Doodle God: 8-bit Mania

There are some things I will simply never understand the appeal in. Cricket? Baffling to me. Woody Allen films? I mean, maybe if you need a nap and have no Benadryl handy. But, despite what my retro-loving readers believe, old-timey point-and-clickers aren’t among the things I don’t understand. I do get those. I think they suck. I think they have no relevance today. I think I would rather be boiled in horse bile than play most of them. But I get how they could become popular when they did. The technology of the time didn’t allow for full 3D environments or complex adventure storytelling. The point and click genre allowed for something sort of like that, using descriptive writing to smooth-out rough edges. My biggest problem with them is that the item puzzles involved utterly batshit insane logic that I’m sure made sense to the writer, at least until his medication kicked in. This turned the games into a tedious slog where players were forced to rub one item against another, or against the backdrop, until the right combination was found, thus unlocking the rest of the story. Again, I think they suck, but at least I  understand the appeal they once had. Besides blind nostalgia, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to play them now. Gaming has come so very far in the decades since. Yes, I’m aware my two favorite indies are nostalgia-bait. Hey, I never said I’m not a hypocrite.

Alcohol is made by combining Fire and Water. I'm about as far removed from being politically correct as a person can be and even I cringed in shame at that.

Alcohol is made by combining Fire and Water. I’m about as far removed from being politically correct as a person can be and even I cringed in shame at that.

And then you have Doodle God, an inexplicably popular franchise that removes the story progression and is just the batshit item puzzles of days gone by, over two-hundred times. This is actually a global mega-hit. I shit you not. Millions of people, myself included, have paid real money to select two random items from a list and hope that it opens a third item that goes onto a list. That.. that.. is one of the most popular games in mobile history.

That was one of the toughest sentences I ever typed out. My hands kept trying to amputate themselves. Joke’s on them because I would just replace them with a hook.

And saying the logic is batshit is putting it lightly. Some of the combinations defy the type of logic someone suffering plastic-fume-induced brain damage would find absurd. Life + Ash = Ghost. Holiest of all fucks, that is pure, unbridled lunacy. Or there’s the ones that could be logically but they fucked them up. Human + Money = Work. Um, wouldn’t it be Human + Work = Money? I mean, you would think, right? But then again, Logic + Lobotomy = Doodle God.

When you go to a restaurant and order more than one item from a menu, you are essentially playing Doodle God.

When you go to a restaurant and order more than one item from a menu, you are essentially playing Doodle God.

As for the whole 8-Bit-Mania stuff, it’s just Doodle God with pixel art. Same combos. It’s such a cynical cash-grab, you can practically hear the developers saying “hey, why aren’t we appealing to older gamers? Maybe it’s the graphics. Someone get on that.” It’s also $4 cheaper on Steam than the normal Doodle God is. Bizarre, but whatever. I just don’t get the appeal in this at all. In fact, the worst thing I can say about Doodle God in general is that it makes me long for being stuck with one of the 80s point and click games that I absolutely detest. At least those attempt to tell a story that you feel like you’re a participant in. Why is this even called “Doodle God” to begin with? If you were drawing the shapes, maybe. But you just select items from lists. It’s as if someone set out to make a really ambitious game, then said “Okay, select file.. you know what, fuck it, this is too hard. Select File: The Game will do.”

headerDoodle God: 8-Bit Mania was developed by JoyBits LTD
Point of Sale: Steam, Google Play, iOS App Store

$1.39 (Normally $1.99) said Money + Fire = Doodle God in the making of this review.

This review covered only the Steam version.

Spacepants

If you don’t care who this new guy is and just really need to know how good Spacepants is right the heck now, skip this paragraph. Hey guys, I’m Bernard! I’m going to be writing reviews for this fine website! Yay! I feel I should do some sort of introduction. So, hi, I’m David Bernard Houck. David means “beloved,” Bernard means “bear-hardy,” and Houck is meaningless. I think it fits: everyone loves me (yes, even you, dear reader, love me! LOVE ME!), I’m a fat gay guy, and my whole existence is meaningless. I play videogames and I write because those are the only two things I’m any good at, so I guess writing reviews makes sense! If you want to get to know me, follow me on Twitter maybe??? I retweet a lot and I am sorry. If I seem too cheerful for IGC’s hard-lovin’ style, don’t worry, I have serious vitriol for dumb games. Luckily, the first game I’m reviewing isn’t dumb, it’s a tiny, wonderful game that I think y’all should play!

SpacepantsTitle-300x42

Okay, you’re safe, no more information about a human, just the cold, hard facts of Spacepants. Spacepants became one of my favorite iOS games after playing about three rounds. But, like, Kid Games are supposed to be easy, right? So why is this game made by an actual twelve-year-old so damn hard? I play it whenever I have a couple of minutes to kill and I still can’t fucking break 60 seconds, god dammit!

Spacepants stars a ginger scientist who I guess wears spacepants, which I guess are malfunctioning such that he can’t stop moving. Ginger runs along the borders of your phone’s screen, because I guess spacepants let you walk on walls and ceilings, dodging pixel clumps that want to hurt spacepants. Tap the left half of the screen to change directions, tap the right half to jump. Collect hearts to make a bomb out of hearts and clear away the current enemies with the power of spacelove. Last as long as you can without dying because you were dumb.

SpacepantsScreen21-300x225

It’s like Super Hexagon, except not pretty or impossible. And instead of Jenn Frank’s smooth voice and Chipzel’s jammin’ tunes there’s just harsh bloops. And instead of walls there’s space caterpillars. And instead of hexagons there’s spacepants.

It really does feel a lot like Super Hexagon, I swear! But despite being very difficult, Spacepants is a much more chill, relaxing game than Super Hexagon. It’s mellow, it’s delightful, and it’s so fucking hard why can’t I get past level 2 fuck. It’s really cool to see such a fun little game come from such a young developer. I’d say it deserves a spot on the fridge, but no one would be able to get any food because I’d be standing in front of the fridge playing Spacepants all the time.

Spacepants logoSpacepants was developed by Boxface Games

IGTlogo-01$0.99 noted that Boxface Games is just a 12-year-old kid named Sam Smith who made a funner game than a lot of professional grown-ups ever have in the making of this review.

Bernard has awarded Spacepants the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.

Luminux

Do you know what I hate? That we call games like Tetris “puzzle games.” It seems somehow wrong, since we also apply that term to stuff like Lolo, Spyleaks, Gateways, and Portal, even though they couldn’t be more different. Readers of mine suggested “Puzzle-Like.” But that’s just asking for a marketing disaster, like if a restaurant served you a “meat-like protein substitute.” The best I could come up with is “Cognitive Dexterity Tester” or CDT for short, though that’s a terrible name. Not to mention it would confuse the dentists that read me.

Luminux 1Yes, I’m stalling. Why? Because I really don’t have a ton to say about Luminux, a game by my good buddy Eric Hornby. The idea is, you have a 5 x 4 play field on which different colored blocks spawn on. Pushing together a straight line of three or more of the same color block clears them. And uh…….. well, that’s it really. The setup doesn’t sound hugely complex, but it lends itself to combo-heavy gameplay, which is one of my favorite aspects of any action-puzzler (I guess that’s the universally accepted term for the genre, though that still sounds wrong to me). So obviously I liked Luminux, right? Actually, no I didn’t. Because it just ramps up in speed and difficulty too damn quickly. Only three levels in, blocks spawn at such an insanely fast rate that you barely have time to think. And because stuff spawns randomly, you’re partially left at the mercy of the luck of the draw. After a certain point of speed, it would probably make more sense to only have one block spawn at a time. It doesn’t work that way. Any spawning block you slide an existing block over is destroyed, which buys you a little time, but not enough. Once you get to level four, forget about it. I usually consider myself pretty good at games like this, but the absurd speeds combined with the luck factor are just too much to overcome.

At first, I thought this was an example of a developer trying to challenge themselves instead of challenging their consumers, but as it turns out, that was wrong. Instead, the team at Pelagic Games was trying to create an experience that could be over and done with in three minutes or less. Now, I more than anyone else has said one of the reasons I like certain handheld games (especially stuff on phones) is that you can pick them up and put them down with little consequence. But action-puzzlers don’t lend themselves to that. If you have to drop your game, you have to drop your game. You can’t tell someone “give me a second, I’m about to hit level four and then I’m pretty much screwed” if you’re waiting in line at Starbucks. If a developer wants to limit a play session for a game like this, it really needs to be done via an actual timer. By having the game accelerate the way it does, it becomes more frustrating than challenging, and consequently turns people off. There is a slower-paced mode where the blocks only spawn in when you move blocks. I’m happy it’s there, and it’s certainly where Luminux is at its strongest, but having to unlock it is fucking annoying.

By total coincident, "Cosmic Meltdown" is the term Brian used to describe what was happening to me while I was playing 1001 Spikes.

By total coincident, “Cosmic Meltdown” is the term Brian used to describe what was happening to me while I was playing 1001 Spikes.

That mode alone doesn’t save Luminux. I feel the play field is also too small. As I mentioned earlier, the system they’ve created lends itself well to setting up combos. Unfortunately, there’s simply not enough room to do this well. Having the field be taller than it is wide makes Luminux feel more awkward than it needs to be. If this had been made specifically for iPad, the field could have been bigger and the game would have been better. Luminux isn’t without good ideas. But the package never comes together. Thankfully, when I broke the news to Eric, he took it well. In fact, he had a moment of revelation.

“So I think I see what you mean. Luminux would do better with a slower difficulty pacing because it would allow people to get into (it) easier. It certainly takes a little while to get adept enough to be comfortable with its pace and your criticism is probably the most heard one I’ve gotten after the release. By aiming to keep the game completed in under 3 minutes by even skilled players we instead made a game that new players have a hard time getting into. Instead, we shouldn’t have worried too much about “limiting” the time frame of play and instead just focused on a pacing that would have felt better, even if it meant that skilled players might find the game taking “too long.” (especially considering that skilled players already like the game.) Does this seem to be about the right lesson I should be taking from your commentary?”

Yes, yes it is. Sigh. I hate it when developers figure it out before the review is up. It makes me feel guilty when I want to use lines like “Luminux Lumi-Sux.”

Luminux logoLuminux was developed by Pelagic Games

$1.99 in all seriousness wants to thank Pelagic games for its consideration in including “the switch” which lessened my personal epilepsy risk in the making of this review. Much love to you guys. Issue a second chance against me sometime in the future.

 

 

 

 

Final Flight of the Perseus

Sigh. Another game by a really, really close friend. In this case, the developer is Jesse Chounard. I was originally reluctant to review his new title, Final Flight of the Perseus, because I just reviewed not one but TWO games by my good buddy Edward D. Geronimo. By the way, it must really suck to be Ed. People are constantly screaming his name when they jump off high places. Sorry. I forgot to use that joke in both the Sportsfriends and Turtle Tale review, and who knows when I’ll get another chance to. Anyway, I hated Turtle Tale and said as much, and thus I feel comfortable talking about Jesse’s game.

It’s a wave shooter set in space, and a fairly basic one. On consoles, this isn’t exactly my favorite genre. On phones? I actually enjoy them quite a bit. Especially the way shooting is handled in both this and Hypership: Out of Control (which Jesse handled the porting of to iOS). There’s no fire button. Your ship shoots automatically. It makes playing such an joy, because you can devote your attention entirely to dodging enemies and maneuvering into position. It’s an awesome system, one that I wish more games would adapt. A lot of mobile shooters would have benefited from not having to tap the screen to fire.

Gameplay is fairly minimalistic. There’s no items at all to collect. Instead,  you earn money from each enemy you kill, which you spend on upgrades between each wave. Unfortunately, there’s only three: gun power, gun speed, and shields. You can replace the shields as you go along (well, most of the time. I actually stumbled upon a glitch that prevented me from buying them during my best run, which Jesse is going to patch out), but they get progressively more expensive. There’s a handful of bosses, and then levels start to loop after you clear the 28th. And that’s basically it.

Is it fun? Yes. As safe and shallow as it is, I was really surprised by how much it sucked me in. This is especially surprising given that the last game I played was also a safe and shallow game by a friend. And it was a platformer, a genre I typically like a lot more than space shooters. Some things are inexplicable I guess. It probably helps that there’s online leaderboards, and that the game is free. If you have no money on your iAccount, you could do a lot worse than wasting your time with Final Flight of the Perseus. You could be wasting your time with the Perseus’ other final flight, Wrath of the Titans. That movie fucking sucked.

IGC_ApprovedFinal Flight of the Perseus was developed by Third Party Ninjas.

It’s Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

King Oddball

There are a lot of Angry Bird clones in indie land. With the market so crowded, it’s tough to stand out. King Oddball tries to be different enough that people watching it will say “it’s like Angry Birds, but..” Laugh if you will, but that “but..” is pretty valuable to have in a crowded market. If you get saddled with just “like Angry Birds” and let it linger there like that, you get dismissed instantly. In the case of King Oddball, it’s “like Angry Birds, but.. you’re blowing up military vehicles with a giant stone pitching smaller stones at the vehicles using your swinging tongue.” You know, just like the Ottomans did.

I appreciate the utter insanity of King Oddball. It harkens back to the days when video games didn’t need to make a lick of sense. I also appreciate the value it offers. $7 nets you a pretty decent amount of levels plus a ton of specialized extra challenges. And calling this an Angry Birds clone is a tiny bit lazy on my part. The mechanics are totally different, with a bigger emphasis on timing and combos. You get three shots in each stage, and can earn extra ones if you kill three or more baddies, or if the rocks bounce back to the king. Well, except when they bounce back and randomly kill the king, in an apparent attempt at a quirky Easter Egg.

While we’re on that subject, another “Easter Egg” is sometimes the tongue will just randomly be smaller. It’s a rarity. It only happened to me once the entire time I was playing the PS4 version, but it was hugely infuriating when it happened. I actively wondered if I had the ability to adjust the tongue-size the entire time, and spent the next five minutes pressing every combination of buttons on the PS4 pad trying to recreate it, cussing a blue-streak the whole time. As it turns out, this is just a random occurrence, sort of the developers trolling the players. On one hand, I’m guessing my reaction is exactly what they were aiming for, and that’s admirable in an Andy Kaufman sort of way. On the other hand, it’s just plain fucking annoying. You can’t call something like that an Easter Egg. That would be like designing a car and saying one of the features is the airbag will randomly go off whenever you’re driving above 60MPH.

I genuinely had fun on with King Oddball, especially when I was carting it around on my PlayStation Vita. Games like this belong on portable platforms, where you’re free to kill anywhere between one minute to one hour or longer, quit at any time, and lose nothing. And, despite all the problems I’m about to bring up, I wanted to see King Oddball through to the end. Plus I fully intend to knock out some of the bonus challenges (stuff like clearing levels in a single shot, or using grenades instead of rocks) whenever I have time in need of murdering.

King Oddball has a lot of problems. It’s not a particularly difficult title. Most of the later stages I cleared out in under a minute or two. Maybe I had just gotten good at it, but the game fails to scale up enough. With the exception of when I was playing on Indie Gamer Chick TV (my suckiness on there I chalk up to performance anxiety), the longest it took me to finish any stage was about five minutes, for this one. It wasn’t unusual for me to string together ten or more stages that I cleared out on my first attempt, even late in the game. And then you get to the finale. It took me about a minute to finish the final stage, at which point a boss battle opens featuring a giant tank. I was actually amped up for this climatic moment. Fourteen seconds later, on my very first attempt, it was over and the credits were rolling. This is the equivalent of one of those finale fireworks on the Fourth of July being a dud. The look of disappointment on my face was later described as “heartbreaking, as if you had just learned of the existence of puppy cancer.”


This shows me playing the final stage I hadn’t cleared (under a minute to finish) and the boss fight (14 lousy seconds).

Maybe I just got lucky. There’s no real way of knowing. There’s no scoring system for the stages, like most games in this genre have. No three star ratings, or gold trinkets, no anything. They’re over and you move on. This of course means no online leaderboards, and thus no way of telling if I’m just fucking insanely awesome from all this indie gaming or if King Oddball really is too damn easy. Oh sure, you do quickly unlock a “diamond mine” that allows you to replay all the stages you’ve cleared, and where the special object is to beat the stages again without using your final rock. But this actually kind of ticked me off. I had already beaten many of the stages with two or fewer rocks remaining, and now you mean to tell me that didn’t count? Fuck that. Some of those incredible shots I made were so lucky that I could never hope to recreate them. Not even on accident. It seems like this diamond stuff should have been part of the main game itself.

The physics of the rocks, which are not uniformly round, often left me screaming in emotional agony.

The physics of the rocks, which are not uniformly round, often left me screaming in emotional agony.

So clearly King Oddball has a lot to dislike about it. But, and I can’t stress this enough, it’s also one of the most addictive experiences I’ve had at Indie Gamer Chick. That might just be on me, but sometimes I finish a game and then have to go back to do all the extracurricular stuff in it just to “get it out of my system.” King Oddball is the king of that in 2014 so far. Over the course of writing this review, I had to go back to, ahem, “check it against my notes” about five to six times. All the silly extra challenges are worth a look (except the Diamond crap). Hell, there’s even an entire second world. The way you unlock it is silly and a waste of time (why not just have it unlock when you beat the game?) but at least real effort was put into it, instead of it just being mirrored versions of the original stages. It’s an anomaly for sure: both ambitious and unambitious, King Oddball packs a ton of content, but it could have used more reasons to keep you interested. I can easily recommend it, but I can also see why it leaves many players feeling blue-balled.

King Oddball logoKing Oddball was developed by 10tons Ltd.

IGC_Approved$6.99 (Cross-Buy PS4 & Vita) noted that I could have saved $4 and picked this up on iPad instead in the making of this review.

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

 

 

Retro Runner: Princess Power

In Retro Runner: Princess Power (“RR:PP”), you play the role of a princess who no longer desires to wait for a prince to rescue her from captivity and plans to make her escape. Along the way she encounters enemies and bosses who try to stop her, as well as weapons and powerups to destroy them, in this storied version of an endless runner.

rrpp01Ever since Temple Run and Jetpack Joyride became big, endless runners have been showing up more and more. Many are clones with their own graphics, such as Agent Ride or Pitfall! (the runner version), and some try to add a bit of their own flavor into the mix. Retro Runner is one of the latter, and the game differentiates itself from most endless runners in a few ways.

The first is that the playfield changes as you progress through the story, traveling with the princess through different eras of gaming, from the Atari generation, through the SNES/Genesis consoles, and the current period. This means that your character and the environment gain better graphics and sound along each leg of the adventure. Each stage plays the same, but the advancing graphics is a fun trek through time.

Most endless runners have some sort of currency collection as a carrot to keep you playing and let you gain powers, and this game is no different; however, RR:PP also includes weaponry to fight enemies along the way. With the point of a finger, you chuck knives, energy shields, throwing stars, and homing pigeons at your foes. Yeah, homing pigeons. They’re deadly! At the end of each stage is a boss that takes a different strategy to defeat.

The story is fun (yay for a princess taking care of herself!) and the gameplay is a joy, but there are some things in the game that I felt could use improvement, most of which left me confused when I first encountered them.rrpp02

In the tutorial, you encounter what seems to be the final boss of the game who is undefeatable in this mission. At this point I had no way of knowing that and spent a considerable amount of time avoiding his attacks and hitting him, unsure if I was doing any damage. The game made it sound as if I was hitting armor, but again, at this point there wasn’t a way for me to know this wasn’t the default “hitting a big enemy” sound. Finally I got hit again and the story advanced. It turns out that I was supposed to “die”.

Games such as these allow you to collect or purchase currency to use in-game to buy powerups that make the game “easier”. But in RR:PP, the amounts required to purchase anything after the first level of any category are enormous and made me feel that I had to purchase in-game currency if I had any intention of boosting my character. I don’t want a free ride, and in-game purchases are the driving force as to why games like this exist these days, but the initial curve feels extremely steep.

A few of some very important things to me in a game is both control and the UI. Control in this game is fine, it’s hard to go wrong with a runner really though admittedly, sometimes incoming enemies are difficult to see because you need to have a finger on the right side of the screen, covering some of the playfield.

Outside of gameplay, the UI for the game needs improvement. Level selection shows you all of the stages in the game, but there is no indicator as to which levels are open to the player; they are all the same color and clickable. When it comes to the powerup purchase menu, it isn’t intuitive what you can click on to gain a skill without randomly pressing around and seeing what happens as, again, everything is clickable, but you don’t find out what you can click on without trial and error. On the bright side, since I started writing this review, a patch has come out that makes the powerup purchase menu brighter, but to a new user it is still not particularly easy to understand.

rrpp03While I like that the game asks the player a quiz after each death as a chance to gain bonus currency, no matter if I failed or not, the question stayed up and allowed me to keep clicking on answers in a now-dead interface.

I encountered three bugs that I hope are easily squashed. The first is that once I purchased some currency, I still received ads until I restarted my device. Secondly, after one death, the second end boss joined my next run. It didn’t attack me, but it hovered ominously up and down while I tried to make my way through the stage again. Finally, before I made a purchase to remove ads, I confused the game by turning on airplane mode. Naturally it couldn’t load the ads and gave me a blank screen, but in order to be able to keep playing, I had to open the home screen and return to the game.

The thing about mobile games is that you need to be able to entice users right away as they tend to be fickle. Leaving them to hunt and peck their way through your interface is a surefire way to lose many of them which is a shame because the game underneath here is pretty fun. Keep it clean and simple. I want to suggest the game but not just yet. Let them get a few things worked out and I would gladly do a IGC Second Chance.

RR:PPRetro Runner: Princess Power was developed by Stratum Games

The game is free, supported by in-game ads and in-game currency purchases, and on iOS, Android, and soon the desktop. Oh and the game is fucking hard, too! Fuck!

Circix

Just a quickie review here, since Circix doesn’t exactly lend itself to 1,000 words. In this free-to-play mobile game, you connect different circuits together to solve puzzles. Each circuit has a number on it telling you the amount of lines you must connect to other circuits. In order to solve a puzzle, all circuits must be connected to each-other while following each circuit’s required line count. It’s a relatively simple concept, but it’s pretty satisfying as a puzzler. It gets off to a slow start and some of the basic puzzles are insultingly easy, but you can easily skip them and just focus on the intermediate or advanced stages (although most of the intermediate stages are also far too easy). In the higher difficulty puzzles, sometimes you’ll have to double up or even triple-up the amount of lines coming from a single circuit. Circix is an ideal portable puzzler for killing a couple of minutes on a road trip, waiting in line, etc. Awesome game. Really, they probably should have charged money for it.

It doesn't look like much, but Circix just owned my afternoon.

It doesn’t look like much, but Circix just owned my afternoon.

And.. well.. that’s really all I have to say. Again, Circix doesn’t really lend itself to the type of reviews I do here. The gameplay is one-dimensional, works, and doesn’t give me a lot to discuss. There’s no storyline quirks or control issues for me to get snarky about. It’s just a really solid, enjoyable puzzler that nobody will talk about or remember a day after they finish it. I get a lot of requests for simple, free-to-play iPhone games along these lines. Most of them I find enjoyable enough to tweet my approval of. In the case of Circix, I’m going a little bit further with it because I realized that I enjoyed it much more than the typical “I can’t possibly write a review about this” game. In fact, it’s one of the 50 best indies I’ve ever played. So even if it’s impossible for me to be all Indie Gamer Chickish on it, it deserves recognition. And a smack in the face for forcing me to bore myself and my readers writing up this review. Yeesh guys, some kind of annoying mascot or SOMETHING I could criticize would have killed you?

PromoGraphic_180x120Circix was developed Graham Barber & Russell King

IGC_ApprovedCircix is free to play on iOS and Android devices.

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

%d bloggers like this: