Mechanician Alex and Pablo’s Fruit

I’m baffled when unambitious games come along that strive only to look and play kind of, sort of like the classics of ye olden days.  All I can think of is: why?  Why not make them better, or at least give them a different hook?  Especially since those old games already fucking exist and have been played to death.  Hey, not everyone is creative.  But even if you’re uncreative, you must have actually played the games and know what works in them and what doesn’t.  I don’t expect perfection from an indie developer, but I also expect that, as gamers, they know the difference between fun and boring.

I'm going somewhere with this, I swear.  This is Mechanician Alex, a game that from 2013 designed for fans of 80s PC games that fans of PC games from the 80s would have shit on.  In the 80s.

Mechanician Alex, a game from 2013 designed for fans of 80s PC games that 80s PC gaming fans would have shit on.

Then you get into the realm of pure raving insanity, where you try to ape a gameplay style that wasn’t all that good to begin with.  Mechanician Alex wants to be one of those old-timey, single-screened platformers from the Commodore 64 or ZX Spectrum era.  I know a lot of my readers are still gaga over them.  When I reviewed the official XBLIG port of one of the all-time cherished members of that genre, Manic Miner, the old farts that read me were less than receptive to my take on it.  Fine.

But would those gamers be receptive to a game that looks like it could have been a lost game in that series, and plays almost like them, only everything is a little worse?  I’m guessing not.  Strip away the attempt at making a player nostalgic, and Mechanician Alex is simply a bad game.  The controls are atrocious.  Unresponsive controls are a signature of these type of games, and getting used to the wacky delayed timing is supposed to be part of the charm.  I guess if you’re playing a game legitimately made in that era, that’s acceptable.  Well, at least if you’re a child of that era looking to reclaim your youth.  But fans of those games aren’t in denial about the controls being shit.  Why the FUCK would a game made in 2013 try to emulate that?  Manic Miner fans aren’t going to Tweet each other saying “Oh my God, this game controls even worse than Manic Miner.  IT’S FUCKING AWESOME!!”

Mechanician Alex was developed by 3T Games ($1 got a teeny tiny chuckle out of the level where enemies consisted of Rubik's Cubes and the female symbol ♀.  Perhaps the developers were not fans of me or Xona Games)

Mechanician Alex was developed by 3T Games ($1 got a teeny tiny chuckle out of the level where enemies consisted of Rubik’s Cubes and the female symbol ♀. Perhaps the developers were not fans of me or Xona Games)

And the levels are poorly designed too.  The game has a real issue with height.  For example, on one stage you’ll be walking on a cloud that is bumpy, like clouds tend to be.  There’s almost no clearance, and an enemy is scooting back and forth above your head.  Unfortunately, the collision detection is spotty enough that you’re bound to burn lives just trying to get a feel for it, and there’s so many variables on the height that never seem right.  It immediately stinks of a stage that was rushed through production.  Beyond that, if you slip off the cloud, you can’t finish the level regardless of whether you land on a platform or not.  This is really fundamental level design stuff and I shouldn’t have to have explained to you why its bad.  It’s a worst game of the year contender.

Sadly, the same developer recently went on a release spree, and they also brought out a side-scrolling platformer called Pablo’s Fruit, and it’s even worse.  Taking it a step further than Mechanician Alex, it’s a contender for worst XBLIG ever made.  Every gameplay aspect of Pablo’s Fruit is terrible.  Here, the idea is you have to collect all of the fruit in a level to open up an exit.  Movement is slow and jumping is floaty, which makes playing through the levels a tedious chore.  And then you get to the technical issues.  When you take damage, you don’t recoil from it, and you don’t get much (if any) invincibility to prevent further damage.  Thus, it’s conceivable that you could go from 5 “lives” to 0 in a second just from getting pinned next to an enemy.  That’s just utterly lazy, sloppy programming.  This is coupled with poor level design.  In one stage, the level opens with a fruit above your head, out of reach.  At the end of the stage, by the exit, there’s a teleporter that drops you back at the start.  You collect the fruit, but you have to walk all the way back to the exit.  All enemies you’ve taken out are still gone, which begs the question: WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU MAKE SOMEONE DO SOMETHING SO FUCKING BORING?  Didn’t it occur to anyone making this piece of shit?

And it’s got dumb logic too.  Enemies are beaten by jumping on their heads.  But it’s not always clear which enemies will die when you do it and which ones you’ll pass-through, taking damage along the way.  I made a video to demonstrate.

What the fuck?  By the way, that vulture that’s flying back and forth?  You die from jumping on it too.  Why the hell does a ghost (hypothetically a transparent, dimensional being) die from being crushed but not an insect or a bird?  Is this some kind of PETA subliminal message?

An annoying aspect is there are these butterflies that contentiously fly around.  They're supposed to be in the background, but it's done poorly and thus they often look like enemies in the foreground.

An annoying aspect is there are these butterflies that continuously fly around. They’re supposed to be in the background, but it’s done poorly and thus they often look like enemies in the foreground.

If I sound too negative, please keep in mind that I actively, for days, tried to think of something nice to say about these games.  I came up completely empty.  The sad thing is, both these games are courtesy of the developer of Naoki Tales.  I didn’t like it either, but really, its only true sin was being boring.  These games represent a gigantic step backwards.  Pablo’s Fruit came out a day after Mechanician Alex, and those came out a few days after another game by the same guys, Paper Galactica.  I’m not doing a full review on that (click the link, because Tim Hurley did), but it was pretty fucking boring as well.  Three games, all released in one week.  If I had to ask these guys a question besides “have you ever actually played a video game?” it would be “why didn’t you guys focus on one project?”  Granted, it’s possible that all three games sat in peer review purgatory until the community came out of a coma and put them through to the market.

Pablo's Fruit was developed by 3T Games ($1 asked if Pablo washed his ass in the making of this review)

Pablo’s Fruit was developed by 3T Games ($1 asked if Pablo washed his ass)

Actually, I would have one more question, and this is the most obvious one: would you actually want to play these games if you hadn’t made them?  Would you pay money for them?  Hell, would you play them if they were free?  Yea, that’s three questions, not one, but all of them are valid.  Look, these games suck.  You’re not going to make a lot of money on them.  They don’t even have the absurdity or the charm of Silver Dollar’s low-end, quick cash stuff.  Bad games DO make money on XBLIG, but your stuff isn’t falling into those niches that have such potential.  So don’t rush your games out.  Polish up your work.  Do something wild and creative.  I’ve played four of your games.  Not one of them managed to entertain me or any of my colleagues for a single second, nor did any of them display the slightest bit of creativity.  If I had to guess, I would guess the developers were bored silly making these.  Their existence seems almost cynical.  Both are trying to capitalize on nostalgic memories.  But unless it’s a port of something, you’re not going to lure in day-dreamy nostalgic types.  Being primitive shouldn’t be confused with being a classic, and these games are so primitive that they sacrifice virgins to the sun gods.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

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