicks settled for Stoudemire.

If people think I’m gloating over Nintendo’s failures, I’ve got news for you: I owned a Wii U. I certainly didn’t want it to fail. Now that it’s basically dead, I can safely say I got my money’s worth. I enjoyed most of Nintendo’s first party stuff just fine, and hell, Splatoon and NES Remix alone were original enough for me to reflect positively overall on it. We got a couple decent new Mario games, a decent Donkey Kong Country game, a decent new Pikmin game, a fun little surprise in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Toad got his own game, and disc release!), and so forth, and so forth.

Here we are, in 2017, and Nintendo is still the best maker of gaming software on the planet. But they’ve had that title my entire gaming life. That’s why when they release something pitiful like Wii Music or Star Fox Zero, it stands out so much more. Because they are too good to make stuff that bad. That’s why pursuing exclusives like Bayonetta 2 or No More Heroes baffles me so much. Third party support or not, the Wii U had the most high quality, low-risk exclusives in gaming.

Switching between the buttons and the stick with the full Joy-Con doesn't exactly look comfy. Maybe Nintendo saved money on its development by firing the person responsible for their controllers ergonomics. It also cracks me up that a company that is so militant against fans uploading videos of their software to social media would have any form of a capture button.

Switching between the buttons and the stick with the full Joy-Con doesn’t exactly look comfy. Maybe Nintendo saved money on its development by firing the person responsible for their controller ergonomics. It also cracks me up that a company that is so militant against fans uploading videos of their software to social media would have any form of a capture button.

So, why did the Wii U fail then? Because most gamers don’t want to be stuck with Nintendo-style games and nothing else. Even Nintendo fans don’t. That’s why they’re so excited to finally get their hands on Skyrim, a game that came out over five years and one full console generation ago. It’s something that’s not Nintendoish. Something big and exciting. Something Nintendo themselves would NEVER make. Something completely different to sink your teeth into between rounds of the latest remakes disguised as sequels of Mario Kart or Smash Bros.

The missing ingredient for Wii U wasn’t the stuff no other console owners could play, but the stuff all other console owners were playing.

Nintendo should already know this better than anyone else. In 1993, Mortal Kombat released on both the SNES and Genesis. At this point, Nintendo had Street Fighter II exclusively, and children of the 90s who chose the Super Nintendo over the Genesis had bragging rights. Then came Mortal Kombat, sanitized and lacking blood or fatalities on the SNES. Even though the Genesis controller didn’t have enough buttons to completely mimic the arcade experience, and even though the gore required a code to unlock it, it was a turning point in the Nintendo v Sega war. It bought the Genesis nearly two extra years of lifespan on its own.

Then came Mortal Kombat II. With blood intact, the SNES version far outsold the Genesis version when they sat side-by-side on the shelf.

That’s what the Switch needs. Not exclusives, but the same third-party software that Sony and Microsoft have. This alone would eliminate the dire perception problem that Nintendo has always had. The day consumers can go to a store on the release day of the latest Call of Duty or Madden or Battlefield and see a Nintendo port sitting alongside the PlayStation or Xbox, nearly indistinguishable from each-other, is the day Nintendo is finally back into the competition.

1-2-Switch looks like a perfectly fine tech demo pack-in. But it's not a pack-in. Utterly baffling to me. If it came with a controller, like Wii Play, then I could justified paying $50 for a tech demo.

1-2-Switch looks like a perfectly fine tech demo pack-in. But it’s not a pack-in. Utterly baffling to me. If it came with a controller, like Wii Play, then I could justified paying $50 for a tech demo.

Nintendo fans have told themselves for over a decade now that their favorite soulless corporation that targets its own fans on social media for uploading videos of them enjoying their products doesn’t need to compete. “People buy Nintendo consoles for Nintendo products.” Hell, even I’ve said that. But the Wii U had a relatively short life-cycle and never fully lived up to its potential. That’s because it costs money to experiment, and the risk of spending that money is lessened if the customer pool for the final product is big. One of my favorite mid-2000s titles was Katamari Damacy. There was nothing like it. It was weird, and quirky, and new, and different. But, if the PlayStation 2 hadn’t been a huge global success, Namco would never have taken it off the drawing board. If they had only had the Wii U’s base to draw from, it would have been too high risk to develop. Consoles can’t just appeal to the hardcore, never-say-die fans. There’s just not enough of them to move the amount of units a developer needs to be successful.

Will the Switch accomplish that? I don’t know. I’ve talked to a few directors at some major AAA studios. Some say it’s just powerful enough to port to. Some say it’s not. But here is an undeniable fact: Nintendo doesn’t have to do a whole lot to migrate its fans from one console to the next. They’re already sold. They were sold before the name was announced. They were sold before the controller was unveiled. They were sold before any software was shown. Much the same way that I’ll be there for Power Rangers day one, with a smile on my face, Nintendo fans need no convincing about the Switch. That has never been Nintendo’s problem. It’s everybody else. Having Call of Duty for Switch sit alongside Call of Duty for PlayStation and Xbox isn’t about convincing the diehards. It simply makes Switch a viable option. It enters it into the discussion, to buy or not to buy. Nintendo doesn’t need third-party exclusives. They just need third-party wide releases that look and feel close enough to their competition. Why waste energy trying to convince the skeptical with exclusives? They already have the best in gaming: their own first-party software.

Doodle God: 8-bit Mania

There are some things I will simply never understand the appeal in. Cricket? Baffling to me. Woody Allen films? I mean, maybe if you need a nap and have no Benadryl handy. But, despite what my retro-loving readers believe, old-timey point-and-clickers aren’t among the things I don’t understand. I do get those. I think they suck. I think they have no relevance today. I think I would rather be boiled in horse bile than play most of them. But I get how they could become popular when they did. The technology of the time didn’t allow for full 3D environments or complex adventure storytelling. The point and click genre allowed for something sort of like that, using descriptive writing to smooth-out rough edges. My biggest problem with them is that the item puzzles involved utterly batshit insane logic that I’m sure made sense to the writer, at least until his medication kicked in. This turned the games into a tedious slog where players were forced to rub one item against another, or against the backdrop, until the right combination was found, thus unlocking the rest of the story. Again, I think they suck, but at least I  understand the appeal they once had. Besides blind nostalgia, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to play them now. Gaming has come so very far in the decades since. Yes, I’m aware my two favorite indies are nostalgia-bait. Hey, I never said I’m not a hypocrite.

Alcohol is made by combining Fire and Water. I'm about as far removed from being politically correct as a person can be and even I cringed in shame at that.

Alcohol is made by combining Fire and Water. I’m about as far removed from being politically correct as a person can be and even I cringed in shame at that.

And then you have Doodle God, an inexplicably popular franchise that removes the story progression and is just the batshit item puzzles of days gone by, over two-hundred times. This is actually a global mega-hit. I shit you not. Millions of people, myself included, have paid real money to select two random items from a list and hope that it opens a third item that goes onto a list. That.. that.. is one of the most popular games in mobile history.

That was one of the toughest sentences I ever typed out. My hands kept trying to amputate themselves. Joke’s on them because I would just replace them with a hook.

And saying the logic is batshit is putting it lightly. Some of the combinations defy the type of logic someone suffering plastic-fume-induced brain damage would find absurd. Life + Ash = Ghost. Holiest of all fucks, that is pure, unbridled lunacy. Or there’s the ones that could be logically but they fucked them up. Human + Money = Work. Um, wouldn’t it be Human + Work = Money? I mean, you would think, right? But then again, Logic + Lobotomy = Doodle God.

When you go to a restaurant and order more than one item from a menu, you are essentially playing Doodle God.

When you go to a restaurant and order more than one item from a menu, you are essentially playing Doodle God.

As for the whole 8-Bit-Mania stuff, it’s just Doodle God with pixel art. Same combos. It’s such a cynical cash-grab, you can practically hear the developers saying “hey, why aren’t we appealing to older gamers? Maybe it’s the graphics. Someone get on that.” It’s also $4 cheaper on Steam than the normal Doodle God is. Bizarre, but whatever. I just don’t get the appeal in this at all. In fact, the worst thing I can say about Doodle God in general is that it makes me long for being stuck with one of the 80s point and click games that I absolutely detest. At least those attempt to tell a story that you feel like you’re a participant in. Why is this even called “Doodle God” to begin with? If you were drawing the shapes, maybe. But you just select items from lists. It’s as if someone set out to make a really ambitious game, then said “Okay, select file.. you know what, fuck it, this is too hard. Select File: The Game will do.”

headerDoodle God: 8-Bit Mania was developed by JoyBits LTD
Point of Sale: Steam, Google Play, iOS App Store

$1.39 (Normally $1.99) said Money + Fire = Doodle God in the making of this review.

This review covered only the Steam version.

Super Duper Flying Genocide 2017

Over the course of 43 minutes of playtime, I unlocked all 329 (!) achievements Super Duper Flying Genocide 2017 has. That’s an average over seven-and-a-half achievements per minute. I was Skyping with my friend William during my play session, and within seconds of booting the game up I said “got an achievement. Got another. Got another. Got another. Got another.” He said “I just looked your achievement profile, it’s nuts.” In the time it took him to say that sentence, I got six more. We laughed. A few minutes later, with me getting so many achievements that Steam couldn’t keep up with it, the laughing stopped. The achievements didn’t. It’s was like when you watch one of those Fail Army videos that shows someone step on the gas instead of the break, pull into the wrong lane and end-up in head-on collision. It’s funny at first, until you realize “you know, that fucker probably died in that video.” Then it’s just awkward.

It looks, sounds, and plays like a participation pity ribbon winner at a game jam.

It looks, sounds, and plays like a participation pity ribbon winner at a game jam. And you’ll have those achievements cropping off the corner of your screen with minimal interruption for at least half-an-hour.

And I did this without anything semblance of effort or finesse. The idea behind Super Duper Flying Genocide 2017 is you’re a UFO, there are people, go get them. That’s really it. You have a ray gun that didn’t really do anything, and a tractor beam that you can use to suck the people up. I used the tractor beam, parked low to the ground, didn’t move, swayed my mouse back and forth while holding the right-click down, and unlocked 329 achievements in 43 minutes. Occasionally I had to let go of the click to let the gun charge back up, but otherwise I really didn’t have to move or try or anything.
screenshot029

I have a fondness for these over-sized gumballs shaped like fruit called Mega Fruit. They’re $0.75 a pop at my local grocery store and I can’t get enough of them. They’re so freakishly big that you can’t put them in your mouth unless you have a comically large one like Steven Tyler or something. You have to put them on a paper plate and smash them down using the palm of your hand. Assuming they’re not stale. If that’s the case, you might need a hammer. Once you have them into smaller pieces, they’re yummy for like five minutes. Then, spit the piece out and take another one. You get a lot of really good tasting gum for a relatively small amount of money. Gum that actually uses sugar, heaven forbid.

Look for this logo. Your taste-buds will thank me. Your teeth, probably not so much.

Look for this logo. Your taste-buds will thank me. Your teeth? Probably not so much.

I bring this up because I see nothing wrong with saying that, even if it’s really cheap, I still want to get value for my money. If an indie costs $0.74, I want it to at least give me as much pleasure as my beloved Mega Fruit gum does most of the time. When one comes up that is a total stinker with no redeeming qualities, it’s like when I put my 75¢ into the machine and it spits out the watermelon-flavored Mega Fruit. It’s disgusting. It has an aftertaste. All my friends have wised-up to it so I can’t even give them away now. I tried using pieces of one to bait ants towards a trap once and even THEY wouldn’t take it. I swear I’m not making that up. That’s true.

That sure looks like the Reddit robot to me.

That sure looks like the Reddit robot to me.

Super Duper Flying Genocide 2017 is a watermelon-flavored Mega Fruit. I hate the “well, it’s cheap, so what did you expect?” argument that indie apologists always say for games like this. I’ve played some damn fine games that were free, so price-tags shouldn’t be a deflect-all shield. It’s unfathomable to me that this game has such a positive reception. It’s boring. It takes absolutely no effort to play. There’s no leaderboards. I have no idea what the story is on this game or the developer, but if he’s reading this, dude, you can do better than this. Don’t become one of those indie devs that just shovels shit onto Steam as quickly as possible with minimal effort. There’s no future in that. While you might have cheerleader types saying “hey, 300+ achievements and Steam trading cards for a buck or less? Sign me up!” I promise you nobody will see your future releases and say “oh look, it’s by the guy who did that one UFO game with all those achievements. Well, I’m convinced.” People like me shouldn’t walk away from your game kicking themselves for choosing it over a novelty-sized chunk of edible plastic and rubber coated with sugar.

headerSuper Duper Flying Genocide 2017 was developed by CharlieH
Point of Sale: Steam

$0.74 (normally $0.99) noted the apple-flavored Mega Fruit suck too in the making of this review.

And I never end up getting the lemon-flavored ones, which I love.

Gunmetal Arcadia Zero

I was born in 1989, years after the NES was released in the United States. My first consoles were the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. My late-teenage years were spent playing Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I know my older fans find this hard to believe, but I really don’t get nostalgic for the games they are nostalgic for. I got an Atari compilation on Steam for Christmas and committed gaming blasphemy by saying Asteroids didn’t hold up well. It doesn’t. The same basic concept has been done better many times since the 70s, and it’s absurd to pretend otherwise. You can only give the classics points for innovating, but you have to be nostalgia-drunk to the point of delusion to think these games are relevant to play today. And yet, those older gamers tell me with a straight-face “games were BETTER back in my day and I won’t play that modern crap!” Well I assume it’s a straight face. Sometimes it’s hard to see past their neck-beards.

Anyway, to those increasingly decrepit Reagan-era gamers, how about some modern crap that looks like your old, crusty crap?

This is not Zelda II. Hey retro fanboys, here's a thought: instead of seeing this picture and saying "that makes me want to play Zelda II, a game I've already finished twenty times" why not, I dunno, PLAY THIS GAME THAT YOU'VE NEVER PLAYED BEFORE? Ugh.

This is not Zelda II. Hey retro fanboys, here’s a thought: instead of seeing this picture and saying “that makes me want to play Zelda II, a game I’ve already finished twenty times” why not, I dunno, PLAY THIS GAME THAT YOU’VE NEVER PLAYED BEFORE?

Gunmetal Arcadia Zero (that sounds like something an anime fan would say while having a stroke) looks, sounds, and feels like an NES game so convincingly that it’s creepy. With the exception of the menus.. this is the most nit-picky complaint I’ve ever made.. that are not remotely 8-bit and ruin the retro-illusion every time you pause the game, this is the closest I’ve ever seen to an NES indie game that isn’t a ROM hack. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. It was developed by Minor Key Games, the guys behind the horribly named You Have to Win the Game and Super Win the Game. These guys clearly have honed nostalgia-mimicry to a science as much as they have set back naming games by decades. Gunmetal Arcadia Zero’s utterly forgettable word-salad name hides a remarkable exercise in memory-baiting.

In fact, the game looks so much like Zelda II that I had people ask me if it was a ROM hack of it. It’s not. Nor is the game really a whole lot like Zelda II. It’s more like a classic Castlevania game in terms of enemy designs (including the annoying Medusa-head monsters that fly in with a sine-curve pattern), secondary weapons, and even getting resources by smacking candles. It’s admirable in the same way that a psychotic fan getting plastic surgery to look like their favorite pop-idol is: you want to tell them how impressed you are even if you question their sanity. Yet, I can’t really complain about how brazenly Minor Key ripped-off those classic games because it does it so well that their IP owners should honestly just think of hiring him to revive those dead licenses. I’m dead serious.

Show of hands: who thinks the little brown blob things look like the cocoons from Gremlins?

Show of hands: who thinks the little brown blob things look like the cocoons from Gremlins?

For example, anyone who played those old-timey Castlevania games surely complained about the insane recoil that would happen every time you took damage, often leading to a cheap falling-death. That doesn’t happen here, and it makes the experience more enjoyable. That’s how an indie developer should pay tribute to their childhood classics: you fix what was broken about them. Trying to also include the faults of those titles is misguided. Pay tribute to the spirit of them, not the execution. In that sense, Gunmetal Arcadia Zero (it sounds like a bad translation) is one of the best old-school tributes ever. It rights a LOT of wrongs. Better play-control than the average game back then had. Better level design. More sophisticated upgrades. Okay, they left in a lives system, but hey, you’ve got to include that minimal-indie-badness somewhere.

Actually, it screws up a lot of stuff. None of the character or enemy designs are particularly memorable. The boss designs are so bland that I can’t help but wonder if the developer nerfed them so nobody would have time to process how lame they are. They’re total pansies. The average boss fight was over before I could count to ten. I’m not even kidding. But really, the whole game is kind of easy. One of my best friends told me he found the game too hard. Now I feel like giving him a pity hug because I annihilated Gunmetal Arcadia Zero (it sounds like a talentless underground metal band) with minimal effort. I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly skilled platform player, so that disturbs me a bit. I can’t imagine someone who was weened on the original Castlevania struggling at all with this. I game-overed once and mistook that moment as the game getting teeth. It didn’t. Maybe I just choose the right set of weapons. The Castlevania-esq axe that you throw in an upward arc was useful for taking out enemies at long-range and rendered the second-to-last boss such a pushover that I wonder if anyone making the game play-tested it. It was a bit on the pitiful side.

This is the boss I'm talking about. As long as you don't trade the axe for any other item pick-up, you can make a mockery of the design.

This is the boss I’m talking about. As long as you don’t trade the axe for any other item pick-up, you can make a mockery of the design.

Even with the opportunity to play through it a second time selecting the opposite of two different classes, I don’t think I would want to, nor would I really want DLC for this. The story is boring and poorly written. Yea, maybe that’s a trope of the NES era, but Shovel Knight aspired to invoke those memories and it made more than one battle-hardened gamer tear up during its memorable ending. Given that Super Win’s story left a lot to be desired, I think Minor Key might want to consider bringing in writers. There’s no shame in that. Know what you’re good at and work with that. Minor Key has reached that upper-echelon of neo-retro game development. Their games work as both tributes and as stand-alone titles. A whippersnapper like me from a totally different generation can still appreciate the skill and craftsmanship on display here. And if I like it, I can’t imagine how NES fans will take to it. Their heads might pop, something we’re all fine with. Well, the developer will be fine as long as they plunk down money on their game first. Corpses don’t buy games. Probably.

Gunmetal Arcadia Zero is really fun, and not even despite the flaws. I would totally believe this is a lost NES game by a major developer that slipped through the cracks of history. Perhaps the best thing I can say about it is that it makes me wonder what my life would be like if I had grown up during that 80s Nintendo boom. Would I be one of those die-hards that needs to think about baseball every time Nintendo announces a barely-changed sequel to one of their franchises or else risk putting someone’s eye out? Probably not because, well, vagina. But seriously, my generation needs games like this to remind us that gaming’s past is always a peek into gaming’s future. That a game like Gunmetal Arcadia Zero could come out in 2016 and still manage to capture the imaginations of multiple generations of gamers is kind of remarkable, isn’t it? No, your generation’s games aren’t better than mine, and mine aren’t better than today’s. Instead, let’s all take a step back and say, you know what, as long as stuff like this comes out, gaming is alright. Always has been. Always will be.

See, I can be sentimental.

headerGunmetal Arcadia Zero was developed by Minor Key Games
Point of Sale: Steam

igc_approved$5.99 noted this is actually a prequel to a game scheduled for release in a couple months that will have a totally different play style in the making of this review. Okie doki.

Gunmetal Arcadia Zero is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Santa’s Special Delivery

Key to indie success: make a game so jaw-droppingly obscene people like me who get off on that stuff check it out just to see how truly desensitized we are. With some rare exceptions (like, say, South Park: The Stick of Truth), those games usually fail. Fist of Jesus, a game whose entire selling point seems to be “watch Jesus rip out a zombie’s heart” might be a contender for worst game I’ve ever played at Indie Gamer Chick. But I did buy it, so I guess it worked. Which means I’m part of the problem. Excuse me while I go sprinkle table-salt in my eyes.

Ow.

Okay, then. Santa’s Special Delivery. It’s a game whose entire selling point is “Santa will poop down chimneys.” There’s also a small splash of digital gore if you screw up and lose one of the reindeer, but otherwise it’s all shit, all the time, sorta like CBS these days.

Just stay away from the northwest corner of the Bay and we'll be good, Santa.

Just stay away from the northwest corner of the Bay and we’ll be good, Santa.

Here’s the thing. When I was a little kid, there was a game for the Nintendo 64 called Clay Fighter 63 1/3. It was a horrible parody of fighting games. One of the unlockable characters was named “Sumo Santa” and his finishing move involved jumping up into the air, landing ass-first onto your opponent so that your opponent would be stuck up Santa’s butthole. Santa would then bend over, take aim, and fire, blowing the opponent out in chunks.

This came out in 1997. I played it in 1998. It’s now 2016. Yea.

It was also the last time I ever said “Hey Mom and Dad, come look at this!” I learned my lesson.

So if you want to make me say “now you’ve gone too far” with jolly old Saint Nick, you have to at least be more jaw-dropping than a game released 20 years ago. Thus, Santa’s Special Delivery has to stand on its own purely from a gameplay point of view instead of as a novelty title. It can’t. It’s basically a stripped-down version of Paperboy (stripped down versions of already mediocre games four years older than me are never a good thing) where you fly around pushing button prompts and occasionally dodge snowmen that have a big warning “RIGHT HERE!” arrow marking where they are. After each-stage, you button mash to try to make Santa take a dump down the chimney so large it destroys the house.

That’s it. It gets old so fast it nearly skips past “embarrassed giggle” and goes straight to “Christ, this is boring.” It’s repetitive. It’s slow in ramping up the difficulty. It’s even a bit glitchy. A couple of times it loaded up the poop-in-chimney button-mashing mini-game that pops up at the end of every stage, but as soon as the countdown stopped, it just ended. I thought maybe it was because I had done bad on the stage, but then I aced stages and it still did it sometimes. I mean, that ministage is basically the whole selling point of the game so that was a little annoying.

This should be enough to get me excommunicated. Woo hoo! Free Sundays!

This should be enough to get me excommunicated. Woo hoo! Free Sundays!

There’s no high scores, local or online, and so the entire basis of the game is based on the novelty of “Santa poops in chimney.” Funny for like fifteen seconds, until you realize “I mean, he’s gotta poop somewhere, right?.

headerSanta’s Special Delivery was developed by Drunk Robot Games
Point of Sale: Steam

$2.69 (normally $2.99) wouldn’t have been too ashamed to see her name on a leaderboard for this in the making of this review. I mean, hell, if I play something I want to know whether I’m good at it or not.

This was on Ouya. Yea.

This article may only be reprinted with my express written consent, which can only be granted if you can get me snuck onto the set of Westworld so that I can fawn over Jimmi Simpson because damn he’s sexy.

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