The Useful Dead

The Useful Dead is platform-puzzler where you must intentionally murder the current character you’re playing as in a way that allows the next character you get to finish the stage.  Perhaps a distant, platformer cousin of Lemmings, or maybe Voodoo Vince.  It’s a cool concept, but cool is as far as they get.  I certainly didn’t hate Useful Dead.  I like it enough to give it my seal of quality (spoiler alert).  But it ultimately felt more like a really good proof of concept than a fully realized game.

The biggest problem was the puzzles.  They were too damn easy.  Besides the “kill yourself to use your corpse as a platform and/or crate” gimmick, the difficulty hook comes from only having ten extra-expendable creatures throughout the length of the game.  In other words, if a level’s par is three creatures and you kill four before reaching the goal, you would only have nine expendable creatures left to beat the game.  I actually finished the game with thirteen expendable creatures, having finished a couple of stages under par.  Yea, that was in part by design, but at the same time, I’m pretty sure I was finishing more than one stage in ways the developer didn’t have in mind.  This was especially true of the last stage, which I beat after the game glitched and one of the critters clung to a platform for no reason.

The dude in the yellow circle is NOT supposed to be able to stick to the wall like that. Ironically, this would have been the only stage where I was incorrect about the solution if he had fallen to the ground.

This is the final stage of The Useful Dead.  The dude in the yellow circle is NOT supposed to be able to stick to the wall like that. Ironically, this would have been the only stage where I would have been incorrect about the solution if he had fallen to the ground.

The puzzles lack in variety as well.  Most involve impaling yourself on a spike, then maneuvering your corpse in a way that activates a button that opens the door.  Sometimes you’ll have to do this in two or three different ways.  Others might involve using wind to push corpses into switches, or jumping from high ledges in a way to die and land on a switch, or kicking corpses into switches.  Again, this is where the whole “proof of concept” thing kept beating me over the head like I was a baby seal.  There are multiple different animals, but none of them have unique abilities.  Perhaps having levels use specific animals with unique traits, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, or special maneuvers would have added to the complexity.  As it stands, all the puzzles have self-evident solutions and it’s just a matter of how much time you want to put into breaking the game and coming in under par.  XBLIG has been home to some of the most mind-bending puzzlers of this last console generation, such as Gateways, Spyleaks, and Pixel Blocked!  By comparison, Useful Dead is mere child’s play.  Easy to the point of being insulting.  And I really hate saying that about any indie developer’s puzzles.  I don’t know.  It feels like I’m telling someone that their child has funny ears.

screen3

PETA’s favorite game.

If you think of The Useful Dead as a bare-bones prototype, possibly something you would see if you were pitching a publisher on a concept, it does soften the blow somewhat.  I did like what I saw here, but not as much as I could have.  Yea, my recommendation is as tepid as I’m capable of giving, but I still hope you try it.  And I certainly don’t want to discourage the developer from working with this more.  In fact, I would be really disappointed if The Useful Dead was a one-off experiment.  Fuck that.  There’s a great puzzler somewhere in here.  Something with potential to short-circuit your grey matter, but absurd enough to be a big, word-of-mouth hit.  The product we have here feels like something that barely made it off the drawing board.  You know, Star Wars was originally about a search for a magical crystal.  Sonic the Hedgehog was originally going to be a clown.  Woody was originally an evil bastard trying to murder Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story.  In the case of The Useful Dead, it’s like we got the early draft instead of the finished product.  So help me God, this better not be the end of this project.  If it is, I’ll demonstrate how useful the dead really are when I re-purpose the developer’s corpse as a morbid coffee table.

xboxboxartThe Useful Dead was developed by Bootdisk Revolution

IGC_Approved$1 would have entered the Name the Game Contest with “Animals: They’re Not Just for Eatin’ Anymore” in the making of this review.

The Useful Dead is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  Look somewhere near the bottom.

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

9 Responses to The Useful Dead

  1. “If you think of The Useful Dead as a bare-bones prototype, possibly something you would see if you were pitching a publisher on a concept, it does soften the blow somewhat.”

    It’s funny you should say this, because when I saw this game on Xbox Live I was immediately reminded of Life Goes On, an upcoming PC game that uses the same concept. Indeed, given that The Useful Dead likely put hardly any time to put to together, I find myself wondering if this is just a coincidence, or a developer capitalizing on someone else’s great idea for a quick buck.

    • I know that Useful Dead had been in the works for a while before it released. The developer of it had spoken to me about it back in the Spring. Not sure how long Life Goes On has been known for. I’ll ask Bootdisk. Check back here in a day or two.

  2. I don’t know when Life Goes On was first announced, but it’s my understanding that it’s been in development since early 2012. At any rate, like I said it’s probably just a coincidence and even if The Useful Dead did take inspiration from Life Goes On, it’s a common enough and well accepted practice for developers to take ideas from each other’s games.I’m not accusing Bootdisk Revolution of being horrible thieves or anything, just pointing out the more substantial game using its premise that you said you’d like to see is already in the works from someone else.

  3. Y. Exeter says:

    I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned “SeppuKuties” in the comments. SeppuKuties has been out since 2008 on ArmorGames and other flash sites, and follows a very similar, if not near-identical, premise.

  4. noirthesable says:

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned “SeppuKuties” in the comments yet. That game has pretty much an identical premise as this one, and it’s been around on flash game sites like ArmorGames since 2008 or so.

    If anything, a more likely source of inspiration than “Life Goes On”.

  5. Pingback: REVIEW: The Useful Dead | the / . / XBLIG

  6. Pingback: Escape Goat 2 | Indie Gamer Chick

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