The Indie Gamer Chick Bundle

Last week, Indie Royale offered a video game bundle that was named after (and hand-picked by) our very own Cathy Vice, the Indie Gamer Chick. The bundle sold very, very well.  I know that fact pleased Cathy a great deal and it definitely put a broad smile on my face as well.  We both deeply appreciate the immense support we get from the indie gaming community as a whole. What more can I say than: YOU GUYS ROCK!

So, now it is my turn to play/review the games that are in the bundle. I wanted to have these reviews up while the bundle was “live” but, unfortunately, real life concerns got in the way of that. And since there are 11 games here total (including the bonus titles as well), I’m going to keep my opinions as concise as I possibly can.

So without further ado, here are my uncensored thoughts on the games offered in the Indie Gamer Chick Bundle:

DEAD PIXELS (CSR STUDIOS)

Fire BAAAAD!

Fire BAAAAD!

I think I’ve mentioned this previously, but I’ve kind of had it with the whole zombie thing. I mean, really…isn’t this fucking over yet? I just don’t get the gaming community’s fascination with these undead mounds of shambling flesh.

But, I digress…

The game itself is a good deal of fun, if a bit repetitive and you can get past the played-out zombie motif. Basically, what you do in Dead Pixels is run-and-gun in a 2D, pixelated environment and shoot the everlovin’ shit out of wave after wave (well, street after street here) of increasingly difficult zombie bastards. There’s a good deal to collect and a good many weapons to choose from to aid you in your zombie killing ways. My favorite parts though were all the sly references to other games (most notably the Resident Evil series) and films. Good times.

ANTIPOLE (SATURNINE GAMES)

Is that Lionel Ritchie? When did they make a Lionel Ritchie game??

Is that Lionel Ritchie? When did they make a Lionel Ritchie game??

Antipole is a relatively clever platformer with a cool gravity-manipulating mechanic. You play as a lone mercenary who has to infiltrate a robot mothership and take it down to end the mechanized tyranny of the machines.

Although it was fun for a time, I must say that I bored of this title rather quickly, and once I played through four or five levels I had no desire to pick it up again. As I said, the gravity manipulating mechanic is sweet; I just would’ve liked to see it applied in some different and/or more creative ways as the game progressed.

LITTLE RACERS STREET (MILKSTONE STUDIOS)

It's race day, bitches!

It’s race day, bitches!

I’m not big on racing games on the whole, but I enjoyed Little Racers Street because it reminded me a great deal of one of my favorite racing games of all time, RC Pro Am. LRS doesn’t have any of the weaponry and gadgets that Pro Am had but it does offer a metric fuckton of upgrades, options and customizability for your mini-cars. It is also a blast to play and offers a pretty damn good challenge, as Pro Am did, as well.

One bad thing I came across in LRS though was that I couldn’t run the game in full-screen mode on my PC. It would crash and burn every time I tried to run it that way, so keep in mind that you may need to run it in “windowed” mode to play. Not that big a deal, but it may piss some people off…like me.

ORBITRON: REVOLUTION (FIREBASE INDUSTRIES)

Shoot all the spinny things...or else!

Shoot all the spinny things…or else!

This game is a straight-up Defender clone with current gen visuals slapped on top of it. Now, if you are going to clone an old-school arcade game, you could do much worse than the 1980 Williams Electronics classic, I suppose. Orbitron is pretty fun to play and does offer a few twists (time trials and the like) on the traditional, shmup-styled game.

The player can choose from two ships at the outset, one red and blue, and one piloted by man and the other by a woman. There’s really no difference between the two, so, why? Essentially, what you have to do here is defend (See what I did there? You know you guys missed my scintillating wit…) an orbiting, circuitous space station from nasty alien types who are trying to blow up said space station. And if they succeed, BOOM goes the dynamite and your game is over.

Orbitron has 2D/3D graphics which are well done, but I found it hard to see some enemies at times. Also, the controls are a bit “floaty,” whereas Defender’s were spot on, which they need to be in any twitchy shmup.

Again, this an experience that I had some fun with for a time…but once I put it down that was it.

CHESTER (BRILLIANT BLUE-G GAMES)

Chester, I hate to tell you this, but your ass is fire...

Chester, I hate to tell you this, but your ass is on fire…

An enjoyable and breezy romp through platformer-land that obviously takes inspiration from the Rayman series and Super Mario Brothers 3, and that is in no way a knock or disparagement.

There’s tons of stuff to collect, discover and unlock in Chester and it’s all tied together with jaunty, humorous tone that’s rather infectious. It also has a cool, elemental based (water, fire and grass) power system that’s well implemented, but it also has some of the “punisher’s” failings in later levels.

And, oh yeah, the soundtrack in Chester is surprisingly rockin’ as well.

LASERCAT (MONSTER JAIL)

To quote Towelie, "I have no idea what's goin' on..."

To quote Towelie, “I have no idea what’s goin’ on…”

I own three cats and none of them have laser based powers, I’m sad to say, and neither does the cat in this game…but it does glow/pulse in a pretty badass, lasery way.

I think I consciously avoided this game on XBLIG because it reminded me of the SNL Digital Shorts of (almost) the same name, which were funny, but one can only take so much Andy Samberg. The same goes for LaserCat, I’m afraid. I could only take so much of it. It feels like an art project/experiment more than a full-fledged game. But, to its credit, it does have an addicting quality where you want to play until you find just one more key and answer one more trivia question. At the end of the day though, LaserCat is just another platformer…with a super tight, quasi-techno soundtrack.

SPYLEAKS (HEARTBIT INTERACTIVE)

Evil guy wants you to take his money.

Evil guy wants you to take his money.

This is a different experience in that it is an odd hybrid of an espionage/puzzle game and a shmup. 80% of the time you’re a spy (with the overly original name of “Spy”) who is wandering around high security buildings doing spy-type things in a 2D, top-down view. The other 20% of the time, you’re uploading your spy-pal, Julian, into various computer terminals where he does his thing, which is shooting space invadery, computer-virus-things from a vertical (up and down rather than left to right) shmup perspective. Strangely enough, it works in this context and is quite entertaining. I actually laughed out loud when the game switched to this mode for the first time and not because it’s bad or anything; it was more out of total astonishment that the game actually went to shmup-land.

But, be sure to bring your thinking caps when playing SpyLeaks, kiddos, because you’ll really have to use your wits to conquer each area. This game is a challenge from the word go…and that’s a good thing. I’m of the mind that too many of today’s games spoon feed their players, but not SpyLeaks, so check it out when you have a moment; I found it surprisingly engaging.

SMOOTH OPERATORS (HEYDECK GAMES)

This must be one of the circles of Hell.

This must be one of the circles of Hell.

I saved this game for last because I truthfully have zero interest in a game like this. I’m not a businessman, nor will I ever be a businessman. And on the slight chance I was to ever to become a businessman, I certainly wouldn’t open and operate a fucking call center. I mean, what is fun about owning and operating a fucking call center?  Nothing. Nothing is fun about owning and operating a fucking call center. I can’t even imagine a scenario where someone would say, “Hey, you know what I want to play? A game where I open a call center and handle the day-to-day operations. You know, the minutia and all that related shit. That would be sooooo awesome!”

Only out of completeness’ sake did I give Smooth Operators a whirl…and it’s not too bad, actually. It’s clearly well designed and great deal of TLC went into the making of it. I had my business, Assclown Telephony, up and running in no time. I was adding floors to my building, hiring call center stooges and making money like a motherfuckin’ BOSS, yo.  And that’s where it’s at.

So, if an easy-breezy business sim is what gets your rocks off, honey, then Smooth Operators is the game for you.

But I’ll never play it again. Fuck call centers and everything about them, man.

EVIL QUEST (CHAOSOFT GAMES)

Sing it with me now: "I fell in to a burnin' Ring of Fire..."

Sing it with me now: “I fell in to a burnin’ Ring of Fire…”

Hey, did someone clonk me on the head and switch out my bad ass PC for a Super Nintendo? No? Are you sure? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what happened when I was playing Evil Quest. Beyond the fact that it turns traditional, good vs. evil conventions on their heads, this is a boilerplate action role playing game. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but it does have a “been there, done that” vibe to it overall.

One other thing that stuck out to me with this game was just how awful the cutscene art is. Je-SUS, it is bad. This really doesn’t take away from the solid, if uninspired, gameplay at all, but it is rather jarring and amateurish.

48 CHAMBERS (DISCORD GAMES)

Well, this looks simple enough, right?

Well, this looks simple enough, right?

This is a game my wife would love and excel at…and I think it’s well done too. She digs Zuma, Bejeweled, Candy Crush and most “casual” games of that ilk, and 48 Chambers fits right into that addictive mold. It’s an interesting, little puzzle game where speed and precision are paramount. All you have to do is collect the orbs and keys then exit the chamber in the time allotted, which is easier said than done, of course.

My only real complaint here is that this title would be better suited on mobile and/or touchscreen platform and not a PC or console. If there isn’t a mobile version of 48 Chambers in the works, Discord, then you should get on that shit, pronto!

SUPER NINJA WARRIOR EXTREME (HO-HUM GAMES)

Blood and random saw blades...just what every game needs.

Blood and random saw blades…just what every game needs.

This game was an interesting hack-and-slash platformer with an Asian motif up until you hit the sixth or seventh level when it falls into the asinine tropes of the punisher, so that’s where I said, “FUCK YOU” and put the controller down.

Also, it has no full screen mode, so that’s a double FUCK YOU.

So, there you have it. My wrap up on the Indie Gamer Chick Bundle – 11 games all told. Six you should definitely check out, and the five I’m not so sure about.

Regardless of my thoughts on each game individually, the main reason I love these bundles, and today’s indie games in general,  is that they remind me of swapping freshly copied  5 ¼ inch floppy disks with my buddy in high school homeroom. Once I got home, slapped that bad boy in my C64’s 1541 floppy drive and typed in LOAD “$”, 8, I almost never knew what I was going to get and that excited me. Imagine that: being excited by a listing of game titles on a disk directory.

Now, I get inundated with press releases and review requests for all kinds of dazzling, interactive entertainment experiences on a daily basis and my pulse barely flickers. The problem with the majority of today’s “triple A” video games is that they lack true inspiration; they lack soul. When I pop the latest and greatest game from EA, 2K, Activision or Ubisoft into my Xbox, I pretty much know what I’m going to get. It’ll be big and loud and technically impressive…but what is it beyond that?  That’s not the case with the majority of today’s indie games and I dig that. Fuck, I’ll go as far as to say that I need that. I need that sense of awe, surprise and giddy enjoyment in my life and indie games (typically) provide that. Indie games have soul in spades.

So, to all you indie devs out there: you keep on doing the interesting things you do and I’ll be here, waiting for you to blow my mind…

Developer Interview: James Petruzzi – Developer of Chasm

James Petruzzi of Discord Games is an Indie Gamer Chick all-star.  He has two games on the Leaderboard, the writer of the most popular Tales from the Dev Side editorial that’s been published here, and now he’s chosen to sponsor the new (and still unfinished due to laziness) XBLIG Developer Index, kicking in a whopping $200 towards Autism Speaks.  He also happens to have a very interesting looking Metroidvania coming later in 2013.  James is here to talk about his new title, called Chasm, and the trials and tribulations of making games for XBLIG.

chasm_logo_big

Cathy: Chasm is not coming to XBLIG.  Et tu, Brute?

James: Right off the bat, I haven’t decided yet.

Cathy: Oh?

James: It runs on my Xbox 360 right now, and I’m planning on keeping it that way.   But whether I release it or not, I’m not sure.

Cathy: Why not?

James: I’m not going to release it for a dollar.

Cathy: Oh.

James: My only option I feel is 400MSP, but whether people on that market would spring for it, I have no clue.

Cathy: So?

James: So?  I hear you boil developers who release games at 400MSP in oil.

Cathy: As a point of order, I did place Bleed, a 400MSP game, in my Top 10.

James: Yea, but you also boiled them in oil after that.  They’re still in bandages.

Cathy: Good game though.

James: Did the Bleed guy ever release numbers?

Cathy: Um yea, actually I just asked him.  He told me it sold 900 units on XBLIG.

James: Those numbers show the problem with XBLIG.

Cathy: Net gross of about $3,150 for the developer. Sad thing is, can’t prove it, but I bet it would have sold a couple thousand copies at 240.

James: Either way it’s still terrible for a game that high quality.

The awesomely fun Take Arms was a critical hit, but about as well received by Xbox owners as a bagpipe simulator.

The awesomely fun Take Arms was a critical hit, but about as well received by Xbox owners as a bagpipe simulator.

Cathy: What about PlayStation Mobile, where developers have huge flexibility on prices?

James: I haven’t really researched it to be honest, and I’m not sure whats all required to even get on there.

Cathy: It’s supposed to be a relatively open platform.  I don’t know.  Sony had said they would get back to me and never did.

James: So I’m just squarely focused on PC for now, I want to launch on Win/Mac/Linux and then go from there.  But if it makes money, I’ll port it to everything under the sun with a D-pad.

Cathy: I’ll look forward to the NES, Master System, and 3DO releases.

James: Hahaha!  Well, I’d consider PlayStation Network, Wii U,  and maybe 3DS or Vita releases.

Cathy: Take Arms was pretty well received by critics, but it kind of flopped in sales. 48 Chambers was good, but again, didn’t really sell well.  Is that why you’re trying to more traditional game with Chasm?

James: No, I’m actually just making it because it’s the game I’ve wanted to make since the beginning.  If you watch the Evolution of Take Arms video we put on YouTube, you’ll see that started as a Castlevania type game.  We were way too inexperienced though to deal with that much content, so we decided to make it a multiplayer game instead.  Obviously something flopped with Take Arms that’s beyond the amount of content or anything.

Cathy: Maybe it was difficult to articulate that it was a multiplayer game. There’s obviously SOME interest for those on XBLIG, as seen in the success of Shark Attack Deathmatch.  Maybe “Take Arms Deathmatch” sells 10,000 units and has a robust user base to keep it going?

James: Yea that’s definitely a possibility, but at the same time, I think you must have the right product at the right time.

Cathy: I think the big sticking point is the amount of people who play it daily. I reviewed Shark Attack Deathmatch in late December. I checked it last night, and there is still a wide variety of people playing. Then I tried Take Arms and found that nobody was playing.

James: If I would have kept up with content updates we probably could have grown a community or something around it.  But that’s the hard part with multiplayer games, and why I will probably never do one again.  With them, the community of people playing it is what gives the game value.  If you take that away, it’s basically worthless.

Cathy: I would rank my play session with Take Arms against the other XBLIG critics as one of the best times I’ve had since starting Indie Gamer Chick. Do you think maybe some form of organized tournaments might have caused it to catch on?

James: We should have focused on organizing community play dates and doing more  with it, but yeah, I guess we were just done after two years.

Chasm looks awesome.

Only the most secure-in-their-manhood blacksmiths dared to use a pink anvil.

Cathy: Okay, onto Chasm. It looks really good.  You originally intended Take Arms to be a Metroidvania, and now you’re finally doing one.  What made you decide that now you’re ready?

James: Well, to be honest, it was a last-ditch effort.  I quit my corporate job last May to focus on my next title full-time, Tim and I were talking again about doing something, which turned into this sci-fi Terraria-like called Solus.  We worked on that through may and part of June, and Tim decided he wasn’t having fun anymore and was done.  So we parted on good terms, but I was left with a big game to do by myself.  In July I basically decided to scrap it, and started working on the original version of Chasm, which was basically going to be a cash in I guess for XBLIG.  It was going to be a mining game like Miner Dig Deep, but with combat, weapons, some bosses and stuff to fight.  I mean don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted to do a mining game for a while, but I couldn’t really tell you what I liked about them, but I think I somehow managed to cut all the fun out of it.  At some point by like September I had the engine pretty far along, but I was just hating it, I had completely forgotten why I started doing this stuff in the first place.

Cathy: What about the engine was off?

James: The engine was fine, I just couldn’t figure out a good formula for the game.  Nothing ever felt right, like I was battling it constantly.  And at some point I just began to resent it.  All the fun was gone.  That was definitely my lowest point in a long time.  It was nervous-breakdown type levels for a while.  So I scrapped it all.

Cathy: Do you know how many developers I’ve met since starting my site that I honestly feel would scrap something if they weren’t comfortable with it?  Probably not a lot.  I take it the current build you’re much more satisfied with?

James: Oh my God, yes!  It was like the next day I made a new project, started coding shit all over, and man, I was like in love immediately.

They eyes have it!

The eyes have it!

Cathy: So how far along is Chasm now?

James: Very early.  I started fresh October 25 or 26 I think.  I’m shooting to have it done in a year from then.

Cathy: You guys are on Steam Greenlight.  Most developers I’ve talked with who have listed their games on this have been, ahem, humbled by the, ahem, polite discourse on it.  How has the feedback for Chasm been?

James: Well first let me tell you, I put Take Arms and 48 Chambers on there immediately when the service first went up.  It was free for a while if you remember, so I was like why not?  48 chambers did incredibly poorly, as you can imagine.  I finally took it off there last week after being up since launch and it was at like 23% I think.  Almost every comment called it a mobile game and said it would be perfect on iPhone, which is funny since the entire game is designed around a thumb-stick, but okay.

Cathy: I do get their point, but yea, can’t imagine playing it with touch or tilt controls.

James: Take Arms did a bit better, but not very. At its highest point it was 52% to top 100, 48% when I pulled it off last week.  Now that, on the other hand, was called a “flash game” in a snobbish way.  Apparently there are a couple of flash games that are similar, so everyone on PC absolutely hated it.  I think Alex Jordan got same kinda criticism about Cute Things Dying Violently.

Cathy: Yea.  In fact, he did a Tales from the Dev Side on it.

James: Yea, so PC gamers are very weary of anything that looks like a flash game that they might have once saw.

Cathy: But then you put up Chasm, and it’s doing well to say the least.

James: I put it up just for the hell of it after we put up the new video on the 11th.  It’s now in the top 100 on Steam Greenlight.

Cathy: Very nice!

James: That’s with no major media support whatsoever, its purely from Greenlighters.

Cathy: I’m not major media?

James: Were you pimping it?

Cathy: That’s what I’m doing now.

James: Too late!  I’m top 100 now.  You get no credit.

Cathy: Awwwwwww.

James: I’m not sure where these votes are coming from, we’ve had 20k unique hits since then.  I didn’t realize that many people even rated Greenlight games for the hell of it.  So it’s a little surprising thinking I’m going to have to work my ass off to push traffic to it, when in reality i did nothing, just put a video on and answered people’s questions.

Cathy: I think now that it cost money to list your game, you’re seeing more dedicated, anxious fans, instead of haters and trolls.

James: Ya think?

Cathy: That’s my best guess.

James: So yea, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Which is crazy for something only two months into development.

Cathy: It’s a Metroidvania, but it’s also a Roguelike. Were you beat on as a child?

James: Ha ha, no.

Cathy: Hey, I still remember the original build of 48 Chambers.

James: Before you jump to conclusions, the Roguelike influence is more from Diablo than anything.

Cathy: Oh good, so Roguelike for pussies.  Noted.

James: I didn’t say that.

Cathy: The headline from this shall read “James Petruzzi, developer of upcoming game Chasm, calls all Diablo fans pussies.”

James: Are you trying to get me in trouble?

Cathy: Always.

James: I wouldn’t call it for-pussies! I think permadeath is pretty harsh punishment for failure.

Cathy: So when can we expect Chasm?

James: Hopefully late 2013.

Cathy: Come on, 400MSP XBLIG release?

James: Man I still like XBLIG, it’s a love/hate thing you know?  I love it for being an open marketplace, but I hate it for being an open marketplace.

Seriously, James. You've got to come up with more exciting screens than these.  This is your big moment!

Seriously, James. You’ve got to come up with more exciting screens than these. This is your big moment!

Cathy: Hey, some neo-retro games are getting full XBLA releases. Spelunky for example.  Why not try to secure a publisher?

James: Honestly, it’s really nice not having anyone to answer to.  Only problem is always money, you know?

Cathy: Which I hear you’re thinking of solving by going through Kic..kic..kic..

James: Cathy, you okay?

Cathy: Excuse me, you’re thinking of going through Kic..kic..kic..

James: Kickstarter?

Cathy: Yea, that.

James: You seem to have a little bit of blood coming out of your nose.

Cathy: Yea, that happens whenever I hear or say that word.

James: I don’t think that’s healthy.

Cathy: Tell me about it.  After writing that last editorial, my office looked like the Crazy 88s scene from Kill Bill.

James: Yea I’m thinking about Kickst.. that.  I’m thinking about using that.

Cathy: Nice save.  Gives me a chance to clot.

James: I’m also thinking about alpha funding, or even selling out to Microsoft.  I’ve considered it all, and I’m still not sure what the best route is.  We’re going to Game Developers Conference in March to show off Chasm, hopefully get some people interested.

Cathy: Might help to wear a tee-shirt that says “will sell my creative vision for food.”

James: I’m not THAT desperate yet!

Cathy: You’re thinking of using Kickstarter.  You ARE that desperate.

James: Cathy, your nose.

Cathy: Well shit.  Better wrap this up.  I’ve got to go to the hospital again.

Be sure to check out the official Chasm page at DiscordGames.com

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