#DiscoverIndies

On Friday, January 4th, a new concept for trying to help spread awareness of under-the-radar indie games will get its first run, and it has the full backing of IndieCade.

I call it #DiscoverIndies
DvoSiBsX0AAup73

#DiscoverIndies

The idea is simple: on first Friday of every month in 2019, gamers of all stripes will be encouraged to purchase a single indie game that they’ve never heard of before. It can be on any platform, any genre, or any price (including free-to-play), as long as they’ve never previously heard of it.

You then play that game and report back on how much (or how little) you enjoyed it on social media using the hashtag #DiscoverIndies, including screenshots and clips if possible. You can also stream the game, blog on it, do video essays on it, or review it. As long as you give the game a moment that it might otherwise have never gotten.

The hope is that people will see the activity from the event, see games that are enticing to them that they’ve also never heard of, and maybe inspire them to also purchase that game. While you are discovering games through the campaign, others will also get to share in your discovery, ultimately giving these games a chance to find their elusive audience.

I’ve been a member of the indie game community for seven years, and trust me when I say that most developers never find their audiences. Lack of fanbase should not be mistaken for lack of talent. I’ve played outstanding games from nameless, faceless developers who will never see their characters become Funko figures. If we, as a community, can make #DiscoverIndies a cool, trendy activity to participate in once a month, this could give them a shot at success on the level they’ve only dreamed of.

How do I participate?

On the first Friday of every month, go to the marketplace of your favorite gaming platform and just browse. You can use whatever filters you feel necessary to narrow your options. Just keep browsing until a game stands out to you that you’ve never heard of before that you would want to play. Buy it, play it, report back on it on social media using the hashtag #DiscoverIndies. It’s that simple.

A good idea is to start with the game’s title screen, include the platform you bought it on and the price you paid for it. If you have the time, check to see if you can find the developer’s handle and include it.

And then just play the game. Put a quality amount of time into it. When moments pop-out to you, take a screenshot or clip (these functions are built into all current game consoles and Steam) and then upload them to your social media (preferably Twitter). Make sure to include the #DiscoverIndies hashtag, so that others can see the game you played while browsing the tag.

Can I choose a game I already know about?

Then you’re not really discovering a game, are you? The discovery process is what makes this work and assures that the initiative doesn’t devolve into gamers promoting the same small handful of games. And so we ask participants to choose games they’ve never played so that they are the ones making the discovery, and let others share in your sense of discovery. While many of you feel that Undertale, Hollow Knight, Dead Cells, or Celeste deserve bigger audiences, the truth is they do have followings already. The goal of #DiscoverIndies is to help those games and developers that have little-to-no following.

But what if the game I already know about is under-the-radar?

We’re going to assume you’ve already been singing the praises of it and those who follow you should already have heard about the game from you, hence the need to pick a game you’ve never heard of before. If that’s not the case, why have you been keeping this hidden gem you’ve previously discovered to yourself? 99.99% of all indie games are fully dependent on word-of-mouth to find their audiences, so if you’ve already found a game and haven’t done your part to spread the word of the game, you can’t really call yourself a fan of it, can you?

How do I find the game?

You browse the marketplace pages of your favorite platforms and keep looking until a game catches your attention that you think you’ll have a good time on Friday with. Check to make sure it’s not published by a AAA studio, and if it’s not, grab it.

Use whatever criteria you need. To really make it fun, wait until the day of the event to shop for the game, and go off your first, visceral instinct.

What if I can’t afford to buy a game?

Steam has a WONDERFUL collection of free-to-play indie games by hungry developers looking to find their audiences. Check them out! There’s a very wide variety, including games that should be compatible with even low-end computers.

I’m gaming media. Can I do the #DiscoverIndies work before each Friday and then post the work on the day of the event?

Absolutely. If you’re going to go more in-depth with the game you select and need time to produce the content so that it’ll be ready for each #DiscoverIndies Friday, by all means do what you need to do to participate to the best of your ability.

Can the game be older or does it have to be a recent release?

You can choose any indie game released at any time. Every game deserves a chance to find its audience. As long as it’s under the radar and you’ve never heard of it, by all means choose it.

#DiscoverIndies Dates

January 4, 2019
February 1, 2019
March 1, 2019
April 5, 2019
May 3, 2019
June 7, 2019
July 5, 2019
August 2, 2019
September 6, 2019
October 4, 2019
November 1, 2019
December 6, 2019

Logo by Gordon Little

Indies in Due Time: Dream-Build-Play 2012 Episode 1

Originally, Brian and I planned to look at ALL the trailers for the 2012 Dream Build Play competition.  And then nearly 400 people entered.  Yea, so plans have changed.  Although Brian and I will be getting to as many of these trailers as we can in the coming weeks, our planned alliance with Armless Octopus to do so is semi-on-hold.  Yes, Dave Voyles and Mike Wall will be joining us this week.  But we’re also now pairing up with Alan of Indie Ocean, and Tim & Nate from Gear-Fish.  Nate is up first, fresh off the first anniversary of Gear-Fish, so you should all head over there and check their site out.  They’re way better writers than me, so you should have been doing that all along.  All four of today’s games were selected by Nate.  Off we go.

Read more of this post

Indies in Due Time: 150,000 Served Edition – May 2, 2012

150,000 page views in ten months.  Wowzers.  I know I do this every milestone and I’m sure you’re all sick and tired of it by now, but I have a lot of people to thank.  Thank you Dave Voyles of Armless Octopus and Kris Steele of Fun Infused Games.  They ran the 2011 Indie Game Summer Uprising, and without their support and suggestions, I strongly doubt anyone would have ever found this site.  Both guys encouraged me to get involved in the Uprising by interviewing participating developers.  I admit, my interview skills were mediocre at best, but it helped me find an audience, and I will forever be grateful to them.  Dave especially, who has offered so much support.  Funny enough, I met Dave back in 2000 when we used to play NBA 2K1 against each other on the Sega Dreamcast.  I was 11 years old, and he knew me as “that annoying person who plays as the Golden State Warriors and quits whenever she’s losing by more than 20 points.”  Thankfully I’ve since matured into the well-respected chain-cussing, dick and fart joke pseudo-critic I am today.  Maybe “mature” wasn’t the right word.

I would like to thank two people who interviewed me for their websites, giving people a chance to see a slightly different side of me.  That would be Bruno Barbera of Italian gaming blog Recenopoli and Taylor Iscariot of Albatross Revue.  I would like to thank all those people who have linked to me on their blogs, websites, and forums.

I want to thank my incredible boyfriend Brian.  I don’t know why you put up with me, or where you find the infinite patience you have in dealing with me, but I’m so lucky that you have it.  I am the luckiest person in the world, and you’re proof of that.   I love you Brian, with all my heart.

I want to thank all the developers who have accepted me as a part of their community.  I’ve heard a couple of them use the term “valuable” with me in a non-hostage/mail-order-bride context, which is pretty cool.  Big thanks to Ian Stocker, Alex Jordan, Scott Tykoski, George Clingerman, Shahed Chowdhuri, and Adam Spragg for their contributions to my site, Tales from the Dev Side.  It’s because of the encouragement of developers like them that I strive to do better for the Xbox Live Indie Game community that has treated me so well.  You guys make me feel special, and I won’t forget that.

Finally, I want to thank all the new friends I’ve made through Indie Gamer Chick.  I’ve never been the most social person, and don’t have a lot of what you would call “friends.”  But I’ve met some awesome people through here, and I think I could call them my friends.  Guys like Alan C (tea drinking limey bastard), who never fails to make me laugh.  Tim Hurley of Gear-Fish, who is like the ultimate little ego-booster, and a hell of a writer too.  Nate Graves, who is like the big brother I never had, and you should send him stink bombs until he returns to writing at Gear-Fish.  Cyril of Defunct Games, who is always there to argue over silly bullshit with me.  I don’t know what the future holds for my site, other than continued growth (fingers crossed) and maybe a Pulitzer Prize for best use of vaginal jokes.  But, no matter what, I know you guys will be my friends long after Indie Gamer Chick ceases to be.

Alright, I’m done now.  No more sappy bullshit.  Onto the trailers!

Read more of this post

Save me Mr Tako: Tasukete Tako-San and Pirate Pop Plus

I didn’t grow up with an original Game Boy, and only had a Game Boy Pocket because I wanted to dive into the Pokemon craze right away and had gullible parents unaware that Game Boy Color would be arriving two months after Red & Blue hit the US. To say I have zero nostalgia for the platform would be an understatement. Especially when my primary reason for wanting to own a Game Boy in the first place was a series that’s had roughly two-kajillion sequels with essentially the same gameplay but better writing since then. And frankly, I was never a big fan of the watershed titles for the platform. I’ve played all the Mario Lands. I had Link’s Awakening DX on Game Boy Color. They were what they were, but I wasn’t a fan. Really, the only stand-out to me was Donkey Kong ’94, and that was by virtue of it not having a console-counterpart. If you had asked 10-year-old me what was the worst game I owned in 1999, there’s a good chance I would have answered Donkey Kong Land. Mind you, I had Bubsy 3D.

That’s no joke, by the way. I asked Santa Claus for a PlayStation 1 for Christmas of 1996 because I got hooked on playing Crash Bandicoot while playing a PS kiosk. A few months later, it was time for me to pick out my first non-Christmas-gift game for my first ever console. This is what I chose. With encouragement from my parents, who thought it looked “easy for a little girl.” So my parents were condescending, had horrible taste in games, AND were sexist. On the plus side, I think the seeds for Indie Gamer Chick were planted that week. I really do.

Until recently, while I believe my “anti-Nintendo” reputation was a bum rap, it’s safe to say I really was anti-Game Boy. Following my re-evaluation of Donkey Kong ’94, along with my play sessions with Operation C and Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge, I’ll admit that portable gamers weren’t entirely hosed. But I also don’t get why anyone would want to make a game that looks and plays like a Game Boy game in the modern age. A severely limited system where even the best games had many compromises that had to be made in order to keep them portable. Don’t get me wrong: it is impressive when someone pulls off the mimicry without it feeling like they just colored a game in creamed spinach tones. Take both the games I’m reviewing today. They both feel very authentic, to the point that you can buy them as lost 1989 – 1995 titles for the platform that were just now unearthed. If seeing that off-putting color palette stokes those nostalgia fires, ignore this review. Both these games rise high enough that they should work for you. Well, that’s assuming you ignore the maddening difficulty of Mr Tako, but since so many blowhards from that era bitch about games today being too easy, I assume that’s you.

For everyone else, the question is: how good are these games on their own merit?

I want to be.. under the sea.. in a Octopus’s gar.. OH SHIT! NOBODY SAID THEY FORM ARMIES! RUN!

Save me Mr Tako is probably considered the best Game Boy-like ever. It’s super popular. And, yeah, it really does feel like something that could pass for an unreleased mid-90s Game Boy title. One of the ones that came out after developers figured out how to optimize it around the time Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 or Link’s Awakening hit.  It also offers alternate color palettes that I believe are based on ones offered by the Super Game Boy. The sound, the look, the cramped field of vision. It’s all here. For better and for worse. Picture “worse” here being carved into a series of Everest-sized mountains.

Mr Tako is one of the most baffling experiences of my IGC life, because everything is in place for a fun game. It has a quirky story about a brewing war between sentient octopi and humans. It has an absolute ton of power-ups to keep things fresh through-out. The storyline has you occasionally switch from playing as the titular Mr Tako to human characters to solve puzzles and beat levels. And Mr Tako is potentially one of the great indie mascots. He’s overflowing with charm and personality and is Pikachu-levels of adorable. And there’s a huge variety of levels and themes and enemies. Really, Save Me Mr Tako should be an indie platforming epic.

Look how happy Mr Tako is just to jump! I just want to pinch his little cheeks. Wait, do octopi have cheeks?

And I was just so bored playing it that I legitimately felt guilty. Like it was on me. That *I* was doing something wrong. And this is before the game totally shit the bed with some of the most cheap, unfair shit I’ve seen in years and one really bad oversight. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Save Me Mr Tako was developed by Christophe Galati ($4.99, normally $14.99 peed lavender ink in the making of this review). **NOTE: This review only covers the Nintendo Switch version. The Steam version is updated to fix many things complained about here. I didn’t like the base game and didn’t care to pay to start over a game I didn’t enjoy in the first place. But the Steam version might be better.

The one concession that Mr Tako offers that feels modern is offering 20 starting lives. As opposed to just doing away with lives. I mean seriously, if you’re going so far as to give players 20 lives, why do lives at all? Every other aspect feels married to being a Game Boy release. The levels are ambitious for 1991-93, but not for modern gaming. Just lots of jumping around. Trees. Nook-and-cranny exploration and searching. It feels like it’d be an incredible, critically acclaimed, game-of-the-year-on-its-platform contender. And it’s not just a typical hop-and-bop. Mr Tako can’t kill enemies. Instead, he hits them with ink and it stops them. While covered in ink, he can jump on them to reach higher platforms. All this framed with a relatively complex story that’s sort of like Wag the Dog, only with an army of Octopuses. Of course, the writing is married to being Game Boy-like as well. Very on-the-nose. Very to-the-point. The most basic writing style. I hate it when neo-retro games do that. The only one that’s really pulled it off is Shovel Knight, where at least the visuals did a little more.

For whatever reason, Mr Tako just never held my attention. I’d knock out a few stages, find something else to play, and dread reopening it thinking “oh God, I’m not liking this and everyone is going to be pissed at me.” Because I honestly couldn’t put my finger on why it wasn’t “doing it” for me. Maybe it was too simple? Maybe it was too basic of design. I don’t know. I did like one aspect of the platforming: when you’re just under being able to jump up on a ledge, the game automatically gives you a little boosty next to the edge of it to put you up and over the top on it. It’s actually nifty. Never seen a game do that. And that is the only aspect of the gameplay that really stood out to me in almost three hours. Now mind you, by time I threw in the towel, I was only 22% complete on the game. If anyone thinks I gave up too early, (1) if a game needs three hours and over 20% of its contents to “get to the good stuff” I say that game is an automatic failure and (2) by time I did quit, Mr Tako had absolutely cratered into a slog of frustration and madness that made me actively hate it.

The good people of the Exxon corporation would like to remind you that THIS SEAL IS HAPPY!

Mr Tako’s one-hit difficulty becomes intolerable when playing as anyone but the octopus. A human character with no means of defense who has twice as much surface-area for enemies and projectiles is just not as fun to play with in our zany cephalopod adventure. It creates such an unwelcome pacing issue in what is already a game that feels slow despite having relatively small stages. There’s fifty hats that grant Mr Tako powers, but most of the ones I’ve gotten so far aren’t fun to play with. And on top of all that, the current Switch build doesn’t pause the action when you open doorways by solving “puzzles” (which is as simple as pushing a gravestone). When the camera pans over to show you what you opened up, you can die, even though you’re not on the screen and have no means of defenes. It’s one of the worst oversights I’ve ever seen in a game. There’s actually a patch that’s been waiting to be applied for a long time, but the developer has no control over when it’ll go through. It’s apparently fixed on Steam, but it doesn’t change the fact that I had no fun up to the point I quit. Maybe the easy mode that’s included in the patch will fix that. I don’t know. I’ll need to try it again when that patch hits. I know one of the devs from Twitter. Nice guy. He knows to hit me up for his Second Chance with the Chick when it’s live.

By the point I quit, I burned 40 lives between only two levels, trying to get past crows and ghosts that buzz-bomb you. Often with limited room to actually dodge them. And then, when I’d actually got past them, I’d open up a pathway by shoving a gravestone over, only I’d somehow die before the camera reached the thing it was trying to show me I unlocked. I’m happy a patch is coming (maybe. Apparently, it’s been stuck in queue for months), but seriously, how did they miss THAT in play testing? Developers really need to remember to find people who don’t know how to play the games to do the testing. If they can’t find such a person, they need to pretend they don’t know themselves and play like a newb would. I run into shit like this far too often.

Really, I think I must just be bias against looking like a Game Boy game. Because I recently also bought a game called Pirate Pop Plus. Instead of opting for complexity, it feels more like one of those really simple early-generation GB titles like Alleyway or Balloon Kid. Inspired by the classic arcade game Pang (also known as Buster Bros. in many releases), you throw a harpoon up at bubbles, which split into progressively smaller bubbles. The twist in the formula is that a pirate shows up to randomly shift the gravity on you, causing the action to rotate around the play-field. It is a fresh twist that manages to play intuitively. I should have liked it given that I’ve enjoyed Pang in the past, and while the gravity stuff is unquestionably gimmicky, it does work.

Also, neither Mr Tako nor Pirate Pop Plus allowed video capture on Switch. Which really sucks for them more than it does me because I post roughly six-thousand 30-second clips per Switch game during my play sessions, give or take. I might not have a million followers on Twitter, but the nearly 20K I do have buy a lot of games based on those videos. Indies are dependent on word of mouth, but with quick video capture options, they can also use show-and-tell too. You need every tool you can get, developers. Don’t cut your fans off from doing your marketing for you.

And yet, I was once again just sort of bored. There’s visibility issues (mostly owing to the backgrounds occasionally being too noisy) and the whole thing just looks and feels very old and tired. I normally don’t give a flip about visuals, but here, they don’t work. And I don’t think it’s just about having a limited four-color palette. Gyro Boss DX had one also. But there, the visuals are stark and clean. No matter what color scheme you’re using in Pirate Pop Plus, it’s still married to a Game Boy aesthetic not in service to the actual gameplay. And that’s a damn shame, because looking the way Pirate Pop Plus does really does take effort. It’s not like making your game look this way is a corner-cutting measure.

Bill Simmons often points out the weird, unique-to-basketball phenomena where traded NBA players look completely different in their new uniforms. When Shaquille O’Neal was dealt midway through the 2007-08 season from the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns, even though he was exactly the same player he had been just a few days before, Shaq suddenly looked fat and out of shape upon donning the Suns jersey. But nothing had changed besides putting on a new top. When Kwame Brown was traded from the Wizards to the Lakers, he looked amazing in the purple and gold, and for all we knew, he was going to breakout and prove he wasn’t one of the biggest busts ever. It didn’t happen, and why would it? He was still Kwame Brown! He sucked! But man, did he wear that Lakers outfit to perfection. Meanwhile, I watched Kevin Durant for three seasons on my Golden State Warriors, and while he played marvelously for us, something always looked horribly off. I think even the most diehard Dubnation member would concede it.

There’s tons of unlockables to keep players interested. But, no online leaderboards, which is the only thing with me proven to for-sure keep me going even with games I dislike.

Pirate Pop Plus was developed by Dadako ($3.56, normally $4.99, received an Angry Pirate once in the making of this review)

I can’t help but wonder if this also applies to video games. I recently played Contra Anniversary Collection. When I saw Operation C, and by “saw” I mean literally saw screenshots of it, I was bracing for the absolute worst. It used almost the same character models and lots of aspects of the game were simply black-and-white versions of gameplay elements lifted directly from Contra and Super C on the NES. But it just looked wrong. And guess what? It wasn’t at all. It was one of the best Game Boy games I ever played. One of the most faithful adaptions from the NES to the Game Boy I’ve experienced. And for the entire two hour play-session, my brain kept telling me “this can’t be happening. It just looks like it shouldn’t be possible!” At least my session with Operation C tells me that I’d recognize a good game when I play one. So I don’t actually think Save Me Mr Tako or Pirate Pop Plus are good. But then again, maybe if they looked different, I’d be willing to give them a little more rope. Besides to hang themselves with, I mean.

TORIDAMA: Brave Challenge

It’s #DiscoverIndies Friday. But, while I’m the creator of the movement, it’s harder than it sounds for me to actually participate. I’m a game critic who purchases all the indies I review. That requires a lot of marketplace browsing. There’s not too many games I’ve missed. So I have to cruise closely towards new releases. And very, very early this morning, I found my hidden gem. It’s called TORIDAMA: Brave Challenge. It’s a cross between WarioWare and Chicken. Not in the bucket of fried sense, but as in, “how close can you come to dying without actually doing it?” I’m a chain smoker, recovering drug addict, and a video gamer that suffers from epilepsy who is currently running through older, flashier titles. Guys, this game was fucking made for me!

This seems slightly like jabbing the hornet’s nest with a stick.

For example, there’s a game literally based on Chicken with a car. There’s a car. There’s a cliff. You have to hit the break to stop the car as close to the cliff as possible without going over. It sums up the concept of Toridama best. Press button to not die, but come close enough to kick the Grim Reaper in the balls. Which probably should have been a game in it now that I think about it. There’s only nineteen total minigames in Toridama, but really, how many variations of this concept can you possibly squeeze out? As it turns out, not even nineteen. There’s an RPG style minigame where you have to stop a meter as close to the center of a bar as possible. Yes, you can choose to run away, but success requires you to keep trying the meter. It sort of betrays the theme, but really all the games are about timing stuff. Probably the one furthest away from the core concept requires you to cook meat using lava by tapping the button to keep yourself as close to the edge of the lava as possible over the course of ten seconds. Yea, you’re still kinda tempting death and testing your courage, but it doesn’t compare to a game based around waiting to open your parachute as close to the ground as possible. I.. uh.. wasn’t so good at that one.

To be clear: it’s a great theme for a game. It’s clever. But Toridama is relatively light on content and what games we do have wear thin quickly. And some of them are extremely fickle about what constitutes a failure or a pass. Each game has a maximum score of 9,999 points. But with some games, there’s apparently so thin a line between scoring in the 5K range, scoring the 10K, or failing that it feels less like skill and more like sheer luck. And that extends to the online leaderboard, which you land on via “Crazy Mode” that requires you to score 9,000K or more or to advance to the next game. The games are thrown at you in random order and I was fucked more than once over 200+ attempts at posting a big score on the board. Filling a Martini glass with “juice” (uh huh, nice way to dodge that T or M rating), getting it right to the lip and still only scoring in the 5K range? Seriously? Who fills that tall away? Alcoholics don’t. It means more booze you have to slurp from the table. Or the carpet.

TORIDAMA is apparently multiplayer-focused, but unless that’s ALL you use it for, you won’t find it fun.

Toridama starts you with a single player mode that fires three random games at players and rates how big or little a chicken you are. Its only purpose really is to unlock all the games and Crazy Mode. You’ll never want to touch it afterwards, since scoring three really good scores in a row is hard enough. You’ll regret not playing Crazy Mode since those can go towards your online score. And there’s a multiplayer mode, but it suffers the same fate so many games do: the person who owns the game will have a significant advantage over friends trying to compete. One that is probably insurmountable. I played against basically everyone in my family and never lost a single match. My family sucks, as evidenced by the fact that I’m part of it, but still, it’s telling that multiplayer is the focus of the package (2 Player mode being the first option in the menu) and yet the actual multiplayer mode really isn’t very fun.

As of this writing I’m #33 on the global leaderboard. While I wish I could brag about this, it really feels like the ordering of games lucked me into this spot. Still, top ranked American. Could be worse.

Now, take this whole review with a heaping spoonful of salt. I love WarioWare and I’m predisposed to enjoying any collection of microgames. And I did have fun with Toridama. But what’s here feels light on content and destined to get old quickly. It’s satisfying to stop a bomb just 0.03 seconds before it detonates. It is fun to let an alligator come this close to eating your face only to back away at the last possible moment. But Toridama is too random and not tightly enough designed to keep anyone focused on it. Which is ironic, since it counts on people with incredible short attention spans to be its audience in the first place. It took me two-and-a-half hours just to finish this last paragraph!

TORIDAMA: Brave Challenge was developed by G-Mode
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch

$3.50 (normally $5) noted G-Mode found my G-Spot in the making of this review.

TORIDAMA is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

Check out the latest reviews at Indie Gamer Team!

Maize, Haunted Island, 99Vidas

Ask the Chick (Issue #1)

So, I foolishly declared I’d post content every day at IGC in 2019. And then the bug zapper in my head went off for the first day in 2019. Yep.

But thankfully my fans were there to bail me out with a simple new feature: Ask the Chick. Where I’ll answer your gaming questions, indie or otherwise. And man, did they come through with some good ones. Like this one..

Basically, the new regime that took over Konami looked at their books for all outstanding projects and saw what Hideo was cooking up. It was Metal Gear Solid V (set to release very shortly when this all went down) and Silent Hills. Both were over-budget and behind schedule. So they looked into the books for the past few console generations and noticed all his games had gone over-budget. The Konami of old had essentially given him a blank-check to make games because he had a tendency to make hits. The new management didn’t give a fuck about any of that and decided they would hold him accountable to budgets for the first time in his career, and he didn’t like that.

You see, there’s this metric that many big businesses use called EBITDA. It stands for “Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization.” In layman’s terms: it’s the metric used to gauge how well an aspect or holding of a business performs. And many companies simply do not give a shit about anything BUT a holding’s EBITDA. If you looked at Hideo’s track record and saw one project after another going over-budget, some wildly over-budget, if you’re EBITDA-oriented, you’re going to shit in your pants a little. So the new regime basically said “you will stick to a budget or we will cancel your projects.” And he said “okay, fuck this, I’m out of here.” Had he not quit, he’d probably been fired or demoted and stripped of what control he did have over his projects if he had gone even a dime over-budget or fallen behind schedule.

Would *I* have done it? I don’t know how I would have handled it long-term. I personally see no problem holding someone to a budget. That’s what a responsible business does. That he had been in the industry for so long and had never once been held accountable for the budgets he should have been managing was straight-up irresponsible. Those in charge of him should never have let that go on as long as it did. I’ve always been of the belief that you can’t give a creative person a blank check. They’ll feed like a goldfish until they pop with it. Konami did with Kojima for decades, and sometimes that hurt them.

Having said that, if a person is used to one way of doing things for years, and that person is essentially the face of your company, the smart thing to do is EASE him into the new standard. Provide him with the tools and resources to become responsible for a budget. Kojima was loyal to the brand and so you give him a decade to adjust to the new reality. And then if it’s still not working, then you let him go for cause. I know people hate it when I talk about stuff like this and side with the companies, but sometimes you have to. Sometimes it’s the right call. Sometimes it’s the only call.

But short-term, you HAD to let him finish the shit he was already working on. Silent Hills was arguably the most-hyped Konami project since.. well.. probably since Metal Gear Solid way back on the original PlayStation. It was a sure-fire, can’t miss mega-hit in the making based on the buzz alone. Millions had already been spent on its production. And it probably had the most famous game teaser of all-time already creating a tsunami of anticipation. Letting that get cancelled.. even thinking about it.. given how far along it was, even if considerable delays were on tap, was stupid. If it had been a situation like Star Fox 2 or Mega Man Legends 3, where the game got shit-canned because they realized it wasn’t fun, that’d be one thing. But everything I’ve heard from insiders tells me this could have been an all-timer. It’s a shitty thing to have happened and it’s unreal that it played out the way it did. It was short-sighted and kind of power-trippy, and we all lost out because of it.

So, to answer your question: he was going to be held to a budget for the first time ever and didn’t like the idea of it. Konami was completely in the right to want to move in that direction but wrong in how they handled implementing it. I side with Kojima based on the fact that the most responsible thing for the company would have been to stay the course on the existing projects and begin the process of breaking him into working within a budget beginning with Survive, and they were unwilling to.

For many reasons..

-They’re direct competition. Let’s say an indie developer makes a free-to-play flash game with a popular IP that’s meaty, lengthy, and well produced. It’s a totally bullshit reason and I’ve never seen a shred of proof this has ever happened in the history of EVER, but it’s a stated reason. In theory, it might be harder to convince consumers aware of the game to buy future official installments of the franchise if there’s well made, free games that are so well done they could be mistaken as official games. Speaking of which..

-Sometimes they’re so well made that people could mistake them for official games by the company who owns the IP. This one is actually more valid than the idea of “competition” and is why you’ll see Paramount be very stingy with stuff like Star Trek Fan projects. Even with a disclaimer, it’s not kosher to make something so close to the authentic game that it creates market confusion as to whether or not it is an official release, free or not.

-The IP holders are responsible for maintaining the integrity of their characters. So if you have a game which features Mario doing unwholesome things, Nintendo aren’t being assholes by telling the creator to take it down. It’s their property. They have the right to tell you that.

I’ve played fan games that use popular IPs. Some of them are so well made that it breaks my heart because I know what’s eventually going to happen to them. Be smart, guys. Focus that talent on creating original characters and IPs of your own, and maybe you’ll find success instead of a giant foot coming down from the sky to squash you.

Are polygons? Pixel art is fine, and I’ve often told readers that authentic-feeling retro mimicry is harder to pull off than most people realize. I’d like to see devs take games in more original directions, but sometimes players do want a no-frills neo-retro platformer with authentic 8/16bit art. The only time I’m against it is when it’s used cynically, meaning it’s the hook of the game on its own. It’s true that it’s not special to have 80’s-looking games anymore, but I don’t get the outcry of “over-saturation” when it’s a form of art that’s quintessentially video-gamey. The same people complaining should actually take comfort in the fact that 10-year-olds today cherish games with that style of graphics in ways beyond ironically-so.

Well, I don’t think the platform people choose for #DiscoverIndies matters, and in fact we encourage people to use their personal favorite gaming platform’s marketplace because we want to maximize the potential for enjoyment. Just the process of browsing to choose your game should be enough to open any gamer’s eyes to just how vast the indie market is on each platform. This will be remembered as the Golden Age of Indie Gaming. We’re living in it right now. And this Friday, when gamers start to #DiscoverIndies, they’ll also discover just how many options there are they never knew existed. It’s exciting.

What is the hardest platform for indies? Steam. New games release on Steam at such a fast-paced clip that you could be knocked-off the first page of the new-release list within hours of your game’s debut. That first page used to be so important, and now it’s a crap shoot. A game would be lucky to be on it for 24 hours. I once heard that the average gamer spends 20 seconds on a Kickstarter game’s campaign page. Twenty seconds. I don’t have numbers for how long the average gamer browses marketplaces, but you probably have only a matter of seconds to get someone’s attention, and if your game releases at 10AM and is already on page four of the new releases by dinner time, you’re going to struggle. Steam needs reform. Desperately. And Nintendo should watch what’s happened to developers there, because by the middle of 2019, the Switch could be in such a position itself.

PROMOTE THEIR GAMES! Far too many developers rely on the hope that high-follower content creators will stumble upon their work. In seven years, I could count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen that happen, and even then it might not make a difference. Once upon a time, I was considered a very big deal on the XBLIG scene, but I reviewed fantastic games and sang their praises at the top of my lungs and those devs still abandoned gaming because nobody bought their work.

Developers have got to be proactive in getting their games attention. “If you build it, they will come” is a shitty catchphrase from an overrated movie and not remotely based on reality. You have to seek out and find your audience. They’re unlikely to find you. There’s just too much competition, and you’re a needle in a haystack.

Developers can also oversell their games too much. Trailers should be under a minute and focus on the game’s unique gameplay mechanics. I can’t stress the “unique mechanics” part enough. They’re the selling point of your game. What makes you stand out in a very, very crowded field. Don’t hide it. Don’t be coy with it. Show it off, because without it you’ll just be one of thousands of nameless, faceless indies who never found their audiences.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

This is almost not fair. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon probably shouldn’t be listed alongside stuff like Escape Goat 2 or Axiom Verge or even Fez. I mean, Fez had close to an entire movie devoted to its development, something most indies could only dream of. And yet, it still feels more on the same level as its peers than Curse of the Moon. It seems somehow wrong that today’s game competes head-to-head with it for a spot on the IGC Leaderboard, along with Dead Cells or SteamWorld Dig 2 or Sportsfriends. In case you didn’t know, Bloodstained is produced by Koji Igarashi. As in “the guy who made Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.” To say doors would open to him that wouldn’t open to your average indie developer is a bit of an understatement.

To put it in perspective, Curse of the Moon is the result of a $5,545,991 Kickstarter campaign. But, Curse of the Moon wasn’t even the focus of that campaign. This is the game that got made because the campaign made so much money. This is a stretch goal. The game that people actually backed is coming out next year. That’s fucking insane.

The moon is visible in every stage and slowly develops into a full moon that frames the final level. This doesn’t make Curse of the Moon better, but it shows a wonderful attention to detail that demonstrates how much care and consideration was given during the design. Meanwhile, Link is like “the moon.. gets full? That’s adorable. For me, the moon tried to crash into the planet, obliterating all life as we know it. Enjoy your Castlevania cosplay. It’s precious.”

Curse of the Moon was promised to be a “retro mini-game prequel” or something along those lines. But it ain’t mini. This is a full-fledged NES-style game so convincing that you would swear this is the missing link between Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and Super Castlevania IV. And it truly is an NES Castlevania in everything but name. Enemies are almost all reskinned versions of Castlevania staples. The four characters are very similar to Dracula’s Curse. There’s no Grant Danasty, and the main character doesn’t feel like a Belmont, but the first ally you gain certainly does, whip and everything. The second character is a close approximation to Sypha Belnades. Finally, they just pretty much said “fuck it” and stuck Alucard in as the third ally, bat-transformation fully intact. It’s the moment where you feel the team said “we’re either going to get sued or we’re not. Might as well go big or go home.”

If you think of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon as Castlevania 3.5, that tells you everything you need to know about the game. It controls slightly better than the NES series, and it’s especially nice that the stairs aren’t a complete nightmare to use anymore. But otherwise, it feels like a really great ROM hack. Everything has this creepy familiarity, but that doesn’t mean some inspired bits of originality don’t seep through. In fact, not being married to the Castlevania mythos allows for some of the most creative boss designs in the series. The series that Curse of the Moon isn’t part of, but kind of is anyway. Sorta. It’s complex.

“Excuse me, have you by any chance seen my wife? Last time I heard from her, she said she had to go fight bears. Bears that ‘care’ whatever that means. Kinda sexy in a bald, creepy, evil spirit kind of way?”

Another way to look at it is someone shot Castlevania with the same modernization ray Shovel Knight used on classic NES Capcom games. 2010s 2D gameplay conventions are here. Optional difficulty? Check. A save system besides a password? Check. Tons of extras and multiple endings? Check. It’s actually an impressive, fully-realized package and it’s strange that people still think it’s some sort of throwaway Kickstarter bonus. Let’s say Ritual of the Night never sees the light of day and Curse of the Moon is as far as the franchise makes it out of the crib. As much as that would suck, the one thing we wound up getting is very, very good on its own merit.

Having said that, the big issue is the difficulty and the lack of flexibility. Curse of the Moon has two difficulty options: Casual and Veteran. There’s no toggles to adjust how hard the game is between these, and that’s sort of a problem. “Veteran” is Castlevania exactly as you grew up on. A lives system and that infamous Castlevania “getting hit by a bat somehow causes your character to dramatically curl up and fly six feet backwards, more than likely into a god-damned fucking pit” recoil that resulted in many a hurled controller. It also nerfs the value of item-pickups. Casual eliminates both the lives and the recoil. Consequently, the normal mode is too hard and the casual mode is too easy. But there’s also a chance that the normal mode is too easy for most Castlevania veterans. Despite the fact that I’ve beaten Castlevania I & III (fuck Simon’s Quest, it sucks, it’s  boring, and it has too much downtime), I wasn’t really looking to challenge myself here and so I opted for casual mode. But when I dipped my toes in the putrid water that is Veteran mode, I actually did clear the first few levels with almost no effort. I’m getting reports from Castlevania fans that this would be the easiest of the NES Castlevanias if it was legitimately part of the series. Take that for what it’s worth.

This was my favorite boss fight. And yet, as cool as it was, I couldn’t stomp out the earworm that kept humming the theme to DuckTales in my head.

But, I kind of wish I could have played the unlimited lives version of the game with the option to turn the recoil on and off. Just to give a whirl. Oh, I wouldn’t have left it on. I actually kept a running count of how many times I would have almost certainly died as a result of that recoil: 57 times. That’s 57 times I didn’t scream myself hoarse in anger. But what if I wanted at least that much challenge without having to deal with starting full levels over because I ran out of lives? That’s not possible with Bloodstained, and maybe it should have been. The lack of Goldilocks options means everything is too hot or too cold, and we never get a chance at making things “just right” before the bears show up to eat her face off.

You can actually make your own challenges, though the game doesn’t remotely advertise this. I didn’t even know about this stuff until well after I had beaten the game and was replaying it for the sake of grabbing extra screenshots for this review, but you can murder the allies you acquire over the game’s first three levels by attacking them instead of talking to them. If you do this, you gain an extra ability for the main character. Killing the Belmont wannabe gains you a wider-ranged jumping-slash maneuver. Killing the Sypha clone gains you a double-jump. Killing not-Alucard allows you to dash. Mind you, the main character is easily the most boring to use, so it’s actually not-desirable to kill the allies to gain these moves. It would make more sense if killing them gained you something the ally did. Kill the not-Belmont, gain her higher jumping. Kill not-Alucard, get the ability to fly. Something, ANYTHING other than the way they did it. You also unlock different endings, depending on which allies you kill and which ones you don’t. By the end of the game, I was using all of them except the Sypha clone, who would be almost worthless. Except for the fact that I killed the last boss by, you guessed it, using the Sypha clone. That dude became the friend you drag around with you on a night on the town because he’ll pick up the check at the end of the night.

I giggled when I reached this scene. Yes, it’s a character based on Elizabeth Báthory, the infamous “Blood Countess” accused of killing over 600 girls and bathing in their blood to maintain her youth. But this is also a wonderful satire of the final room of the original Castlevania. Instead of coming across Dracula’s coffin, you come across a bathtub. And yes, I’ve confirmed this was deliberate. Now THAT is how you do an in-joke.

Otherwise, I really liked Curse of the Moon. It’s probably not as good as Castlevania III, where I feel the level design is stronger and more inspired. Curse of the Moon brings a lot of great ideas to the table, but the levels themselves feel more like direct homages that didn’t stray far enough from tradition to feel like the “lost sequel” that it aspires to be. Given the fact that the bosses stand out for their creativity, it’s a crying shame that the levels almost never do. There are multiple branching paths in each stage, but they’ll all bring you from one level to the next in linear fashion and only give you a couple new areas to explore, though those few extra rooms have the same look and feel to them that the other paths do anyway. Don’t get me wrong: the levels are never boring, and actually it’s a treat that not one of them sucks the fun out of the game. But while the themes can be fun and the reskins of existing Castlevania enemies are nifty, the levels all feel like stages we’ve already played from previous games. Well, besides the last stage where an army of bugs destroys the walls, but that feels more like Heat Man’s stage in Mega Man 2, so the familiarity is still there.

And also, it’s worth noting that the fifth boss is so absurdly flashy that I’m honestly lucky I didn’t have a seizure. All the bosses do a final “last hurrah” attack once defeated, and that one was probably the most flashy, dangerous-for-my-epilepsy moment I’ve had in seven years as IGC. It made people without epilepsy sick too. I normally defend these types of artistic decisions, but this one I feel crosses the line where it’s unnecessary. But don’t let that discourage you. The bosses are creative and cool. Just exercise caution.

What makes Curse of the Moon truly unique is I don’t have to say “it’s an NES Castlevania, and if you didn’t enjoy those, you won’t enjoy this.” Because that might not be entirely true. The casual mode might make it so players who liked the concept but not the prohibitive difficulty of the originals can actually take-in this game from start to finish and not give up in frustration. And they’ll probably have more fun with doing so than they ever did with the 80s/90s originals. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is an accessible NES Castlevania that gives players broken by Dracula’s Curse a pair of crutches. Isn’t that the best way to pay tribute to a classic? And it goes so much further than that. Teenagers who grew up with the NES are now adults in their 40s with all the fun that can come with that. Slower reaction times. Waning skills. Maybe those who ate through the originals once upon a time but can barely get past the Mummies/Cyclopes/Gargoyle combination now that they’re decrepit can feel like they’ve come home again. Curse of the Moon can tickle the nostalgia of that crowd, but also be something they share with their kids. This, my friends, is how you do a classic franchise tribute. Polish the spirit of the game and plaster-over the unsightly holes. You know, the holes you made when you threw your controller through a wall after being knocked backwards into a pit.

The real question is whether or not Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and next year’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night are indies at all. It’s not as if Igarashi was some nameless, faceless coder working at Konami who finally worked up the courage to go off on his own. He’s a legend of game development. Oddly enough, even after seven years of running a moderately popular indie game review blog, I still couldn’t tell you exactly where you draw the line between “indie” and “not indie.” For Bloodstained, it just seems off to me that the guy who went from making real Castlevania games leaves Konami to make games that are still Castlevania games in every way a game can be except the name and characters, and that counts as an indie. This isn’t someone taking a huge risk trying to mimic a game designed by his hero. He’s already the hero, making exactly the kind of game we would expect from him if had never gone off on his own and Konami mandated a direct sequel to Castlevania III with NES-style graphics. I put Curse of the Moon to a vote among my fans. 88% said this should count as an indie, but I was going to go against this and make a judgement call that this isn’t right.

Real super quick: see that whip? It sort of implies that you’ll have full eight-way attack options, just like in Super Castlevania IV. I think that’s why this picture is literally the first picture shown on the Steam page. But actually, this is a special attack that uses the game’s weapon-juice that you might not even be carrying because the game’s version of the holy water could fill its spot. This character’s default weapon is a short-range sword that fucking sucks. When myself and others bought this, we thought there’d be eight-way attack options based on these screens, so it’s kinda skeezy on their part. Also, this is the best sub-weapon for most bosses besides the Sypha clone’s magic homing missiles, which completely make bosses a cakewalk.

And then something unexpected happened: developers started contacting me, some I had never previously interacted with, saying they wanted the game ranked on the Leaderboard. Why? So they could aim to beat it. It was universal. They wanted Bloodstained: Cursed of the Moon to be declared by me an indie game and placed where I felt it should be (in this case, as the eighth-best indie I’ve ever reviewed as of this writing) so they had something to aim at. I like that. And, if this could serve to bring out the best in a new generation of game development heroes, hell, why not? So Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is an indie. And now I’ll remind those who pushed for this that next year, the real Bloodstained will arrive. A game in my favorite genre (Metroidvania) by one of my favorite producers (Igarashi) that will presumably take all the best parts from those classic games, clear up the warts inherit to those, and combine what’s leftover with modern game design principles. You want to be compete with that? Hey, your funeral.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was developed by Inti Creates
Point of Sale: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Vita, Nintendo Switch, Steam

$6.99 (normally $9.99) sang ♪ this isn’t the greatest game in the world, this is just a stretch goal ♪ in the making of this review. Thanks @luvcraft

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is Chick-Approved and Ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Plug Me

I often imagine the germ of an indie game begins with a simple “what if?” type of question. It’s basically the same way I keep putting myself in the hospital. “What if you tried to cook a steak using only a tesla coil?” The simpler the question, the more gimmicky the game can become. That can be problematic if the gimmick is really just a facade to cover-up that the game really isn’t all that unique or different. Take something like Default Dan, whose germ of an idea was probably “what if Mario took place in opposite land?” So in it, coins kill you and spikes help you. That sounds novel and original, until you really stop and think about it. Isn’t that just a reskin more than an actual new idea? I mean, yea, it’s wacky and my brain kept telling me to grab the coins that were now lethal, but still, all it did was paint the good things bad and the bad things good, but it’s still exactly the same type of game you’ve played before. I think of that more as a novelty rather than something meant to stand on its own. Those have a place in Indieland, but damnit, where’s the gimmicky stuff with an actual gimmick that’s new and weird and actually works?

Oh, hello Plug Me. Aren’t you a breath of fresh air.

It’s one of those rare games where you see the picture and immediately get what it’s aiming for. It’s the anti-Fez in that regard.

I’m guessing the beginnings of Plug Me was a developer asking “what if the timer on fast-paced platformer WAS itself a platform?” That had a lot of potential for suckatude, but instead, it’s really impressive. There’s been games based around short stages and an environment-based ticking clock. Volchaos for example, a game made by one of my best friends. I didn’t really like Volchaos at all, owning mostly to the control issues. But even if Volchaos hadn’t controlled like a lubricated shopping cart, you’ve played games before where there’s an instakill floor that rises up. You’ve never played a game like Plug Me before. This is owed to the level design, which cleverly is built to utilize the time bar, which drains from left to right and is always smack-dab in the middle of the screen. It can’t be jumped through, so all the strategy and puzzling has to be done in sync with the clock. And that’s what blows me away. The clock is ALWAYS the focus of the level design, without it feeling the slightest bit shoehorned. I seriously didn’t expect that at all. It was as unfathomable as my Warriors signing DeMarcus Cousins for peanuts this off-season (excuse me, I need to go play with myself a little more now). EDIT: It turns out, we should have signed Kevin Durant’s achilles tendon to an extension. It ended up playing for the Raptors in the post season.

It’s so damn inspired, never once betraying its concept. It caught me by surprise because I’m so used to concept-based indies running out of ideas before they run out of levels. Plug Me ends the very moment I started to feel like they’ve gotten everything they could out of it. While Plug Me runs the gamut of platforming tropes (spikes, spinning maces, portals, etc), the timer is always the focus. It’s a fresh take on an increasingly tired genre. Even better: Plug Me obviously fancies itself as a punisher, with a fail counter in the upper-right hand corner. But it never really felt like one of those either. And when you die you respawn super quickly, so it never feels like a slog. I died 630 times over the course of playing it, but still completed the whole shebang in under three hours. Actually, with one really, really big exception, Plug Me might be too easy for most experienced punisher fans. On my very first play-through, I never once missed any of the batteries on each-stage. Beating the game unlocks a hard mode that I have no desire to touch, but I can’t help but wonder if that should be available right from the start. I’m not an exceptionally skilled platform player. If I could breeze through Plug Me, I can’t imagine how people who eat Super Meat Boy for lunch would do with it.

I almost quit on this. It took me 141 tries and 3,279 swear words to finish it.

That mostly owes to the controls. If they had been crap, Plug Me’s fast pace and precision-platforming would have been impossible. And again, I’m used to under-the-radar platformers that nobody’s heard of controlling like shit. Plug Me has been out since April and has only 26 user reviews, so I expected the worst. But actually, the control is rock-solid, making it such a joy to play. Well, mostly. The collision-detection is fairly unforgiving and two of the boss fights take a hard left at the corner of Unfairness and Cheapness if you catch my drift. It took me 141 attempts to beat the final-final boss because the developer apparently felt the only way to feel climatic was to spam the screen with so much shit that nobody could reasonably be expected to keep track of it all. When I finally did finish, it felt more like I got lucky than I got good at it. That takes the oomph out of winning. I was so livid during the finale that I almost didn’t award Plug Me my seal of approval. But honestly, with 50 out of 52 stages/boss fights being pretty fun, it’d be hard to justify nullifying that over two crap bosses. In fact, Plug Me exceeded my expectations to such a degree that I want to shake the developer’s hand. And then slap the ever-loving shit out of him for that last boss, but still, he’ll feel the love. And my hand. Across his face.

So yea, that’s Plug Me. I don’t have a ton to say about it. It forgoes being a throw-away novelty experience and instead can stand on its own merits as an original concept. One that works quite well. I can’t imagine what else they could do with the time bar concept. All the stages in Plug Me are single-screened, so I suppose they could add scrolling. Or they could totally phone it in and do ice and fire stages like twats, but honestly, they should walk away while they’re ahead. The real question I have is why does it seem like nobody is playing Plug Me? The graphics are really good. The concept is neat. It has limited faults. I think a big problem is it looks a bit generic and has one of the worst names for a good game I’ve seen in my seven years at IGC. I kept accidentally calling the game “Plug Man” and the main villain looks a lot like Dr. Wily. Names matter, and “Plug Me” is straight up a shit name for a game like this.

Thankfully there’s no “cake is a lie” joke in the portal stages, or else I’d be getting booked for manslaughter right now.

I hope developer Havana24 doesn’t get discouraged if this doesn’t find an audience, but if it doesn’t, maybe next time you should put more than two seconds worth of thought into the name? What does the name have to do with the timer bar gimmick? Because it represents energy and you’re a dude with a plug-in for a head? That’s weak. The whole theme is. Maybe it should have been about a guy busting to take a piss. That would have got attention. But ultimately, you can best sum up how much I liked Plug Me by the fact that I bought it three times. Once for myself, and twice for friends. Including a copy for Volchaos developer Kris Steele. See Kris, THIS is how a timer-based platformer should be!

Plug Me was developed by Havana24
Point of Sale: Steam

$2.99 asked if that’s a socket in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? in the making of this review

Plug Me is Chick Approved with the shiny new Indie Gamer Chick Seal of Approval by Kevin Willingham. Hire him or something so he doesn’t feel like he wasted his time with me.

Oh and it’s ranked on the IGC Leaderboard.

Year Three Ends and Year Four Begins

For those of you that can’t stand my yearly mushy ritual, sorry. But I’m allowed to be a little sentimental once a year, ain’t I?

Tomorrow marks the fourth anniversary of Indie Gamer Chick. While this wasn’t my most prolific year, I feel I’ve done some of my best work over the last twelve months. Even if that’s not true of me, it’s certainly true of the indie development community. The Golden Age of Indie Games is here, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it.

I haven’t exactly had the most consistent health this year, but things are looking up in a big way, so I’m playing more and more games again. A bigger problem with getting consistent reviews posted is I’m older and busy a lot more than when I started IGC. Frankly, I was 21 when this site opened. I turned 22 a few days later, but still, I was just a kid when I got into this. One that didn’t have a ton of friends and had no presence in the indie community. These days, my free time might go towards chatting with a group of developers over the direction of the indie scene, or advising a newcomer to the scene on how to best pitch their Kickstarter. Last year, I went four months between reviews in large part because I was operating a program I started on Twitter called #GamesMatter. I was really happy with how that went. I was able to help a lot of developers learn how to market their games on social media,and more importantly, believe in their ability to market themselves. To those developers who thanked me for my help, you did the tough part, making great games. Thank you. #GamesMatter lives on today under the capable hands of my friend Nelson, as I deeply missed focusing on writing and being a game critic. Thankfully, Nelson has an unmatched desire to help indies, and so I know #GamesMatter is safe in his hands. And, on a personal note, as much as I enjoyed working with indies, meeting Nelson was the best part of doing #GamesMatter. I love you Nelson, and thank you for keeping my project alive.

By the way, you can follow #GamesMatter on Twitter and bookmark the blog started for it.

I can’t possibly thank all my friends anymore. I have too many. But, of course, I have to thank Brian. Brian, I’ve got Indie Gamer Chick in large part because you never failed to laugh at my lame jokes. And you pushed me to stay with it, until IGC was a part of my life. You’re my best friend, and I love you with all my heart.

Holy crap, four years! Not bad for someone who has, quote, “the attention span of a traffic light” (thanks Dad). But it’s not that surprising. I’ve loved games my whole life, and I’m a person who loves working with entrepreneurs. Indies are the entrepreneurs of gaming, and thus the indie scene allows my passions in life to converge. It’s why what was supposed to be a silly little blog done for the sake of having a hobby has become the thing I’m most proud of. While not every review gets to be positive, and I’m sure some of my reviews can be demoralizing for some developers, I would never want to discourage anyone from reaching for your gaming dreams. You all have limitless potential, and even when I don’t like your products, I admire your efforts. It sounds sappy, but it’s true. You’re all so inspirational to me. That’s why I aspire to do better for you. And that’s why you all have my eternal love and respect. It’s all yours. For keeps.

-Catherine, aka Indie Gamer Chick
June 30, 2015.

Three Years of Indie Gamer Chick

It’s June 30, 2014. Today marks the end of my third year doing Indie Gamer Chick. It wasn’t my most productive year, but I still managed to have a few really awesome moments. I broke one million lifetime views. I hand-selected a successful bundle on Indie Royale. I helped spread the word of epilepsy in gaming. People even recognized me when I went to pick up my PlayStation 4 at Best Buy at their midnight launch and asked for my autograph. What a surreal feeling. What a wonderful year.

But it was a tough year in other ways. I had problems from September onwards. Problems with my memory. Concentration issues. My epilepsy was striking more frequently. We didn’t know what to make of it. Then I went in for a test to see if I qualified for a new epilepsy treatment and the doctors found something off. On December 31, I was told they had discovered a lesion on my brain. It was probably caused by hitting my head during seizures. It has been suggested to me more than once that, when I know I’m due for a seizure, wearing a helmet might be a good idea. I balked at that. Really, what they meant was I should wear one when I’m just walking around, warning or not. The worst head injuries I’ve had are from seizures I can’t tell are coming. The lesion probably was more directly tied to a seizure I had in December 2011. Nobody saw it, but it’s suspected that I hit my head on a table leg.

The doctors told me I was a candidate for dementia, other perception problems, paranoia, and ultimately, Alzheimer’s disease. And I don’t mean like down the road. I mean, like, within the next few years. I’m 24 years old. Do you have any clue how terrifying it is to hear that from a doctor? They said the odds were not in my favor, but they couldn’t tell for sure until late February. So I spent January and February miserable. I had informed Sabriel and former IGC writer Jerry that I would probably have to quit Indie Gamer Chick, and that I would probably be giving the site to them. Even if the scenario wasn’t worse-case, you can’t really have a game critic with perception problems. I didn’t even trust my own judgment. I had already gone from someone who never took notes when I played games for reviews to taking extensive notes and double checking every single thing I played to make sure my opinion was authentic and not some brain-lesion induced delusion. It never was. Not even once. But when something like this is happening, you question everything.

But something good did come out of those two months. I found out how much I was loved by my new friends. The ones I wouldn’t have if I had never started Indie Gamer Chick. Who, for two months straight, sent me daily words of encouragement, trying to keep my spirits up and my hopes alive. They told me they thought I would beat the odds the doctors had laid out. I agreed with them that I would, but I didn’t really believe it. I had always told people that I was the luckiest person I knew, and I was certain I had used all my luck up. Then, on February 27, I got the results from an MRI. It started with probably the most beautiful sentence I’ve ever heard: “Your brain lesion is smaller than we expected.”

I would still need treatment (and I receive it to this day), because brain damage is brain damage. It doesn’t really go away. But I’m a lot less likely to go crazy. I just got the results from my follow-up MRI and it’s looking really good. Modern medicine. You have got to love it. I’m having a lot less issues with memory (in fact, my ability to retain stuff, which legitimately scared my buddy Nate, is nearly back to full power), and I’m even doing well while dealing with clinical depression (common among people with a history of head injuries. Just ask any retired NFL player). I have a long road ahead of me. I have to eat a certain way, do cognitive exercises, and get my head scanned fairly frequently, but my doctors like my odds. Hopefully they’re right about the odds this time.

It’s strange. Facing all these problems, the thing I was worried about the most was losing Indie Gamer Chick. It has been the best thing to happen to me in a long time. It’s where I met some of my dearest friends. It’s where I found a voice that I never knew I had. A sense of pride I didn’t know I was capable of having in myself. I love gaming so much, and I’ve always been really opinionated about what makes some games work and other not. I just never had an outlet for it. Probably because I thought nobody would care what I thought. How wrong I was.

A couple of months ago, someone made fun of me on some message board because I reply to every random tweet I get. It’s not true, because I do occasionally miss some. But seriously, why wouldn’t I want to reply to everyone? I’m proud that people care enough to ask my opinion on anything. I never want to be one of those people that’s too stuck up to reply to fans. Besides, how else am I going to get you guys to challenge me when I’m wrong if I’m not engaging you?

I’m not perfect or even close to it. I’ve made mistakes. My reviews aren’t always the way they should be. Sometimes I’ve been too harsh on games and their developers. There was a guy named Will O’Reagan. Will made a game called Project Gert: Recon. My review of it was absolutely brutal. Now, I stand by every critique I made of the game. But I think I crossed a line, rubbing salt in wounds by adding a snarky song set to the tune of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as the end joke. Look, when someone works hard on a game and it’s not received well, feelings will be hurt. Nothing can be done to prevent that, short of lying about my opinion of a game, and I won’t be doing that. But I did cross a line on that review. Will didn’t handle my review well, but to his credit, I was more harsh on him than he deserved. A lot of people wouldn’t handle it well. I thank Will, actually. I learned from him. I can be a good critic, entertaining to read, snarky, etc, without being mean. Critics shouldn’t be mean. It’s not our jobs. It took me too long to learn that, but I wouldn’t have without him. Thank you, Will.

Will is hardly alone in this. Back in November of 2011, I reviewed a game called Angry Zombie Ninja Cats. Again, I crossed the line, targeting the developer more than the game and hurting feelings that didn’t need to be hurt. Most developers aren’t thin-skinned and are anxious to learn. That was true of Angry Zombie Ninja Cats’ developer. But when you dig in and make things personal, you’re neither servicing the community well, nor helping the developer. The guy in question here, a man by the name of Shahed Chowdhuri, he didn’t need to forgive me for it. Not only did he, but Shahed is on the short list of my very best friends. I don’t deserve him. But I’m happy I have him. He’s an amazing human being, and a wonderful friend. When I was going through the crap with my brain, he was there for me, every single day with a kind word and amazing encouragement to keep fighting. I have much love for him. Most importantly, I learned a lot from him.

That’s the strange thing about this Indie Gamer Chick stuff. I met most of my best friends after I was not so kind to their games (though 90% of the developers got less harsh reviews than Shahed and Will). I met Kris Steele after I ambushed him in an interview and then murdered his game Volchaos. Kris has stood by my side through some very dark times in my life. So has Brian Provinciano. I destroyed his sleeper hit Retro City Rampage. Brian has become my indie guru. Here’s a guy who nearly killed himself making his game. He’s still feeling the ill effects of it to this day. He actually used some of my feedback to improve Retro City Rampage. And it’s actually a really great game now. I keep bugging Brian Provinciano (no relation to my Brian, the man I intend to marry) by telling him he would make a wonderful community leader. So would Mike Bithell, the creator of Thomas Was Alone, another amazing person I’m privileged to call a friend. The community needs guys like this, who are down to Earth, easy to talk to, and passionate about not just their games, but every game by every indie developer as well.

It’s what XBLIG was missing, in my opinion. Someone that became the face of the platform. Most people say that person ultimately was me. And maybe it was, but if  I was the face of XBLIG, I was wrong for the part. It should have been a developer. Although I’m flattered that so many people put so much stock in my ability to promote games and spread the gospel of indies, the truth is, you guys and gals are the ones with the real talent. You’re the ones who make our imaginations run wild. Who take us to worlds we’ve never imagined. I don’t do that stuff. I just talk about my experiences playing your stuff, and spice it up with dick and fart jokes. Maybe I inspire you to make your games better or more refined, but I’m not a creator. I have no talent for that. The talent belongs to all of you. And it’s up to you to step up and challenge us all. To give us inspiration. It’s your community. I’m just a guest.

I do appreciate what the community has done for me. You guys have welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like I’m something special. I’m not so sure I am, but I’m flattered nevertheless. The best part of being Indie Gamer Chick has been meeting so many wonderful friends who challenge me, and inspire me. Not one of them was my instant friend. I had to work to earn these friendships. And now I treasure them. They’re my most precious possessions. I don’t mean to sound sappy, but I have to let the world know how much I love these people.

Bob Reinhard: You make me laugh. You make me think. I hope one day you realize just how talented a writer you are. Way better than me.

Bob also made me this, while playing Terraria. Awesome.

Bob also made me this, while playing Terraria. Awesome.

Cyril Lachel: You’re such a pure person. I learn a lot from you. If I ever need to know anything about gaming before I was a gamer, you’re the guy I can count on. More important than that, you were my first really good friend I made through Indie Gamer Chick, and you’ve stood by me to this day. I love you, Cyril.

Paolo: We just met, but I feel like we’ve known each other for years. I’m so proud to have you at Indie Gamer Chick, and I’m even prouder to have you as a friend.

Dave Voyles: I’m so proud of you. You have your dream job, and you earned it. One day, it will be you and Shahed giving the big Xbox presentation at E3, just you watch.

Shahed: Again, I don’t deserve your friendship, but I’m happy I have it. You’re such a pure soul. You think of others before you think of yourself. Every time I need someone when I’m reaching out to the community, you’ve been there. You’re a natural leader. Your employers are lucky to have you.

Jonathan: Oh Jonathan. My favorite Nintendo fanboy. Another guy who has stuck by me through some dark times. Whose friendship and loyalty has always been unconditional. I love you, Jonathan.

Jesse Chounard: I owe this guy so much. He’s one of the three main people (along with Dave Voyles and George Clingerman) who helped me become a part of the XBLIG community. I’ve learned so much from him. He’s the guy who helps me when I need to know about Kickstarters. Yea, yea, I’ll get to Chickstarter Part 2 sometime soon. Now’s the time to tell Jesse I love him.

George Clingerman: I think I owe my success more than anymore else. It was you that told the community that they had me pegged wrong, that I wasn’t a troll. That was someone who was real and loved gaming, and stood to help them. You had so much respect that it totally changed people’s perception of me. Over half my readers and followers on Twitter are developers, and I think I owe that to you.

Jerry Bonner: I miss your writings at Indie Gamer Chick, but thankfully your friendship has been consistent and full of love. And thankfully, you’re so fossilized that, even with a birthday coming up, you remind me that I’m still young. (Kidding. I love you so much Jerry)

Sabriel: You know, Bri, I’m so happy I met you. When it looked like I would be forced to quit Indie Gamer Chick, I knew the site would be safe in your hands. You’re a talented writer and an amazing friend. I’m proud to have you on board.

Jim Sterling: I just met you, but you’re a reminder to me of how surreal this whole experience is. I was such a big fan of yours, and now we’re buddies. When does it stop being surreal? But you continue to make me think, and strive to be better at what I do.I hope some day to be as big as you. I mean as a writer, obviously 😛

Jim Perry: We didn’t always agree about the state of XBLIG, or political stuff, or religious stuff, or most stuff for that matter. But if I didn’t have friends like you who stood their ground and challenged me, I would be very bored. I love you Jim. Also, you’re totally my bitch at Bejeweled Blitz.

Alan, Steven, and Nate: I used to talk to all three of you so much, and now you guys are such strangers. Thankfully, you check in just enough to make me feel loved and missed too. But seriously, I want to hear more from each of you. My birthday is a week from Friday. A chat would make a great present.

Kyle: You’re one of the kindest, most sensitive and caring men I know. When I need someone to lean on, you’ve always been there. I treasure our friendship very much, and I hope we’ll have it when we’re both decrepit.

Benjamin Ryan: I wish you had stuck it out at IGC as well, but I’m happy to have your friendship.

MasterBlud: We had a complex relationship, but these days, it’s 100% friendship. I’m proud of you and I’m proud to have you as a friend.

Michael Hartman: You’re one of the most talented people I know. An incredible friend, with a huge heart. I would say your name if fitting, but “Hartman” actually comes from people who were deer hunters by trade.

Adam Wallyhawk: You have such drive and so much energy, I know someday you’ll be very successful. And when you are, just remember, I still have more money than you 😛 (Kidding, I love you Adam).

Ian Stocker: You put this in your game. To say I value our friendship is an understatement.

My mascot "Sweetie" making a cameo in Ian's latest game, Escape Goat 2. Just, wow.

My mascot “Sweetie” making a cameo in Ian’s latest game, Escape Goat 2. Just, wow.

Edward: You’ve set me straight on so many development issues. I’ve always said I like to surround myself with people who are smarter than me, and you’re unquestionably that. I have much love for you, my friend.

Patrick Scott Patterson: You’re one of those guys that helps me bridge the gap from the gaming generations before my time to the generations yet to come. I’ve learned a lot from you, and I’m sure I will learn more in the future.

Alex Jordan: One of my first friends, and certainly one of my dearest. I hope you stick it out as a developer. You’re so talented, you have no idea.

Michael Connolly: Another guy who I wish had stuck around longer than he did. But you’re an awesome friend, an incredible talent, and someone who reminds me that variety is the spice of life. Even if I don’t get the whole speedrun thing.

Adam Sawkins: I’m so proud of what you’ve accomplished, and I know you’re continue to be a great friend.

There’s so many more people, if I had to list them all like that, I would be here all day. Andy Esser, David Walton, my new writers Bernard and Angel, and Kalle, who just returned to IGC. Malik, Rose, Jason, Michelle, Laura, Graham, Jordan, Scott, Thor, Russ, and so many others that I can’t even keep track of them.

And finally, Brian and Sydne. My best friends in the whole world. Brian is going to be the man I marry. He’s been my rock for four years now. He’s why I’m still standing today. Sydne, you’re such a kind soul. I’m so lucky to have you both in my life. Brian, I love you with all my heart. You’re the best thing to ever happen to me. I’m sure you already know that, but I want the whole world to as well. Without you, I wouldn’t be doing this.

So, three years later, and my love for the indie scene is as strong as ever. Once I wrap up the main part of my treatment cycle for my brain, I plan on getting back into the routine that got me attention in the first place, with many reviews every week that hold nothing back, and from the heart editorials. Thankfully, I’ll have no shortage of material. The indie development community has been so amazing to me. I don’t make games. I probably never will. I’m going to star in one in 2015, but my involvement in creating it will probably be minimal. No, it’s you guys. You’re the ones that make indie gaming work. For many of you, you’ve dreamed of this since you were kids. And now, whether your games are successful or not, you’re making your dreams come true. I envy you guys for that. Just like I envy your talent, your imaginations, and your limitless creativity. It’s what made me honored to do Indie Gamer Chick for the last three years. It’s why I’m excited that I get to be Indie Gamer Chick for thirty years to come.

I love you all!
-Catherine Vice, aka Indie Gamer Chick
June 30, 2014

%d bloggers like this: