Kill the Plumber

Kill the Plumber is the latest “turn the tables” game. Turn the tables is typically a smoke and mirrors genre in the sense that it’s really just the same kind of games you’ve played before and only gives the illusion that they do something different. Take Default Dan, which appears to twist the Mario platforming formula by doing things like making coins and items kill you, while making enemies and spikes help you. In reality, it  just reskins the formula, changing nothing but the appearance. A moderately skilled ROM hacker could do the same thing to Super Mario Bros. on the NES, swapping the mushrooms with the goombas, or the coins with stationary fireballs. It would still be Super Mario Bros, a perfectly fine game, but the novelty would wear off quick. That’s why Default Dan was just alright as a game. Once you got past the novelty of good = bad and bad = good, the game had to stand on its own, and in the sense, it was just okay. Of course, in game reviews, people associate “just okay” with “likely to resurrect Hitler.” You guys do realize it’s okay to be okay, right?

It looks the part, no question about that.

Kill the Plumber: the name of this game, not Sega’s unofficial corporate slogan circa 1991.

Kill the Plumber genuinely does turn the tables, in the sense that you control the bad guys and legitimately do attack Not-Mario like enemies in real Mario game do. It still feels more like it’s done for novelty value than being a truly inspired concept, but at least the foundation is set properly. Unfortunately, everything past that crumbles once the game starts.

Say it with me, everyone: controls. Having good play control will not make your game, but having bad control will almost certainly break it. The controls for Kill the Plumber are atrocious. All movement feels like you’re underwater. Even worse, the controls can be very unresponsive. This becomes especially annoying with levels where you have less than one second at the start of the stage to begin moving. Like this one:

I should also note that, because the screen flashes white when you die, and because you will die instantly on this stage and immediately restart, I had to have someone else complete it for me because of epilepsy risks. I quit shortly thereafter. If no effort was made to make the game good, I don't really feel the need to suffer through it.

I should also note that, because the screen flashes white when you die, and because you will die instantly on this stage and immediately restart, I had to have someone else complete it for me because of epilepsy risks. That this could happen again was enough of a worry for me that I decided to walk away before finishing it. No regrets for that, it’s awful and kept getting worse. Thankfully, there’s a cheat code (type “warpzone” on the title screen) that unlocks all the levels, so that I could sample later stages and see if they got better. For the most part, they didn’t.

(For those who played my Mario Maker stages, I’m perfectly aware of the hypocrisy.)

You will die in just under one second if you don’t move to the correct spot immediately at the start of this stage, and that’s BEFORE you take the sluggish response into account. How sluggish? You can PAUSE THE GAME and the response time to that is slow enough that not-Mario can still be moving while the game is in the process of pausing, leading to you getting killed while the pause menu fades into existence. Holiest of all shits, that’s inexcusably bad design. This is hardly the only level with this problem, too. “Think fast” is a great mindset for a punisher like 1001 Spikes, but for a game that feels more like a puzzler submerged in liquid nitrogen, it just makes the whole thing boring.

The final boss fight (where you control the boss) is remarkable: the gravity is too heavy while the jumping is too light AT THE SAME TIME!

The final boss fight (where you control the boss) is remarkable: the gravity is too heavy while the jumping is too light AT THE SAME TIME! Credit where it’s due: Kill the Plumber kept coming up with new ways to annoy me.

Which is not to say Kill the Plumber does nothing right. Again, this is a genuine reversal of roles. Playing as not-Mario baddies who behave reasonably close to their real counterparts isn’t the worst idea a game has ever had. The concept is eye-catching and serves it purpose: you see it, you want to play it just based on the premise. That’s why I’m so frustrated with it. It’s sold brilliantly, but the execution misses in every way a game can. Awful control, some of the worst I’ve experienced for a game like this. Incredibly irritating levels of unfairness. Even the scoring system seems clumsy, and because of the tedious gameplay speed, you probably won’t want to replay stages to go for three-stars. The levels are short enough that it could be an enjoyable quick’n’quirk experience. Instead, it’s just a slog. There’s nothing wrong with Kill the Plumber that couldn’t have been fixed with more time and care, but as it stands, I really hated this game. Kill it indeed. Kill it with fire.

headerKill the Plumber was developed by Keybol
Point of Sale: Steam
Also available to play for free on Newgrounds

$3.99 (normally $4.99) said “too late, it’s already dead” in the making of this review.

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The Old Tree

Think of The Old Tree by Red Dwarf Games as one of those beautiful looking animated shorts that people see at the Oscars and say “looks neat! Ill have to check it out sometime!” Even though they never do. Well, most people who read this review will probably never check out The Old Tree, and that’s a shame. In it, you clear a baby alien’s path as it works it ways to the top of an old tree. The alien thing really doesn’t make any sense. I figured it was more like some kind of stylized bug larva. Given the ending, that seems more logical to me. You don’t control the alien directly. Instead, you click on various objects that clears whatever is holding you up from moving forward. Ten to fifteen minutes of that and you’re done. And a satisfying ten to fifteen minutes it is.

No joke to go with this picture. I just like the art direction.

Beautiful, and yet uncomfortable and creepy. I loved the art direction of The Old Tree.

This kind of short-subject storytelling is something I want to see explored more by indie developers. It seems like it would be a great way to challenge yourself as an artist. Can you tell a compelling tale with a beginning, middle, and an end, work in decent play mechanics, end in under fifteen minutes, and leave the majority of gamers completely satisfied? Maybe even inspired? Red Dwarf Games seems to have here. While it’s not perfect (I had to get stabby with the cursor to figure what exactly I was supposed to click more than once), the art direction is great and the ending is both satisfying and enchanting. The game is free on Steam and on the developer’s website, but what’s here is good enough that they could have gotten away charging a buck for it. The Old Tree is a wonderful example that the length of a game isn’t always proportionate to how big an impression it can make on a gamer. Great game to play with children, too. It has a bedtime story quality to it. I don’t know what else to say. It’s free! Go play it! Seriously, go!

You’re not going, are you?

Don’t make me do it.

Alright, you’ve forced my hand.

its-come-to-this

Works every time. Enjoy the game!

The Old Tree LogoThe Old Tree was developed by Red Dwarf Games
Play it for free on Steam!

IGC_ApprovedThe Old Tree is Chick-Approved and Ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

 

 

 

Circix

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

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

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

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

PromoGraphic_180x120Circix was developed Graham Barber & Russell King

IGC_ApprovedCircix is free to play on iOS and Android devices.

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

Foiled

The mechanics in Foiled are astonishingly simple but not void of nuance. The game is good at being accessible while retaining an element of competitive play.

Oh, and it made me beat the shit out of my brother. And it made my girlfriend beat the shit out of me. Rare is it that a game can provoke violence from normally docile beings. I like to think that’s a testament to its quality.

The reasoning for these brutal shoulder punches, I imagine, is that the outcome of a match directly reflects upon a player’s skill. And when that skill has a lot to do with head games, and without the ability to blame complicated controls, losing a match can affect your ego. I’ll explain:

Players have only two attacks. Swipe, which is an upwards slash to fend off death from above and Dive, a jumping attack that causes the player character to plunge violently downwards. The foils idle menacingly, poised parallel to the stage, ready to hurt. If two foils collide, they deflect. If a foil touches the other player, they perish and the victor collects their soul.

At this point, a goal appears on-screen. The recently felled player spawns at the goal to defend it while their assailant attempts to reach that goal with the soul in hand. If they are killed, then they spawn at a goal and the roles are reversed. If a player reaches a goal, they get a point. If a player gets three points, they become a giant, invincible fencer who will obliterate their rival. They also win the round.

Win two rounds, win the match. The essence of simplicity.

Only, not. From the get go, the tension is high. Two players face off, unsure of what the other one will do. Through repeated rounds, they start to get an idea of how their opponent plays, but you can never rely entirely on the ability to read your opponent. And you have to realize that they are adapting to you as the matches progress, too. Even playing defensively is unnerving, as an offensive player, who will usually have to jump to be aggressive, can simply bait you into a missed swipe. They can land behind you, in front of you, atop you… and if you make a bad read, then you’re more screwed than my attention craving sister.*

The stages are extremely vertical, encouraging lots of wall jumps and climbing to reach the goals. The systems of the game cause the position of power to chaotically swing between the two characters. When a player falls, they stand stoic sentry over their rival, with a very desirable footing.

And that ability to frequently deny a point is amazing. You never feel entirely disempowered, and no matter how the game has played out, there always seems to be some sliver of hope to edge out a victory. 

Foiled represents a spectacular effort from first time developer, Gabe Cuzillo. I look forward to seeing what he produces in the future.

Oh, and it’s free. So find a friend and stop being a total lame-ass.

52756cdee4b0782c048c5ec0Foiled is available for free here.

IGTlogo-01Foiled has earned the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.

*that’s a joke. Sorry, Mercedes.

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