Guacamelee!

I wasn’t even sure I was going to get to play Guacamelee!  Many readers, aware that I have epilepsy, warned me that the game occasionally vomits flashy, eye-hurting rainbows.  However, I was given assurances from readers that such effects only happen when you pick up an upgrade or immediately as you enter a boss battle.  They were right, and I was able to play Guacamelee.  Hooray for me!

Unfortunately, after a couple very promising opening hours, Guacamelee fell apart.  For me at least.  I felt the game had issues with padding, humor, and the occasional game-killing bug.  Someone who I think is part of the development team assures me a patch is on the way for such bugs, which might be able to bump the game up to a Seal-of-Quality title.  Despite all the bitching I’m about to do, there’s a pretty good game somewhere in this mess.  A game that at times made me laugh, cheer, and occasional spit on my television.

Guacamelee 0

They should have found someone else to be the hero. Juan slouches. Real heroes don’t slouch.

The idea is you’re a dude who was tragically born with his neck coming out of his chest.  The president’s daughter is kidnapped by an evil undead bullfighter person.  In the process, you’re murdered, but you come back as a super-powered luchador who must save the girl and the world from being merged with the realm of the dead.  I appreciate how the guys behind this took a moldy-old game story and dressed it up with funny dialog and a couple twists along the way.  Having said that, I wasn’t a big fan of the whole luchador thing.  It seems like it was done more out of a desire to be quirky.  The gag seems to be “luchadores are random and weird, get it?”  Yea, I got it.  I got it years ago when Killer 7 had a luchador in it.  I got it when Jack Black played a luchador in a movie.  I got it when WB had a Luchador-themed children’s cartoon and an accompanying awful Game Boy Advance game.

The luchador setting only serves a purpose to the game in the combat, which has a wrestling theme to it.  You punch, you grapple, you throw, or you buy advanced moves like a suplex or a piledriver.  Great.  But why wasn’t the theme more incorporated into the plot or the humor?  Juan becomes a luchador, and then he’s just a luchador for the rest of the game (except for when he’s a chicken.  Don’t ask).  They could have made gags or a plot that revolved around him having to avoid losing his mask, since that’s a central theme for luchadores.  Or they could have made jokes about how wrestling is staged.  Instead, it’s left at “he’s a luchador, and that in and of itself is quirky.”  No, it’s not.

Other humor in the game comes in the form of referencing online memes, the joke being “it’s that thing you know of.  We also know of it, and we made reference to it in our game!”  That’s not a joke.  If I go up to a stranger and say “did you ever see that video of a monkey that picks its ass, smells its finger, and then passes out?” that is not me performing stand-up comedy to that person.  Guacamelee way over uses this, and that’s sad because there’s some characterizations and bits of dialog that don’t use the referential-humor crutch.  Like the slutty demonic chick that hangs out with the bad guys and shakes her ass at you in an attempt to get her way.  Which doesn’t work, making her pout.  That’s funny.  “Hey look, it’s Strong Bad!” or “Hey look, it’s Link!” is not funny.  It’s just not.  Retro City Rampage had the same problem, where the jokes were mostly “It’s funny because I too have seen the games you played or watched the movies and/or television programs you watched!”  Some people enjoy this type of humor.  There’s been eleven seasons of Family Guy and five installments of Scary Movie.  I personally don’t get it, but I guess there is an audience that just wants assurance that, yes, other people remember the pop culture trivia that you remember.

Why does Juan have a championship belt on? That should have been something you get for beating the game. "He got it for beating death! Get it?" says Brian. I suppose.

Why does Juan have a championship belt on? That should have been something you get for beating the game. “He got it for beating death! Get it?” says Brian. I suppose.

Guacamelee is a 2D Metroidvania, something I probably should have mentioned early.  I love this genre, and I really wanted to love Guacamelee.  At first I did.  The graphics are absolutely stunning, and the play controls seems like it will be pretty good.  The world of Guacamelee is well designed, with vast dungeons to explore, towns to mingle in, and lots of hidden pathways to open up unlockables.  However, I wasn’t thrilled with the combat.  Many are considering it to be the game’s greatest attribute, so I think I could probably have trimmed this review down to “play the demo.  If you like the combat, you’ll like the whole game.”  I really didn’t mind fighting, for the most part.  It’s actually fun to string together huge combos, throw enemies into each-other, or see how long you can keep yourself airborne while dishing out damage.

But then the game starts to lock-down for forced arena-style combat.  This was presumably done to pad out the length.  I came to dread these sections because it kills the pace of the game and makes the combat needlessly feel like busy work.  The developers tried to keep it from stagnating by giving enemies shields which require a specific special move to break, or having enemies appear in one dimension and their shadows (which are still capable of causing you damage) in another.  This forces you to switch from dimension to dimension (this is a thing you can do, I probably should have mentioned that too) to fight the baddies off.  The intentions here were good, but the shields and the phasing-planes combat just adds to the tedium and makes fighting a chore when you’re locked in a single-screen.  Worse yet, your dude dramatically flies back, Simon Belmont-style, when you get knocked down.  Getting up is slow, and once up, your temporary-invincibility is too brief.  Thus, enemies can and will juggle you.  I went into a room late in the game with full health, got knocked down once, and never again had a real opening to fight back as multiple guys (some of whom fire projectiles) just endlessly pounded the crap out of me.  You do have a dodge attack, but the window to use it is too brief.  It also doesn’t help when a room has multiple enemies attacking just out-of-synch enough that, when one attack animation is ending, the other is beginning.  Now admittedly, I have no sense of timing, but a quick look at a few YouTube videos confirms that other players are the victims of cheap hits as well.

By the way, most of those videos end with the players talking about how much they love the combat in Guacamelee.  I guess some people are just wired to enjoy this type of shit.  I really did like the combat, but there’s too many foibles associated with it that I couldn’t get over.  Personally, if I wanted to get ganged up on with no opening to fight back, I’d book myself to go on the O’Reilly Factor.

I'm not so sure Juan would make a good wrestler. He spends most of the combat laying on his back.

I’m not so sure Juan would make a good wrestler. He spends most of the combat laying on his back.

Controls can be frustrating too.  I had trouble hitting just the basic (press circle) headbutt on yellow-shielded enemies, as I would typically do some other form of attack.  This became especially true after I opened up the blue “dash-forward” move.  In order to throw those headbutts, I had to completely stop moving and set myself, as any forward momentum seemed to cause the wrong attack.  This gets kind of difficult when you have multiple enemies ganging up on you and no pure method of blocking.  The only way to avoid getting juggled is to move around, but the only way to break an enemy’s shield is to sit still.  You can see how this might be a problem.  It gets really swear-inducing when enemy shields reappear after you’ve broken them because you didn’t kill them fast enough.  This all just makes the game so much more aggravating than it needs to be.  Those locked in combat rooms too, only done to pad out the play time.  Games don’t need to be long to be amazing or earn critical acclaim.  Look at Journey.  The average player takes barely three hours to finish it, and it won numerous Game of the Year awards over big-hitting contenders and multimillion dollar AAA titles.  So would it have mattered if Guacamelee was an hour shorter and didn’t have those combat rooms?  I don’t think it would have hurt its reputation at all.

I didn’t finish Guacamelee.  Towards the end, it started to bug out on me.  First, I couldn’t complete the training room because every time I got half-way through a combo, the screen would go completely black.  I wasn’t sure if this was done intentionally to add challenge, but then I found out that wasn’t the case.  Then the stuff with the yellow shields took over the combat and slowed the pace down even more.  Finally, I got into one of those combat rooms.  This one was especially annoying due to having nearly-out-of-reach bomb/enemy things that you have to kill before a timer ticks down, or they explode and claim a lot of your life.  On top of those, there was a large pillar with a spike on top of it that you had to hop back and forth over.  The controls were decent, but not so great that such actions could be completed smoothly every time.  On top of those, there were projectile-throwing enemies who (along with the bombs) could phase between the two planes of existence.  I did suck at the combat, quite frankly, and I had reached that point I sometimes get to where I just want a game to be over with.  Well, after failing a couple of times at this room, I finally cleared it out.  Only the game glitched out and the doors never unlocked.  Thus I would be forced to exit to the title screen and start the room over.  But, I don’t want to.  I’m done.  Seen enough.  Satisfied that it’s not going to get better.  Don’t want to risk this happening again.  Get back to me when you’re patched.  It will probably end with the stupid “A Winner Is You” line from Pro Wrestling on the NES anyway.

(spoiler alert, highlight: holy fuck, it does.  Jesus Christ, I was fucking joking!)

Hello? Please let me out? Please? 

There’s a ton to like about Guacamelee.  It has personality.  It has charm.  It has an incredible map.  It’s very beautiful to look at.  Most people even like the music.  I don’t.  Personally, I think Mexican music must have been invented by an atheist to disprove the existence of God.  Really, though, your like or dislike of Guacamelee will come down entirely towards whether or not you enjoy the combo-heavy combat of the game, cheapness and all.  I liked it but couldn’t get past the cheapness.  I would still barely recommend it despite that, but the game has issues with glitches and I really think those need to be cleaned up before I say “okay, now you can get it.”  I’m told fixes are on the way, so if you have PlayStation Plus, get it now while it’s on sale and just wait to play it.  Just don’t expect a game of the year contender.  Expect yourself to say “what were they thinking, making you push this many buttons mid-air just to get across this one room?  Were they fucking mad?”

I have to say, I've never been a fan of the "being chased by a gigantic monster" action beats in games.

I have to say, I’ve never been a fan of the “being chased by a gigantic monster” action beats in games.

Oh, and in closing, I know this wasn’t my funniest review (was my longest though).  To make up for it, here’s a random sampling of games I’ve played and movies I’ve seen.  Feel free to bust a gut if you’ve watched/played the same things.  Remember, this qualifies as humor: Portal, Final Fantasy, Mario, Sudoku, Parcheesi, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Seven Psychopaths, Se7en, Seven Samurai, Total Recall, Total Recall that sucks, the Zapruder film of Kennedy’s assassination, and a video of a monkey that picks its butt, sniffs its finger, then passes out.  Okay, you can stop laughing now.  The review is over.

GuacameleeGuacamelee! was developed by DrinkBox Studios

$11.99 ($14.99 for non PlayStation Plus members) said “it’s different when *I* make referential jokes because.. um.. hey look over there!” in the making of this review. 

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DLC Quest: Live Freemium or Die

DLC Quest was one of those rare games that exists strictly to parody the industry, did everything right, and ended before the joke stopped being funny.  It did real well, even taking home the Official Xbox Magazine’s XBLIG of the year award. I really liked it too, to the point that I wrote my single most boring review ever because I was dead afraid of spoiling the game.  I wanted people to play it.

I also did not want there to be a sequel.  I just figured that there was no way the joke could be stretched any further.  DLC Quest is pretty much a game without flaws, in the sense that it gives you just enough gameplay to not get too bored while waiting for the next gag to hit.  It gave players one hour worth of genuinely funny jokes, and ended before they started going flat.  It really felt like the joke had gone as far as it could.

Zombie sheeps.  Also known as Sega's fanbase.

Zombie sheep. Also known as Nintendo’s fanbase.

Still, everyone clamored for a sequel.  Not me.  I did everything I could to discourage it.  I asked creator Ben Kane nicely to not do it.  Then I asked not so nicely.  Then I made threats.  Then I blackmailed.  Then I  held his parents hostage.  Then I left a horse’s head in his bed.  Then I burned his house down.  Then I found out I was talking to the wrong Ben Kane.  Then I had to explain to the cops that I hadn’t grossly over-reacted to an ultimately trivial situation.  Then I had to make with the bribes.  By time I had tracked down the real Ben Kane, it was this morning and the sequel was already out.  Grumble.

Guess what?  My fears were for not.  DLC Quest: Live Freemium or Die is still quite funny, briskly paced, and offers genuine laughs.  Having said that, the best jokes clearly came in the original, where you had to get “DLC” just to be able to pause the game, or walk to the left.  It took absurdity to a new extreme.  The punchlines in Live Freemium feel more like run-of-the-mill gaming humor.  Well done, mind you, but still the type of jokes that can be done in any type of game.  Stuff like making guys speak with Canadian accents, or having a token NPC character that adds fuck-all to the game.  If the writing wasn’t so damn good, it would have really been a letdown, because this shit has been done before.

As a game, DLC Quest 2, like its predecessor, is as basic as buttered bread.  Jump around, collect coins, find the occasional secret room that contains more coins, and that’s pretty much it.  I’ve reviewed dozens of games at Indie Gamer Chick that have minimal gameplay and focus on the writing, but platforming is much more preferable to scrolling through menus, or pointing and clicking.  And I have to stress, the writing is sublime.  As an example, there’s a section of the game that focuses on fetch quests.  Such events in any game are guaranteed to induce cringes, and this was no different.  Then, just as tedium was about to settle in and make of mess of things, a brilliant punch-line to the whole sequence instantly defused me.  It was the biggest laugh of the whole game.  I actually shook my head in disbelief.  I can’t believe he made that part work the way he did.  He got me.

Add an extra thirty minutes to the playtime to find everything if you so wish.

Add an extra thirty minutes to the playtime to find everything if you so wish.

Like the original, Live Freemium takes about an hour to finish.  Unlike the original, it doesn’t stay fresh to the end.  It doesn’t really get annoying or boring.  In fact, I didn’t think the game had run out of steam until right before the finale.  But, yes, the joke has officially ran its course.  It’s nothing short of remarkable that Ben Kane stretched it for over two hours before it grew stale.  His talent as a game designer is remarkable.  At the time of this writing, he has three games on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard, ranked #19, #20, and #31.  That’s pretty damn impressive.  Thus, I officially proclaim Ben Kane and his Going Loud Studios the first recipient of the Indie Gamer Chick Certified Developer Who Doesn’t Suck Award.

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Congratulations Ben.  But for God’s sake, don’t make another one.  I don’t care if this earns you enough money to buy a small nation.  Don’t make me put a horse’s head in your bed.  This time I’ll get it right.  How many Ben Kanes can there be?

xboxboxartDLC Quest: Live Freemium or Die was developed by Going Loud Studios

Seal of Approval Large80 Microsoft Points said “no seriously, I know I doubted you before, but there is no possible way you can stretch out this joke for another episode.  Think of Naked Gun 3.  That shit was unwatchable” in the making of this review.

DLC Quest: Live Freemium or Die is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

Insane Zombie Carnage

I don’t like to play iPhone or even iPad games with flimsy, fake control schemes.  I just can’t get the hang of virtual controls.  So I missed out on the Super Crate Box craze.  Well, if you can call it that.  Compared to other popular games like Draw Something, Cut the Rope, or Angry Birds, Super Crate Box is more like a mild rage than a craze.  I hadn’t given the game a second thought until Brian and I did Indies in Due Time a few weeks ago, where we previewed yet another fucking zombie game, Insane Zombie Carnage.  Several of my readers immediately recognized it as a Super Crate Box clone.  I didn’t, because I never played it.  So I went into Crazy Undead Bloodbath without any prejudice.  Except against people of all races and religions, but that’s unrelated to the game.

So the idea behind Super Zombie Box is zombies rain down and you have to shoot them while collecting crates.  Wooden crates contain weapons of varying usefulness while question mark crates alter the flow of the game.  Body count is irrelevant, and so are the question mark boxes.  The object of the game is to get as many of the wooden boxes as you can before dying.  You start with one stage and unlock alternative modes and levels based on how big a streak you can get.

So what did I think?  I played it for an hour and I would rather be dead than ever play it again.  What a boring concept.  Don’t get me wrong, if suicide was not an option, I would choose Insane Zombie Carnage over Super Crate Box, simply based on my hatred of iOS virtual controls.  Loony Brain-Muncher Brouhaha actually controls fairly decently, which shocked the fucking hell out of me.  Clones tend to skimp on such features as playability in favor of cha-chinging and rolling in the dough.  I do think it’s a touch on the sensitive side, and the collision detection seems a bit off as well.  I cut a few zombie encounters close but know I missed them and I still died.  If I had actually gave a shit about the game, I would have been pissed off about that.  But, by that point, I couldn’t have given two shits less about it.  Perhaps this was because of crates that spawn right under where the zombies drop in at, making them almost impossible to fetch.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Preposterous Poltergeist Pandemonium, but I’m sure there are some Super Crate Box fans out there who are happy to be able to play this on a console.  Even if it’s not even close to the same game.  It doesn’t have the same graphics style.  It doesn’t have that “world-wide community” feel that Super Crate Box has.  It doesn’t have the word “super” in it.  It seems more like it exists to rub in the fact that this is as close as you can get if you’re among the handful of losers out there that still haven’t been assimilated by the Apple Collective.  But again, I really liked this more than Super Crate Box.  Which is like saying I would prefer to have my head blown of with a bazooka than be slowly disembowed using a rusty, urine-soaked samurai sword.

EDIT: Super Crate Box apparently got its start as a PC game.  Um.  Yea.  Move along.  Please.  Pretty please.  With cherries on top?

Insane Zombie Carnage was developed by Geex

80 Microsoft Points says repetition is the heart of gaming, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck 90% of the time in the making of this review.

Milie & Telly

Milie & Telly is one part TwickS, one part shump, and 100% horrible.  I hesitate to call it the worst Xbox Live Indie Game I’ve yet played, because I’ve used that one a couple of times and I don’t want to sound like a person prone to hyperbole.  Still, I put about 90 minutes into Milie & Telly and I’m hard-pressed to think of even the slightest complement to pay towards it.

It’s a shump.  One that, for the most part, only had a couple of enemies on screen at a time.  All of which are total bullet-sponges.  They come in either a red or yellow variety and you have to shoot them with the correct bullet, like Ikaruga.  It’s also a TwickS, so you in theory should have precision aiming.  Instead, your gun fires one or two flimsy bullets at a rate so slow that it makes killing even the basic enemies such a slow process that it will sap your will to live.  It certainly made me contemplate whether I could successfully bludgeon myself to death with my own controller.

The levels are long too, but that’s not a point in the game’s favor.  There is no variety, and there are no power-ups.  Just shoot a couple bullet-sponges, wait for more to appear, and start shooting them.  Oh, and you have shields too.  There are bosses, but I never successfully beat one, even on easy.  I’m really trying here to say something positive about Milie & Telly just so I don’t come across like a negative meanie.  The graphics are wretched, like they were lifted straight out of an animated banner ad from ten years ago, and the sound effects are more invasive to your senses than being skull-fucked by a rusty jack hammer.  You know what, fuck it.  Milie & Telly is weaponized boredom and should be subjected to sanctions under the Geneva Convention.

Milie & Telly was developed by Nitama Naishin

80 Microsoft Points took some Advil and said “no, it’s not possible to bludgeon yourself to death with a controller” in the making of this review. 

Gameplay footage courtesy of http://Indies.onPause.org

UnBound

NOTE: If you’re unable to download Xbox Live Indie Games (or any games for that matter) off the marketplace, you’re not alone.  I’m told they are now aware of the problem and it should be corrected shortly. 

UnBound purports to be an “open world adventure game.”  If this were true, all those juvenile delinquents who get ordered by courts to pick up trash on the side of a road should feel extra privileged.  The only adventure offered in UnBound is to pick up various orbs scattered throughout a rocky coastal mountain.  There’s no enemies to be found and the only objective is “find all the crap lying around.”  So the slogan attached to the box art is misleading.

Unbound takes place from a first-person perspective.  As stated above, the game is about finding orbs.  There’s three game modes.  In challenge, there’s five different scenarios for you to complete.  These games play more like connect-the-dots, which you’ll know better as an activity for three-year-olds and NOT an adventure of the open-world variety.  You basically just follow a string of orbs until you’ve collected every one on the map.  The first two “challenges” really offer no challenge at all.  And then you get to one called “Flood”, where the difficulty level curve goes so steep that it might be the world’s first successful space escalator.  In it, you’re still collecting orbs, only this time you can’t touch the continuously rising water.  The problem is it rises too fast, forcing you to hop back and forth to get each Orb.  The jumping is floaty enough that you might over-shoot your target and lose precious milliseconds.  Yes, milliseconds.  That’s how little time you have to react.

I will say this: UnBound would have made a cool Virtual Reality game.

The other modes offer a slightly more pleasurable time.  In adventure mode, you have to find 35 hidden blue orbs on an island.  Here, the connect-the-dots gameplay is significantly toned down and it gives the game a true sense of exploration.  As you collect the hundreds of green orbs lying around, your character becomes faster and can jump higher.  It’s kind of neat, making you feel like a budding superhero.  Unfortunately the land you traverse is lifeless and empty, so there’s not a whole lot for you to see or experience.  It’s like choosing to vacation in death valley.

Finally, there’s Survival mode, where you have a health bar that slowly depletes, forcing you to scramble around the map collecting orbs as quickly as possible to replenish it.  The object is to survive for as many days as possible.  I played through it four times and never made it to the second day, so obviously I’m doing something wrong.  Then again, I could never keep a goldfish alive for longer than a day either so maybe I’m not suited for this type of situation.  I do feel that the developer could have explained exactly how you’re supposed to stay alive longer.

Overall, UnBound feels kind of like a tech demo that would have been used two console generations ago.  It’s not exciting or engaging in the slightest bit, but it is functional and at times a teeny-tiny bit fun, especially when your character has all his stats maxed out and he’s jumping around the tops of mountains like he’s got Flubber on his shoes.  But the thrills are short-lived because the environment is so sterile that it almost feels like it leeches pleasure from your very soul, and that’s not cool.  Everyone knows souls that leak pleasure fetch lower prices in this market.

UnBound was developed by monufrak1

80 Microsoft Points chopped down a mountain with the edge of their hand in the making of this review.

Dungeon Defenders

Early on, when conceptualizing Indie Gamer Chick, I intended to review Xbox Live Arcade games, along with Playstation Network titles.  That idea got scrapped when I decided that those types of games have no problem getting attention.  Of course, I didn’t take into account that many titles on those platforms come from smaller studios working on a shoestring budget and the big gaming sites can’t be bothered to touch them because they’re too busy going gaga over Batman or Uncharted.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m right there with them.  Batman is awesome, even if I find it pretty far-fetched as far as video games go.  A man dressed like a bat fights an evil clown?  The fuck is that about?  I would sooner believe in a giant turtle-dragon kidnapping a princess from a group of sentient mushrooms than a man in a bat suit fighting a clown.  It’s just not as plausible.

Dungeon Defenders built up decent sized following when it debuted last winter on iOS and Android, but it still has been well under the radar this Fall gaming season for its console debuts on Xbox Live and Playstation Network, while also putting in an appearance on Steam.  Thankfully, by total happenstance I caught up on Vintage Video Game TV’s  live feed of a play-through of the game and was totally mesmerized by it.  I had to play it.

Dungeon Defenders is a co-op-focused game that’s one part tower defense and one part hoard-slasher.  You choose one of four character classes: the smart one, the cute one, the quiet one, or the funny one.  Each has specific skill sets and attributes.  I was Sir. Rimjob, the brave squire who was a hands-on type of dude.  Brian became Mr. Fuzzyfat, a wise apprentice wizard who could fire on enemies from a distance and do pretty much squat in the way of damage.  Bryce, the indecisive cunt that he is, alternated between using a huntress and a monk that I swear looked like it was ripped right from the Last Airbender.  The cartoon, not the crappy movie.

Characters selected, we entered the game world.  Naturally the first thing I noticed were the graphics.  They were stunning.  If someone had handed me a video of this game and told me to guess who developed it, I would have said Rare Ltd.  By the way, that’s meant to be a complement.  I know good games and Rare have long since parted ways, but the visual style made me think of their Nintendo 64 games from way back when I was a wee one.  It reminded me of the line queues at Disneyland, with attention to detail given even towards areas of the game that are off-limits and just for show.  I also want to offer a shout-out to the amazing score of the game.  Dungeon Defenders is one of my favorite audio-visual experiences this year.

Once you actually get going, the game itself is a total blast.  You enter a dungeon that contains an enormous crystal “core” that you have to defend from waves of enemies.  Like a hack-and-slasher, you can fight the baddies hand-to-hand if you wish.  But you can also set up towers in strategic locations to either directly defend the crystal or turn the hoards into a goblin mixed grill.

For the most part, the playable characters are well-balanced.  The squire is good in the thick of battle but is slow in movement and casting time.  The apprentice is useless in direct combat but has nifty long-range towers and a swift casting time.  The monk is average in most categories but is a well-balanced character.  The huntress.. well.. she’s actually kind of useless, or maybe the dude we designated to use her was.  Either way, because of the perfect difficulty curve, we were quickly able to get our shit together and work as a cohesive unit.

Dungeon Defenders is at it’s best when you play with people you know.  It does offer random pairing, but both times I tried it were unmitigated disasters.  Maybe on Steam or PSN you might get good players.  Xbox Live is populated by pit vipers that would shame some of the most obnoxious griefers I encountered when I played Warcraft, and they managed to make my life a living hell.  I can’t blame the developers for it, but I figured you should know what to expect when you enter random matchmaking on Xbox Live.  As if you didn’t already know what it’s like.  Hoarding all the mana needed to cast spells.  Picking up all the items and immediately selling them.  Tearing down my towers and replacing them with the same towers of their own so they could win MVP each stage.  Talking so much empty shit that I muted my TV altogether.  Just generally being losers on such an epic scale that if they were imprisoned with the most horny serial rapists on the planet they would still manage to die virgins.

With friends, it works.  Coming up with a system of how to tackle each stage is rewarding and engaging.  Each level is designed uniquely, offering different challenges in how to apply your towers or where each player should be positioned to directly fight the hoards.  The actual combat is pretty simplistic: hit the trigger button to swing your weapon.  You can also use more powerful attacks that are mapped to the D-Pad, at least if you’re the squire.  I could do a spinning attack with my dude that was not-unlike the spinning move Link does in every Zelda game.  Alternatively, I could go into “blood rage” mode, where my squire goes into a mad, blood-fueled rage and tears into everything in sight.  That happens to me at least once a month so I can relate.

Okay, so you didn’t come here to read what’s sunshine and lollipops about a game.  Despite being in love with Dungeon Defenders, there’s a lot not to like about it.  For starters, this is clearly a game that was designed to be interfaced with anything but a game pad.  The menus are clunky, the control scheme unintuitive, and the quick-actions mapped to the D-Pad not always helpful.  Why can’t I customize what the D-Pad does?  As a squire, I was not the character of choice for healing towers in the middle of combat.  My dude casts his spells way too slowly, and I’ll be damned if I’m wasting any XP upgrades on making him faster at it.  Yet that function is mapped to the D-Pad and I can’t change that.  It’s a waste of a button for me.  UPDATE: Um, actually you can. It’s really simple too.  You just press the D-Pad when the action you want to be quick-loaded is highlighted in the menu.  I’m going to fucking kill Bryce.  He was like “we don’t need a tutorial.”  And I was like “Uh huh!” And he was like “Nuh Uh!’ and I just gave in because we can do that for hours.  My bad.  Carry on.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the shop system.  When you use it, the selection is limited to three weapons, three pieces of armor, and three pets at a time.  Well that’s a bucket of lame sauce.  Also lame is that the selection doesn’t always logically apply to how much progress you’ve made in the game.  The first time I entered the shop, there was a pet that cost over a million mana.  I had just started the fucking game, mind you.  Following the first level I had maybe 2,000 mana tops.  It was such a tease.  Apparently you can lock an item in the shop so that it doesn’t go away, and maybe it will even be a good price for it.  I don’t really care what the reason is, but only three possible items per type is total horse shit, and the lack of scaling the prices to fit your current resources is a dick move supreme.

My biggest complaint is that this is a game that absolutely requires four players to proceed.  On your own, you might be able to handle a couple of the early stages, but once you delve further and further into the game, you better have a full party or you might as well not show up at all.  There are adjustable difficulty levels, but when it’s just you against nearly a thousand enemies, all coming from different directions, you’re hosed.  It’s a battle of attrition that you often can’t possibly hope to win, leaving you helpless unless the stars align properly and all your bestest buds have free time at the exact moment you do.

But those complaints are so minor compared to the big picture.  Dungeon Defenders is sublime.  The main quest offers a decent twenty hours of gameplay, which is pretty good for a $15 arcade game.  But that only scratches the surface.  There’s tons of side challenges too.  Some of them are pretty creative, like one where the core teleports randomly around the map.  This isn’t DLC, mind you.  This is all in the initial package.  There are plans for DLC that will add more characters, maps, and challenges, but I’m still at least fifty hours away from seeing everything the current build has to offer.  The amount of content here is staggering.  Dungeon Defenders might be the best total package of any Live Arcade game ever made.  Hyperbolic?  Maybe.  Truthful?  Absolutely.

If I was one of those twats that gave out a Game of the Year award, this would be an honest contender for it, and that includes stuff like Arkham City, L.A. Noire, and Portal 2Dungeon Defenders offers more gameplay than pretty much any mainstream game, but at a fraction of the cost.  With the right teammates, you’ll keep coming back to this one again and again.  In a perfect world, this would be an unprecedented hit.  Alas, we’re not in a perfect world.  Tibet isn’t free, gas is still expensive, and your mother is still a whore.  Trendy Entertainment could not have possibly picked a worse time than this gaming season to release this masterpiece to the masses.  In the history of bad timing, it ranks right up there with the Vienna Academy of Art running out of room for new students around 1908.

Dungeon Defenders was developed by Trendy Entertainment

1200 Microsoft Points think charging 50,000 mana to rename your character is criminal extortion in the making of this review.

A review copy of Dungeon Defenders was provided by Trendy Entertainment to IndieGamerChick.com in this review.  The copy played by the Chick was purchased by her with her own Microsoft Points.  The review copy was given to a friend with the sole purpose of helping the Chick test online multiplayer.  That person had no feedback in this article.  For more information on this policy, please read the Developer Support page here

Shortly after I posted this score, my right hand filed for divorce.

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