The mechanics in Foiled are astonishingly simple but not void of nuance. The game is good at being accessible while retaining an element of competitive play.

Oh, and it made me beat the shit out of my brother. And it made my girlfriend beat the shit out of me. Rare is it that a game can provoke violence from normally docile beings. I like to think that’s a testament to its quality.

The reasoning for these brutal shoulder punches, I imagine, is that the outcome of a match directly reflects upon a player’s skill. And when that skill has a lot to do with head games, and without the ability to blame complicated controls, losing a match can affect your ego. I’ll explain:

Players have only two attacks. Swipe, which is an upwards slash to fend off death from above and Dive, a jumping attack that causes the player character to plunge violently downwards. The foils idle menacingly, poised parallel to the stage, ready to hurt. If two foils collide, they deflect. If a foil touches the other player, they perish and the victor collects their soul.

At this point, a goal appears on-screen. The recently felled player spawns at the goal to defend it while their assailant attempts to reach that goal with the soul in hand. If they are killed, then they spawn at a goal and the roles are reversed. If a player reaches a goal, they get a point. If a player gets three points, they become a giant, invincible fencer who will obliterate their rival. They also win the round.

Win two rounds, win the match. The essence of simplicity.

Only, not. From the get go, the tension is high. Two players face off, unsure of what the other one will do. Through repeated rounds, they start to get an idea of how their opponent plays, but you can never rely entirely on the ability to read your opponent. And you have to realize that they are adapting to you as the matches progress, too. Even playing defensively is unnerving, as an offensive player, who will usually have to jump to be aggressive, can simply bait you into a missed swipe. They can land behind you, in front of you, atop you… and if you make a bad read, then you’re more screwed than my attention craving sister.*

The stages are extremely vertical, encouraging lots of wall jumps and climbing to reach the goals. The systems of the game cause the position of power to chaotically swing between the two characters. When a player falls, they stand stoic sentry over their rival, with a very desirable footing.

And that ability to frequently deny a point is amazing. You never feel entirely disempowered, and no matter how the game has played out, there always seems to be some sliver of hope to edge out a victory. 

Foiled represents a spectacular effort from first time developer, Gabe Cuzillo. I look forward to seeing what he produces in the future.

Oh, and it’s free. So find a friend and stop being a total lame-ass.

52756cdee4b0782c048c5ec0Foiled is available for free here.

IGTlogo-01Foiled has earned the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.

*that’s a joke. Sorry, Mercedes.

Grand Class Melee

If a game is fun, then is that game good? Has the objective of the game design been fulfilled, or are there more criteria we demand before we can deem a game quality? What relegates a game to the realm of “guilty pleasure,” instead of simply being a good game? Artistic intent, perhaps?If that is indeed the case, and artistry is the deciding factor, then Grand Class Melee is a guilty pleasure game of mine. It’s unbalanced, random, and more chaotic than an All Rainbow Road Cup in Mario Kart. Certainly, one wouldn’t leverage the title in an “Are Games Art?” debate. But perhaps they could successfully leverage it in an argument against the need for games to be emotionally exhausting affairs. Maybe it could make a stand against games that put complicated mechanics at the heart of their systems. Grand Class Melee sticks to the most fundamental property of game design, in so much that it is simply a blast.
Fun or not, the objective of a review is to be objective about subjectivity, so let’s try to break down the experience, which is so much greater than the sum of its parts, into its most primitive elements.
Firstly, the art is far from what one would call inspired. As with a lot of games on the Xbox Live Indie Games market, Grand Class Melee utilizes pixel art in its design. While sometimes pixel art can feel like the right choice, artistically, it more often than not feels like the easy way out; placeholder graphics to be overlooked, as they’re only there to facilitate gameplay itself.
The maps are equally uninspired, randomized, I believe. There is a breeze present that marginally affects movement speed and tall grass that some classes will be able to take advantage of for stat bonuses. Unfortunately, a lack of truly clever level mechanics does hinder the game, leaving the player wondering what could have been.
Where the game comes together, sensibly, is within the mechanics themselves. Up to four players can gain agency over the sprites in an all out brawl. If four players aren’t available, computer characters can fill in for them, at one of 3 different difficulty settings. But, like with Smash Bros., the ability to communicate with other players in order to gang up on an alpha player is an essential part of the experience. Especially given the occasional balancing issues, but more on that in a moment.
The game controls very simply. If you’ve ever played a classic Legend of Zelda, with the overhead camera, then you will be right at home. Characters can move in any of the four compass directions, and have a stationary and a lunge attack mapped to A and B. The triggers will sport two abilities; one inherent to your current class, one a leftover from a lower rung of your class tree. Between matches, choosing these abilities allows for a tiny degree of customization that actually ends up being essential to the upcoming match’s dynamics.
The 60 classes —which can be seen here— are supposedly balanced by fan interaction, and, while certain class combinations feel broken, the sequel will likely opt for more fairness in classes. Honestly, I prefer the outlandish combinations, as teleporting characters fire Dragon Ball Z inspired kai beams across the stage, threatening bulky characters who can’t close the distance. It’s comical, and lends itself to a sort of party-game atmosphere.
Like Dynasty Warriors, I urge people to play this game, and to play it with friends. The game isn’t revolutionary, won’t address social issues, will not engage you with riveting narrative, and I promise, the art direction won’t sweep you away. But, it should be fun. If it isn’t, then it’s definitely because your friends suck.
How’s that for objective?
xboxboxartGland Class Melee was developed by Gigatross GamesIGTlogo-01$1 says, “it’s a way to prove to your friends that you are better at Zelda, which is about as likely to get you laid as being one dollar richer. So, you know, why not? in the making of this review.Benjamin has awarded Grand Class Melee the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval. 

Rise of the Triad

Rise of the Triad: Dark War was outlandish when it came out in 1994 as a piece of shareware developed from a heavily modified Wolfenstein 3D engine. The cheekiness of the game reflected the cheekiness of the game’s developers, who would refer to themselves as “The Developers of Incredible Power.” When a Kickstarter to reboot the series in a title simply called Rise of the Triad was funded, the folks at Interceptor Entertainment were setting out to fill some mighty big shoes. On merit of atmosphere alone, they have succeeded in a way few could have expected. Dark War is every bit as 90s as a game developed in 2013 could hope to be, rising well above the failure of Duke Nukem Forever, and demonstrating a firm grasp on design philosophies of yore. In regards to developing a game on par with today’s standards, they have come up short. It’s a complicated give and take.

All of what made the original great has been recreated with stunning accuracy. The game is still very much an arena shooter, meaning that the level designs are far less stream lined than modern shooters. Game design today focuses on corridors that lead the players very deliberately towards objectives, whereas Rise of the Triad places a character in the map knowing that they have the freedom explore, plan routes and get lost. This decision translates well to the speed-course feel of this fast paced, combo-building shooter. Every single set has replay value as interested players can fine-tune their runs to compete for high scores; a deliberate nod to 90s shooters.

 My first joke ever on IGC. You ready? There's so much Kim Jung-Fun to be had, you might get Kim Jung-Ill.  Nailed it.

My first joke ever on IGC. You ready? “There’s so much Kim Jung-Fun to be had, you might get Kim Jung-Ill.”
Nailed it.

The story in RoTT is about as uninspired as they come. In the game, players take control of one of five distinct members of the H.U.N.T (High-risk United Nations Task-force) who have been sent to San Nicolas Island to investigate terrorist activity. They discover that a group known as The Triad wants to do bad things to Los Angeles, and it becomes the H.U.N.T.’s goal to stop them. The story is conveyed almost entirely through short, on-screen, graphic novel segments and is as superfluous now as it was in ’94, which makes sense, considering that it’s the exact same story. It’s certainly not an epic, but at least it gives some context.

Part of what made the ’94 release popular were the H.U.N.T members themselves, or more aptly, what they could do. Players can choose between five different characters, all unique in physical appearance and stats. Some are faster with almost no endurance, while others, like Doug Wendt, are slower, bruiser types. As of launch, Doug, Taradino,Lorelei, and Ian are the only available character options. Whether or not this will change in future DLC is unclear. Given the prevalence of Kim Jong-Un in the game’s levels, maybe we should start crossing our fingers now to have him released as a playable character in the future. Just a thought.

As these characters navigate through the game’s various arenas, they will enjoy a plethora of bizarre weapons, most of which are explosive. In fact, some of the explosives shoot explosives on top of other explosives in a manner that is so quintessentially “80s action movie,” that it actually seems cool instead of obnoxious. Also at the player’s disposal are basic infantry equipment; ancient, magic imbued staves and a weapon that launches walls of flame. It’s ridiculous, but that’s always been the point.

The frustration felt at the loss of progress due to the maps’ extremely unforgiving checkpoint system harkens back to an era gone by, as well. Whether or not that was the intent is unclear, but it is abundantly certain why the mechanic has disappeared from modern design; it’s not fun for most people. On the other side of the spectrum, you’ll have the gamers that will appreciate that one can’t simply bash their head against the game’s obstacles until they progress. In this way, the game forces you to plan ahead, for better or for worse.Unfortunately, the maps are riddled with jumping puzzles and environmental hazards that require such precision to clear that it stifles the entire experience.

Also noteworthy is the game’s health mechanic. Every bit of damage you take matters, again, for better or for worse. Your health won’t simply regenerate, so every encounter you have with the enemy must be optimized to ensure that you don’t see your survival chances severely diminished for the next group of enemies.

Of course, depletion of health isn’t an ailment entirely without remedy. The locals have a variety of foodstuffs scattered about to give a boost to the player’s health bar. The effects of food, like Priest Porridge or Monk Meal, can be increased if you “cook” them through the resourceful employ of a Rocket Launcher. You know, just like Mom used to do.

The enemies themselves are a hodgepodge of absurd clichés. We’re talking about uncharacteristically hostile monks, robotic baddies and Nazis. They don’t outright say they’re Nazis but they’re definitely Nazis, complete with WWII surplus gear. The Nazi presence isn’t too surprising, though, considering that the original Rise of the Triad was intended to be a Wolfenstein expansion.

Across all difficulties, the AI fails to show any consistency in behavior. Some bots just seem much smarter than others; or at the very least, a lot less dumb. Some will dodge roll about near nonstop, even if it means rolling off of platforms and continuing to roll through the air on the way down. Others will surrender, beg for their life, and feign death. Still others may not even know you’re there. The most obnoxious of enemies, alas, will always know where you are, and they’ll time their rockets with their allies. It makes for a chaotic and varied experience.

Faking It

Faking It

Another standout feature of the original were the power-ups and, to a greater extent, the power-downs. While power-ups will make game play considerably easier —the lethal, one-hit-kill dog that leaps from incredible distances transformation (a power up that, in the original campaign, was eventually turned into an entire skirmish mode – keep your fingers crossed for that DLC) comes to mind. The power-downs will conceivably inhibit the character’s abilities. The game’s manifestation as a “’shroom” item that bends reality and makes the character say stoner-esque things doesn’t make the already thorny game any easier; it’s hard to mind the pretty colors and off-kilter sense of humor as your poorly aimed rockets explode at your feet.

It's like I can see music.

It’s like I can see music, man.

Again, being egregious is sort of the point, and that will work for some. For people looking for a bit of narrative substance to your entertainment: there are probably better places to look than a 90s revival game.

The game uses the Unreal 3 engine but already looks dated, bearing graphic resemblance to an early Xbox 360 game. The levels are dull, mostly set in prisons where a lot of grey blends into more grey; an art decision that resulted in my overlooking some enemies, and worse, some doors. Rise of the Triad is also one of the most poorly optimized titles to date, and it will be noticeable on practically any rig you could use.


It’s an explosion of meat parts, just like you dreamed about when you were a kid.

Fortunately, the developers plan to support the title with mods and free DLC for a while yet, and have gone so far as to lay out their plans for content and regularly address the consumers with a transparency rarely seen in studios today. It’s comforting and takes a little of the frustration off, allowing one to enjoy the “Gibs.”

“Gibs,” for those who don’t know, are essentially the meat chunks and pillars of gushing blood that every enemy inevitably becomes. At one point, early in the game, I knifed an enemy who tore apart as though he had been carelessly stitched together and just went everywhere. No joke, the enemies in this game are more full of blood than they should realistically be able to hold. But, who cares about realism anyway? If you’re particularly lucky, an onscreen message will display the words “Ludicrous Gibs!” as eyeballs and brain gunk slide down your monitor as though it were a windshield.  It was actually a selling point for the original.

But the main selling point of the original was, of course, the multiplayer. Containing almost every feature from the campaign itself, the arena matches can get nothing short of anarchic. Jump pads, while also presenting a unique challenge in that they can’t be relied upon and sometimes cause unnecessary damage due to their width and frequent movement, ensure that the action will be very vertical (think Quake)and respawning power weapons will keep players scrambling around the map. Spawn kills will be more prominent and annoying than ever, seeing as how spawn weapons tend to be useless in the matches. The competitive element is derived from quick, precise navigation of the maps and reflexes keener than most shooters will ask of players today; the characters are just that fast.

With a cheesy metal soundtrack that absolutely shreds, a nonsensical selection of weapons and baddies, and the unmistakable high-speed gliding feel to character movement, Rise of the Triad truly brings the 90s back for a visit. I just fear that the experience may be overly dependent on nostalgia-tinted goggles and may not be well received by a younger crowd. For better, or for worse, Rise of the Triad has brought the defining characteristics of a decade past to the present, and didn’t bother to filter out a lot of the poor mechanics that have since disappeared for a reason.

We’ll have to wait and see if that changes with future content releases. In the meanwhile, please enjoy these complimentary gibs.


Rise of the Triad was developed by Interceptor Entertainment

For a mere $14.99, you can relive a part of the 90s. That’s the decade that sported the debut of Seinfeld, the suicide of Kurt Cobain, Transformers Beast Wars and the Blowjobbing of the President. How’s that for context?

New Challenger: Benjamin Maltbie

Hey Reader,

Hey. First off, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Benjamin, and I’m a gamer with bohemian ambitions. I am artsy and/or fartsy. I want to be a writer. Not a celebrated writer or anything like that. I just want to be a guy who writes at least one thing that touches at least one person. At that point, I figure I’m breaking even in the world.

But mostly, I just play games and think about writing. All sorts of games, really. The more retro inspired a game tends to be, the more I seem to be interested. I love the SNES, and I think game design and philosophy peaked somewhere around that era, before veering suddenly into a scary, daunting world of budgets and mass marketing. Fortunately, indie games have rekindled that philosophy.

So here I am, with the intent of finding games that will grip me the way Mega Man or Link to the Past did. Tirelessly hunting for games with story lines as compelling as Final Fantasy Tactics and game play as tight as the Virgin Mary, I solemnly swear to you, my reader, that we will sort through the bad and reclaim gaming’s glory,

But, if you are into all that main stream mumbo jumbo, you can find me writing about that over at Cheat Code Central and God is a Geek, you corporate tool. Or, if you’re particularly in love with me, you can stalk me via a semi-updated list of my hard hitting journalism  and high caliber word stuff  —that has been ruthlessly scattered across the veritable cyber cosmos of these here e-webs— by clicking the following link:


But in all seriousness, I’m psyched to be contributing here at . Been following IGC since she started this site, and stood in awe as it grew to have the influence it does. I hope I can bring something worthwhile and unique to the team, and I’m seriously hoping to click with the readership. This site would be nothing without the personality that is Cathy, and the vocal community that supports her. Follow me @benjaminmaltbie and maybe we’ll, I don’t know, play a game or something.

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