Hop Til You Drop (Second Chance with the Chick)

I wasn’t very nice to Hop Til You Drop when I briefly covered it a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a twitchy single-screen punisher that involves dodging random hazards the game spits at you.  I immediately grasped what the game’s schtick would be and thought “this could be addictive.”  But then I died and found out that replaying the game meant going through a seemingly endless series of menus.  After just a couple more plays, I decided my time would better be spent brow beating the developer for being such a dummy.  My hopes were that he would fix his game.  He did.  Good thing too, because SWAT was closing in on my house.  I admit, taking his family hostage might have been going too far, but at Indie Gamer Chick, we like to take that extra step towards improving the game industry.

None of these screens will make sense. Just look at Aaron the Splazer's video at the end of this review.

None of these screens will make sense. Just look at Aaron the Splazer’s video at the end of this review.

A lot of developers seem to take my advice on aspects of game design, which I have to say is more fucking cool than you can imagine.  But a lot of the advice I give them is stuff that they should have come up with on their own.  In that spirit, I’m going to offer makers of punishers the biggest no-brainer advice you’ll ever get.

Make your game addictive.

Sure, addictive gameplay varies from person to person.  But there are steps you can take to maximum the potency of a game’s addictive potential.  It all boils down to the speed and downtime.  If you’re making a game where players will die a lot, keep the time between death and rebirth at a minimum.  Look at some of the most successful punishers in recent years.  In Super Meat Boy, when you die, BAM, you’re back to life.  It’s a game that could offer a lot of frustration, but because the game skips theatrics and bullshit in favor of gameplay, you don’t notice it.  Who has time to be frustrated when that giant saw you’ve been trying to jump over for the last ten minutes is right fucking there?  Spelunky did this too.  When you die in it, restarting the game is done with a single button press.  The lack of downtime is what gives those games their hypnotic “just one more try” quality.

Now imagine if Super Meat Boy’s failures resulted in theatrical death animations followed by a menu.  It would have been relegated to gaming purgatory.  Nobody would remember it today.  Super Meat Boy is famous for many things.  It’s art style, historical gaming references, and challenge.  But its success probably hinged on how accessible it was.  It’s a game that wanted to be played, and so it cut the bullshit out.  Gameplay was continuous with minimal interruptions.  This is something all punishers should have.  And yet it’s among the most common things bad punishers have wrong with them.  I know you guys have all played these games.  So how do you miss such an obvious thing?  It’s not about the insane challenge.  It never was.  Those games succeeded because they were addictive.  When a person can lose time to a game and not realize it, that’s a game that is more likely to spread by word-of-mouth.

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In a way, it sucks that I won’t have Hop Til You Drop to point to as the poster child for that particular problem.  But I’m happy this simple problem was fixed.  Now, the game is genuinely fun.  Controls might be a bit too loose, and sometimes the random traps are just plain not fair.  The biggest problem by far with Hop Til You Drop is that it’s on the wrong platform.  It’s the perfect micro-session game, suited more for playing on Vita via PlayStation Mobile.  Because it requires precision movement, I wouldn’t want to play it on a touch device like iPhone.  But on Vita?  This would be the perfect game to bust out on a break.  It doesn’t lend itself well to extended play sessions, which is what a platform like XBLIG is better suited for.

But fun is fun, and Hop Til You Drop is fun.  There’s even a couple nifty new additions like bullet-time effects that kick in when you have a close call with an enemy.  Or a moderately amusing time attack mode.  So I do recommend Hop Til You Drop.  It won’t have a lasting effect on you.  Without online leaderboards, there won’t be a lot to keep you coming back.  But it’s a worthy waste of a dollar and probably fifteen to thirty minutes on your Xbox.  Congratulations go out to Chris Outen for saving his game.  By the way, your mother’s pinky finger should arrive by Fed-Ex tomorrow.

xboxboxartHop Til You Drop was developed by Chris Outen

IGC_Approved80 Microsoft Points said this game was one “S” away from being a video game version of a gameshow I watched as a kid in the making of this review.  Though I usually only watched it because I was too lazy to change the channel after Supermarket Sweep. 

Hop Til You Drop is Chick Approved and Ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  On July 1, the Leaderboard will go multi-platform to include indies from all consoles and handhelds. 

Bug Zapper and Hop Til You Drop

Update: Hop Til You Drop received a Second Chance with the Chick.  It is now Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick LeaderboardClick here for my continued thoughts on it.

Here are two games that seem like good ideas, but the execution is just a bit off, resulting in the losing streak the Leaderboard has been on continuing.  First off is Bug Zapper, which comes from the developer of previous Leaderboard title Zomp 3 (#84 as of this writing).  This time, instead of a Lolo-esq puzzler, Chris Skelly went for the good-old-boy pasttime of bug zapping, with the idea being you’re the one insect who is immune to the hypnotic glow of electric death device.  Thus, you have to prevent your fellow pests from going towards the light.  This is hilariously done by beating them to a bloody pulp.  As far as solutions to potential problems go, that’s pretty fucking awesome.  It would be like helping a coke head stay sober by breaking his nose.

Bug Zapper gives you a lot to keep up with, and in its present form, it really is too much.

Bug Zapper gives you a lot to keep up with, and in its present form, it really is too much.

As far as game concepts go, it’s actually pretty good.  Bug Zapper also features upgradable stats and a wide variety of bugs to smack down.  So what’s the problem?  Well, I had two major problems.  The first was I couldn’t get the hang of the throw controls.  Bug Zapper heavily relies on throwing bugs into each other in order to rack up combos that build your special moves meter, but even with lots of practice, I had just as good a chance of throwing a rescued bug into the zapper as I did into another bug.  This is because the swarms of bugs heading for the zapper is utterly relentless and you have to keep moving nonstop to have a chance to prevent them from dying.  More control over what directions the bug could be thrown would help, because throwing at angles was imprecise.

A more troubling problem is the fact that the player can completely ruin the ability to throw bugs by picking the wrong upgrades.  You can upgrade the strength of your punching and of your throwing.  In order to throw a bug, you must weaken their health past a certain point, depending on how many times you’ve upgraded your throw.  However, it is possible for you to have a punch so powerful that bugs are knocked out before being weak enough to throw.  Since many of the stages later in the game rely on this ability, the result is you have to grind upgrade points to strengthen your throw.  It really saps the fun out of it, because grinding doesn’t really fit well with this style of game.  There’s a few other smaller issues dealing with the difficulty levels (consider “Medium” to be hard and “Easy” to be medium) and collision detection (it’s too easy to accidentally get zapped by the zapper), but there’s a real game here.  It just needs a tiny amount of work to fix the pacing issues.

Screen from Hop Til You Drop.  Not a fan of the background changing colors here either, but I didn't play the game long enough to grow what was certain to be a hatred for it.

Screen from Hop Til You Drop. Not a fan of the background changing colors here either, but I didn’t play the game long enough to grow what was certain to be a hatred for it.

Speaking of pacing problems, I didn’t get very far into Hop Til You Drop at all.  Why?  Well, the concept is decent enough, I guess.  You’re a dude who has to hop around a room collecting coins.  The hook is, when you hop, the gravity switches and you end up walking on the ceiling, then back on the floor, etc, etc.  Meanwhile, the game randomly spawns a huge number of traps that try to kill you.  Just get as many coins as you can before dying.  Simple enough.  Hey, I’m into games based on high scores, even if they tend to suffer without online leaderboards, which I don’t believe Hop Til You Drop has.  No, here’s my problem: rounds in Hop Til You Drop can be very, very short.  That’s fine, if it’s done right.  However, once you die, you have to first view a screen that gives you your stats for this last game.  Then you have to go to main menu.  Then you have to select your character again.  There is no quick-load to start playing again, so you’ll spend as much or more time in menus then you will playing the game.  Fuck.  That.  Jesus Farting Christ, hasn’t the developer ever played a fucking good punisher before?  In the good ones, you die and BAM you’re playing again.  There is no break.  That’s how they become addictive, because they cater to that “just one more try” mentality.  Hop Til You Drop openly fights it, and that’s why it sucks.  The game itself is probably good enough to make the board, but I would rather give myself a swirly then play it again in its present state.

xboxboxart1xboxboxartBug Zapper was developed by Chris Skelly

Hop Til You Drop was developed by Chris Outen

80 Microsoft Points said guys named Chris must have problems getting proper playtesters in the making of this review.  It’s because guys named Chris are too sweet for their own good.  Think about it.  Do you know a Chris in your life?  I bet you can walk all over him. 

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