I’ve never played Minecraft.  Or FortressCraft.  Or CastleMiner.  Or any number of other voxel-type crafting games that are more trendy now than tramp stamps.  Incidentally, I don’t have a tramp stamp either.  I guess I’m not a very trendy person.  But, there’s no malice behind my ignorance of the crafting scene.  I just haven’t played it because it doesn’t look like something I would have fun with.  Yea, I started Indie Gamer Chick to have new experiences, but I was thinking more along the lines of games that simulate what it’s like to be a penguin in heat, or a game where you fling mashed potatoes at gophers.  Let this be said: if you hate something without playing it, you’re an idiot.  To all of you guys who denounce Minecraft, FortressCraft, CastleMiner, or any other crafting game that you haven’t even played, you’ve really lost the plot.  I know trying to appeal to the irrational core of gamers is silly, but I figure I should at least try.

Obvious joke warning: Minecraft…..IN SPAAAAAAACCCEEEEEEEEEE!!!

I can’t compare Xenominer to something I haven’t played, so this final Uprising review will be somewhat unique.  I go into it with no preconceived notions of what to expect.  I have no bias acquired from the games it borrows elements from.  This is a slate so clean you could perform surgery on it.

So I started the game and went through a brief tutorial that made me suck up various blocks and then reposition them in the open world.  First thing I noticed: the graphics are clean.  Second thing: the jumping is really good.  Like, almost Metroid Prime good.  Third, the frame rate was really good.  Hey, this might not be so bad, I thought.  Then the game wanted me to suck up ice to replenish my dwindling oxygen.  This was a problem.  Although I got as far as “ice = shiny” I couldn’t actually tell the difference between an ice block and a crystal block.  Even with a TV large enough that it’s one of the seven wonders of the world, the text that identifies the blocks is practically microscopic.  It’s also written in an alpha-numeric font, which never looks good when it’s smaller than an ant’s penis.

Most of the HUD displays are too small, but I was able to suck up the ice and covert it to oxygen.  And then the sun went to rise up.  This causes radiation to rain down upon you.  The game warned me to take shelter.  So I dug myself down a few blocks and covered myself up with them.  I wasn’t sure how long to wait, and I didn’t want to press my eyeballs up against the TV to find out, so I undug myself and ended up irradiated.  So I redug myself and waited for the sun to pass.  Most games that makes you wait for stuff to happen are probably not going to win any Nobel Prizes for Fun.  I did attempt to pass the time by drilling deeper, but then my battery ran out of juice, and then I ran out of oxygen, and then I expired.  Sigh.

Upon respawning, the sun was still up and I instantly started taking damage.  I did survive and was tasked with building something that required copper.  I fucking turned over half the world looking for the shit, going through more oxygen tanks than a 70-year-old chain smoker.  After an hour (including more respawns) I had found the silicon I needed, but no copper.    Xenominer was unquestionably going to be a time sink.  I tend to view such games favorably.  Hell, there’s two time sinks on my top 10 list: Miner Dig Deep and Smooth Operators.  But I had fun with those.  Once I noticed how much time had passed versus the amount of fun I had up to that point (which would be none), I couldn’t hit the power button fast enough.  I’ve talked with other XBLIG reviewers and they agree: Xenominer doesn’t get you off to a quick enough start, like all great time sinks do.  Some more direction.  Just a big enough push to get you feeling like you’re actually accomplishing stuff.  But there is none.

No, there’s no killer space bees or space ants. Too bad. That might have livened things up.

So my first real crafting game is in the books.  I didn’t really hate it, because it controlled really well (can’t stress enough how good the jumping physics feel) and the graphics held up.  Mostly.  Actually, the game starts skipping the more you walk around.  I wanted to test how bad it was, so I decided to walk in a straight line with a stopwatch and time how long it would take to start skipping.  Ready for this?  It took less than two seconds per a pause (the average was about 1.7 seconds) .  When the game freezes every two seconds, chances are it might not be quite done yet.  Maybe Xenominer is in an early beta stage, and something amazing will come of it.  I could see myself getting totally hooked into it, just like I did with Miner Dig Deep.  Xenominer’s biggest problem is that it has nothing to hook you in early.  If games are drugs, then picture Miner Dig Deep as heroin.  Every good drug pusher knows you have to hook ’em early, and that game does it.  Xenominer, on the other hand, doesn’t offer you the drug until it makes you watch a documentary on grass growing and the latest episode of the World Series of Paint Drying Watching.  Thanks, but I’ll just say no.

Xenominer was developed by Gristmill Studios

80 Microsoft Points said the Uprising had a 44.44% success rate at making the Leaderboard.  In other words, the promotion had the same success rate as any nine random XBLIGs would have had in the making of this review.


Pixel is one of the worst names ever for an XBLIG.  Worse than Brand.  Well, probably not worse than Dark.  It doesn’t really fit with the theme of the game, and doesn’t give you a feel for what to expect.  It’s so lazy and so uninspired that, as a consumer, it makes me question whether any effort was spent making the game itself.  I mean, they phoned in the name, so it stands to reason that the game was equally half-assed.  That’s not the case with Pixel.  Despite being an ungodly piece of shit due to really horrible play control and one game-killing glitch that I couldn’t get past, there was obviously some effort made here.

I’ll step away from my typical smart-assed attitude here and make a heartfelt plea to the Xbox Live Indie Game development community.  You guys already struggle so much to get attention.  Why shoot yourself in the foot right out of the starting blocks by not trying to come up with a memorable name for your game?  Pixel is such a prime example.  It’s a 3D dexterity-shooting puzzler.  I would associate a name like Pixel with 2D sprite-based stuff.  I guess Pixel gets it from the fact that there are blocks.  Okie dokie.  I still don’t understand the logic in it, but then again, XBLIGers seem to operate on a plane of existence where logic doesn’t dare tread.  This is evidenced by the fact that so many developers determined that the best way to get attention for their new XBLIG was to launch it alongside the Uprising, even though every major XBLIG writer was committed to covering the games in the promotion.  They might as well of launched their game on a platform that works exclusively in igloos for as much attention as they ended up getting.

It looks like one of those ink-and-paint cheat modes from Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, does it not?

I guess I went so far off topic because I don’t really have a lot to say about Pixel.  I made it seven levels in before I got fed up with it.  The idea is you walk around a sterile, blocky 3D environment trying to reach a goal.  Right off the bat, the biggest problem becomes apparent: the control sucks.  Everything is too loose, causing your character to scoot along like he’s been lubricated in bacon grease.  I tried fixing this by adjusting the control stick sensitivity, but it only half-worked.  Turning around became slower, but sideways movement was still set to Warp 9 and could not be fixed.  The jumping was also unresponsive, with a noticeable delay.  When you have a game centered around precision movement, having less than precise controls is a good way to turn me (or pretty much any reasonable gamer) off.

I’ve put up with worse, but the final straw for me was a pretty noticeable glitch.  On the 7th level, there are these platforms with a red stem poking out of them, not unlike a dog’s wiener.  You shoot the red part, and the white blocks rise up around the red part, allowing you to hop to the next platform.  As established, the controls are utter shit, so messing up is not only possible, but it’s probably expected.  When you fall off the stage, you just fall back onto it, with the idea being that you’ll have a slower stage time.  Something I filed under things I don’t give a shit about.  However, once I respawned, I hopped back to the first platform and shot the red thing.  At this point, without any movement, I fell off the platform and went back to the start.  Huh.  And then it happened again.  And again.  As it turns out, this is a glitch, and you have to exit out of the stage and try again.  But if you screw up at any point in the stage, the glitch will activate again and you’ll have to once again exit the stage and restart it.  Yea, fuck that, I’m done.

Pixel was developed by Ratchet Game Studio

80 Microsoft Points took a 3 day weekend in a land where Minecraft clones don’t exist in the making of this review. 

Other Pixel reviews: Clearance Bin Review (who also noted the glitch), and hopefully more to come.

City Tuesday

Fourteen minutes, thirty-five seconds.  That’s the time it took me to beat City Tuesday, the game that I was looking.. forward..  whoa, Déjà vu.  Anyway, you go around, like, defusing bombs and stuff and I could have sworn I already did this review.

Wait, I know I did.  I thought it was too short and didn’t fulfill its promise of being something special.  I pointed out that the tutorial lasted twice as long as the actual meat of the game.  I bet any second now a screenshot will pop up saying how I hate branded screenshots.

I hate branded screenshots, but this will have to do.

See!  See!  I’m telling you guys, something fucked up is going on here.

Well, I stand by my belief that City Tuesday isn’t worth a dollar.  It’s a good idea that is unrealized.

City Tuesday was developed by Return to Adventure Mountain

80 Microsoft Points wrote this review from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.. oh shit.

Other City Tuesday Reviews: The Indie Ocean, Clearance Bin Review, and more to come.  I wonder if this happened to them too.

Well fuck.


Eleven minutes, eight seconds.  That’s the time it took me to beat City Tuesday, the game..

Serves you right for hating Apple Jack 1 & 2 ya stinkin’ bitch!

City Tuesday

Eighteen minutes, fourteen seconds.  That’s the time it took me to beat City Tuesday, the game that I was looking most forward to during the Uprising.  Like my neighbor who entered her half rottweiler, half-some smaller terrier thing (they named it Crime, short for Crime Against Nature.  I’m not kidding) into the dog agility contest, I think my expectations were a tad bit too high.  The idea is you’re a dude who has five minutes to defuse various bombs that terrorists have scattered around a city.  The hook to that is you can repeat that five minutes as many times as you need to get all the bombs.  Whenever you rewind, everything unfolds exactly the way it did before, unless you manage to interfere.  Using this mechanic, you have to figure out ways to free yourself to snatch the bombs.

This sounds great, but I don’t feel the concept goes far enough.  The first ten minutes of City Tuesday is spent playing two glorified tutorial stages of the “throw the child in the water and see if it learns to tread water” variety.  To City Tuesday’s credit, it actually is designed in a way where you can figure stuff out on your own with minimal fuss.  There’s really not a lot to learn.  Pay attention to the dudes, follow their patterns, and figure out how to get to the bomb.

I hate branded screenshots, but this will have to do.

Once the game opens up into the more open-ended city, you have to follow multiple patterns and probably restart the day several times.  Restarting is handled by pausing the game and selecting it from a menu with no bells and whistles, a very unsatisfactory way of doing it.  Thankfully, you can also fast-forward by holding the right trigger.  There’s only a small handful of tasks to do here, followed by one final chase and platforming section.  Then the game is over.  Again, my one and only play-through took eighteen minutes to finish.

Is it worth a buck?  Well, no.  The opening tutorial levels (with the exception of a bit that involves a vending machine and payphone) offer none of the real meat that City Tuesday seemed to promise, yet they make up the largest chunk of the game.  The city section does offer those Groundhogs Day type of puzzles, but it feels more like a proof-of-concept design for a larger game than something fully realized.  Yea, sometimes a game can leave you wanting more in a good way.  City Tuesday didn’t do that for me.  I felt the game never even really warmed up.  The tasks you’re given in the city are still so fundamental in their simplicity that I didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything at all by solving them.  I love the concept of City Tuesday, but nothing here makes truly good use of it.  Such a shame.

City Tuesday was developed by Return to Adventure Mountain

80 Microsoft Points wrote this review from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in the making of this review.

Other City Tuesday Reviews: The Indie Ocean, Clearance Bin Review,  and more to come.

I got you Babe.

Smooth Operators

Smooth Operators is a time sink, and I mean that in a good way.  I started playing yesterday around 11:30AM, and emerged around 8:00PM wondering exactly where the day went.  Titles like this are the alien abductions of the game world.  When you try to explain to people that you just lost eight hours of your life playing a game where you operate a call center, people look at you with rapidly blinking eyes as if you just took that last step off the deep-end.  And then you try to explain your side of the story, saying “no, no!  You don’t understand!  You have to staff out buildings and hire janitors and there’s incoming calls and outgoing calls and it’s really, really fun!”  And they just nod politely while thumbing through their phone, looking for your family’s number and wondering how they’re going to break the news.

As Brian pointed out to me back in July when this very site ran a contest to give Smooth Operators its name, the idea of a Sim Call Center is not original.  A free-to-play game called Corporation Inc has been around since at least November of 2010.  Smooth Operators is perhaps uncomfortably similar to it, but hey, some companies make billions doing this.  At least the XBLIG is both a faithful tribute and a full evolution of the concept.  Just make sure you keep an eye on your wallet in its presence.  It’s a crafty bastard.

Funny how some of the most addictive games sound like weaponized boredom on paper.

Dante, in his infinite wealth.. of knowledge, couldn’t conceive what circle of Hell has sinners forced to work a call center.  But managing a virtual one is undeniably addictive.  First you have to build an operations center.  Then you have to staff it.  There’s three kinds of duties that need to be done: answer incoming calls, make outbound calls, and back office grunt work.  A helpful meter in the upper right hand corner of the screen tells you the work load and how far each occupation has to go to complete that day’s allotment.  You also have to hire janitors, IT guys, managers, and cheerleaders.  Sudden thought: wouldn’t cheerleaders be counter productive for a call center?  All that shouting and pompom waving is bound to be distracting, especially for a job that involves talking on the telephone.  “Okay, well why don’t you tell me the nature of your computer proGIMMIE AN B! GIMMIE AN E!  GIMMIE AN C!  GIMMIE AN C!  GIMMIE AN A!  WHAT’S THAT SPELL?  BECCA!”  I wouldn’t be too happy about that, even if the people in Smooth Operators seem to like it.

There’s no real goal in Smooth Operators per se.  You just build and staff buildings to earn money to build more buildings to staff to earn more money.  So yea, time sink.  But it works, and it plays relatively well.  Shockingly, I enjoyed playing it more with an Xbox controller than I enjoyed playing the PC game it was, ahem, inspired by.  BUT, I’m not totally in love with the interface.  I don’t think it gives the player enough.  One niggling little thing that bugged me was having to click on an employee’s desk and hope they were somewhere in the building to be able to upgrade them.  The process is slow and cumbersome.  Why can’t there be a drop-down menu that has a list of every employee, so that I can attend to them that way?  Smooth Operators practically demands that you micro-manage all the dudes you hire, but as your staff increases, this becomes more tiresome.

There’s no “increase all wages” or really any helpful shortcuts at all.  I figured hiring Human Resources Managers would take care of issues like schedules and vacation time for me, but it doesn’t.  In fact, all they do is make employees work longer without them becoming less happy.  In a roundabout way, this actually made my employees less happy, as they were now clogging all the facilities and elevators in my building.  I wanted to upgrade things, but even after hiring several spendy “Project Managers” that serve to unlock goodies, unlockables just take too God damn long to get, and most of the early things they get for you are as useless as a fireproof surfboard.  What the FUCK is a potted plant going to do to increase morale when people have to wait two hours to get down one story on an elevator?  If this game were made in the United States, that potted plant would be used to bludgeon the nearest authority figure.

I guess people in Kyrksten like the increased workload and have more patience. Sigh. These are getting harder to work in.

Because of the slowness of the upgrades, and the indifference of my employees to water coolers, my moral dipped to record lows and my employees started resigning on me faster than I could appease them.  Now, if this was Sim City, I would have responded in a perfectly calm and rational manner.  Meaning I would have sent Godzilla in to kill and eat all my employees and knock the building over.  Unfortunately, there’s no Godzilla, or earthquakes, or tornado, or alien invaders, or guys named Gustafsson who prefer to live on the 40th floor.  Sigh, God damn Andreas.  You couldn’t have used words like snickerdoodle or farfanoogin?  Those would have been easier to work in.

So after I lost over half my employees, including most of my janitors and IT guys, I surveyed the remains of my once beautiful office building.  Trash scattered everywhere.  Computers smoking.  Employees swearing at the slowness of the elevators.  Mangers swearing at the employees.  Cheerleaders cheering the one IT guy left who didn’t quit.  Money drying up.  Tasks being unfulfilled.  I thought to myself “really?  I spent the last eight hours of my life doing this and this is all I have to show for it?”  After a brief period of reflection, I did the only thing that seemed rational at the time.  I turned my Xbox back on and spent another eight hours doing the same thing.

Fuck you, Smooth Operators.  Fuck.  You.

Smooth Operators was developed by Andreas Heydeck

80 Microsoft points have no idea what a Bengan is or why it would help upgrade things in the making of this review.

Smooth Operators is Chick Approved!  Find out where it landed on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

Other Smooth Operators reviews: Clearance Bin Review, TheXBLIG.com, and more to come.

Looking for cheat codes for Smooth Operators?  Look more carefully 😉

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