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.

Super Duper Flying Genocide 2017

Over the course of 43 minutes of playtime, I unlocked all 329 (!) achievements Super Duper Flying Genocide 2017 has. That’s an average over seven-and-a-half achievements per minute. I was Skyping with my friend William during my play session, and within seconds of booting the game up I said “got an achievement. Got another. Got another. Got another. Got another.” He said “I just looked your achievement profile, it’s nuts.” In the time it took him to say that sentence, I got six more. We laughed. A few minutes later, with me getting so many achievements that Steam couldn’t keep up with it, the laughing stopped. The achievements didn’t. It’s was like when you watch one of those Fail Army videos that shows someone step on the gas instead of the break, pull into the wrong lane and end-up in head-on collision. It’s funny at first, until you realize “you know, that fucker probably died in that video.” Then it’s just awkward.

It looks, sounds, and plays like a participation pity ribbon winner at a game jam.

It looks, sounds, and plays like a participation pity ribbon winner at a game jam. And you’ll have those achievements cropping off the corner of your screen with minimal interruption for at least half-an-hour.

And I did this without anything semblance of effort or finesse. The idea behind Super Duper Flying Genocide 2017 is you’re a UFO, there are people, go get them. That’s really it. You have a ray gun that didn’t really do anything, and a tractor beam that you can use to suck the people up. I used the tractor beam, parked low to the ground, didn’t move, swayed my mouse back and forth while holding the right-click down, and unlocked 329 achievements in 43 minutes. Occasionally I had to let go of the click to let the gun charge back up, but otherwise I really didn’t have to move or try or anything.
screenshot029

I have a fondness for these over-sized gumballs shaped like fruit called Mega Fruit. They’re $0.75 a pop at my local grocery store and I can’t get enough of them. They’re so freakishly big that you can’t put them in your mouth unless you have a comically large one like Steven Tyler or something. You have to put them on a paper plate and smash them down using the palm of your hand. Assuming they’re not stale. If that’s the case, you might need a hammer. Once you have them into smaller pieces, they’re yummy for like five minutes. Then, spit the piece out and take another one. You get a lot of really good tasting gum for a relatively small amount of money. Gum that actually uses sugar, heaven forbid.

Look for this logo. Your taste-buds will thank me. Your teeth, probably not so much.

Look for this logo. Your taste-buds will thank me. Your teeth? Probably not so much.

I bring this up because I see nothing wrong with saying that, even if it’s really cheap, I still want to get value for my money. If an indie costs $0.74, I want it to at least give me as much pleasure as my beloved Mega Fruit gum does most of the time. When one comes up that is a total stinker with no redeeming qualities, it’s like when I put my 75¢ into the machine and it spits out the watermelon-flavored Mega Fruit. It’s disgusting. It has an aftertaste. All my friends have wised-up to it so I can’t even give them away now. I tried using pieces of one to bait ants towards a trap once and even THEY wouldn’t take it. I swear I’m not making that up. That’s true.

That sure looks like the Reddit robot to me.

That sure looks like the Reddit robot to me.

Super Duper Flying Genocide 2017 is a watermelon-flavored Mega Fruit. I hate the “well, it’s cheap, so what did you expect?” argument that indie apologists always say for games like this. I’ve played some damn fine games that were free, so price-tags shouldn’t be a deflect-all shield. It’s unfathomable to me that this game has such a positive reception. It’s boring. It takes absolutely no effort to play. There’s no leaderboards. I have no idea what the story is on this game or the developer, but if he’s reading this, dude, you can do better than this. Don’t become one of those indie devs that just shovels shit onto Steam as quickly as possible with minimal effort. There’s no future in that. While you might have cheerleader types saying “hey, 300+ achievements and Steam trading cards for a buck or less? Sign me up!” I promise you nobody will see your future releases and say “oh look, it’s by the guy who did that one UFO game with all those achievements. Well, I’m convinced.” People like me shouldn’t walk away from your game kicking themselves for choosing it over a novelty-sized chunk of edible plastic and rubber coated with sugar.

headerSuper Duper Flying Genocide 2017 was developed by CharlieH
Point of Sale: Steam

$0.74 (normally $0.99) noted the apple-flavored Mega Fruit suck too in the making of this review.

And I never end up getting the lemon-flavored ones, which I love.

Gunmetal Arcadia Zero

I was born in 1989, years after the NES was released in the United States. My first consoles were the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. My late-teenage years were spent playing Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I know my older fans find this hard to believe, but I really don’t get nostalgic for the games they are nostalgic for. I got an Atari compilation on Steam for Christmas and committed gaming blasphemy by saying Asteroids didn’t hold up well. It doesn’t. The same basic concept has been done better many times since the 70s, and it’s absurd to pretend otherwise. You can only give the classics points for innovating, but you have to be nostalgia-drunk to the point of delusion to think these games are relevant to play today. And yet, those older gamers tell me with a straight-face “games were BETTER back in my day and I won’t play that modern crap!” Well I assume it’s a straight face. Sometimes it’s hard to see past their neck-beards.

Anyway, to those increasingly decrepit Reagan-era gamers, how about some modern crap that looks like your old, crusty crap?

This is not Zelda II. Hey retro fanboys, here's a thought: instead of seeing this picture and saying "that makes me want to play Zelda II, a game I've already finished twenty times" why not, I dunno, PLAY THIS GAME THAT YOU'VE NEVER PLAYED BEFORE? Ugh.

This is not Zelda II. Hey retro fanboys, here’s a thought: instead of seeing this picture and saying “that makes me want to play Zelda II, a game I’ve already finished twenty times” why not, I dunno, PLAY THIS GAME THAT YOU’VE NEVER PLAYED BEFORE?

Gunmetal Arcadia Zero (that sounds like something an anime fan would say while having a stroke) looks, sounds, and feels like an NES game so convincingly that it’s creepy. With the exception of the menus.. this is the most nit-picky complaint I’ve ever made.. that are not remotely 8-bit and ruin the retro-illusion every time you pause the game, this is the closest I’ve ever seen to an NES indie game that isn’t a ROM hack. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. It was developed by Minor Key Games, the guys behind the horribly named You Have to Win the Game and Super Win the Game. These guys clearly have honed nostalgia-mimicry to a science as much as they have set back naming games by decades. Gunmetal Arcadia Zero’s utterly forgettable word-salad name hides a remarkable exercise in memory-baiting.

In fact, the game looks so much like Zelda II that I had people ask me if it was a ROM hack of it. It’s not. Nor is the game really a whole lot like Zelda II. It’s more like a classic Castlevania game in terms of enemy designs (including the annoying Medusa-head monsters that fly in with a sine-curve pattern), secondary weapons, and even getting resources by smacking candles. It’s admirable in the same way that a psychotic fan getting plastic surgery to look like their favorite pop-idol is: you want to tell them how impressed you are even if you question their sanity. Yet, I can’t really complain about how brazenly Minor Key ripped-off those classic games because it does it so well that their IP owners should honestly just think of hiring him to revive those dead licenses. I’m dead serious.

Show of hands: who thinks the little brown blob things look like the cocoons from Gremlins?

Show of hands: who thinks the little brown blob things look like the cocoons from Gremlins?

For example, anyone who played those old-timey Castlevania games surely complained about the insane recoil that would happen every time you took damage, often leading to a cheap falling-death. That doesn’t happen here, and it makes the experience more enjoyable. That’s how an indie developer should pay tribute to their childhood classics: you fix what was broken about them. Trying to also include the faults of those titles is misguided. Pay tribute to the spirit of them, not the execution. In that sense, Gunmetal Arcadia Zero (it sounds like a bad translation) is one of the best old-school tributes ever. It rights a LOT of wrongs. Better play-control than the average game back then had. Better level design. More sophisticated upgrades. Okay, they left in a lives system, but hey, you’ve got to include that minimal-indie-badness somewhere.

Actually, it screws up a lot of stuff. None of the character or enemy designs are particularly memorable. The boss designs are so bland that I can’t help but wonder if the developer nerfed them so nobody would have time to process how lame they are. They’re total pansies. The average boss fight was over before I could count to ten. I’m not even kidding. But really, the whole game is kind of easy. One of my best friends told me he found the game too hard. Now I feel like giving him a pity hug because I annihilated Gunmetal Arcadia Zero (it sounds like a talentless underground metal band) with minimal effort. I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly skilled platform player, so that disturbs me a bit. I can’t imagine someone who was weened on the original Castlevania struggling at all with this. I game-overed once and mistook that moment as the game getting teeth. It didn’t. Maybe I just choose the right set of weapons. The Castlevania-esq axe that you throw in an upward arc was useful for taking out enemies at long-range and rendered the second-to-last boss such a pushover that I wonder if anyone making the game play-tested it. It was a bit on the pitiful side.

This is the boss I'm talking about. As long as you don't trade the axe for any other item pick-up, you can make a mockery of the design.

This is the boss I’m talking about. As long as you don’t trade the axe for any other item pick-up, you can make a mockery of the design.

Even with the opportunity to play through it a second time selecting the opposite of two different classes, I don’t think I would want to, nor would I really want DLC for this. The story is boring and poorly written. Yea, maybe that’s a trope of the NES era, but Shovel Knight aspired to invoke those memories and it made more than one battle-hardened gamer tear up during its memorable ending. Given that Super Win’s story left a lot to be desired, I think Minor Key might want to consider bringing in writers. There’s no shame in that. Know what you’re good at and work with that. Minor Key has reached that upper-echelon of neo-retro game development. Their games work as both tributes and as stand-alone titles. A whippersnapper like me from a totally different generation can still appreciate the skill and craftsmanship on display here. And if I like it, I can’t imagine how NES fans will take to it. Their heads might pop, something we’re all fine with. Well, the developer will be fine as long as they plunk down money on their game first. Corpses don’t buy games. Probably.

Gunmetal Arcadia Zero is really fun, and not even despite the flaws. I would totally believe this is a lost NES game by a major developer that slipped through the cracks of history. Perhaps the best thing I can say about it is that it makes me wonder what my life would be like if I had grown up during that 80s Nintendo boom. Would I be one of those die-hards that needs to think about baseball every time Nintendo announces a barely-changed sequel to one of their franchises or else risk putting someone’s eye out? Probably not because, well, vagina. But seriously, my generation needs games like this to remind us that gaming’s past is always a peek into gaming’s future. That a game like Gunmetal Arcadia Zero could come out in 2016 and still manage to capture the imaginations of multiple generations of gamers is kind of remarkable, isn’t it? No, your generation’s games aren’t better than mine, and mine aren’t better than today’s. Instead, let’s all take a step back and say, you know what, as long as stuff like this comes out, gaming is alright. Always has been. Always will be.

See, I can be sentimental.

headerGunmetal Arcadia Zero was developed by Minor Key Games
Point of Sale: Steam

igc_approved$5.99 noted this is actually a prequel to a game scheduled for release in a couple months that will have a totally different play style in the making of this review. Okie doki.

Gunmetal Arcadia Zero is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Santa’s Special Delivery

Key to indie success: make a game so jaw-droppingly obscene people like me who get off on that stuff check it out just to see how truly desensitized we are. With some rare exceptions (like, say, South Park: The Stick of Truth), those games usually fail. Fist of Jesus, a game whose entire selling point seems to be “watch Jesus rip out a zombie’s heart” might be a contender for worst game I’ve ever played at Indie Gamer Chick. But I did buy it, so I guess it worked. Which means I’m part of the problem. Excuse me while I go sprinkle table-salt in my eyes.

Ow.

Okay, then. Santa’s Special Delivery. It’s a game whose entire selling point is “Santa will poop down chimneys.” There’s also a small splash of digital gore if you screw up and lose one of the reindeer, but otherwise it’s all shit, all the time, sorta like CBS these days.

Just stay away from the northwest corner of the Bay and we'll be good, Santa.

Just stay away from the northwest corner of the Bay and we’ll be good, Santa.

Here’s the thing. When I was a little kid, there was a game for the Nintendo 64 called Clay Fighter 63 1/3. It was a horrible parody of fighting games. One of the unlockable characters was named “Sumo Santa” and his finishing move involved jumping up into the air, landing ass-first onto your opponent so that your opponent would be stuck up Santa’s butthole. Santa would then bend over, take aim, and fire, blowing the opponent out in chunks.

This came out in 1997. I played it in 1998. It’s now 2016. Yea.

It was also the last time I ever said “Hey Mom and Dad, come look at this!” I learned my lesson.

So if you want to make me say “now you’ve gone too far” with jolly old Saint Nick, you have to at least be more jaw-dropping than a game released 20 years ago. Thus, Santa’s Special Delivery has to stand on its own purely from a gameplay point of view instead of as a novelty title. It can’t. It’s basically a stripped-down version of Paperboy (stripped down versions of already mediocre games four years older than me are never a good thing) where you fly around pushing button prompts and occasionally dodge snowmen that have a big warning “RIGHT HERE!” arrow marking where they are. After each-stage, you button mash to try to make Santa take a dump down the chimney so large it destroys the house.

That’s it. It gets old so fast it nearly skips past “embarrassed giggle” and goes straight to “Christ, this is boring.” It’s repetitive. It’s slow in ramping up the difficulty. It’s even a bit glitchy. A couple of times it loaded up the poop-in-chimney button-mashing mini-game that pops up at the end of every stage, but as soon as the countdown stopped, it just ended. I thought maybe it was because I had done bad on the stage, but then I aced stages and it still did it sometimes. I mean, that ministage is basically the whole selling point of the game so that was a little annoying.

This should be enough to get me excommunicated. Woo hoo! Free Sundays!

This should be enough to get me excommunicated. Woo hoo! Free Sundays!

There’s no high scores, local or online, and so the entire basis of the game is based on the novelty of “Santa poops in chimney.” Funny for like fifteen seconds, until you realize “I mean, he’s gotta poop somewhere, right?.

headerSanta’s Special Delivery was developed by Drunk Robot Games
Point of Sale: Steam

$2.69 (normally $2.99) wouldn’t have been too ashamed to see her name on a leaderboard for this in the making of this review. I mean, hell, if I play something I want to know whether I’m good at it or not.

This was on Ouya. Yea.

This article may only be reprinted with my express written consent, which can only be granted if you can get me snuck onto the set of Westworld so that I can fawn over Jimmi Simpson because damn he’s sexy.

Zolg

All good things must come to an end. Six out of the last seven games covered at Indie Gamer Chick received my seal of approval. Even I was worried I was starting to become one of THOSE critics. You know the ones. The type that wouldn’t commit to calling a game bad if it shot their dog with bullets made out of your mother’s grounded up bones. Well, I need worry no longer. Zolg is a bad game.

Though only barely so. GOD DAMN IT okay, come on Cathy. You can be mean. You used to be. Channel your inner bitch.

So Zolg is a twin-stick, top-down Metroidvania that tries to channel a retro feel using vector-style graphics. It’s not fully convincing but works to make enemies and objectives distinctive. Controls are fully mapable, though I really hate having to set that up manually. The gameplay feels like a cross between Robotron and Berzerk (which is kind of fitting seeing how the former was inspired by the latter) with Metroid-style power-ups that open up the game peppered in. It’s not a horrible concept by any means, and even the execution isn’t terrible.

Except when it is.

Touch the little spiky things and you die. I never understood this in gaming. It makes sense if it's Tales from the Crypt and the blind people are getting revenge against the mean old superintendent of their home, but otherwise, how does simply touching this hurt you?

Touch the little spiky things and you die. I never understood this in gaming. It makes sense if it’s Tales from the Crypt and the blind people are getting revenge against the mean old superintendent of their home, but otherwise, how does simply touching this hurt you?

First off, there’s no map. That’s always annoying for any Metroidvania great or small. The controls are too loose even when you map to an Xbox One controller. Zolg requires the occasional tight squeeze through traps, and without using the D-Pad, I found this to be too sloppy and fickle. The enemies, even basic ones, are far too spongy. This goes out to all makers of shooters: check your enemy sponginess. I promise you won’t have an easier fix for your game in your entire lifetime. Remember, it’s BUSY WORK to have baddies that are no threat but just soak up bullets like Pixel Empire UK soaks up articles that don’t belong to them. I basically only put that line in there in case their feed is automatically set to steal my work again and I think the idea of saying Pixel Empire UK are a bunch of talentless cunts on their own site is kind of hilarious. That being said, please don’t steal my work anymore you talentless cunts.

Do you know who isn’t a talentless cunt? The developer of Zolg. It’s honestly not horrible game. But the final deal breaker for me was you don’t “blink” long enough when you take damage. There are enemies called “Stalkers” that move fast, appear quickly out of thin air, and like your smelly grandparent that you have to deal with once a year, will hug the life out of you. Once they’re on top of you, no matter if you start with full life, you’re pretty much dead. I entered a room full of them and found no method was satisfactory on dealing with them. Including but not limited: trying to heel-toe it through the room so as to only trigger one appearing at time; charging into the room on a virtual suicide mission intent on lighting them up like a Christmas tree; trying not to engage them at all and instead leg it to the next room; turning off the game and taking a masters course in game programming with the intent of deprogramming the fuckers out of Zolg myself. Nothing worked, so I quit. That’s what you should do when a game goes bad and there’s no immediately hope for redemption.

These little fuckers are the Stalkers. How I hated them.

These little fuckers are the Stalkers. How I hated them.

But, I should stress, it’s not hopeless forever. Although this pretty much assures I’m failing at channeling my inner-bitch, I really want developer Robert Alvarez to channel his inner-Betsy Ross and get to work patching up his game. The sponginess and the lack of blinking should be easy fixes that should turn his slightly bad game into a slightly good one. I’ll give any game a second chance here at Indie Gamer Chick, and Zolg has as easy a path as any bad game I’ve ever played has towards redemption. There’s quality in here somewhere. Fun concept, distinct appearance, no horrible pop-culture references (at least from what I’ve played), and it can be a lot of fun. But for every step forward it takes one and one-tenth a step backwards. This makes for both a bad game and for the worst rendition of the Hokey Pokey ever.

headerZolg was developed by Robert Alvarez
Point of Sale: Steam

$0.59 (normally $0.99) isn’t sure if that was proper use of a semicolon in the making of this review.

This article may only be reprinted with my express written consent, which can only be granted if you make the request while riding a unicycle using only your teeth.

Slayaway Camp

In the interest of full disclosure, my friend Nate Schmold, whom I met following my review of his title Cosmochoria, was involved in the development of Slayaway Camp. Nate didn’t ask me for this review, and in fact, when I bought Slayaway Camp I had no idea who made it. It’s actually kind of funny. About an hour into playing it, I was like “okay, which demented fucker came up with this?” Then I found out and was like “NATE? The guy who made the super cutesy space adventure? No.” Anyway, as always my friendships with developers do not influence my reviews, but my readers deserve to know who’s on my non-existent Christmas card list.

Make sure you’re comfortable in your seats. Are you? So comfy you won’t get up and walk away? Better scoot further down just to make sure. Let me know when your butt goes numb.

Are you there yet?

Good.

Slayaway Camp is a puzzle game developed by WAIT STOP WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Do not leave. Do not click off. Hear me out. Yes, it’s a puzzler, but it has murder! Everyone likes murder, right? Murder is the cornerstone of gaming. If Grand Theft Auto involved colorful squid children spraying paint instead of bullets, who would like it? I mean besides the developmentally paralyzed? I kid, I kid.

The thing I hate about voxel games.. any voxel game.. is that they look like crap in screenshots. The trailer is below. use it.

The thing I hate about voxel games.. any voxel game.. is that they look like crap in screenshots. The trailer is below. Use it.

At first, I thought Slayaway Camp would just be one of those “your character moves in a straight line until he can’t move anymore” puzzlers that we really need a name for. They’re everywhere. I’ve played a few at IGC, dating back to Starzzle, which I reviewed one week after opening this blog. I figured these have gone about as far as they can with the concept. But Slayaway Camp actually has some nifty gameplay concepts that use the Friday the 13th-inspired setting as more than just window dressing. In order to complete stages, you must murder all the humans present. In later levels, this includes not letting them escape or accidentally killing kittens. Yes, kittens. Just because you’re a psychopath doesn’t mean you’re a monster. The game uses the setting to come up with novel puzzle-points unique to the move-all-the-way control style and kept things relatively fresh from start to finish. So, to be clear, it took a homage to the extremely tired 80s slasher film genre to freshen up puzzlers. I swear, sometimes I wonder if anything makes sense anymore.

The concept works wonderfully, and at times can be really fun. So what’s the problem? The lack of tight puzzle design, for one thing. Many stages have multiple outs for solving, which I’ve always disliked. A great puzzler should have stages with one and only one way of being solved, with those solutions not being self-evident. Slayaway Camp’s “move until you hit something” design lends itself to simple reverse-engineering and rendered it one of the easiest puzzlers I’ve played at IGC, though as always, I’m sort of a puzzle addict so your mileage may vary. No matter your skill level, expect a wildly inconsistent difficulty curve that makes me wonder if the team at Blue Wizard Digital had nobody to properly order the levels for them. Seldom do I actively wonder if a game is made by someone who is not a fan of a genre. I did that several times while playing Slayaway Camp. Really glitchy too. Sometimes the credit roll, a throwaway joke when you die, would run right over the game while it was in progress. One time I failed to beat a stage, died, and the game declared me victorious in failure. I’m sure these will get cleaned up, but still, weird.

My reaction to the Power Rangers movie trailer says that's not true.

My reaction to the Power Rangers movie trailer says otherwise.

Puzzlers are far and away the toughest sells in gaming. Indie Gamer Chick has been open for over five years now, and with the exception of my reviews of mobile games, puzzlers get the lowest page views by far here. Quality is not relevant. Leaderboard ranking has no influence on it. Maybe there’s only one thing that puzzle fans use to decide on whether to purchase a game or not: is it functional or is it broken? Slayaway Camp is functional, and so genre fans can enjoy it for what it is. For everyone else, there’s apparently no interest at all in the puzzle genre. So why do I keep bothering with these reviews? For the same reasons I’m guessing Slayaway Camp decided to go all-out with a blood-‘n’-guts splatter movie presentation: the hope of luring new people into a genre they would otherwise ignore. While I’m not the biggest fan of voxels and I think retro gore is played, I admire the effort to get new eyes on a genre on the fringe of gaming, even if those eyes are attached to the end of a rusty machete.

headerSlayaway Camp was developed by Wait Stop What are you Doing
Point of Sale: Steam

igc_approved$6.65 (normally $8.99) kept typing “Sleepaway Camp” like a total dumbass in the making of this review.

Slayaway Camp is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

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