The Hearts of Men: Throne of Deceit

The Hearts of men: Throne of Deceit is a Gauntlet clone.  As a kid, I loved Gauntlet Legends on the Sega Dreamcast.  In fact, I look back fondly on it as one of my favorite games of that era.  So I was very excited for a chance to play a loving tribute to one of my childhood favorites.  And I had good reason to be excited.  It has online play and pretty decent graphics for an Xbox Live Indie Game.  What could go wrong?

Sigh.  Sit down, COLTRAN Studios.  We need to talk about the difference between “creating challenge” and “being a dickhead.”  It’s really not that fine a line.  Here, allow me to elaborate.

  • Enemy archers who fire with 100% accuracy: Challenging.
  • Enemy archers who fire with 100% accuracy and are completely out of reach, thus making them unkillable unless you use a bomb: You’re a dickhead.
  • Enemy archers who fire with 100% accuracy and are completely out of reach, thus making them unkillable unless you use a bomb, but only placing one or two bombs in each level (if that) and not letting players buy more between stages: You’re a giant-sized dickhead.
  • Auto-scrolling: Challenging.
  • Auto-scrolling with limited visibility: You’re a dickhead.
  • Auto-scrolling with limited visibility and floor indistinguishable from non-floor: You’re a colossal dickhead.
  • Auto-scrolling with limited visibility, floor indistinguishable from non-floor, and dead-ends that lead to instant-death that make the entire game an exercise in luck: You’re a dickhead of such extreme proportions that catching even a glimpse of you through a window makes you subject to arrest under indecent exposure laws.

Impressive screenshot, huh? Check out what the next screen they selected looks like.

By the way, if you can’t tell the difference between a challenge and being a dickhead, that makes you a special-needs dickhead.  Really, when developers make shit like this, I complain about it, and then they tweet back boastfully oblivious of what a mess they’ve made of their project, it makes me wonder if the difficulty spike is some kind of Revenge of the Nerds type of deal.  The developers suddenly went on the rag around the time they started tweaking the difficulty, remembered the time that Scott Phinigus shoved them into a locker after gym class and decided this was their opportunity to take revenge on the world.  Which it’s not really revenge on the world.  It’s just a sign that the developers had their heads firmly shoved up their own anal cavities and their games should be avoided like they’re radioactive.

Here’s a tip, XBLIGers: nobody recommends a $1 indie Xbox game because it’s hard.  That’s not a point in the game’s favor.  People recommend games based on accessibility, replayability, value, and the amount of fun they have versus the amount of time they wish they were doing something else.  Nobody says “Hey Joe, there’s this game that is sort of fun 20% of the time, but 80% of the time it’s dull, repetitive, and so frustrating that you’ll wish you had paid your 63-year-old neighbor with the coke-bottle glasses $1 to flash you her lop-sided tits instead!”

Hearts of Men does so many things right that I wish I could say “hell yes, this is $1 well spent.”  But I can’t, because every good idea is followed up by at least one bad idea.  Mapping attack to the right analog stick, turning Gauntlet into a TwickS, which is the most obvious move for the genre?  Good idea!  Lack of enemy variety?  Bad idea.  Four different hero types?  Good idea!  Useless upgrades, like getting full life-refills on meat, of which there is usually only one per stage?  Bad idea.

No, this isn't the same screen. They just didn't make any effort to get a nice variety of shots for the marketplace page. Hell, one of the pictures is of the title screen. Way to half-ass it, guys!

By the way, I wasn’t joking about the developers having their heads up their ass when they designed this.  I actually believe the creation of this game began with a few guys first taking turns shoving their heads up each-others asses.  A sort of low-budget Human Centipede if you will.  Because that’s the only way I can explain how stupid the online component of this game is.  Quick: what do you want in an online Gauntlet clone?  Co-op for the campaign, right?  I mean, what kind of question is that?  You would have to be a fucking moron to answer with anything else, and the developers would have to be jumbo-sized morons so thick that even Alabama would deport them out of shame to not do such an obvious thing.

But this is XBLIG, so of course the developers dropped the ball on it.  No online co-op.  At all.  None.  Oh, there’s online in Hearts of Men.  Only it’s a bunch of unplayable, utterly useless deathmatch-type stuff.  Who would see potential in deathmatch-type stuff in a fucking Gauntlet game?  I suppose the same guys who decided to include auto-scrolling sections in a Gauntlet game.  What really sucks is the knowledge that they wasted their time on this shit when they should have been working on online co-op, which people might have actually bought the game for.  Nobody at all would buy this shit for the type of online play they included.  Hell, if you’re not going to bother with online co-op, spend the time fixing the main game.  The third boss looks just like any other normal enemy, and you know they phoned it in because they were busy jerking off with this stuff.

I admit, the first match-type (a sort of territorial-control mixed with bomb-the-base stuff) would be fun if you could get eight players into it, but again, this is Xbox Live Indie Games.  You’re more likely to see an endangered white rhino juggling zebras while riding a unicycle than ever find eight people online playing Hearts of Men.  And besides, there’s no lobby to invite people in.  People can only enter the game once it starts.  And once it ends, everyone is dumped out to the main menu.  Seriously, what a piece of shit game.

Hearts of Men is fun at times, especially with local co-op.  But, somewhere along the line, its developers forgot they were creating something designed to be fun.  My co-op partners quit after the first auto-scroll section because the developers were so busy gleefully being dickheads that they forgot to be entertaining as well.  I stuck it out, and I wish I hadn’t.  It’s a few hours I couldn’t get back.  I didn’t even finish Hearts of Men.  By the fourth world I realized nothing remotely resembling a good time had happened in hours.  Just the same enemies, the same keys, the same doors, and the same dick moves.

Yes, it's a new picture. Too late, I'm already bored.

And then my memory kicked in and I remembered that I never actually finished Gauntlet Legends either, because it stopped being fun long before the game ended.  Maybe what the Indie market should do when paying tribute to old favorites is limit the game to an hour or two.  That way, you don’t have time to get bored.  I asked some friends and they all agreed that Gauntlet Legends was the shits back in the day, and that they never beat it because it was too long and boring.  This is a contradiction that you, XNA developers, have the ability to fix.  You know, assuming you’re smart enough to make games with the correct online features and not include out-of-place auto-scrolling sequences in them.  And since we know that’s too much to ask of COLTRAN Studios, how about someone else take a crack at fixing the problems with Gauntlet.  I’ll keep them occupied by giving them some bubble wrap to pop.

The Hearts of Men: Throne of Deceit was developed by COLTRAN Studios

80 Microsoft Points admit this was maybe my meanest review.  Really, I don’t think the guys at COLTRAN are morons or stupid.  Well, maybe a little stupid.  I mean, no online- co-op and fucking auto-scrolling in a fucking Gauntlet game?  For fuck’s sake, you would have to be glue-sniffingly stupid to.. in the making of this review.  Deep breath.  I’m calm, calm, perfectly calm.

I blame you guys for not voting in the Katch-Up this week despite this being my best week all month in terms of page views.  You already killed the puppy of sadness.  He drank lighter fluid, sat in the highway, and lit himself on fire.  And that was before the steamroller arrived. 

A review copy of The Hearts of Men: Throne of Deceit was provided by COLTRAN Studios to Indie Gamer Chick.  The copy played by Kairi was purchased by her with her own Microsoft Points.  The review code was given to someone else to provide her with a proper online experience.  That person was not involved at all in the writing or editing of this review.  For more information on this policy, please consult the Indie Gamer Chick FAQ.

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