Ultimate Dodgeball, Avatars on the Edge, and Terranon Worlds

I’m probably not the best person to review today’s games, all of which have multiplayer in mind.  Even though I’m building up a base of friends (hey Bryce, Cameron, and Syd!), it’s not as if I have access to them at all times.  And then, when I actually do, XBLIGs are rarely high on their itinerary.  Even when I know an Xbox Indie is top quality, it’s tough to sell to them that our limited time together should be spent playing it instead of the latest mainstream title.  It’s like inviting people over for steak and lobster dinner, then trying to convince them to eat McDonalds instead.  Sure, McDonalds is occasionally delicious, but the steak and lobster is right there and the more sure-fire bet.

First up is Ultimate Dodgeball, which is a more or less straight telling of the actual sport.  And that’s the biggest problem with it.  Dodgeball doesn’t really lend itself well to video games on its own.  Without having over-the-top wackiness sprinkled on, such as the case in the still-popular-to-this-day (though I don’t understand why myself) Super Dodgeball.  Ultimate does have some power shots and special moves, but as a digital sport, it’s light on the excitement and gets old quickly.

Yep, that's Dodgeball. Look at it, all Dodgebally.

Yep, that’s Dodgeball. Look at it, all Dodgebally.

IGC_ApprovedDon’t get me wrong.  Ultimate Dodgeball is fundamentally a well made game, with intuitive controls.  Except when it came to catching the balls, which neither myself nor my playing partner (hey Cameron!) could get the hang of even after hours of practice.  There’s online play as well, which is the reason why this review is delayed by several months, as the original build was not stable.  All problems with it seem to be fixed, and we were able to enjoy a few rounds.  While it can be fun, it just doesn’t have staying power.  I guess I’m leaning towards a tepid recommendation.  But really, this game doesn’t need to exist.  I think there are much better options for games on Xbox 360 where the object is to launch projectiles at enemies to, ahem, eliminate them.

xboxboxartUltimate Dodgeball was developed by K-Dog Games (80 Microsoft Points miss the Dodgeball league they had on Gameshow Network).

Ultimate Dodgeball is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

A review copy was provided to Indie Gamer Chick for the purposes of testing out online multiplayer.  The copy played by the Chick was paid for with her money.  The review copy was given to a friend who had no feedback in this review.  Consult the FAQ for how review copies work at Indie Gamer Chick. 

Next up is Avatars on the Edge, which is sort of a skateboarding-race game that feels like a bad Mario Kart clone.  This is one of those titles where you play it and feel like the potential for something a cut above average has been laid, but it’s not ready for primetime yet.  The biggest problem is that the track layouts are confusing.  Avatars on the Edge does an admirable job of giving you a sense of speed, but you often have no idea which way you’re supposed to go.  The only help the game offers is a red beacon, but otherwise you have to trial-and-error your way through each course, which is not the type of gameplay I’m looking for in a racer.  Even worse is the insane requirements to unlock each new stage.  You have to hit a target time in order to progress, but those times are too short, probably from the developers being too good at their own game and not realizing that the rest of us haven’t spent our lives practicing at it.

Props to the team behind this for the graphics and frame-rate, which only had a few brief hiccups.  However, some of the courses look awful, with too much blacks and not enough texture.  Gives the game an unfinished look.

Props to the team behind this for the graphics and frame-rate, which only had a few brief hiccups. However, some of the courses look awful, with too much blacks and not enough texture. Gives the game an unfinished look.

Avatars on the Edge also has problems with fairness.  I played an online race set on a monorail track.  Because your character moves so fast and the controls are so loose, making narrow turns and taking sharp corners is frustrating.  Still, I was doing pretty well on this particular race.  Then the train came around again.  The strip you have on the side of the track is far too thin and leaves no margin for error, and thus I got smacked by the train.  But then, when I respawned, the train was still there and I got splattered again the very moment I came back.  Hmmph.  Finally, I respawn for the second time in a row, only it put my character on the edge of a cliff, and there was no way I could correct it, leading to me dying for the third time in just a few seconds.  That whole sequence pretty much sums up everything wrong with Avatars on the Edge.  Crappy stage layouts, overly difficult requirements placed on players, and unfair mechanics.  With a lot of patchwork, something good might come of it someday, but for now, this game sucks.

xboxboxart3Avatars on the Edge was developed by Mancebo Games (80 Microsoft Points liked this much more than their previous effort, the very dull Zombies Ruined My Day)

Finally, Terranon Worlds.  It’s the first game I’ve played on XBLIG that uses Asteroid style controls, which I’ve never been a fan of.  I think gaming has come a long ways since 1979.  Since that time, there’s been an amazing innovation called a “joystick” that allows for more precision movements.  Here, the stick is used just to aim you, while you have to manually fire thrusters.  I didn’t make it too far into Terranon Worlds though.  The enemies are too small, your are bullets too slow, and aiming is too imprecise.  Worst yet, the amount of enemies ramps up so quickly and they’re so picture perfect in their movements and aiming that the game quickly becomes unreasonable.

Plus, the upgradable stat thing is bungled horribly.  The worst part is how you have a limit on how many bullets you can fire at once.  This was an utterly awful idea given the sheer volume of enemies, and how tough it is to line up an accurate shot.  You have to spend the majority of the game running away from enemies while you wait for your bullets to refill.  You can upgrade these things, but the game becomes too overwhelming before you have enough points to put an acceptable amount of muscle in them.  Having said that, there’s a “free mode” where you get a ton of money right out of the starting gate to upgrade stats, and I still never found the gun was well done, even fully pumped up.  At best, I didn’t have to worry about my bullets running out.  Shooting was still too difficult because the enemies are too small and too fast.  I don’t know if multiplayer takes the ease off either, because nobody was willing to dive into this with me.  Can’t say I blame them.  If I got swimming through raw sewage, come out smelling like shit and complaining about how nasty it was, it’s hard to convince people to join you the next time.

Well, at least the enemies look like they get bigger.  Wait, why did the game start out with the smaller, harder to shoot enemies?  Shouldn't the bigger ones that make easier targets have been the tutorial-level baddies?

Well, at least the enemies look like they get bigger. Wait, why did the game start out with the smaller, harder to shoot enemies? Shouldn’t the bigger ones that make easier targets have been the tutorial-level baddies?

While I dig Terranon Worlds’ neo-retro vibe, it just isn’t fun.  Some older concepts can be done today with modern sensibilities and become spectacular.  Look at We Are Cubes.  Look at Orbitron.  Look at Minigame Marathon.  These are games that take tired ideas and make them work again.  You can’t just dig up antiquated game mechanics, throw upgradable stats in, and expect it to still be relevant in today’s climate.  The developer of Terranon Worlds did that, and his game suffers for it.  He should have asked himself what could be improved with the original formula.  The tiny enemies, for example.  I always hated picking off the last tiny fragments in Asteroids.  Some kind of aiming bar, or cross-hairs, or homing shots might have improved that.  Instead, you have to watch while your bullets miss and the enemies leave you no room for second chances.  That’s what frustrates me about Terranon Worlds.  The formula wasn’t worked with enough to make it palatable.  Also known as Pepsi Next Syndrome.

xboxboxart2Terranon Worlds was developed by Snargosoft (80 Microsoft Points think whatever chances that Asteroids movie had of being made were probably sunk by Battleship in the making of this review).

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

One Response to Ultimate Dodgeball, Avatars on the Edge, and Terranon Worlds

  1. There are a few XBLIGs with Asteroid controls, and I’ve never understood why. Asteroids controlled that way because no one had come up with a better option yet.

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