FOX n FORESTS

Hi there, Fox n Forests. Take a seat please. We need to have a talk.

First thing’s first: the name. Do you know how many times I accidentally called you Fox & Friends? The name is basically begging for mockery or to be botched when spoken by sloppy wordsmiths such as myself. Also, the name is technically FOX n FORESTS, as if it were being screamed by a narcoleptic that briefly nodded off after the first syllable. What is with that “n” anyway? It’s so clumsy and distracting. You have a gorgeous sixteen-bit era game with magic spells and upgradable weapons and treasure chests that sometimes have traps designed to unfairly screw the player and..

Oh, I get it.

You were trying to dress up like Ghouls ‘N Ghosts huh?

It’s okay, you can tell me.

As far as I can tell, the dialog with the checkpoint critter has no payoff and is just supposed to be an “LOL, this character collects games, just like the majority of Kickstarter backers did judging by the end credits” joke. Also, whoever is the person shown in this picture, I want to thank you oh so much for the nightmares I’ve been having these last few weeks, you fucking monster, you.

Well, that makes things awkward. You see, I’m a child of the 2000s. I’m not nostalgic for the type of game you aspire to be. Oh, I don’t really care if a game is neo-retro or not. Take a look at the two games I hold up as the best two indie games ever developed: Axiom Verge and Shovel Knight. Both of them aspire to invoke the era you dress yourself in. So when people will inevitably say I had it out for you from the start, obviously that’s not the case. Truth be told, I haven’t followed your story at all. I had no idea you raised over $125K USD on Kickstarter. I had never heard of the studio that birthed you. I just said “hey, neat looking game.”

And you are neat looking. Authentic SNES look and feel. Of course, that’s where the issues start. Like having melee and projectile attacks mapped to the same button. Why? Because “back in the day” games had fewer buttons? Well, you see, I don’t really buy that. The SNES had four face buttons, just like the PS4 and Xbox One controllers I used playing you, plus two shoulder buttons, select, and start. Why do you have the same attack mapped to two different face buttons, when ranged attacks and melee cause different damage and are upgraded separately? So, in order to do a melee attack, you must either be in the act of jumping (when you can’t fire your projectiles) or you must be ducking.

Now, I’m not an anthropomorphic fox. Hell, I’m not even foxy. I’m sultry at best. But if I were an anthropomorphic fox, I would think that I would be able to comprehend that if my melee ability caused more damage than my ranged attack and an enemy was within close proximity, it would make more sense to just bonk them with my magical club thing without going through the effort of ducking or jumping to do it. It is so unbelievable that you can’t just swing your weapon while standing still that I kept checking the control screen to make sure I wasn’t missing it. I did this the entire length of the game, because it is that unfathomable.

It’s not even an exaggeration to say, as I uploaded this screenshot, I gave it one final glance over to make extra, extra, EXTRA sure I wasn’t missing something. I’m not.

That was pretty much how I felt about the entire Fox n Hannity experience. For every step forward, you stepped backwards into a cow patty. You have eight levels and five boss fights, one of which isn’t even really a boss fight. Of the eight levels, six of them are platformers and two of them are shmups. I’ve never understood why platform games do that. Oh, don’t worry Fox. I mean, even Nintendo did it with Super Mario Land, a game that came out in the United States exactly three weeks after I was born. Incredibly, in the nearly twenty-nine years since then, nobody has realized mixing these two completely incompatible genres is a combination surpassed in stupidity only by teriyaki-flavored soda.

Anyway, your shmup levels are bad. Like, bad-bad. Like, seriously, go put your nose in the corner for the next ten minutes. What were you thinking? No matter how much effort I put into building my health bar up, everything in those levels is a one-hit death. Even touching floor or ceiling. It’s a jarring, cringey gameplay shift, going from a very slightly above-average platform experience into a very mediocre Gradius-type of one. Cuphead did this too, and while I hated Cuphead, at least those shmup sections felt inspired and not out-of-place. YOUR shooting stages feel so lifeless and generic that they come across more like filler. And given how much you were already dipping your toes in the lake of blandness, that type of filler is like adding sawdust to bread and then chowing down on it. Not good for you, Fox n Forests. Your poop will be all pulpy, now.

See that itty-bitty little orange plant in the bottom right corner? Yea, the tip of my bird’s feet brushed up against it and I died. These stages are brought to you by Valium because you’ll need it to get all the rage you’ll feel playing them under control.

But let’s talk about the platform levels since that’s your bread and butter here. They’re not bad at all. Mostly nice design. Cool variety. The difficulty-scaling is a bit off since I had more issues beating stage 1-2 than I did stage 4-2. That could be because I had upgraded my offense significantly by that point. But otherwise they’re fine. They’re the best part of you. And while you’re not the first game to use the “change the level on the fly” mechanic (represented here by changing the seasons), what’s here mostly works. I mean, it was kind of annoying that there’s a pause every single time the main character raised his weapon up and was frozen while he was doing the “THUNDERCATS, HOOOO” pose every time you change the season but NOT when you change it back. But even then, while it’s not exactly original, it keeps things interesting.

Or, at least, it does the first time you play through a stage. Unfortunately, you relied heavily on forced-replays of levels to pad-out your length. I’ve tried padding myself to make up for my own inadequacies, so I get it. But nobody bought that my boobs had grown four sizes overnight, and nobody is going to believe you’re actually longer than your eight stages no matter how much gauze you stuff into your shorts.

Each of your stages contains five hidden acorns. If you do not find enough of these acorns, you won’t have access to the later stages. And I don’t mean the bonus stages for each game’s world (worlds consisting of two levels and a boss fight) that you unlock by finding all ten acorns in a world. Oh no. I mean actual levels that you need to finish to, you know, beat the game. Well, that fucking sucks.

Even THAT wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been possible to get all the acorns on your first run through each stage. But you had to be a dick and not allow that. Sometimes you won’t be able to access them until you have special arrows that you acquire only from beating bosses. Stages have bullseyes of different colors scattered around them that you must shoot with the matching color arrow to unlock access to different areas of each stage. That sounds fine, but the areas you’re unlocking are teeny-tiny. It might just be an extra platform or two that gives you access to the acorn, and that’s it. So you forced myself and others to fully replay the entire stage to get to these sections, and then finish the stage to keep them. If we were unlocking vast new areas of levels that contained new and innovative gameplay mechanics, maybe this would be justifiable. But we’re not. This is one of the worst instances of forced-level replaying I’ve ever seen. It’s like being forced to sit through a rerun that promises you never-before-seen deleted scenes that are really just 20-seconds long and add fuck-all to the plot. There might be an entire extra section to the game if you get all 40 acorns (it does unlock something), but I would have to care enough to get them all to find out. And I don’t.

Actually, I only enjoyed five of the platforming stages. This vertical level (or was this the vertical non-boss boss-fight?. Meh, both are boring) is hampered by some spotty collision detection and became such a chore that it’s where I declared my status as a wuss and started the game over on easy mode, just to finish it. Which is another issue: no on-the-fly difficulty switching. Fuck that noise. And I REALLY didn’t want to have to replay this one to grab the stuff I missed the first time around. So I didn’t. Because it was boring the first time.

Fox N Forests, you have fine level design, but not so fine that I want to play the exact same fucking levels again and again. There was nothing more agonizing for me than to play a stage for the third time, get to the end of it and STILL have a missing acorn. “WELL FUCK ME” I screamed as I hit the teeter-totter to end the level and then start over AGAIN, this time making sure to push up against every single fucking wall or making blind jumps off every platform, constantly switching between seasons while looking for the hide-and-seek champion of acorns. Yea, this was adding to the game’s run-time, but it long ceased being fun. This was busy work. Fox N Forests, you would have been SO much more enjoyable if finding these things hadn’t been forced upon me and I could just play the levels one time in sequential order and only go back if I wanted to grind up money and resources for better upgrades. An optional grind is always preferable to a forced one. Your parents, Bonus Level Entertainment, apparently never got that memo.

I hated you, Fox N Forests. I really and truly hated you. Mostly because it was frustrating watching you throw away so much potential. There’s a running gag I use about “minimum indie badness” that games must achieve for their indie cred. In your case, it’s like you were worried about not meeting your quota and overcompensated. Your levels are creative (except the shooting stages, which can go fuck themselves), but get boring when you forced me to replay them. Your controls are good, except the nonsensical button-mapping. Your bosses are well designed, except one encounter with a giant spider that is more of a copy of Metroid’s escape-the-shaft finale, only longer and less interesting. Your weapon upgrades are nifty, but I only bought one of the potion-weapons, used it once, never bought another, and was no worse off for it. Plus upgrading the weapons required even more forced replays of stages to find hidden mana-cores and stone wheels, to the point that I never even got all upgrades. Everything you did right is immediately nullified by something you did wrong, to the point that I didn’t like my time with you at all.

And the Children of the Forest approached the First Men and said “on second though, you can cut down SOME of the Weirwood Trees.”

So yea, you’re grounded Fox n Forests. Go to your room. I’m not your parent or anything. But fuck it. Go to your room, think about what you’ve done, and make some DLC that rights all the wrongs you just did. Be the first indie game I’ve ever played where the DLC is better than the main game. Because you have so much potential, and the fact that THIS is what you ended up being? You’re better than this. Way, way better than this.

Even your story was bland and predictable. During the open intro, the framing plot device made the finale so easy to guess that I wrote it down on a piece of paper and sealed it in an envelope. When the final boss battle began, I told Brian he could open the envelope. He shrugged and said “did you expect something better?” Yea, I was completely right, but it wasn’t exactly impressive. Helen Keller could see the big twist coming a mile away, and she’s not even a platforming game fan.

Fox n Forests was developed by Bonus Level Entertainment
Point of Sale: Steam, PlayStation, Xbox (Coming Soon), Switch

$17.99 (normally $19.99) accidentally called the game “Fox & Friends” 8 times for those who were taking bets in the making of this review.

Pre-release review copies were supplied to Cathy by Bonus Level Entertainment. She purchased a copy of Fox n Forests upon the game’s release. All games reviewed at Indie Gamer Chick are paid for by Cathy out of her own pocket. For more on this policy, read the FAQ.

Developers who receive review copy requests from Indie Gamer Chick: make sure you’re really getting them from me and not someone pretending to be me.

Check out Indie Gamer Team’s Obscure Games and Consoles review for an alternate take.

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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.

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.

Cuphead

♪♪ Well Cuphead released to Indieland,

And gaming fans thought it was nice,

They figured no one would bad review it, and they turned to Cathy Vice,

CAAAATHY VICE!

Aaaaand now her hands ache, like stabbed by knives

And her timeline fills her with dread

If her review should proceed but Cuphead don’t succeeeeeeddd..

Welllllllll..

Xbox fans will take her head! ♪♪

Mom?

So yea, here I am, reviewing 2017’s indie game of the year. Oh, the year isn’t even over yet. But let’s face it, Cuphead was fated to win universal accolades and more nominations than Meryl Streep regardless of quality the minute it debuted. Which, actually that’s exactly like Meryl Streep, come to think of it.

So yea, for those of you who already have formed an opinion and are fishing the internets for people who don’t share your opinion to hate-hoo, no, I didn’t like Cuphead. Oh I wanted to. Trust me, I like my windows. The thought of them having bricks thrown through them has me positively distraught. But I have two options: I can lie to my readers and say I liked something that I didn’t. That seems like a bad way for a critic to have integrity. My second option is to admit that I didn’t think Cuphead was fun. My father has an expression: sometimes you have to eat shit and learn to like the taste of it. Which, granted that could apply to forcing myself to play Cuphead until I like it. But, in this case the shit I’ll be eating is the mountains of it I expect from Xbox fanboys emotionally invested in the success and accolades in a game that they need to be universally praised because if it isn’t that means they can’t rub it in the face of PS4 or Switch owners because they base their self-esteem on owning the “best” console.

Speaking of integrity, no, I didn’t finish Cuphead. I did beat all the bosses through the first three stages. That I could play it at all is a fucking miracle. As people know, I suffer from photosensitive epilepsy. And literally every stage and every boss in the game opens with something that is my specific trigger. Thankfully, we quickly discovered I could just look away when each section started, though that means I had to wait nearly a full second before I could get in and start shooting. If people need an excuse as to why I didn’t like it and the old chestnut “she just sucks at games” seems tired, you can blame my utter failure at Cuphead on that one fraction of a second longer I had to wait over everyone else. I’m sure that made all the difference.

It would seem most people use the heat-seeking bullets (pictured) with the spread gun. Which was my first instinct too. Huh, maybe I am slightly wired for shit like this.

But seriously, the hook here is that you have to fight a series of bosses, with all the actual levels being optional. You gotta give the Cuphead guys credit: they know their audience. Contra is one of the most beloved 8-bit era games, but I have never once heard a single fan of it fondly reminisce about its level design. Most of them bring up how the final boss was a giant heart (if that’s the case, I wonder what part of the body this thing is supposed to be?). So why bother with the levels at all? There’s six normal levels in Cuphead that are treated like afterthoughts. That’s kind of a shame because, like the bosses, there’s genuine inspiration behind them. Unlike the bosses, they don’t seem designed specifically to generate an absurd body count. I’m guessing that’s why they don’t offer a nerfed version of them when you enter them, which the boss fights do. You do need to complete the stages to be able to get upgrades. For a game so fixated on bosses (seriously, the developers wanted to set a Guinness World Record for most bosses in a shooter. I’m guessing they got it, along with “game with the most forced finger amputations.” In your face knifey-finger game!), it seems weird that you don’t earn any upgrades through beating the entire point of the game.

So yea, the bosses. There’s a ton. They can be quite clever in their design. The issue is they’re so insanely difficult to beat that unless you’re wired for this particular genre, you’re going to be spending a lot of time making incremental progress only to die and start over. There’s no checkpoints, so every failure takes you to the start of the battle. There is an option to play a “simplified” version of each boss, which is how I ended up beating everything through the first three stages. But, if you don’t beat each boss on normal difficulty, you don’t get access to the final area of the game, which is basically just more bosses. I didn’t get access to it. I wanted to, and I tried really hard. I was able to beat the first world’s bosses on normal difficulty. The bosses after that? I spent nearly an hour on this one..

Seen here beating the nerfed version of it after another dozen or so failed attempts.

And about twenty times in a row I died at the very end of the fight. Some people say “the point isn’t to be entertained or having fun while you’re playing Cuphead. It’s the sense of accomplishment you get when you finally do win. All the anger and all the frustration is washed away then.” Accomplishments are not entertainment. If I had lost my virginity and then had an encounter with Jason Voorhees and survived, yea, that would be an accomplishment and I’d probably have felt good about myself. The thing is, I know I’ll just end up having to survive him again and again and again. After a while, it becomes less an accomplishment and more a war of fucking attrition. And that’s how Cuphead feels. By time I gave up, I’d put over seven-and-a-half hours into it. My hands were killing me (take my word for it: map the shooting to one of the triggers, do not leave it on the X button if you value your hands), I had a pounding headache, and I was being told by the game that I had played it wrong and had to go back and do it the right way.

I can’t stress this enough: Cuphead is fucking gorgeous to gawk at. We’re used to games looking good these days, so I don’t think the average gamer appreciates the degree-of-difficulty in getting a video game to look just like a 1930s Fleischer Studios short. It’s insane how uncanny it is, and that’s commendable. I mean, it’s weird they went to all that effort but the cut-scenes unfold as a series of still images with text instead of, you know, a cartoon. It’s also kind of jarring how they chose a shooter of all things to fit into this art style. A Zack & Wiki style puzzle-adventure seems like it would have made more sense since those old 30s cartoon shorts were based around slapstick and visual gags. Here, the bullets don’t even look like they match the art style. They’re bright and look like they were overlaid on top of the hand-drawn animation, giving the whole experience a strange Dragon’s Lair-ish vibe. But even with those nits, Cuphead is probably the best looking indie game ever. I just wish it had been something that aspired to be fun, instead of difficult to the point of inaccessibility.

And this is where I stopped. Call me a pussified quitter all you want. By time I got here, my hands were hurting so bad that I asked myself what was I trying to prove? I hadn’t liked anything about actually playing Cuphead up to this point, and probably lost relationships after attempting to play it in co-op. It’s been 24 hours since I put it down and my hands legitimately still hurt. If I wanted that from a game, I’d buy a PainStation.

Go ahead and say I suck at games. It’s the fallback insult for every single person who disagrees with one of my reviews. “You didn’t like Hotline Miami because you sucked at it. You didn’t like Cuphead because you sucked at it. Just stick with Call of Duty you casualtard!” You’re right, I did suck at Cuphead. I also sucked at Spelunky, Kingdom, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, and countless other indies I’ve loved. If a game required me to be good at it to enjoy it, my list of recommended games would be shorter than Mitt Romney’s bar tab. The problem with Cuphead is I didn’t find it fun. I found it tedious and maddening. I hate saying “it’s just not for me” because that sounds wishy-washy, but it’s just not for me. I don’t think not finishing it means I’m not qualified to say why I don’t like it. There was once this guy who ate an airplane. For real. His name was Michel Lotito, and he ate a lot of weird shit. He set a pretty high standard for what a person is willing to swallow in the process. Saying I’m not qualified to review Cuphead is like saying every food critic who hasn’t eaten an airplane isn’t qualified to review food. You’ll excuse me if I find that way of thinking, ahem, tough to swallow.

Sorry.

Cuphead was developed by StudioMDHR Entertainment
Point of Sale: Xbox One, Steam

$19.99 noted that only 4.32% of Cuphead owners apparently have finished all the bosses on the first three stages regardless of what difficulty they chose in the making of this review. Well I finished all those bosses and got the achievement for it. In fact, only 12.51% have the achievement for beating all the bosses in the second world, and less-than-half of all owners (42.73% to be exact) have even finished the first world’s bosses. Kinda strange, given how angry Xbox fanboys are about any remotely critical opinions of Cuphead, that so few people who own it have actually made any progress and are instead screaming at people who did beat all those bosses because they didn’t have fun doing it. But I’m sure they’ve loved and relished every minute spent with it and it’s just a total coincidence the majority of owners apparently can’t pretend they’re having a good enough time to force themselves to get past even the first world. Fucking GAME OF THE YEAR, AMIRIGHT!

 

Christ, if I suck at games, I hate to think of how bad at them the other 95% who didn’t get this must be.

 

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