Cute Things Dying Violently

Cute Things Dying Violently is a physics-based puzzler, sort of Angry Birds meets Lemmings.  Over the course of sixty stages, you have to launch these little dudes called Critters into a door.  You’re given a cursor that can move left or right.  Using it, you can grab onto the Critters or other assorted objects and fling them using the right analog stick.  If you mess up you can expect them to die in a comical fashion, sort of like how Old Yeller ends.  I keed, I keed.

I’m starting to wonder if  perhaps I’m a little too desensitized.  I started playing Cute Things Dying Violently a few hours ago.  Within five minutes of booting it up, the novelty of watching the hapless Critters die in a shower of blood had completely worn off.  I’m borderline disturbed by that.  Perhaps it’s in part because I don’t find these little creatures to be cute.  “Creepy” would be the word I use.  I mean they walk around with a totally fucked up expression of glee, mumbling incoherently and randomly swearing, completely oblivious to their surroundings or the fact that they could die at any moment.  It’s like watching the old people at a retirement home.

For me at least, the funniest moments were my own personal fuck ups.  Not the straight forward kind, like aiming a little too low and sending a Critter into a saw as a result.  No, I’m talking about the grandiose, Rube-Goldberg style fuck ups.  Shooting a dude in what I think is just the right spot, slightly over aiming, and soaking him in oil.  It takes a bounce right into a fire, which causes it to die in a bouncing rage that sets other barrels ablaze and blows up the entire fucking level.  Now that tickled my funny bone.   The other stuff?  Not so much really.

Someone do Alex Jordan a favor and send this picture to Jack Thompson. Mainstream PR bonanza!

And thus I’m just going to take the whole humor thing off the table and let the game play do the talking.  Don’t get me wrong, the violence is a stroke a brilliance, at least from a marketing perspective.  But the situations that actually did make me laugh would have been funny in any setting, gory or otherwise.  Besides, after putting a month of playtime into Mortal Kombat earlier this year, watching teeny tiny little blue things that look like they took about six seconds to draw in MS Paint get cut in half is not going to do it for me.  Well, I suppose they look better than the character model for Freddy Krueger in MK.

I didn't know Dreamcast games had DLC. Oh wait..

I actually had a pretty good time with Cute Things Dying Violently.  The ingenuity displayed in the puzzle designs surprised me more than once.  I figured I would be settling in for sixty stages of non-stop flinging.  As it turns out, many levels don’t even really center around aiming and firing the little fuckers.   Sometimes you’ll have to drag objects like springs or bubble makers onto buttons.  Sometimes you’ll be trying to time getting barrels to explode in synchronization.  And sometimes you’ll fight bosses.  The first such encounter was a bucket of lame sauce, but I enjoyed all the ones that followed.  The amount of variety on display here is truly stunning, and new ideas kept coming even towards the final boards.  How often do you see that in a game, Indie or otherwise?

But I do have a few things to complain about.  For instance, aiming can be a bit of a bitch.  It’s a touch on the sensitive side, and the arrow doesn’t always provide the best indication of where something is being shot.  This game really needed an indicator line.  Not a long one.  That would have crippled the challenge completely.  But some kind of line that sticks out further than the cursor would have made a huge difference towards reducing the frustration factor.

Some of the levels can be really unforgiving as well.  In order to unlock stages, you must have saved X amount of Critters over all the previous stages.  But on some levels, the margin of error you’re given is incredibly small.  This will lead to you making your first shot (which often is the calibrating shot that you need to get the aiming down) failing, and having to restart the level.  A major pet peeve of mine is puzzle games that don’t have a quick way to restart stages.  I hate having to pause to do it.  It breaks the flow up.  Here, you have to pause the game and hit both shoulder bumpers.  It would have been better to just be able to click both bumpers without the pausing, but they were mapped for weapons use in a completely worthless multiplayer mode that is about as much fun as finding out that mole on your back just bought you six months of chemotherapy.

You know what though?  It’s still a lot of fun.  I’ve played a ton of physics puzzlers over the last decade or so and few manage to stay fresh from start to finish.  Or sometimes they try to change things up later in the game and screw everything up.  Angry Birds  for example, where some of the bird types introduced in the later levels to keep things fresh ended up making the remainder of the game rotten.  In CTDV, every new twist works.  The oil cans worked.  The lasers worked.  Okay, the bubbles are a bit annoying, but sometimes the developer still figured out a way to make a puzzle very interesting with them.

I was often aggravated when playing Cute Things Dying Violently.  It can be maddening at times to make some very tight shots.  And, not to be a total killjoy, but the setting really wasn’t all that big a deal to me.  I’m sure it will move more units than if it was a game about flinging unicorns across rainbows or something, but I thought it was dumb and the blood splatter was worth little more than some unnecessary slowdown.  But it’s a good precision-puzzle game, and those I can appreciate.  When I made a good shot on my first try, I felt like Robin Hood.  When I beat a puzzle in a way I know the designer didn’t intend, I felt like Einstein.  Those are nice ways to feel.  Much better than playing Raventhorne or Battle High, where I pretty much felt like Aron Ralston.

Cute Things Dying Violently was developed by Apathy Works

80 Microsoft Points would have held off for 128 hours in the hope that Superman would have saved them in the making of this review. 

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16 Responses to Cute Things Dying Violently

  1. Dcon6393 says:

    Good review, unfortunately sleep got the best of me about halfway through the game. I do agree that aiming can be a bit touchy.Whenever you grab a critter it doesn’t line up with your arrow sometimes. Aiming would be easier if the critters lined up with your aiming arrow all the time. Also you didn’t mention the level editor, which I’m sure a ton of people will use to make great maps. Hopefully the game can get a level downloading update like the developer wants.

    • Kairi Vice says:

      You know, I never touch the level editors in games. It’s just something that never has appealed to me. Hell, I never even tried Little Big Planet’s editor, and that’s kind of the point of the game.

      I did download several levels for LBP though. Ooh, a Super Mario 1-1 remake. Never seen that before 😛

      • Dcon6393 says:

        I never really use editors either, only to mess around. I will definitely use this one to try to create as many fun things as I can, to bad you cant share levels yet. Actually I guess it is good because I wouldn’t play the other IGSU titles otherwise

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  3. ilRadd says:

    Hey – first decent review for the Indie Summer Uprising!

    Things are looking up

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  5. Starglider says:

    I bought and enjoyed this game. The developer talks about putting in fluid systems and other refinements, but honestly with the innovation shown in CTDV I’d rather see their next crazy idea made into a game. The one really interesting thing that I’d buy a CTDV2 for would be co-op multiplayer; tricky to implement though.

  6. Tim K says:

    This game has potential and some of the puzzles were interesting, but my gripe boils down to play controls. It doesn’t feel like they did much to make the slingshot smooth in it’s rotation, but rather just took the values given by the analog stick (aka too sensitive). I agree with the comment that the creatures should be like ammo where they get caught in the slingshot so you don’t have wait to aim them. I also agree that an indicator line would be great. Games like Bust-a-Move (puzzle bobble) and the like do a great job of this and can be “borrowed” from.

    The hard thing for me is that the intriguing puzzles/mechanics made me want to keep playing, but the play controls beat that notion into submission just 3 or 4 levels in.

    I feel that perhaps the developer would have arguments against these and there are always gripes, but I feel that just a little bit more user testing and this could be a really fun game.

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