Miles & Kilo

I do events on Twitter where I hand out thousands of free indie games. I don’t advertise them here at Indie Gamer Chick because they’re not about me. I’ll hand out any non-toxic-subject matter title as long as the developer is open to feedback, since the primary goal is to get under-the-radar games feedback. Sometimes I’ve played them. Sometimes I haven’t. I don’t discriminate between games I’ve liked and disliked. Again, it’s not about me. It’s about the indie gaming community. Still, it’s always awkward when I give a game out only to play it later and not like it at all. Maybe even hate it. Cue ominous thunder-clasp.

So during #IndieXmas this last year, I was giving out copies of an endless runner called Kid Tripp. It went over well, but some people weren’t fans of the genre and said they would have liked it more if it had just been a normal platformer. Developer Michael Burns said “well actually, I just released a sequel called Miles & Kilo on Steam that isn’t an endless runner.” I ended up giving copies of it out as well and it was one of the big sleeper hits of the event. I bought Kid Tripp for myself and did play a little bit of it and “not for me” seemed to fit the bill. I don’t like games designed around “gotcha” deaths and huge body counts. I figured Miles & Kilo would be more up my alley. Wrong.

By the way: Michael is the coolest dude. Donated hundreds of codes for Steam and even Switch, and took all the feedback he received with good grace. I hate that I didn’t like this game, but the fact that Michael is all class and wants to hone his craft makes it easier, since I know he’ll be taking notes from this review. I’m reviewing the game, not the man behind it. And I’m proud to say that Miles & Kilo will be a part of #IGCParty July 9 – 13, where I’ll be giving away it and thousands of free game codes for other games on Twitter to celebrate my 29th birthday and hopefully raise awareness and money for the Epilepsy Foundation. Oh snap, did I just advertise on my blog?

Miles & Kilo is supposed to be the non-endless-runner counterpart of Kid Tripp. But the problem is, it’s designed exactly like an endless runner. In fact, you can turn on an endless runner mode right from the get-go, without having to unlock it. Every aspect of the level design was clearly built with endless running in mind, making me think it started life as a mechanically direct sequel to Kid Tripp and endless running was aborted in response to people who preferred the ability to stop moving. But honestly, the amount of times I actually stopped myself from moving were so few that I don’t even know what the point of dropping the endless running was. Since Miles & Kilo looks like Kid Tripp and is designed like Kid Tripp, why not just call it Kid Tripp 2? I call shenanigans. Miles & Kilo is a Kid Tripp double-dip.

Also, if you took a shot every time I said “endless running” or some variation of it that last paragraph, you would not be reading this because you would be on the floor dead.

Anyway, like Kid Tripp, Miles & Kilo is built around dying. A lot. This is trial-and-error gameplay with so much emphasis on the “error” part that it’s practically being projected into the sky like the fucking Bat-Signal. Early on, I completed a whopping two stages on my first attempt and figured that an ample supply of “Glorious Victory” (my pet term for difficult games where you have a slim but real chance of beating stages on your first attempt, triggering sensations akin to gaming nirvana. Super Meat Boy is the all time king of Glorious Victory) would be in store. But then, Miles & Kilo got cheap and “gotcha deaths” started piling up. Deaths that I don’t feel anyone could reasonably be expected to avoid on their first attempt at a stage. Thus, the difficulty doesn’t feel genuine. As I proved myself with Mario Maker, any idiot can design a frustrating platforming stage. Sure, when it was me who was that idiot, it was cathartic. But watching people actually attempt to beat my stages (one of which was called Cathy’s Horrible Hypocrisy. Hey, at least I admit it. Try it yourself: 0BD1-0000-0031-CD40) wasn’t as entertaining as I figured. And actually, most of those who streamed it sounded as bored playing it as I did watching it.

Sure, children of the 80s will tell you that games were better back in the days when they were hard. You know, because apparently games stopped being hard around 2001 because some of them started with a tutorial, God forbid. But ask those same gamers how much fun they had playing, say, Battletoads.

“YES! Battletoads! Loved it!”

“Tell me, did you like the speederbike stage?”

“Oh yeah! I totally died a ton playing it.”

“But did have fun playing it?”

“Of course! Games were more fun back then!”

“Did you ever beat Battletoads?”

“No, I never could get past the speederbike stage.”

“Right. So you really liked it, but not enough to actually finish it.”

“Well, I just didn’t get around to it.”

“Uh huh. That’s so weird because when I’m really having fun with a game, I can’t put it down regardless of difficulty. Spelunky for example. I can’t remember too many games I liked a lot but never got around to finishing.”

“Well I liked Battletoads!”

“Obviously not that much. Otherwise you’d be telling me how proud you were when you beat the speederbike stage.”

“Well lots of people didn’t finish it. Games were harder back then.”

“You keep saying things were a certain way back then. Did you play Cuphead? It’s pretty hard.”

“Yeah, that’s what I love about it! It’s old school! It doesn’t hold your hand. You wouldn’t know, you’re not a real gamer.”

“So did you beat Cuphead?”

“Well I haven’t..”

“Gotten around to it. Yeah. I mean, I didn’t even like Cuphead but I still managed to beat every boss on Easy mode, which, according to the achievements percentage, 90% of Cuphead owners couldn’t be bothered to do. It kind of sounds like I’m more of a real gamer than you are and the rest of you old-school quitters were. Because I actually finish the games I like, and even some I don’t.”

“What are you saying?”

“That you’re surrendering to herd mentality saying you have to like a game if it’s hard because if you don’t, that makes you a pussy. You clearly don’t enjoy them. If you did, you’d actually finish them. You’ve had twenty years to finish Battletoads. If you haven’t by now, you’re probably never going to.”

“Well, um, I mean, games WERE harder back then.”

“They still make hard games. I’m reviewing one right now. I’m quoting you verbatim for the review as we speak, and trust me, it’s not coming off flattering. You sound like an idiot. It’s okay. Every 80s gamer does when they try to convince themselves how much fun it was to quit and not finish difficult games. I’m sure all the people who tell me how much they loved Ghosts ‘n Goblins were having a real fun time not finishing it because it was too hard. LOTS of fun. And frankly, people bring up Battletoads in the same phony tone they do when reminiscing about back when they had to blow into cartridges just to be able to get the fucking game to boot-up as if that were a good thing.”

“OH MY GOD! I REMEMBER BLOWING INTO CARTRIDGES! WOW, I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE! HERE, TAKE MY MONEY!”

“I’m not selling anything.”

“Just take it!”

“Fine.”

Oh and Michael, the timer on stages shouldn’t start until the player chooses to start moving. This isn’t an endless runner, remember?

And that’s the problem with neo-retro games that rely on lots of dying: they count on gamers convincing themselves they’re having fun, in lieu of actually having fun. I’m not drunk on nostalgia for NES-era platformers, and thus I have to accept that I didn’t have any fun at all with Miles & Kilo. I give developer Michael Burns credit: it looks great. And there’s enough variety in the level design that it never feels like a slog. But gameplay, more or less, is like this: run right, die. Run right, jump over thing that killed you, die. Run right, jump over think that killed you, shoot second thing that killed you, die. Run right, jump over the first thing that killed you, forget about the second thing that killed you because you’re planning for the third thing that killed you, die. Repeat this for a few hours.

Well that’s barely video game. That’s more like Simon. You know, that memory game with the red, blue, green, and yellow buttons where you memorize which buttons light up, with a new button added to the end of the sequence every level? If you don’t have a reasonable chance to get past certain areas of a stage on your first attempt, your punisher is just a fancy version of Simon no matter how much effort you put into dressing it up. With all due respect to Ralph Baer (yes, THAT Ralph Baer. The guy who invented video games. He created Simon as well), I think Simon is boring. And video games where the action is just a tarted-up version of Simon are usually just as boring. That’s why I appreciated the Impossible Game. It was cheap, it advertised its difficulty, and (at least when it first came out) it was one stage. Finish it and you get the sense of accomplishment and you’re done. Miles & Kilo has more stages but after a while the endless trial and error becomes less a game and more a chore that you don’t even get an allowance for.

First try. Suck it haters.

Whether I give a game away during an event or not, I dread saying I hate any game. It’s not what I’m here for. So I take no pleasure in saying I hated Miles & Kilo. No, I didn’t finish it. After nearly two hours of gameplay, I was just getting angrier and angrier, until I finally realized that no entertainment breakthrough was on the horizon. Pressing on further would do neither Miles & Kilo nor my blood pressure any favors. And I’m still sort of hung up on why this wasn’t an endless runner. Look, Michael, I didn’t like your game, but come on man. You clearly wanted to make another endless runner. Just to do what you want to do and to hell with everyone else. If people demand you change your endless runner into a normal platformer, tell them you don’t negotiate with terrorists. Trust me, I’ve played your games. You’re the one bringing the terror to them.

Miles & Kilo was developed by Michael Burns
Point of Sale: Steam (and coming soon to Switch just in time for the holidays, namely my own birthday. Wink)

$7.99’s new dog, Fireball, is about as well-behaved as the Kilo the dog, and that’s not a good thing in the making of this review.

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Beware: gamerchick.contact@gmail.com is not me or anyone associated with me.

I’ve gotten a ton of notices at this point over the last few days from developers trying to verify that I requested a review code of their game from the email address gamerchick.contact@gmail.com

That is not me. That is someone posing as me trying to score free games. As my FAQ states, I don’t take review codes unless the game isn’t out yet. And typically when I do request reviews, I do so on social media, specifically from @IndieGamerChick on Twitter.

By the way, this tactic is super common, so to all indie developers, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Make sure the requests are coming from the authentic source, not someone posing as the famous (or in my case, pseudo-famous) gaming personality.

The Turning Points That Weren’t: The Most Overrated Moments in Gaming History – Part 1

Toys R Us is shutting down, and gamers everywhere are now asking themselves “what places will I not be shopping at for my games, now?” It’s weird to me how our community is making such a big deal out of this when I have to believe most of you haven’t set foot in a TRU since the Bush administration. Look, I’m sorry for all the jobs lost that comes with a major, iconic company shutting down, but this was a long time in the making. Nostalgia is the only reason any gamer in 2018 is shedding tears over that damn giraffe being shot down by big boxes on safari. I don’t get nostalgic, even though Toys R Us is directly tied to my status as a gamer. In July of 1998, my parents took soon-to-be nine-year-old me to browse at the store and figure out what I wanted for my birthday. After I spent roughly thirty minutes playing Banjo-Kazooie on a kiosk, my decision was crystal clear.

But, as important as that is to my gaming heritage, Toys R Us is completely inconsequential to the history of gaming. No different from the closings of KB Toys or Blockbuster Video or any other once-powerhouse source for games.

Actually, I think the death of Toys R Us is a great chance to teach young children about life and death. And in that spirit, I propose that TRU use whatever funds they can round-up to purchase giraffes for the purpose of euthanizing them in front of children on the final day before closure of each location. This will also act as an effective form of revenge against the competitors that put you out of business since any child who witnesses this won’t ask parents to buy toys from those stores.. or for that matter, any toy from any retailer at all.. ever again. I fully release this idea to you, Toys R Us. Go out with a bang. Or a very large syringe full of barbiturates.

And it got me to thinking: what are the most overrated moments in gaming history? Stuff that people make a big deal about, but ultimately don’t even matter all that much. I came up with six, which I’ll now present in no particular order.

Various Hardware Busts

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. No, it doesn’t really matter all that much when consoles don’t capture the public’s imagination. Take the Dreamcast, for example. It flopped so badly that it knocked Sega clean out of the console business, right?

Wrong. Sega’s days in the manufacturing business were numbered before the Dreamcast even launched in North America. Isao Okawa had been advocating to become a third-party for years and only relented on going forward with the Dreamcast on the grounds that it experimented with internet options. When he became the CEO of Sega in 2000, that was the end of Sega as a console maker. Before an official announcement was made, the heads of Sega’s first-party studios were openly talking about hoping to see their games on other platforms. They never would have said that type of stuff in public if the winds of change weren’t already blowing. It would have been career-suicide to undermine the Dreamcast like that. While I do still firmly believe Sega would have stuck it out for another generation if Dreamcast had included a DVD drive and sold better, Sega insiders I’ve spoken with insist that engineers who talked about the next generation were shut down immediately. I’ve heard it enough that I figure it has to be true. Hell, I’ve even heard rumor that part of Sega’s deal with Microsoft for the DC’s Windows operating system included a handshake commitment to abandoning manufacturing at the start of the next generation.

It’s worth pointing out that Okawa was dying by time he made his ruling on Sega’s status. And that Sega’s biggest problem wasn’t the money lost on Dreamcast, but the money lost on SegaNet. Remember that? Well, if the lost money of the Dreamcast was equal to a firing barrel, the lost money on SegaNet was the sun. It was so bad that the only way Sega could survive the transition to being a third-party (stay tuned for more on that in part 2) was if Okawa forgave all the loans he had given the company out of his personal wealth AND returned all $700,000,000 worth of shares in the company he had. Which he did. Nice guy.

Other failures get cited often enough that I suppose I should list them. Virtual Boy is Nintendo’s most famous belly-flop in their Scrooge McDuck-style money silo. But actually, Nintendo fully anticipated laying a less than golden egg at least six months before it even shipped. I know, right? They only moved forward with manufacturing because they were so far along in the process that it made less sense to not launch. Unlike the fiasco with the SNES CD-ROM drive, the Virtual Boy was made of relatively cheap materials and the technology they were paying a license on wasn’t really that expensive. Nintendo certainly didn’t overspend on R & D, nor did they suffer insane amounts of inventory crush. Dollar for dollar, Nintendo’s biggest R & D loser ever is in fact the SNES CD-ROM project. It’s not even close. If vaporware isn’t fair, the dishonor goes to the Nintendo 64 DD Drive, developed entirely in-house and a major project within the company that barely made it to market (and doing so in Japan only) and sold under 20,000 units once it was on shelves. So it’s kind of funny that Virtual Boy is the flop everyone talks about when it’s not even in the top two. To put Virtual Boy’s impact on Nintendo in perspective, Sony lost more money on their Ghostbusters reboot than Nintendo did on Virtual Boy.

The Virtual Boy of movie directors. I kid. I thought Spy was perfectly fine.

What about Saturn you say? You mean the console that dominated the original PlayStation for the first two years of their existence in Japan? Botched North American launch and legacy notwithstanding, it was Sega’s only console that actually had traction over competitors in Japan. Hell, in Japan the Genesis (or Mega Drive over there) was third to the TurboGrafx 16 (PC Engine, Christ, how did gaming need so much time to figure out to have one universal name for your consoles?) at the start of its life cycle and stayed that way until NEC essentially bowed-out.

What about the 3DO?  Believe it or not, it was profitable. And then, once they transitioned to a third-party company, they were even more profitable. They died a miserable death when the children who loved Army Men games became old enough to become actual Army Men, but at one point, they were one of the most profitable third-party game companies in the world.

I would argue the most consequential failure of gaming hardware in my gaming lifetime (1996 to the present) was actually the Vita. Sony gave up on development for it quickly and there’s been no talk of them returning to that space. The 3DS line has shown that there’s still a market for handheld games, so you can’t blame the rise of mobile on Sony’s portable exit. And hardcore gamers loved both the PSP and Vita. At one point, the Vita was my primary gaming device. It’s the one flop I’ve witnessed that knocked a major console manufacturer out of the business because of the flop alone and not all the residual bullshit that comes with it, like the toll on share prices or devaluing the brand name.

Dreamcast? Nah. It’s not that big a deal. It sucks how quickly it died, but gaming is probably better off with Sega as a third-party.

Gaming Magazines Closing

I’ve already “reviewed” gaming magazines here. By the way, fun fact: of all the articles I’ve done, that’s the one that got me the most hatred. Not my Sonic CD review. Not my Cuphead review. Saying “meh, who cares about Game Magazines?” is the one that had me fitted for a bullet-proof vest. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, though I do have Brian taste my food for me when we eat out. For all I know there’s still an angry chef out there who has to occasionally bury his face in his hands and cry over the death of Nintendo Power that might still have it in for me.

I had this cover analyzed by a team of scientists and they determined it is not physically possible to put in less effort on a magazine cover.

Personally, I was a big fan of EGM, but by time it dropped dead in 2009, it was already a shell of itself. Plus, you know, the Internet was a thing by that point. A lot of gamers point at the loss of gaming magazines as an almost loss of innocence. My question is, did the magazines really die? Aren’t gaming websites, blogs, YouTube channels, Twitch, etc, the logical evolutionary legacy of those magazines? Like how the dinosaurs gave way to birds, magazines like EGM or Game Pro gave rise to, for better or worse, sites like IGN, stars like PewDiePie, and independent bloggers like yours truly? That’s why I get a terrific giggle out of how much hate mail I got from my magazine article. Because, when you think about it, Indie Gamer Chick is one of many heirs to the legacy of your childhood gaming rags. Flame me all you want, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

By the way, I’m perfectly aware of the irony that I rag on gaming mags but still did the dance of eternal happiness to have been featured in an editorial in Game Informer last year. Hey, I never said I wasn’t an amazingly two-faced hypocrite.

Hot Coffee

Ah, Hot Coffee. It’s gaming’s version of Janet Jackson’s nipple at the Super Bowl. A moment in time where the reaction was so much worse than the reality. For those that don’t know what Hot Coffee is, I assure you, I’m not talking about Starbucks.

Sometimes content in a game hits the cutting room floor, but it’s cheaper (or downright needed based on how a game is programmed) to just cut off access to parts of the game than it is to actually delete parts of the code itself. Thus, the content is no longer part of the game, but if you have a means to manipulate the code, you might regain access to it. When I was a kid, Animal Crossing on the GameCube had NES games (among them, the original Legend of Zelda) you could only access with devices like Action Replay. And can you tell I only brought that up because I find the idea of talking about something so cutesy as Animal Crossing in the same breath as bringing up hardcore simulated sex in Grand Theft Auto to be hilarious?

Because I totally do.

And am.

I suspect such content is probably in Animal Crossing anyway. I mean, his name is Tom NOOK. That’s one letter shy of a really good time.

So yea, someone figured out that there was a deleted mini-game in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that allowed you to have full on sex. No censorship either. Just straight up baby-making in all its disgusting glory. Here, have a look. Just, remember, this is not safe for work.

And holy crap, did the industry completely lose their shit over this. Even though you needed some form of third-party intervention to access the mini-game, the ESRB upgraded (or downgraded, depending on your level of prudishness) San Andreas to the dreaded adults-only rating and retailers pulled it from shelves. And then politicians got involved, with no less than Hillary Clinton calling for ESRB ratings to be federally mandated. Which is strange since the ESRB is part of the Entertainment Software Association. Which is, you know, a lobbyist. It seems like a weird position for anyone campaigning to limit the power of lobbyists to take. But then again, if you’re a politician that isn’t at least a little hypocritical, that’s usually taken as a sign of some kind of moral flabbiness that should be avoided at all costs.

So yea, it was a shit show of epic proportions. But, what ultimately was done about it? Well, Rockstar deleted the offending code and re-released the game, and for a while developers stopped merely cutting off unused game content and outright mandated deleting it, but that lasted about, well, a cup of coffee.

Personally, I’m surprised CJ could get laid at all. I mean, look at him. That neck makes him look like he’s Groot’s long-lost half-brother.

It’s a shame, really. This could have been an amazing chance for the game industry to grow. To have a much-needed conversation about whether or not we were ready for games that truly are only for adults. This was all back in 2005. Now, here it is 2018. There still hasn’t been a truly adult-only game on consoles. Hell, since Hot Coffee happened, I have played a game where I performed an abortion. On a guy. After fighting undead Nazi fetuses that used Hitler’s actual voice.

That game had an M rating. And I didn’t have to hack anything to access it. It’s literally part of a boss fight. So was Hot Coffee a product of its time? Would it be an outrage if it happened today? Am I actually suggesting some major AAA should hide a sex mini-game in their code and then leak it just so we can find out? Why yes. Yes I am. Look at it this way: your project will get unprecedented mainstream coverage and desirability after the inevitable over-reaction. And if it goes bad, hey, the industry will be no worse off.

Or it will be completely destroyed. Either/or.

Stay tuned for Part 2. I only promise that it’ll make more sense than Last Jedi.

Iron Snout

Iron Snout feels like a better presented version of one of those crappy LCD games Tiger Electronics used to make that your aunts would get you for Christmas because she heard you like video games. Not the borderline-quality stuff like Game & Watch (of which I’ve reviewed a tribute to as well) I’m not kidding about that even a little bit. Here, you wait in the center of the screen for wolves to get within striking range. Then, mashing the arrow keys, you attack them until they die. Occasionally the wolves will throw stuff at you, which you can duck or try to knock it back at them. There’s two stages, both with different sets of enemies, and a multiplayer mode that I didn’t get to try out. And uh, yeah, that’s about it.

Hey, look Kris and Jesse, I finally threw a Dragon Punch!

I know for a fact you can take those shitty LCD games and make something fun with them. I know this because Nintendo did it a few times with their Game & Watch Gallery series. I don’t know for sure if those were the inspiration for Iron Snout. All I know is Iron Snout is incredibly boring. Despite the developers giving you a somewhat decent variety of moves, everything is still done with just the arrow keys and it feels limiting. Not to mention that some of the enemies are sort of fickle as to what constitutes a hit and what doesn’t. I struggled greatly with the timing of hitting the rocket wolves and the wrecking ball wolves, where sometimes it damaged me and sometimes it didn’t. Even though it looked like I was timing it right. I’m sure with enough time, I could be more consistent, but thing is, I don’t really want to put time into a game I’m not having any fun at all with. It’s not broken or anything. It’s just painfully dull. Give me a game failing in a hilarious way to being a slog any day of the week.

Once upon a time, I cringed every time an indie had something that resembled a Nintendo intellectual property in their game as a “tribute.” It seemed like it was poking the hornet’s nest. After all, this is a company that once sued a user on a porn site for listing Zelda as an interest. But, it would seem Nintendo has lightened up a bit. I hope. I didn’t like Iron Snout but I don’t want it or ANY indies getting sued. I haven’t played a single King.com game since the Banner Saga fiasco, and I never will. We should all stand in solidarity on stuff like this, no matter how you feel about the quality of the games.

I put thirty minutes into Iron Snout and never once had even a little bit of fun, and so it doesn’t really matter if the game is free or not. I know Iron Snout has its fans, but I’m not among them. I did get nine achievements with almost no effort, which I’m guessing is the point. We live in an era where people will play a terrible game, even pay for it, if it means getting easy achievements, even ones no self-respecting gamer could possibly want. Some people call them participation trophies. But that’s not accurate. I think of them more as Halloween costumes. “TRICK OR TREAT!” “Oh look at the little gamer all dressed up with his Iron Snout and Super Duper Flying Genocide achievements. That’s adorable.”

Iron Snout was developed by Snout Up

Free to play on Steam

Hook

Protip: don’t name your indie puzzler after a polarizing 90s Robin Williams flick. People might purchase it under the mistaken belief that you’ll get a chance to avenge Ruffio’s death. Speaking of which, why exactly did they have to kill off Ruffio? What, were the stakes not high enough when Captain Hook had merely kidnapped Peter Pan’s children and had already threatened to kill them? You can’t even say Pan avenged Ruffio. Hell, he tried to give Hook a chance to leave Neverland instead of finishing him off. Hook turned them down, then possibly escaped via a teleportation device hidden inside a giant stuffed crocodile, leaving open the possibility of a sequel. You know, if the movie had actually made money and Spielberg didn’t wrap the shoot hoping that Julia Roberts choked to death on her own malformed ego.

By the way indie game Hook developer, now my review will show up in Google searches for both Hook the movie and Hook the your game. You’re welcome.

Hook is a minimalist puzzler based on reeling in lines and hooks. You press buttons to pull a line. If the line (and any hooks attached to it) have no resistance, they vanish. If they’re not free, you have to start over (about forty odd levels in, they add lives, presumably to cut down on the tedium of making a mistake and starting over). The further along you are, the more convoluted the stages get, eventually requiring you to change the directions of the lines, account for radio-like signal jumps, and so forth. It’s not exactly thrilling stuff, but at least its original and interesting enough that it never becomes a slog. I know this review isn’t exactly overflowing with my usual wit and wisecracks. To which I say, look I have to work with.

See? It looks like IKEA instructions. And really, the only complaint I have is Hook is too damn easy. Lots of puzzle games can be solved by simple reverse-engineering, but Hook takes this to such a fundamentalist level that it feels more like a time waster than something truly built to flex your grey matter. Every next-step you take in Hook is self-evident: simply find the lines that are free to be pulled out and arrange the junctions so that only they are removed, then repeat with newly freed lines. So yeah, Hook is a digital, semi-pretentious art-house version of Pick Up Sticks. But hey, I’m a semi-pretentious indie gaming critic who happens to be unbeatable at Pick Up Sticks so this sort of thing is my bag.

Hook was developed by Maciej Targoni & Wojciech Wasiak
Point of Sale: Steam

$0.99 avoided the boo-box in the making of this review.

Hook is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Shower With Your Dad Simulator 2015

I swore up and down I would never review this, despite dozens of requests. Among other things, my site barely makes it through Google with safe search turned on as it is. I’d probably make a joke about trying to avoid ending up on some kind of FBI watch list, but let’s face it, that ship sailed the moment I purchased a game called Shower With Your Dad Simulator 2015. A game where you play as a naked child trying to run into the shower his naked father is in (with 8-bit penis on display in all its glory, though thankfully that only applies to the adults and not the kids depicted in the game).

I’m not sure what’s more wince-inducing: the digital penises, the Dad jokes, or the fact that I find the idea of a half-naked, digital Robin Hood to be kinda hot.

In the 2010s, the use of “simulator” in a game’s name is like a red flag for forced quirkiness. Take any mundane thing or task, add “simulator” to it and presto: you get LOLs from simpletons. It’s to indie games what doing time in the joint is for drug cartels: instant credibility. Nothing is being simulated in the strictest sense (or hopefully stimulated in the literal sense for you pervs out there). It actually plays like a single-screen arcadey game. When you get to the shower your pops is in, you score points and the showers magically teleport to other locations on the screen. As you progress, more obstacles are thrown in at you, like puddles of water to slip on, or shower curtains that give you only a split-second to see which dad is yours. You get extra time added every time you make it to the correct Dad. You lose if you run out of time or walk into the shower with the wrong father, where you will presumably get the Kevin Spacey treatment.

😦 molested…

I’ve always said that if you’re going to make a game based on making immature twats giggle, don’t half-ass the stupidity. Shower With Your Dad can’t be accused of that. Among other things, the game gives you four options with the nudity, none of which actually change anything. So I hope you enjoy seeing 8-bit wangs because they can’t be disabled. Loading screens feature cringey Dad Jokes, only with dicks fully on display. Really, the only semblance of restrain is that the you can’t see the child’s privates, though I suspect if they could have slipped that past Steam’s censors, they would have.

I actually expected to hate Shower with Your Dad, so imagine my surprise when I didn’t. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s actually fun. For like fifteen minutes, but still, give me that over hours of boredom with something like The Novelist. Shower is fast paced, two of the three modes I played were legitimately fun (the Dad Divisions mode had issues with controls and fairness, so skip it if possible). Really, they could have used any theme for the gameplay, but it caught my attention and everyone else’s based on novelty shock value which is funny for exactly 1.72557 seconds.

In retrospect, I should have probably picked a different picture to censor the junk of these guys.

Novelty games based on shock value aren’t exactly a recent phenomena. Long before I was born, there were pornography games for the Atari 2600, including one called Beat ‘Em and ‘Eat Em, where a guy was jacking off on a roof and rains down droplets of semen and you had to catch in your mouth. This was a real game. And, of course, there’s the infamous Custer’s Revenge. If you haven’t heard of it, just Google it and be ready to cringe. If someone attempted to release a game like that today, 24 hour news channels would cover the backlash around the clock. The thing is though, none of those games were fun. Shower with Your Dad Simulator 2015 is. So hey, I finally played a low-effort “adult” novelty game and enjoyed it. Yeah, I know. Weird.

By the way, in keeping with my tradition of reviewing real life versions of video games (see my review for digital hackysack, Kick’in It), I decided I would compare the video version of showering with your Dad to the real thing. How’d it go? Well, I’m typing this review from rehab. What do you think?

Shower with Your Dad Simulator 2015 was developed by marbenx.
Point of Sale: Steam

$0.99 has a father who would like to note he’s not actually the reason I’m in rehab in the making of this review. Probably. It’s not like I cleared any of these jokes with him. I’m kind of curious if I’ll be able to hear him scream “JESUS CHRIST CATHY YOU CAN’T PUT THAT SHIT ON THERE” from here.

Shower With Your Dad Simulator 2015 is……….. I can’t believe I’m saying this…………. Chick Approved and Ranked on the now forever tainted Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

I love making my readers feel old. There’s something satisfying on a primal level about sending them to their bathrooms to cry and check their hairlines when I mention things like how I was only ten-years-old when the Sega Dreamcast released in North America. In that spirit, here’s me reviewing a remake of Wonder Boy III, a game which released for the Sega Master System in July, 1989. Do you know what else released in July of 1989?

Me.

Into the world.

From my mother’s vagina.

Yep, you’re old. I’m not. Suck it.

Of course, it’s kind of bizarre that I’m reviewing a game that was, at the time of its original release, clearly not an indie. It was a major tent-pole console exclusive. Sega’s answer to Super Mario 3. Not only am I reviewing it, but I’m counting it as an indie game. For my new readers, I have a rule: for the rare non-indies that I cover here (South Park: Stick of Truth, The Simpsons Arcade Game, or Peggle 2 among others), win or lose, I don’t count them towards the IGC Leaderboard’s percentile rankings. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap will count, and spoiler alert, I’m giving it my Seal of Approval. But wait, you say: how can a major first-party game (it was published by Sega for the Master System) that was their best weapon in their war against Nintendo before the Genesis possibly be an indie today?

I’ve been doing Indie Gamer Chick for six years. I’ve reviewed over 550 games. I was, and probably still am, the defacto face of an entire indie gaming platform (rest in peace, XBLIG). If anyone would know what exactly makes a game “indie” or not, it would be me. But the truth is, I would have an easier time defining the meaning of life than defining an indie. (By the way, the meaning of life is that cream cheese mixed with powdered sugar makes a delicious frosting. Everything else is meaningless.) At one point, the gang at Zen Studios protested that I denied their Chick-Approved genre-smörgåsbord Castlestorm a spot on the Leaderboard on the basis that they made video-pinball games using the Star Wars IP. Star Wars clearly is not and never would be considered an indie game, and I felt at the time any studio big enough or reputable enough to be selected to develop for that license shouldn’t be considered for indie status. Zen Studios challenged that and convinced me otherwise. So while their work with the Star Wars IP wouldn’t qualify, Castlestorm certainly did.

I often complain about action-adventure indies that forget to make the hero “blink” long enough after taking damage. That’s not an issue with Wonder Boy. Actually, it goes to the other extreme: sometimes you blink so long it could take as long as a minute before you stop being juggled by enemies and regain the ability to, you know, move and fight back. But at least you’re not taking damage during that shit. This is the final boss, and I spent more time recoiling from damage during it than actually fighting it. Look closely to the right of it and you can see me stun-locked.

Which brings us to Wonder Boy III’s remake. The new one, not the old one. Uh, yea, in case you didn’t know, it’s already been remade once. Because of ambiguous rights issues that practically require a flow-chart (the original Wonder Boy was remade as Adventure Island for the NES and THAT spawned a completely different series, making it the Power Rangers of video games), Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap was released a year after the SMS version on the Turbo Grafx 16 (PC Engine in Japan) under the name “Dragon’s Curse.” This is the version I bought on Wii Virtual Console in 2007, so I was already familiar with it. And I quite liked it back then. I mean, the controls were so slippery that it felt like someone had buttered the floor, and this was also around the time my epilepsy developed and I had to look away from the screen quite a bit. But still, really nice game. As someone who grew up in the PlayStation era, it was one of my favorite lost classics the Virtual Console allowed me to rediscover.

This remake is actually reverse-engineered from the SMS original. So, yea, it’s a $20 ROM hack. Only there’s never been a ROM hack like this. The guys at Lizardcube painted absolutely gorgeous facades over the original graphics. While I’m fairly sure that all the original collision boxes were retained, the effort is so admirable and so striking that you have to tip your hat to them. You can switch back and forth between the original graphics and the 2017 remake on the fly, and sometimes I found myself doing it just so I could be gobsmacked by how much work they put into it. Here’s what the game looked like in 1989.

And here’s the exact same shot, only with the 2017 graphics.

Wow.

Of course, being a ROM hack that aspires to faithfully recreate the original means all the warts are along for the ride. Wonder Boy has terrible platforming controls. Floaty, loose, laggy at times. The weird thing is, the developers did fix a few things, including the most obvious flaw. In the original game, you needed to acquire and equip a sword to break some of the stone blocks. Pausing the game to equip this killed the pace and was just tedious busy-work, especially when you acquire a sword that lets you create breakable blocks that you then have to switch back-and-forth with. Even for its time, it’s such an obviously stupid design choice that it’s astonishing it took nearly thirty years for someone to fix it. In the remake, they’ve eliminated the block-busting sword. Instead, the stone breaking thingy is a charm that, once you have it, is always equipped regardless of what sword you’re using. But besides adjustable difficulty (very welcome since the bad controls made the original a maddening experience), the block-breaking issue is the only major fix. It’s like a dermatologist saying “well, you’ve got a lot of moles, but we’re only going to remove the one on your nose. Because it’s cancerous. And also, we’re going to need you to pay in cash from now on.”

I can’t really blame the developers on some of the more glaring issues with the original. But, because they clearly recognized that some aspects of the game hadn’t aged gracefully, I can’t give them a pass on them either. While the concept of switching between different animal forms was, and still is, inspired, Wonder Boy III didn’t use the idea to its fullest. The level design varies from decent to atrocious. Each animal-form is acquired by completing a dungeon. The mouse’s dungeon is repeating a series of identical zig-zag rooms on the left side of a giant pyramid, then dropping to the bottom of it and doing a repeating series of identical zig-zag rooms from the right side of a giant pyramid. Click the link. See that? Repeat that six trillion times, or at least it feels that long. Only the enemies might change, but otherwise it’s exhausting in its dullness. But that’s not even the worst level! The lion’s stage is series of flat rooms without platforms or puzzles or anything but ninjas (random). It’s incredibly lazy and uninspired. It feels like the original developers just gave up or lost their will, or surrendered to writer’s block. I don’t know the story on it, but Wonder Boy III came out after Super Mario 2, a milestone title in the realm of level design. Even for its time, these stages are the rice cake of game design: better than tofu and edible, but certain to leave you wanting something more. It’s a stripped-down Metroidvania, and it shows its age.

The lion’s animal power is being able to swing its sword in a top-to-bottom slashing motion, allowing you to break blocks above you. So the lion’s power is awareness that “up” is a thing.

Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. Grinding up money is fun (assuming you don’t outright cheat the game by opening a treasure chest in the town, returning to the title screen and going back to the now full-again chest, which I, ahem, most certainly would not do, cough), the different animals are a blast, and the variety of weapons is nifty. I just wish instead of doing an artistic upgrade, they had just remade the whole game with new levels and new dungeons. In fact, LizardStation did add new dungeons called “The Unknown”, but they’re hidden and I didn’t find any in the three hours it took me to finish. I only discovered them because the final one unlocks after the credits and features you playing as the human Wonder Boy (or, optionally, Wonder Girl, which changes nothing but allows the game to be listed under the “female protagonist” tag on Steam, a tag which in no way feels like it’s mostly used as a cynical way of monetizing political correctness and equality. No sir or ma’am) and shows you where’s it’s located. There’s one of these new “Unknown” dungeons for each animal form, but I didn’t know they even existed when I played through it, let alone where they were hidden at. I tried to play the Human dungeon but literally the first screen was so poorly designed, requiring precision movement from a game infamous for shitty controls that I immediately lost interest in trying more. It felt like one of those, well, ROM-hacks.

When I first started playing it, I told Indie Gamer Team that this felt like a fan project that got noticed by the IP holders and made legitimate. As it turns out, that’s what 2017’s remake of Wonder Boy III actually is. That’s really cool. When we think of the nature of what makes something indie or not, something like The Dragon’s Trap doesn’t make things easier for us. It’s a fascinating anomaly that both suits and defies nearly every label. A former marquee console headliner that went on to become one of the most unsung indie gems three decades later. Just, weird. While I liked it, and I would love to see more remakes along these lines, I would have preferred Lizardbox fix the control issues and the stuff that actually matters to gameplay over painting over the problems, even though they were very good at painting. It would be like buying a 2017 Porsche 911 that has the option to transform instantly into the original 1964 Porsche 911. That would be fucking sweet, right? But what if it turned out the car’s specs, no matter which version of the Porsche it looked like, were the 1964 model’s, with the only modern concession being a CD player instead of a radio? I’m not sure that’s something most people would want. Hell, maybe not even fans of the original would want it. It’s why I have to give the nod to DuckTales Remastered as the better remake. It remembered that it had a chance to right every wrong, not just the really obvious stuff. Whereas DuckTales was a trip down memory lane for retro gamers but still modern and slick (granted over-produced to the point of annoyance), I don’t think Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap 2017 will be that for gamers of all ages. I showed it to my Godfather’s 10-year-old grandson C.J. and it didn’t hold his attention. His father said “it would have probably made a good rental from the video store back in the day.”

Then C.J. asked “what’s a video store?”

What’s a video store? Why you little twerp, a video store is a place that people used to go to..

OH GOD, IT’S HAPPENING TO ME TOO NOW!

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was developed by Lizardcube
Point of Sale: Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

$19.99 just won a $100 bet that she could work in the phrase “from my mother’s vagina” seamlessly into a review in the making of this review. Pay up, Dad!

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. Debate if should be eligible in the comments.

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