Short Subject Saturdays: Dead Horizon

Dead Horizon is a light gun game without the gun. One that should probably take the average player around five minutes to finish. And it’s yet another free-to-play game that, despite a lifespan that would make a mayfly shake their head in pity, is probably worth at least a buck. In short summary.. really short since I don’t want to spend more time writing about this game then it took me to finish it.. you play as a farm girl who inadvertently finds herself as a legendary gunfighter. It has all the trimmings of a pretentious short-subject indie film, including the most cringe-inducing ending to any game I’ve played at Indie Gamer Chick with the possibly exception of the 4th Wall. This is a seriously weird game to review because it doesn’t even give you enough time to like or hate it. It ends before the point where the goo in my brain even begins to register stimuli. I guess I wish there were a few more stages, or something more difficult than lowering my mouse to the bottom of the screen and then raising it back up and clicking. And come to think of it, the game seemed really fickle about what constituted lowering the cursor and raising it back up. But otherwise it’s worth a look. Sorry if that doesn’t sound enthusiastic enough. It’s a five-minute long gunless light gun throwback. What do you want?

“Blood and Piss” isn’t just about passing Kidney Stones anymore!

But I wanted to review this because, as much as I hate to keep harping on this, the developer really should have thrown a buck on this. I met him when he asked me to review this and he seemed nice. He was probably a little perplexed that I was brow-beating him for not charging at least a dollar for Dead Horizon before even playing it. Seemed like an odd thing to bitch about, especially for a game I hadn’t even played. He told me he felt he couldn’t justify the price because of the length.

You know, when I was younger, there was a little miniature carousel at the grocery store my parents took me to. It cost $0.50 to sit on it for a minute. Pretty solid investment for a minute of overwhelming joy. I asked my Mom if she remembered watching me ride it. She said “well yeah, it was like three weeks ago. It was embarrassing, Cathy. You’re nearly 30. For God’s sake don’t tell anyone.” My point is, nobody in their right mind expects that small of an investment to be a permanent investment that they can hit up again and again and again and again and hang on I think we’re out of milk……………..

Right, point. Sorry I, uh, needed milk. I wasn’t riding the carousel again. The one with the pink unicorn. Ahem. Forgot to get cereal. No point in getting milk without cereal!

Resolution? Ha, what’s that?

Okay, so, look, $1 is NOT a permanent investment in entertainment. You spend $1 for delicious Mega Fruit Gum, or to ride the miniature carousel with the pink unicorn while it plays Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star, or to play whatever shitty modern arcade games your local big box happens to have near the checkout counters. Because literally every single person who has ever been into an arcade has spent at least $1 in their lifetimes playing games that lasted under five minutes. Nobody in their right minds expects that $1 to keep giving them jollies years later. So put a $1 on your games, indies. For real, this is getting annoying. You can look at the graphics or writing for Dead Horizon and see that actual fucking effort was put into it. There are people who are putting no effort into their games and making actual fucking money. It’s really annoying when someone who actually tries doesn’t make any money on something they deserve to make money on.

I knew I would end up spending more than five minutes writing this review. Mother fucker!

Dead Horizon was developed by 14 Hours Productions (oh that name has got to be trolling)
Also annoying: free games deprive me of my price jokes. I’ve spent the last six years carefully crafting those price jokes into one of my most beloved running gags and you free indie games are fucking my schtick up. Anyway, get Dead Horizon on Steam here.

Oh, and it’s Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

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Space Cat!

Space Cat! is a tribute to Star Fox 64, and that’s fine. I love gaming tributes. But I’d be lying if I said the name didn’t crack me up on impact. Space Cat! If they sold cheap, off-brand games at dollar stores, you’d expect a knock-off of Star Fox 64 to be named Space Cat! sitting alongside such classic gaming luminaries as Legend of Zeltor, Pocketmen, Ronald the Hedgehog, or Mega Italian Bros.

Star Faux 64

Anyway, discount off-brand Star Fox 64 is free. Because of course it is. For some reason, a lot of the most eye-catching early XBLIG IIs are free. I can sort of understand the mindset behind this. XBLIG wasn’t exactly the most well received gaming platform ever. It’s funeral is set for this month and most gamers aren’t exactly weeping in their mourning suits over it. So what would you do if you were a launch game for a spiritual successor to a platform with a lower reputation than Itchy: the Poxxy Hooker? Well, you give away your stuff for free and hope that people remember you when you’re ready to actually make money, right?

Well, yea, about that..

Very few gamers pay that close of attention to who developed what. To get that consideration, you have to create something so universally acclaimed and successful that people will check in daily to see what you’re cooking up next. And, no offense to the people behind Space Cat!, but this is not going to be one of those games. It’s not great. It’s not even good. It’s okay. Okay is fine! Okay still means you’ll have a jolly good time while you’re playing it, warts and all, maybe even chuckle at the absurd lack of balance because, hey, at least you didn’t pay for it. Like, on one stage I upgraded a gun to its maximum strength, at which point I was clearing out entire waves of baddies with literally no effort. So overpowered was this gun that I completely missed seeing a boss spawn and fighting it. The gun beat it before I even realized there was a boss to fight. The stage just ended. If I hadn’t found out later that there was a boss on the fire stage, I never would have known I beat it. 19 years of playing video games and I can’t ever recall beating a boss before it spawned, so that’s sort of an achievement, right?

This is the over-powered gun I was talking about, which I nicknamed “Señor Gran Polla” because use of it will make up for ANY inadequacy.

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun in a “using a Game Shark to utterly FUBAR a game” type of way, only without the Game Shark. But when all was said and done, Space Cat, a game that can be completed in about fifteen minutes, left no lasting impression on me. It was too easy, too quick, and so unbalanced that I couldn’t even take a moment to appreciate how close this came to Star Fox mimicry. I mean, look at it. It’s Voxel fucking Star Fox! Cool! And yea, maybe the fast pace and lack of balance obscured other flaws, like the controls being floaty garbage. But still, it’s Voxel fucking Star Fox!

VOXEL. MOTHER FUCKING. STAR. FOX!

That might be the most awesome sentence I’ve typed in Indie Gamer Chick history. And it’s free! Do you have Windows 10 or an Xbox One? You can play it right now! Click here!

The truth is, despite being a fairly thoughtful, convincing Star Fox knock-off, there’s so many rough spots that I’m convinced the developers spent almost no-time refining it and dumped it onto XBLIG II once they had a playable build up. It feels unfinished.

So why the fuck is this free? Throw a buck on it. Because nobody is going to follow the career of the studio that created this. You’re not going to get attention or exposure from something like this. And while Space Cat! barely wins the Indie Gamer Chick Seal of Approval, it’s still a borderline-quality game that inadvertently devalues other Creators Collection launch titles. It’s going to be hard for other devs to convince gamers to spend money on a borderline-quality game when other borderline-quality titles are free. If you think that’s bullshit, just ask iOS developers. During #GamesMatter events, my team and I can literally not hand out free copies of high-quality, highly desirable paid-iOS games. For the majority of iOS gamers, it’s not even worth the time it takes to punch in the code. We don’t want XBLIG II to become that. The original XBLIG had enough problems, but even as the service was about to shut down, I still had a lot of anxious gamers lining up to grab copies of XBLIGs during the #GamesMatter XBLIG send-off. XBLIG II has far too many games that are free. And to the guys at Gersh Games LLC, don’t you think your time is worth money? Throw a buck on Space Cat! at least. It’s worth at least a buck. It’s what Itchy charges. Um, I’m guessing.

Space Cat! was developed by Gersh Games LLC
Free to play on Xbox One and Windows 10

Space Cat! is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

kubic

Three reviews in 24 hours. I guess XBLIG really is back. As a fun fact, kubic is not only the first Creators Collection game to win my seal of approval (spoiler), it’s actually the first game of 2017 to get it, period. That has more to do with the fact that I’ve barely done any reviews over the last two years. Back in the day, I used to crank out between five to eight reviews on a weekly basis. That’s not as impressive as it sounds when you realize that most XBLIGs were so short that the reviews typically took longer to write than the games did to finish. And yea, I’m stalling a bit here. That’s because I don’t have a ton to say about kubic. Well, I guess it’s annoying that it does that “too cool to capitalize” thing that always makes me worry that someone will find my blog for the first time, see the lack of a capital K in this review’s title, and assume I’m the lazy and/or illiterate one. Wait, is it still okay to make jokes about literacy or is that a micro-aggression now? What about laziness? I’ve been meaning to look it up but I keep putting it off.

Maybe this started life as a Crystal Castles level creator.

The basic idea behind kubic is take Tangram puzzles and splice them with M.C. Escher-style optical illusions. You’re presented with an example of the shape you’re trying to copy and various scrambled-up pieces to do it with. You can’t rotate or otherwise manipulate the pieces, which in theory should make the game too easy. And.. actually yea, it makes it too easy. Of the 69 (pause for immature laughter.. not judging, I did it too) puzzles, only the last dozen or so gave me issues. I mean, besides the awful interface. Kubic is a quick-and-dirty port of a mobile game and it shows. Even when you know which pieces go where, getting them into place is a slow and frustrating process that might require multiple attempts to get the game to cooperate with your intent. Actually, truth be known the cursor used on the Xbox One port is far more precise than using your fingers on a phone or tablet. Five minutes with kubic on my Galaxy was enough to make me want to throw it against a wall. I didn’t, because the Samsung people keep insisting that violates my warranty.

Levels 49 – 56 spell out “MC Escher” which would be much cooler if they were actually all in the same row.

But otherwise kubic is fine. It’s not great. It’s not memorable. But it’s a perfectly decent waste of a couple of minutes. And it’s yet another XBLIG II launch title that’s free. You early Creators Club developers really need to stop this. If a farmer gets free manure every day for years and then suddenly has to pay for it, they’ll instead end up looking to get their crap elsewhere.

kubic was developed by Pixel Envision Ltd.
Free to play on Xbox One. Xbox.com still isn’t listing Creators Collection games so here’s the link from the Microsoft Store

kubic is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. And if you’re reading this anywhere but IndieGamerChick(dot)com, you’re reading plagiarized work. Please go to my actual site, Indie Gamer Chick. This is my work, I deserve the page views for it.

Block Dropper

I owe Block Dropper this: it made me realize how different I am from the little girl who started this blog. If I had played this in August of 2011, I would have been quite annoyed by it. It’s a horrible game. For lack of a better description, Block Dropper is an arcadey-physics game where you play a block that hops around a platform collecting other blocks. When the blocks land, they’re hypothetically supposed to cause the floor to collapse. I say hypothetically because sometimes it didn’t. It’s sort of a problem when the physics don’t work in a game based entirely around physics. At one point, a stage began and a tree that was on the ground casually fell over as soon as the timer started.

I guess you’re supposed to catch the blocks before they land, but it’s almost impossible to use the shadows to figure out where they’re at or what direction they’re going. The vast majority of blocks I acquired by picking them off the floor.

And that’s how I knew I was a different person now. 2011 Indie Gamer Chick would have flipped her controller in the air and screamed profanities at how she was out a dollar. 2017 Indie Gamer Chick started laughing. I laughed until my vision was blurry with tears and my sides were in pain. I mean, it was just such glorious shit. Nothing was ever consistent. Sometimes levels started and the floor started collapsing immediately. Sometimes I would attempt to collect a block and the game treated it like it was part of the floor, I guess, because I could push myself up against it from every angle and not be able to pick it up. Then, after walking away for a second, I would walk back to it and collect it with no problem, assuring the lulz would continue. This lasted for about fifteen minutes, and ended when the game did. Yep, it takes about fifteen minutes to finish. Did I mention this is normally priced $4.99?

There’s also a local-only (like all Creator’s Collection games, there’s no online play) versus mode that in-theory could go on forever. Whoever collects the most blocks in two minutes wins. Except the game drops clocks that increase the length of the game. So hypothetically, if neither misses any of the clocks, you could be stuck playing this endlessly. It got to the point that my Dad, who likes *everything*, was shouting “STOP GRABBING THE FUCKING CLOCKS!” Mind you, the game had only been going about a minute by that point. I’m not joking.

Given the fact that there was almost no world left every time I finished a stage, I saved the world in the same way Superman saved Metropolis in Man of Steel. I’m still technically a hero though.

So yea, another XBLIG II that feels more like an unfinished proof-of-concept. On the positive side, two of the levels are “boss battles” that actually feel sort of clever. The problem with them was falling off the stage is not grounds for failure. So, for the final boss, I would stand on the target boxes, wait for the boss to fire at me, then casually step off the side of the platform to respawn elsewhere while the damage registered. So yea, even these encounters were dumb and broken, but at least they were interesting. If the developer continues to tinker with this idea, I think a better idea would be to drop (no pun intended) the normal stages and just make eight boss fights. Maybe some would wince at the idea of boss-rush game with poor handling and inconsistent physics. Me? Hell, I liked Shadow of the Colossus, right?

Block Dropper was developed by Tresiris Games
Point of Sale: Microsoft Store

$0.99 (normally $4.99 LOL ) was further amused by pretending the block was Thomas from Thomas Was Alone in the making of this review.

Gravity Quest

UPDATE: Gravity Quest added a run button. So ignore all the bitching about the lack of one.

Think of a video game like a strand of Christmas lights. If one doesn’t work, the whole strand doesn’t. It only takes one thing being off about a game to make it so you can’t enjoy the rest of it.

So I haven’t picked up a new game in a while, but I had some downtime the other day so I grabbed Gravity Quest by Alexandr Krivozub. It’s a weird name since there really isn’t a quest, per se. It’s a first-person maze game. And I don’t mean like Pac-Man where it’s called a maze game even though you’re not really trying to get anywhere. It would be like calling my neighbor’s car a musical instrument because if I beat on it with a golf club in just the right way it would make noise that could be interpreted as music. That’s just an absurd way of thinking, or so the judge told me. I mean it’s literally a “get from point A to point B” maze game. With mazes. I like those. I wish there were more of them. And this one had a nice visual style while combining the maze concept with the getting-stale-but-not-quite-tired gravity stuff. So I gave it a whirl.

Visually it’s nice. I mean, gee, look at it. Pretty.

An hour later, with about 80% of the game completed, I couldn’t really stay energized enough to continue on. This is one of those really tough reviews to do because the game does almost nothing wrong. It advertises itself as a 3D gravity-defying maze game and that’s exactly what it is. There’s no jumping, no puzzle-solving, no combat, no platforming, or anything besides the maze and a few switches that will either take you to a different section of the level or reverse you to the other side of the walkway you’re on. That’s fine. It’s basically what I wanted it to be.

So why didn’t I like it?

Because the moving speed is far too slow and as far as I can tell, there’s no run button. Yea, that’s really it. That’s the only thing Gravity Quest did to fail at getting my seal of approval. That omission, the lack of adjustable speeds, turns the game into such a slog that it saps the energy out of your marrow. If you make a wrong turn into a dead-end or end up walking in circles, and you will because, you know, it’s a game with 3D mazes, it’s borderline painful. The levels actually are well designed and make use of both gravity and the limited first-person perspective. But it’s hard to appreciate those things when the pace is on par with watching erosion in real time. It’s sort of insane to think about: lots of things need to work right in a game, yet it only takes one little thing to render a game completely boring. But, in Indieland there’s nothing worse than being boring, and Gravity Quest is boring. And it’s boring because it’s lacking one simple, obvious feature.

Can’t stress enough though: it looks great!

This is Alexandr’s first game on Steam, as far as I can tell. And, as far as first efforts go, it’s not that bad. The one thing wrong with it is a deal breaker, but it’s the easiest thing ever to fix. Just add a run button. Once he’s done that, I’d be easier to appreciate the relatively simple but somewhat challenging mazes, the cleverness of the design and the visuals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not in contention to be a top Leaderboard game or anything, but it would still be on the Leaderboard. So Alex, add that run button and let me know it and I’ll club your baby with my seal. I’m not sure that came out the way I meant it to but hopefully you get my point.

UPDATE: I’m clubbing this baby with my seal.

Gravity Quest was developed by Alexandr Krivozub
Point of Sale: Steam

igc_approved$2.99 sang “Run Run GET A RUN, I wanna Run!” in the making of this review.

Gravity Quest is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

If you’re reading this anywhere but IndieGamerChick(dot)Com, you are reading a stolen review. Please head over to my site, read my stuff on my blog.

Save Jesus

Shock value sells. Sacrilege sells. Counter-culture sells. Maybe you won’t be building a Scrooge McDuck-style money silo with your earnings from it, but in Indieland, being outlandish certainly helps you stand out in a crowded field. Even if the games that rely on gimmicky “yep, we went THERE” satire tend to suck. I’ve reviewed so many games dependent on a novelty shock concept that you would think I wouldn’t fall for it anymore.

Yet, here we are.

Generic Physics Puzzler: Jesus Edition.

Or Save Jesus.

Whatever.

The guy in the UFO thing is apparently someone going back in time to assassinate Jesus. Seems like it could be easier. Just replace the wise man giving gold with one giving enriched uranium. That seems like it would do the trick.

The guy in the UFO thing is apparently someone going back in time to assassinate Jesus. Seems like it could be done easier. Just replace the wise man giving baby Jesus gold and instead give him a piece of enriched uranium. That seems like it would do the trick.

The idea is there’s a giant ball that you must somehow cause to bowl-over Romans while sparing Jesus, and sometimes his disciples. You can’t directly move anything. Rather, you use the mouse to clear out certain blocks that starts the chain reaction with the ball. The Jesus theme is completely unnecessary. You could plug any theme into this and it wouldn’t make a difference. But they chose Jesus because LOL blasphemy am I right? “It caught your attention, didn’t it?” said Brian. Well, yea. But I figure I’m going to hell anyway because.. well.. anyone that’s read this blog knows why. I might as well get a leg up on the type of stuff that I’ll be playing once there. Stuff like this.

I exaggerate the blasphemy part. Besides a colorful splash of blood, there’s nothing really all that M-rated about this title. This really compounds the “why even bother?” question. I played a truly horrible brawler called Fist of Jesus once upon a time. It was among the worst games that I ever played at IGC. But, damnit, it went all-in with its gimmick. This included implied homosexuality between Jesus and Judas. The type of stuff that will earn you a protest at your office and all the free publicity that comes with it. With Save Jesus, all you get is a cartoonish “squish” sound and a puddle of blood if you accidentally kill Jesus. Oh come on, the Romans could at least lap up his blood with their tongues, because it’s basically red wine when you think about it.

The biggest problem is the game is just so damn bland. Physics-puzzlers are one of the most over-saturated genres these days. You need more than a clever and/or offensive theme to stand out. You need solid, original gameplay. Save Jesus is just boring. The physics are a little wonky too. Sometimes stages would clear themselves before I even got the ball rolling, just by the Romans dropping into pits. Other stages required me to time detonating a dynamite crate to launch the ball up to a higher platform. But the physics are so unforgiving that it required several attempts before I timed it on the correct microsecond that would solve the stage. Stages like this don’t feel like you solved them based on any skill, since you know what you’re supposed to do and it just comes down to clicking the mouse at the right time. A puzzle in the same sense that waking up when your alarm clock tells you to is.

I clicked one block here and the stage beat itself. I didn't get any stars for it, but really by this point I just wanted it to be over with.

I clicked one block here and the stage beat itself. I didn’t get any stars for it, but really by this point I just wanted it to be over with.

I’m not religious, so I don’t really care if Save Jesus is designed with the shock-value of “it’s funny because it’s Jesus” in mind. Heck, I’d even be prepared to name such a game my favorite indie of all time if it was that good. But, no matter the gimmick, games have to stand on their own. The biggest sin Save Jesus commits is being boring. There’s nothing worse a game can do.

It did do some carpentry in my house though, so it has that going for it. And it fed an army with a fish. Cured my cataracts. Walked across my swimming pool. Resurrected my 108-year-old neighbor. Hardly seal-of-approval worthy stuff if you ask me.

headerSave Jesus was developed by Almighty Games
Point of Sale: Steam

$1.59 said “John 11:35 never felt more appropriate” in the making of this review.

Doodle God: 8-bit Mania

There are some things I will simply never understand the appeal in. Cricket? Baffling to me. Woody Allen films? I mean, maybe if you need a nap and have no Benadryl handy. But, despite what my retro-loving readers believe, old-timey point-and-clickers aren’t among the things I don’t understand. I do get those. I think they suck. I think they have no relevance today. I think I would rather be boiled in horse bile than play most of them. But I get how they could become popular when they did. The technology of the time didn’t allow for full 3D environments or complex adventure storytelling. The point and click genre allowed for something sort of like that, using descriptive writing to smooth-out rough edges. My biggest problem with them is that the item puzzles involved utterly batshit insane logic that I’m sure made sense to the writer, at least until his medication kicked in. This turned the games into a tedious slog where players were forced to rub one item against another, or against the backdrop, until the right combination was found, thus unlocking the rest of the story. Again, I think they suck, but at least I  understand the appeal they once had. Besides blind nostalgia, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to play them now. Gaming has come so very far in the decades since. Yes, I’m aware my two favorite indies are nostalgia-bait. Hey, I never said I’m not a hypocrite.

Alcohol is made by combining Fire and Water. I'm about as far removed from being politically correct as a person can be and even I cringed in shame at that.

Alcohol is made by combining Fire and Water. I’m about as far removed from being politically correct as a person can be and even I cringed in shame at that.

And then you have Doodle God, an inexplicably popular franchise that removes the story progression and is just the batshit item puzzles of days gone by, over two-hundred times. This is actually a global mega-hit. I shit you not. Millions of people, myself included, have paid real money to select two random items from a list and hope that it opens a third item that goes onto a list. That.. that.. is one of the most popular games in mobile history.

That was one of the toughest sentences I ever typed out. My hands kept trying to amputate themselves. Joke’s on them because I would just replace them with a hook.

And saying the logic is batshit is putting it lightly. Some of the combinations defy the type of logic someone suffering plastic-fume-induced brain damage would find absurd. Life + Ash = Ghost. Holiest of all fucks, that is pure, unbridled lunacy. Or there’s the ones that could be logically but they fucked them up. Human + Money = Work. Um, wouldn’t it be Human + Work = Money? I mean, you would think, right? But then again, Logic + Lobotomy = Doodle God.

When you go to a restaurant and order more than one item from a menu, you are essentially playing Doodle God.

When you go to a restaurant and order more than one item from a menu, you are essentially playing Doodle God.

As for the whole 8-Bit-Mania stuff, it’s just Doodle God with pixel art. Same combos. It’s such a cynical cash-grab, you can practically hear the developers saying “hey, why aren’t we appealing to older gamers? Maybe it’s the graphics. Someone get on that.” It’s also $4 cheaper on Steam than the normal Doodle God is. Bizarre, but whatever. I just don’t get the appeal in this at all. In fact, the worst thing I can say about Doodle God in general is that it makes me long for being stuck with one of the 80s point and click games that I absolutely detest. At least those attempt to tell a story that you feel like you’re a participant in. Why is this even called “Doodle God” to begin with? If you were drawing the shapes, maybe. But you just select items from lists. It’s as if someone set out to make a really ambitious game, then said “Okay, select file.. you know what, fuck it, this is too hard. Select File: The Game will do.”

headerDoodle God: 8-Bit Mania was developed by JoyBits LTD
Point of Sale: Steam, Google Play, iOS App Store

$1.39 (Normally $1.99) said Money + Fire = Doodle God in the making of this review.

This review covered only the Steam version.

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