Demolition Crew (Second Chance with the Chick Review)

It’s been just over two months since I last played Demolition Crew for the Nintendo Switch, but it doesn’t take that long to patch a game these days (well, at least if don’t have a complete shit heel of a publisher). Demolition Crew showed glimpses of potential, but once I discovered a game-destroying glitch that allowed players to phantom-jump up a wall while clipping through surfaces, I threw in the towel. While the phantom jump can still be done, the aspect of it that allowed players to just go straight through the floor is apparently gone. And, while he was at it, developer Xirbx added minor gameplay tweaks and cleanups. It’s still a strange name for a game like this. One that plays much more like Ice Climber than Wrecking Crew. I mean, you’re not really demolishing anything except the occasional wall or floor. You’re just scaling to the roof of buildings to ring a bell. Of course, as the Game of Thrones final season taught us, when the bells ring, everything gets destroyed. Maybe it was prophetic.

I don’t know if these openings were just for the enemies to hit me. It seems like it wouldn’t be so, since there’s piles of snowballs I can use to fight back against them, but I couldn’t throw them through the holes. Weird.

Does Demolition Crew, a loving tribute to the Black Box Era of the NES, play better? Yes. It’s still a more idealized realization of whatever it was Ice Climber was aiming for back in 1985. Is it fun? Not a whole lot. The primary design hurdle with the original build is still there: Demolition Crew just doesn’t have enough stuff going on. It’s not particularly challenging. It’s not hard to overcome obstacles or avoid enemies. The best levels are the ones that require you to use items to clear floors, but the solutions are always self-evident and not exactly hard to pull off. It still has that “proof of concept” feel. Super easy games have a place. I could see this being a great game for children. But there’s no teeth at all here. This is like demolishing a building full of barrels of ducks.

I was caught off guard by the game’s ending. I thought I might have crashed it or something. It just ends after 32 stages and dumps back to the title screen. I’ve never seen that in my eight years at IGC.

Is it ever fun? Sometimes. Not enough to win me over, because too often making it to top floor in Demolition Crew is such a cinch that there’s nothing to get energized over. Ironically for a game about climbing, it just scales too slowly. There are good levels, but they come late into the thirty-two stage run. The patch isn’t a failure or anything. Demolition Crew is a better game. And it’s an impressive development feat. Demolition Crew was coded from the ground-up. It’s not a bad first effort. It’s just not a fun enough one either. It shows a lot of potential, which makes developer xirBX one to watch. A class act with a bright future. He can take feedback. That’s half the battle. Well, actually I imagine getting the game made is a lot more than half a battle. And then there’s actually getting the game listed. That’s a battle for a lot of developers. Fine: being able to take feedback is a fraction of a battle. BUT it’s still part of the battle.

Demolition Crew was developed by xirBX
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch

$2 got its bell rung in the making of this review.

Demolition Crew

When I bought Demolition Crew, I sort of expected it to be an indie tribute to Wrecking Crew, the 1985 NES puzzle game starring Mario. I mean, the name is “Demolition CREW”, and “demolition” is a synonym for “wreck”, and besides.. look at it!

After taking this pic, it occurred to me that this might have been an attempt at making a game like Fix it Felix too.

“How odd” I thought, “who would even think to pay tribute to Wrecking Crew? It’s one of the most shit-upon black box NES titles. It was such a non-entity in the collective gaming culture that they didn’t even bother porting the Super Famicom sequel to it (yes, there’s a Wrecking Crew sequel) to North America. Most people probably don’t even know it has a sequel.”

My brain says a lot when I see things. A lot of the time, it says so much it starts leaking out of my mouth. And then I get in trouble and have to claim it was the Ambien.

Well, Demolition Crew is a tribute to a 1985 NES black box title. But actually, the game it’s a homage of is Ice Climber. The jumping physics based sometimes around breaking bricks above your head and the vertical climbing sort of make it a dead giveaway. I fucking hated Ice Climber. It’s probably the worst game Nintendo ever made. And I’ve had three words in italics this paragraph. Eh, fuck it’s, let’s make it four.

Maybe what he did was fix-it Ice Climber.

But actually, at first Demolition Crew wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either, but the concept was solid: platform your way up a building to ring the bell at the top. Along the way, you deal with moving platforms, breakable blocks, movable boxes, buttons and switches, vats of acid or pools of lava, bombs, and mummies. Remarkably, the controls feel like what we all wished Ice Climber controlled like but didn’t. It works. It works pretty good actually. I mean, the combat doesn’t. The combat has no oomph to it, and getting the timing down to smack angry squatters or mummies is brutal. Sometimes you get snowballs to throw at them, but otherwise, I sort of think the game should have eliminated the ability to fight enemies altogether. Or, at the very least, had you use items or the environment to vanquish them. Because the combat in Demolition Crew is some of the worst I’ve seen in a game. Bludgeoning a deadbeat tenant with a hammer should be more fun than it is here.

So, Ice Climber, only done right? Sounds.. okay. Yea, I can’t even pretend Ice Climber at it’s most idealized would be great or anything. But hey, okay is okay, right?! Except Demolition Crew wouldn’t even be okay. It’s be just under earning my seal of approval. The levels are just too bland and repetitive for the most part. Later levels do have much more interesting concepts, like manipulating enemies into blowing up obstructions for you, or using buttons to activate moving platforms to position bombs. These are fine. It just takes too long to get to them, and there’s a lot of dull levels before you get there. Not bad levels, but boring ones. Then again, since the worst thing a game can do is bore, I guess boring is bad.

There’s something of merit here, and with more development time this could have been a very special game. I don’t just want developer xirBX to patch Demolition Crew (though he really should patch it). I want to see more. Maybe he can turn chicken shit into chicken salad with other crappy NES era games like Balloon Fight.

And then, there’s the glitches. Only I guess the glitches must be a feature. Because the developer apparently knows about them. Up until this point, Demolition Crew was just under passing for me, but, I had finally reached some of the more complex, rube-goldberg type of stages. Mostly, I found Crew to be rough. Lots of times I’d jump and the game behaved like I’d hit a wall above my head, only there wasn’t one. This especially happens a lot when you’re next to one of the large walls that hold up the stages. But, whatever. It never really interfered all that much. If it happened once, I could always just jump again. It rarely repeated the invisible wall thing twice in a row. And then, I jumped once and landed on nothing. My character was floating in the air. Then, I tried jumping, and ruined the game. Because now could I clip right through several solid walls and was able to just glitch-jump my way past the entire stage and to the goal. I tried this on other stages and it worked on them all.

I was horrified and felt bad for the developer, because along with the rest of the roughness (one time I died from bad collision detection by hitting bricks that had a pool of lava above my head), this was the final nail in Demolition Crew’s coffin for me. It just plain feels unfinished and completely lacking polish. I see it a lot in indie development: new devs get so excited as they get a working build of their game running that they rush through the all-important play-testing phase and dump it on the market, oblivious to the fact that they’ve sent their baby out to die. I asked someone to find me the developer so I could let them know what I’d found so they could fix it and issue their Second Chance with the Chick challenge to me.

Well, apparently Demolition Crew’s developer knew about it. Because he has a tweet showing a speed runner exploiting the glitches to finish the game faster. As if it’s a good thing.

Dude, you’re supposed to patch the glitches out, and if anyone finds them before you do it, you’re supposed to kill them and any witnesses. Well, that or you just say “I’m going to fix these so enjoy them while they’re there.”

Maybe he deliberately left the glitches in specifically for the speed running community. I guess I’d prefer that over a developer just rushing his game unfinished to the marketplace. Not that leaving glitches in a game in an attempt to pander to speed runners is a good idea. Even if 50,000 of them adopted Demolition Crew as a new tent-pole game for their community at $2 a pop just so they can exploit a glitch that ruins the point of the entire game, they’ll be ignoring the actual effort that went into the levels and the logic contained therein and thus not create any appeal for the general gaming community. And besides, in my experience speed runners are really particular about what games they embrace. And a lot of the community doesn’t like glitching the games they play, so really you’re not even attracting the whole sub-culture. You’re getting a sub-sub-culture. I try to review games here and not developers, but come on dude: the draw of your game is how, when it plays well, Demolition Crew is an effective tribute to first-generation NES games. It looks the part BUT improves upon the originals, like all good classic gaming tributes should do. If it weren’t so rough and had better level design, it’d been a slam dunk for my seal of approval. Neo retro games that improve bad oldies are awesome. That’s why people would want it. That’s why *I* wanted it. I don’t get the logic in a developer showing off that their game that isn’t catching-on is riddled with glitches that can be exploited by a niche game community. It would be like a person losing their virginity offering up their newly-acquired gonorrhea as proof: desperate and kind of embarrassing.

Demolition Crew was developed by xirBX
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch

$2 couldn’t convince anyone in her family to play the game multiplayer with her in the making of this review.

Seriously xirBX: patch this shit out and ask for a redo.

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