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…

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Dead Pixels (Second Chance with the Chick)

It’s been just over nine months since I reviewed Dead Pixels, the #2 game as of this writing on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard, and the former king of the mountain.  Despite really enjoying my time with the game, I never really got around to playing the two extra modes that launched months after its release.  With less than two weeks to go before my first anniversary as Indie Gamer Chick, I figured I should finally take a look and see if the content would be enough to elevate Dead Pixels back into the #1 spot on the board.  Of course, my expectations that it might do just that were somewhat dashed by the developer outright telling me that it would not reclaim the spot.

You get more characters to choose from in The Solution, all of whom have been bad little boys. Lord knows that when you have an emergency situation, the only solution is to send in hardened criminals to do all the heroics. I know how it works. I saw Pitch Black too.

He wasn’t being coy.  In fact, he’s right.  The two new modes of Dead Pixels are swell extras, but they ultimately add nothing to the experience.  First up is The Solution.  It’s kind of like a survival mode, where you have to run X amount of streets (depending on the difficult level) and then back again.  You have even more limited resources, and the city is vacant so there are no humans to negotiate goods with.  You can still loot empty buildings for goods, but you don’t want to get bogged down by carrying too much weight.  I had that happen to me when I played the main quest, and I think I would have moved faster if I had waited for plate tectonics to push me to the goal.

I ended up carrying only the default shotgun, and only stocking up on shells for it.  If that doesn’t sound like the most exciting way to play the game, that’s because it wasn’t.  I ended up just holding down left and avoiding enemies.  This did come in handy on the final part of the “walk left” section of the game, when the lights started flickering on and off.  Due to my epilepsy, this was a high-risk section of the game for me to play.  I decided to walk up to the top of the screen, hold the stick left, and not do anything else.  Boring but effective, because it worked.  However, this mode proved to be dull, and not really worthy of the excellent main game.

Last Stand worked better.  It’s a wave shooter where you play as a couple of twats named Hurley and Nate (no joke) as they lock themselves in a mall with a bunch of zombies.  I doubt they would actually do something like that, because I know I wouldn’t do that.  Since they exist only to steal my ideas, their zombie plan would probably involve some kind of elaborate suicide, because that’s what I’m going to do.  If the zombies attack, I’m going to kiss the end of a shotgun that has bullets soaked in cyanide while wearing a vest made of dynamite and the timer set for five seconds from now.  I am taking NO chances of surviving the outbreak.  Among other things, I never see a working Taco Bell in these games or movies, and I will be damned if I’m going to live out the rest of my life without a Chulupa.

I ended up playing as Hurley. And no, that doesn’t mean I ended up with blisters on my hands and a craving for bacon. It’s just a game, not a transmorphic body swapping thingie.

So Last Stand.  The wave shooter part.  Well, you shoot a bunch of zombies and they drop money.  Then between waves you can upgrade your stats, buy different guns, more ammo, health kits, etc.  Every round the zombies grow in numbers.  That’s pretty much it.  This mode is more fun, but then again I’m predisposed to enjoying wave shooters, which is why such a game could overthrow Dead Pixels for the #1 spot on the leaderboard in the first place.  However, I didn’t love the wave shooting mode the way I did the main campaign.  Part of that is there’s no online leaderboards to show off how far you’ve made it.  But it’s mostly because I already got all the value out of Dead Pixels that I could.  The game rocked in single player mode, rocked harder in co-op (even if Brian didn’t like the game as much as me and thought I was out of my mind for putting it #1 in the first place), but its time has come and gone.  Dead Pixels is still an amazing game and will probably hold onto a high spot on the leaderboard for a long time to come, but I’ve moved on.  Granted, what I moved on to has been mostly inferior games, negating my point.  I’m just going to shut up now and leave this review.  Buh-Bye.

Dead Pixels was developed by CSR Studios

80 Microsoft Points have an alternative zombie plan, but it requires duct tape and a steamroller in the making of this review.

Tales from the Dev Side: Magic Seal Pelts by Ian Stocker

Right before a combination of epilepsy, gravity, and IKEA conspired to destroy my brain, I had touched off a debate on Xbox Live Indie Game pricing.  It began with my review on Pingvinas and continued on with my editorial on pricing.  This resulted in my biggest day for traffic ever, and some very awesome point and counter-point discussions in the comments section of those posts.  Pretty damn civil ones too.  I’m so proud of you guys.

Well, now Mr. Ian Stocker, the creator of Escape Goat, wants to weigh in.  At first, Ian was supposed to offer a counter point to my theory on pricing.  Then he changed his mind and sided with me.  Sigh.  Imagine if that happened all the time.  If two guys were debating for the Presidency and all of a sudden one guy said “wow, shit, that other guy is totally right.  Hey everyone, did you hear that?  I totally agree with him.  You should vote for him!” 

Well either way, Ian’s article was both insightful and entertaining and the perfect way to kick off Tales from the Dev Side.  Plus, we’re giving away two copies of Escape Goat.  Read below for details.

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