Avatar Trials: Ninja Uprising

Avatar Trials: Ninja Uprising is another University of Utah student game.  It’s really hard to believe it comes from the same pool of classmates that ultimately gave us Magnetic By Nature, one of the year’s best and most refreshing games.  Avatar Trials is one of this year’s worst XBLIGs, and one of those rare games where my biggest challenge with it is trying to find anything positive to say about it.  After having a few days to think about it, I couldn’t come up with a single nice thing to comment on.  Avatar Trials is without merit in every way possible.

Starting with the graphics.  Not only are they ugly, but they get in the way of gameplay.  Because of the colors selected for backgrounds, it causes severe problems in judging distance between platforms.  As a result, Avatar Trials comes across like an evil eye exam developed by an unscrupulous optometrist who wants to pad his wallet by making every patient he sees think they’re going blind.  Combine this with one of the most spastic, uncooperative cameras I’ve encountered in years.  At the most inappropriate times, it will swing around and zoom in on a wall.   Not even a pretty wall, either.  I mean, if it was a close-up of the Great Wall of China or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, I could understand why the camera would focus on it.  It would be pretty fucking cool to see.  These walls?  They look like someone threw a box of crayons and a blank piece of paper into a cement mixer and scanned the results into the game.

None of the screen shots from Avatar Trials selected from the market seem to show actual gameplay.  Just shots of the map.

None of the screen shots from Avatar Trials selected for the market seem to show actual gameplay. Just shots of the map.

These problems might be worth looking past if the controls were well done.  However, movement is extremely loose and jumping is too floaty.  In a game where judging distance is already an issue, having anything less than pin-point precision in movement would be a fatal blow.  That’s the case here.  Platforms will be overshot even when you feel you’re being conservative in jumping.  Or sometimes you’ll get right up to a ledge and leap for it, only to completely short what looked like a small distance.  Plus, the that damn camera never stops being a bastard, so sometimes you’ll make a straight across jump only for the camera to swing wildly to the side, throwing off your angles and causing you to fall to the ground, or sometimes to your death.  And, if you manage to somehow get past all these issues without swearing off games in disgust, Avatar Trials will throw some nifty glitches at you.  The most common one seems to getting stuck hanging on walls that aren’t there.  It happened to me several times, and apparently it happened to Timothy H. Hurley Esq. as well.  But, I have Hurlmeister topped, because sometimes when I was hanging on the invisible wall, I would let go and get stuck, or outright fall through the world geometry.  I’ve played some truly inept 3D games on XBLIG, but I can’t think of one that is this bad on this many levels.

Look, it’s a student project.  I get it.  And believe me, I get no pleasure pulling this thing apart like a vulture does with carrion.  But, Avatar Trials: Ninja Uprising was dead on arrival and my job is to explain why.  Also, regardless of whether this is a student project or not, it’s also a commercial game that costs real money for people to own.  Maybe I expected too much from this, on the grounds that it comes from students who apparently took the same courses as the team behind the increasingly better looking Magnetic By Nature.  I’m not sure why the quality is so low that it can only be reached by submarine.  I would think maybe the team behind this partied too hard and studied too little, but we’re talking about the University of Utah here.  I think their idea of a party is sneaking a caffeinated beverage into the dorms.  Perhaps I’m completely wrong about the intentions though.  Maybe the assignment was to create the most broken, unplayable game possible, and then after it was released, fix it.  If so, A+ on the effort for part one.  Having said that, I would sooner believe the Titanic could be seaworthy again before anything could be salvaged from Avatar Trials.

xboxboxartAvatar Trials was developed by Stunt Bear Games

80 Microsoft Points noted that all the students and educators involved in the University of Utah’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering program have been class acts and are deserving of encouragement and support in the making of this review.  Just don’t buy this fucking game.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

22 Responses to Avatar Trials: Ninja Uprising

  1. Pingback: REVIEW: Avatar Trials: Ninja Uprising | the / . / XBLIG

  2. Jimmy Page says:

    I should say you can also very easily cheat on this game in some sections. Due to the wall run and wall jump you can in places avoid all the platforming and simply use the wall jump to climb the sides. In other parts you can wall run, wall jump then wall run again and avoid most of the platforming.
    So the levels are aesthetically, functionally and mechanically broken essentially, which I’d count as impressive as that’s them broken on every possible aspect there.

  3. Tyler Lennox says:

    Hmmm.. I didn’t have problems jumping. Maybe you’re just a noob at platform jumping.
    I guess I can understand your frustration (after all, you being a noob and all) when you played this game after busting your purse out and dropping all that hard-earned money (a whopping $1.00) on this game. I can only imagine your moment of despair.. blowing off the monthly utility payments so you can afford paying the entire price of that $1.00 student-made indie game. I’m sure that forking out such an outrageous amount of money gave you such high expectations for this game. It is such a shame that you won’t be able to buy off the dollar menu this month. :[

    I enjoyed playing the game. Then again, I bought the game with the understanding that it was an indie game that was likely created in a classroom by first-timers. I guess this understanding prepared me for the possibility of bugs, low graphic quality, and hey, maybe they overlooked a couple other programming details. Oh well. I’ve experienced buyer’s remorse over worse things priced at $1.00.

    Bottom line, I liked the game. The creators should heed only the constructive parts of this nasty review. You guys are in the top 20 for a reason. Keep up the good work, you guys are going places. This “gamer” chick will be writing video game reviews on twitter for years to come. Haters are gonna hate!


    Tyler Lennox

    • Let’s see, you’re from Utah, so chances are you’re buddies with the developers. The ones who asked for this review and told me to hold nothing back. Sort of like how I do with every review.

      Your totally unbiased opinion is noted.

      I thought Mormons were supposed to be classy and nice.

      • Hey Indie Gamer Chick,

        This is Ross from the Avatar Trials team.

        I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to look at our game. It was a personal goal to have you review my first XBLIG game and while I’m certain we disagree on some aspects of your review, I truly appreciate the critique. You gave us a pretty hard time, but it’s completely within your right as the reviewer to judge our game as you see fit.

        I’m sorry some people like Tyler Lennox can’t understand that criticism is an integral part of developing games on any level.

        We hope folks take the opportunity to try the free trial if they’re interested in seeing what all the commotion is about.


        Ross Marabella

        • I appreciate that.

          Now, can I ask what aspects you disagree with and why?

          I’ve talked with my admittedly small circle of friends, some of who are XBLIG critics, and we all really struggled to find nice things to say about your title.

          Brian and I offer props for being a good sport about this. The University of Utah should be proud of the types of students who are part of the Entertainment Arts and Engineering program. So while my reviews aren’t always nice to you guys, trust me when I say, nobody cheers your efforts harder.


          • I’m not sure it’s really my place to say. After all, it’s your critique and as much as I’d like to fight for everything in my game, that’s not the point. I’m here to learn and improve from negative feedback as much as I can.

            I guess I’d just argue that our game has some ‘merit’ 🙂 While the controls and camera could use more iterations and care, the game is playable and offers choices to the player. Most obstacles in the game have alternate ways around them and when you progress to the final stages, the game offers a good challenge. That’s my take at least. It was also somewhat frustrating to be compared to our good friends at Magnetic by Nature when their title is 2D and ours 3D. This added complexity to our production, but isn’t something I want to use as a crutch.

            In the end, I don’t believe we earned a place as one of the year’s worst XBLIG games, but you have every right to do that as the reviewer. In the mean time, I would love to recommend some retro or shoot-em up titles in order to get us off that list 😉

      • Oh, and I’m not Mormon. Not everyone here is ha ha 😛

    • Lesson one of working in the game industry, Don’t act like a jackass by slandering someone for giving an honest opinion.

  4. Tyler Lennox says:

    Well.. not from Utah. Grand Junction, CO. Nice try to disqualify my opinion though.

    Even if I was from Utah, however, your assumption regarding my religious beliefs based on my location are a little narrow minded. Should I expect this from all Californians? Based off your review of this game, I know I should expect it from you.

    There’s writing an honest review and then there’s being an end game level 90 fucking bitch about it. You chose the latter. For someone so “respected” in this community, I guess I expected more out of you. What a mistake I made. My recommendation: Gently (but firmly) pull the stick that doth travel far up thy ass.

    Forgive my mormon values.


    Tyler Lennox

  5. Tyler Lennox says:

    He can think I’m an idiot all he wants. I stand behind my initial opinion of your review. If all your reviews are like this, then how can anyone value YOUR opinion at all?
    Call me old fashioned, but I think a review should be fair on every aspect of the game and the fact of the matter is that the game is really quite fun to play. It certainly has its flaws, but what game doesn’t?


    Tyler Lennox

    • Well obviously not all my reviews are like this, as some of them are for good games. At last count, 153 out of 354 total XBLIGs reviewed got positive reviews. If I ignored everything wrong with games like you suggest and offered nothing but praise, that’s when my opinion would start to have no value at all. Sort of like yours. Think about it. The developers of the game you’re defending think you’re a moron. Meanwhile, they’re defending me, the person who said their game sucks. That really should tell you how valuable and appreciated your insight has been.

  6. Tyler Lennox says:

    Of course they’re defending you. It’d look like they were somehow involved with me if they supported my opinion regarding how absolutely awful your review was.
    My point is, there’s offering constructive criticism and then there’s ripping something apart and then shitting on all the pieces. The game isn’t THAT bad and your malicious review was worthless.

    • You just don’t get it, do you? Are you that dense as to not recognize that the reviewer (who I personally reached out to review my game) is entitled to say WHATEVER THEY WANT.

      Stop commenting and go away. I don’t know who you know on the development team whether they’re family or a close friend, but you’re embarrassing yourself and making the game look worse. If you really cared about Avatar Trials, you’d recognize how poorly you represent the fans of the game. Save some face and leave Indie Gamer Chick alone.

  7. Tyler Lennox says:

    I don’t know anyone on your development team, nor am I involved with the University of Utah or anything IN Utah for that matter. I was stating my opinion of this review. I certainly did not mean to make your game or its fans look bad. You’re right, I’m not helping you OR your game in anyway by arguing with this person so I’ll stop bothering with it. I apologize to you (Ross Marabella) and your crew for any embarrassment I may have caused.

    I will say, however, that if all the people who voted your game into the top 20 saw this review, the vast majority would agree with me.. and perhaps you’d change your tune.

    Okay. I’m finished.


    Tyler Lennox

  8. Blake Sleight says:

    Goodness, the hostility here is rather unprofessional.

    @Tyler, I doubt your reality, as facebook shows no Tyler Lennox living in Grand Junction, CO. Given that Tyler Lennox could just be an alias, I doubt it. Regardless, I apologize for Ross, his insults are a momentary lapse in judgement in an attempt to not look so unprofessional in responding to indie gamer chick’s review. We weren’t going to respond, but I guess he wanted to make the point that none of us would respond by rolling in the mud with indie gamer chick and insulting her and her ability to perform at playing games. We asked for the review and we got it, no reason to take it personal!

    @Indie gamer chick, I actually appreciate the review. Both the review here and The XBLIG haven’t offended me. I knew I wasn’t releasing a perfect game. This was the first attempt any of us have made at a 3D game. If we were truly indie, we wouldn’t have released until we had everything feeling better, but the semester came to an end, so we did our best to polish it up and shipped it off. I hope to improve both the controls and the camera in the next few weeks if I can find the time– but that’s obviously not relevant to the review. I’m not trying to lament in any fashion, rather I am more-or-less siding with you. I wish it was better.

    That being said, the melo-dramatic review is a bit over the top IMO. Worst game of the year? I know it’s got problems, and you might not even like it, or hate it, it is doing well. In a week, we’ve sold over 1K copies, sitting in at 15.62% purchase/trial ratio. Additionally we have a solid 80 ratings right now and we reign in at 4 stars! That’s ridiculous, I’d only expect 3 stars max. It seems as if people seem to like it. :X

    • Hiya Blake. I’ll respond bit by bit.

      “This was the first attempt any of us have made at a 3D game.”

      I get stuff like this a lot, but I don’t grade on a curve. I can’t give bonus points because it was a good first effort. So while when it’s just you and I talking, I can give you props for the good effort, in my review, I can’t say “well, you all should ignore better games at the same price point to give this a try because it was an A for effort.” If I reviewed based on experience level and effort, nearly every game here would get a positive review and my recommendation. Consequently, I would have no credibility as a critic and no readers.

      “Worst game of the year?”

      I said one of the worst of the year. For what it’s worth, you guys have a long ways to go before you’re as bad as Wright Brothers Mysteries. But I sincerely mean it’s one of the worst games I’ve played this year. I found nothing praiseworthy about it or no single aspect of it that I could recommend to consumers.

      “you might not even like it, or hate it, it is doing well. In a week, we’ve sold over 1K copies, sitting in at 15.62% purchase/trial ratio. Additionally we have a solid 80 ratings right now and we reign in at 4 stars! That’s ridiculous, I’d only expect 3 stars max. It seems as if people seem to like it”

      Would this be a good time to point out that the Transformers movies grossed 2.6 billion dollars and had a Cineascore average of B+? Numbers rarely account for good taste. But, you really should be proud of how it’s doing. There’s games on my top 25 list that would kill for those kind of numbers.

      • blackformic says:

        My intention of explaining the cause for the lack of perfection in the controls/camera was misunderstood. I understand the role of a critic, and I expect no sympathies for being a student or an indie dev. This is why I appreciate the reviews rather than get offended. I was merely me both agreeing with you, and lamenting because I do wish I had had the time before release to polish it more.

        “But I sincerely mean it’s one of the worst games I’ve played this year.” That is such a better statement! Who can argue that what’s the worst you’ve played!? Classifying it as one of the worst you’ve played, verses one of the worst, is a huge difference. IMO, it retains all credibility for those who read your site and value your opinion, without causing anyone to discredit your opinion based on the fact that they might have several worse games this year.

        Wtf, you can’t tell me you didn’t like each and every Transformers! J/k 😛 Yeah I was going to include a bit about sheeple purchasing and liking something doesn’t always follow a good piece of art, but then I’d risk calling those who like my game sheeple! 🙂

  9. Jim Perry says:

    It amazes me that people still try to argue their way out of a bad review. A first time game from a team of amateurs and they’re surprised that their game gets a bad review?!? Seriously? :\

    A couple of things struck me as funny – the argument that it’s only a $1 justifies it being bad. There are literally thousands of awesome games out there for that price so that argument is invalid. If you can’t match the gameplay/price of the competition don’t use that argument.

    “the game is playable and offers choices to the player.” – but if it’s not fun, what’s the point? Games are meant to be fun.

    The ratings and sales argument – you guys should know by now those are both meaningless. All kinds of crap gets good ratings and sales on XBLIG.

    Bottom line – if you’re going to release your game and expect people to pay for it, even if it’s only $1, expect to be treated like a business game developer, not just some hack in his mom’s basement making games for his own amusement. If you don’t want an honest review don’t charge people for it or ask for a review.

  10. Sean Colombo says:

    I’m surprised this hasn’t come up, but the box art is great, and since I subscribe to the DigitalDNA theory of XBLIG economics, that almost guarantees it to sell a handful of units.

    That’s not just ruthless money-grabbing either… more money is important because eventually the Utah peeps will all graduate, and if they’re going to make another game and a game after that – taking into account advice like this post – they’re going to get better and better!

    Often, people brush off box-art as marketing and not “real game dev”. But when you get down to it, that’s an important part of the complete product. They did really well with that aspect and I think I have a lot to learn from them on that front (if you see our initial box art for Hive, you’ll know what I mean).

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to review this, IC!

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