Dark Matter and Maze of Apes

Sorry that I haven’t been updating as frequently.  As it turns out, I have trouble getting motivated when my boyfriend is 2,398 miles away.  I blame his parents for choosing hurricanes over earthquakes.  It also doesn’t help that the last two XBLIGs I played are puzzlers, which I typically have difficulty writing about.  Logic puzzlers are niche enough without being put on a platform like XBLIG, where they’re only tolerated if they have a more actiony-bent to them, like Escape Goat.  Most of them probably don’t do well.  I don’t have sales figures, but I’m willing to bet a run-of-the-mill twin-stick zombie shooter sells a multiple of the copies that a really good logizzler like Alien Jelly does.  And yes, I just made up a word.  Logizzler.  I’ve almost gotten TwickS into the gaming lexicon, and I’m not stopping there.

Oh thank God, THANK GOD, that they used one of their screenshots on the marketplace to show off the title screen. And there it is, so elaborate and awe-inspiring. If not for it this, I don’t think I would have purchased the game.

Instead of writing two reviews, I decided to merge recent XBLIG releases Dark Matter and Maze of Apes into a single piece.  It makes sense.  Both are grid-based puzzlers, or guzzlers as I call them.  And I somewhat enjoyed both, even thought I make no bones about it: they’re as dull as dish soap and will bore 90% of the gaming population to tears.  Hell, these type of games are up my alley and I was barely able to keep my eyelids open.

Part of that has to do with the fact that I played them all at once.  I’ve always had the most fun with these types of games when I play through them slowly.  Five or six levels at a whack, then a day or so break.  Since starting Indie Gamer Chick, games I plan on reviewing I typically try to get through as fast as I can, which might not be a good thing.  For puzzle games, that can be brutal, because it’s the same thing over and over again.  Some people like that.  Some people play through entire Sudoku books in a single sitting as well.  Weirdos for sure, but they’re out there.

Oh yea? Well WE can waste one of OUR screens on the title too. Right back at you, bitch!

I’ll start with Dark Matter.  Here, you’re a space ship that’s running out of fuel and oh my God you don’t really need a story for this, just shut up and get me to the puzzles.  Dark Matter is an “open the exit” puzzler.  You steer your ship around, hitting switches, pushing boxes, avoiding gaps in the floor, etc.  Control at first seems a bit floaty, but you can quickly get used to it.  Dark Matter also has a couple of puzzles where the control scheme gets reversed, with up going down and down going up, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria.  I’ll admit, it’s a bit gimmicky, but it does help to somewhat freshen up an otherwise dull game.  And if that doesn’t work, a rage-inducing brain fart of game design by the jerks at Orbonis will.

Some of the “puzzles” involve multiple switches.  Some of the switches help you, while others make the puzzle unsolvable.  The problem is, there’s no way to know which does which unless you hit them.  I’m sorry, but that is not a puzzle.  That’s a dick move.  Let’s say you give someone two identical boxes, one of which has a cake and one of which has a spring-loaded jar of flesh-eating ants.  The only way the person can get the cake is by pure chance, but if they pick the box with the cake, you don’t congratulate them on their power of deduction.  You curse the heavens that they had the luck to pick the cake box and ruin your planned YouTube video.  And that really irked the shit out of me about Dark Matter.  Because it’s an otherwise smart puzzler, only one with a really stupid play mechanic in it.  Yea, it’s kind of boring and needed anything to pull out all the stops to combat that, but having a GOTCHA! style trap in it does not make it less boring.  It just adds to the tedium, which is exactly what the game didn’t need.

Dark Matter, which should have been called “I Don’t Give a Ship” instead.

Maze of Apes is even more minimalist and snore-inducing than Dark Matter, but by no means a bad game.  This is one of those “Pick-up insignificant shit scattered on flimsy floor” puzzlers.  Or “PISS OFF” for short.  This type of game has been done a hundred zillion quadrillion gillion times (give or take), but Maze of Apes does make some effort to spice things up.  Some of the puzzles feature controlling more than one ape.  The stick moves both at the same time, so you have to figure out a way to steer both guys without killing or trapping one of them in a way where you can’t pick everything up.  Sadly, a lot of the levels don’t use this hook, and that’s a shame because that’s all Maze of Apes has going for it.  While the puzzles can be clever, they still are likely to give you a case of déjà vu, because there’s no way anyone over the age of 18 who has gamed for most of their life has not played something like this already.

Maze of Apes. Personally, I would have called it “Labyrinth of Monkeys”

Despite both games being about as exciting as picking lint out of your umbilicus, they are well made and fun if you’re into this sort of thing.  I give the edge to Maze of Apes.  Dark Matter has better art, more complex stages, and a wider variety of puzzles.  Maze of Apes looks and plays like a Windows 3.0 freeware game.  But Maze of Apes doesn’t have that fake-switch thing going for it, and Dark Matter does, so Maze of Apes wins by virtue of not being an asshole.  Which is probably how Obama is going to win in November.  Zing.

Dark Matter was developed by Orbonis

Maze of Apes was developed by Blanc Game Studio

80 Microsoft Points apiece said “oh come on, it’s just a joke.  Us Microsoft Points think both candidates are assholes” in the making of this review.

Dark Matter and Maze of Apes are ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  Click here to see where they landed.  The Leaderboard is sponsored by Count to a Billion, out now on iPhone

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

8 Responses to Dark Matter and Maze of Apes

  1. Kolphyre says:

    Ghostbuster quote for the win!!

  2. Hmm, it’s a shame about that dick move in Dark Matter. It seemed promising, but that really is uncalled for. Serious error too, as I had planned to buy Dark Matter and ignore Maze of Apes, but now it’s looking like the other way round. Consequences, people. Think about them.

    Also, I’m completely with you on the title screen thing. Why so many XBLIGs waste one of their picture slots for that, I really don’t know. No one gives a shit what your title screen looks like when they’re deciding whether or not to buy the game. Besides, that’s why you have a specific cover art bit, isn’t it? Use the four picture slots to show people what the game can do, or at least give an idea of what it’s about. You don’t need a marketing degree to figure out that showing people a prettier version of the game’s title isn’t going to make cash leap from wallets.

    • CJ says:

      The problem is, most XBLIGs don’t have much going for them. And worse so, the developers behind those games clearly don’t give a damn.

  3. Sharah says:

    Logizzler lol. Yeah Apes of Maze looks like something I’ll pass. I hear IndieCast will be releasing some sweet games soon, looking forward to that.

  4. Pingback: Human Subject « Indie Gamer Chick

  5. HardcoreBadger says:

    I played and bought Maze of Apes it was a really good game even if it has already been done.
    But yes the two, 3 or 4 apes rooms are great.
    Especially lvl 10 in hard mode, fuckin hard for me.

    The bad things in this game : you can’t save, so you should finish each mode in one session. And I wanted more rooms. There is only one (good) music.

  6. Gerhardt23 says:

    Maze of Apes is really hard but a great game. Have not tried Dark Matter, maybe I will some day.

  7. rinshley says:

    I tryed Maze of apes, never managed to complete some of the hard levels but i had fun on the medium difficulty, good game imo

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