September 10, 2012 15 Comments
Last year’s Uprising started with Raventhorne. It took me about fifteen minutes to realize that the promotion was in trouble. When I played qrth-phyl, I took an instant dislike to it and thought “oh shit, here we go again.” But, while the reality of Raventhorne’s badness slowly sunk in, I didn’t even begin process how entertained I was by qrth-phyl. I’m not sure how many hours passed before I realized it was good. It was probably around the time that I told my dog “oh just go on the carpet! Can’t you see I’m busy here?”
qrth-phyl does a lot of things right. Not the name though. I’m not even sure how to pronounce it. Probably just by clearing your throat. No really though, come on. qrth-phyl? What is that? Mr. Mxyzptlk’s pet snake? Sure, it obeys the Google Rule in a major way. But it doesn’t exactly lend itself to word-of-mouth advertising. I could picture the following conversation taking place:
Gamer A: I just found this really cool version of Snake on Xbox Live Indie Games. It’s in 3D and it has some of the most bizarrely hypnotic gameplay I’ve ever seen.
Gamer B: Really? What’s it called?
Game A: It’s called, um, qarrrrr.. qerrrrrrth.. fuck it, have you ever heard of Dead Pixels?
It’s such a pretentious name, to the point of distraction. I get flak for calling artsy games as such, but what else can you say about it? If you give your game an unpronounceable name that doesn’t seem to connect to the actual gameplay at all, you probably smell like stale vaginal run-off on account of being a douchebag.
But, enough about the name. Let’s talk about why qrth-phyl has set the perfect tone for the Uprising. First off, the concept sounds ludicrous: Snake in 3D. Insanity I tells ya. Unless you account for the roughly six million (give or take) versions of Snake already on XBLIG. Suddenly, a 3D, single-player version seems like the perfect way to say “see, we can be different” that the community so desperately needs. Of course, that point would be lost if qrth-phyl sucked. Thankfully, that’s not the case at all. In fact, it’s pretty dang good.
Remember in the late 90s to early 2000s, back when every classic was getting a bastardized modern remake? I had them all, from Robotron 64 to Centipede to Defender. Well, qrth-phyl is probably better than any of those. However, it’s not as strong as the reigning champion of retro classic re-imagination on XBLIG: Orbitron. What qrth-phyl does right is the atmosphere. The bright, colorful, trippy graphics and electric soundtrack make this feel like what someone in 1976 imagined games of the future would be like.
But gameplay is king, and qrth-phyl does this well too. It reminded Brian of Rattler Race, a game that anyone who had early Windows computers probably wasted a little bit of time with. Gameplay starts on flat playing surfaces set on a cube or rectangle, but shifts to a fully 3D environment once you meet certain scoring benchmarks. You’ll continuously bounce between the two play styles, with the transition between the two typically a little rough around the edges. Disorientation was the main problem I had with qrth-phyl, especially in the 3D environments. The levels seem randomly generated, including the color schemes. Depending on the layout, I couldn’t get a good feel for things like depth or scale. Even playing on a TV large enough to double as the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man’s iPad, I was constantly braining on walls without realizing that I was close to them.
I’ve never been super comfortable endorsing any game where I can say “the controls take getting used to” and literally mean “it takes more than a couple of hours to really get the hang of them.” However, in qrth-phyl’s case, it almost seems appropriate. I went from being constantly frustrated to not even noticing that I was making hairpin turns and squeezing between tight spaces with honest-to-goodness ease. I almost wish I had never realized I was doing it. Once it stuck me that “hey, I’m doing bad ass at this!” my mojo went the way of the dodo and I could barely press start without losing a life. I wish I was kidding. I never did beat that cunt Hurley’s score either.
Yea, I busted the developer’s ass for being a fart-sniffer, but I don’t deny that he’s created something very special here. It’s not perfect, but qrth-phyl outranks all but one of the games from last year’s Uprising on my leaderboard. I would say that’s a hell of a start to the promotion. I don’t know if qrth-phyl will be the type of game you go back to. Still, I got over three hours of playtime with qrth-phyl and was totally hypnotized by it. It’s a perfect time waster, especially if you’re waiting for the carpet cleaners to come clean up the mess the, ahem, dog made on the carpet. Yes, that was the dog. I wouldn’t, say, just take a dump right on the floor because I’m too absorbed in a game to walk ten feet to the bathroom. Come on now, I’m totally civilized.
qrth-phyl was developed by FUCK YOUR ACCUSING EYES, IT WAS THE DOG! BAD DOG! BAD BAD DOG!
80 Microsoft Points ztkpty jqwbcv psld in the making of this review.
qrth-phyl is ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. Click here to see where it landed.