Midnight

Midnight for Wii U is similar to those mobile 2D golf games, only this one strives to be a bit more on the puzzle side of things. The Wii U is loaded with cheap, short, single-minded titles that aim to be satisfying distractions rather than awe-inspiring sleeper hits. I’ve covered a couple at IGC, Color Zen and Blok Drop U. There are a lot of people complaining about titles like this, and I don’t get it. Games like this have a place in gaming. Maybe to cleanse the palate, or maybe just to kill an hour or two. But that doesn’t mean the game has to be bad. After all, nobody wants to cleanse their palate with feces. Well, unless they find that kinky.

The PLINKO idea is probably not a good one in a physics based puzzle game that scores you based on the amount of strokes you take. Should such a game rely so heavily on luck? I say no.

The PLINKO idea is probably not a good one in a physics based puzzle game that scores you based on the amount of strokes you take. Should such a game rely so heavily on luck? I say no.

I wouldn’t exactly call Midnight bad, but it does need a lot of work. Earlier stages show a lot of promise. Just drag the stylus to adjust the power and aim, then let go to shoot. At first, the aiming seems a bit off, but you quickly get used to it. The problem is that physics never seem fully consistent. Sometimes I would shoot the square-shaped ball, it would land on a large patch of flat terrain and come to a comfortable stop. Other times, I would seemingly shoot it on the same trajectory and strength, but instead of landing on the flat patch flush and clean, it would immediately start spinning upon impact and fly out-of-bounds. I can’t really whine about this too much when nearly every physics based game seems to have issues like this, but that same physics engine failed me when the stages started to add obstacles and the difficulty got its teeth.

Take stage 18. Here, there’s a cannon that you have to shoot the ball into. Once you do this, it automatically launches you into a wall that, in theory, you’re supposed to break off, clearing a path to the hole. In practice, this failed, failed, failed. Sometimes I would hit the wall at seemingly full speed only to have the wall not move AT ALL while I watched my ball ricochet off it and fly out-of-bounds. Sometimes I would hit the wall at seemingly full speed, have the wall not move AT ALL and watch my ball drop lifelessly back down into the cannon again which would fire it into the wall again, watch it bounce off the wall again with no effect while my ball ricocheted out-of-bounds. Physics puzzle games need one thing above all else: predictable physics. Hit object in certain section at certain speed and certain action happens. Midnight doesn’t have that, and thus there’s no glory in finishing a stage. It feels like it’s almost done by luck.

Midnight has some nasty glitches too. Like this one. I'm in the hole here, but the game didn't register it. I planned to complain at length about this, but the developer already caught wind of it and has pledged to fix it. Watch for a Second Chance with the Chick for Midnight in the near future.

Midnight has some nasty glitches too. Like this one. I’m in the hole here, but the game didn’t register it. I planned to complain at length about this, but the developer already caught wind of it and has pledged to fix it. Watch for a Second Chance with the Chick for Midnight in the near future.

There are only 28 stages in Midnight, and even with some frustrating designs (including some levels based on timing to avoid saws or spiky enemies that felt about as out-of-place as a cannibal at a PETA meeting), you should be able to finish the whole experience in under two hours. I don’t know what else to say. The interface is clean. Too clean, actually. Midnight doesn’t tell you how many shots you’ve taken, or how many shots are required to score three stars on a stage. Sometimes a game can be too minimalist. Really, nothing here is extraordinarily bad, and with some patchwork, it can be decent for a couple bucks, even if it’s on the wrong platform (games like this really belong on 3DS). But right now, Midnight is just a little too unstable for me to fully recommend. Patches are coming, so I guess what I’m saying is, I’m going to wait till the Midnight hour before my love comes tumbling down.

For those of you who have spent the last few minutes trying to make sense of that last sentence, you really shouldn’t have bothered.

Midnight LogoMidnight was developed by Petite Games
Point of Sale: Wii U eShop

$1.99 made Wilson Pickett roll in his grave in the making of this review.

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Mega Coin Squad

You’ll forgive me for being skeptical of Mega Coin Squad. Adult Swim Games has a wonderful track record of selecting indies for publication, but their last title is currently my choice for worst game of 2014. Also, the primary focus of the game is local-only multiplayer. For a PC game. No online. Not even LAN play. Local-only. I’m not so pissed about that. At this point, I’m used to indies not stepping up to the challenge of incorporating online play in their games. What ticks me off is that you can’t even whisper a hint of disappointment about an indie that is local only multiplayer without douchebag indie fanboys bitching at you for having the utter NERVE to complain about the lack of online play. They treat you like you’re naive at best, or ignorant at worst. Yes, I get that online is difficult to do. Do you know what else is difficult? Making a good game. If you get to the point of making a good game (like Mega Coin Squad is), why not go that extra mile? And do you know who shares some of the blame for that? The same douchebag indie fanboys who see a preview of a game and then hound the developers every week with “IS IT READY YET? WHEN IS IT GOING TO READY? CAN I PLAY A BETA OF THE GAME? IS IT READY? IT’S READY ENOUGH! WHEN ARE YOU BRINGING IT OUT? IS IT READY?” You guys with your impatience are the reason why they feel the pressure to release it right now instead of taking the extra time to get online play in.

Local-only multiplayer games on PC sounds suicidal to me. Yeah, Sportsfriends has become a staple of Saturday morning meetings at the Vice household, but that’s a casual-driven CONSOLE game. A neo-retro action-shooter-partier on PC is going to be a tough sell to convince friends you’re better off playing that over something like Gears of War.

And then there’s the name. “Mega Coin Squad.” It’s so generic. It sounds like what a 70-year-old scriptwriter for a bad sitcom would call a game. “Timmy, what do you want for your birthday?” “I want Mega Coin Squad!” “I don’t know Timmy. We’re a bit strapped for cash now.” And then the parents try some wacky get-rich-quick scheme to raise the money for the present, get it somehow, and the kid gets bored with it quickly as the punchline to end the show. That’s what Mega Coin Squad sounds like. I mean,  you can practically hear a soulless game design committee stamp this name out, can’t you?

“What’s something you collect in games?”

“Coins!”

“Okay. And what’s a way of describing a group of people participating in an event?”

“A team!”

“No, no. That’s too lazy.”

“Um, squad?”

“Perfect! And finally, we need a modifier. Something dynamic!”

“Super?”

“Nah, too Nintendo.”

“Ultra?”

“That’s not bad. But we better save that for the sequel.”

“How about Mega?”

“Excellent! Mega it is! Mega Coin Squad! Someone call Fox Kids and tell them to we’ve got the cheapest animators in Korea working on the cartoon right now. Oh, someone make sure to actually make the fucking game while we’re at it. Gentlemen, to cynicism!”

By the way, I pictured that being done with J.K. Simmons’ voice. If you didn’t, go back and read it that way.

"Use pixel-art. Kids these days love pixel art. It's retro and hip."

“Use pixel-art. Kids these days love pixel art. It’s retro and hip.”

The thing is, it wasn’t a soulless corporation or some lazy sitcom writer coming up with the name. It was an indie studio. I’m sure the name was chosen on a satirical, sarcastic level. Fine. But, once the joke stops being funny (it takes just under two seconds), you’re stuck with a boring, generic name. When I see games with names like this, I always brace for the worst. I mean, if they phoned in the name, it’s typically safe to assume they phoned in all other aspects of development. That’s not the case with Mega Coin Squad at all, but going off the name, I can’t tell that.

I’ve had a lot of fun with Mega Coin Squad’s single player stuff. The basic idea is, you’re a dude (or a dudette, or a robot) that has to hop around a large room with coins scattered around. There’s also a giant piggy bank. You have to collect a target amount of coins and deposit them in the piggy bank. It’s an original (I think) concept that works wonderfully. You can also throw fireballs, pick up weapons, or hop on enemies to defeat them. Every few seconds, the platforms blink out of existence, only to be replaced with different platforms and more coins. The fast-paced collect-a-thon mechanics are a lot of fun to play with.

There’s up to three random upgrades available between the first three stages in every world. You get one by never taking damage, one by banking all the coins at once instead of banking a few here and a few there, and one by banking all the coins within a target amount of time. One of the upgrades is a double jump, which I recommend you try to get as soon as possible. You can also upgrade your own fireball a few times. Eventually, the fireball gets so powerful that I actively tried to avoid picking up guns. Even as I was upgrading them, they were never as useful at killing enemies or clearing out large sections of blocks like the max-upgraded fireball was. It would pass straight through solid blocks, killing all enemies and destroying all breakable blocks in its path. I started cursing myself every time I accidentally stumbled into picking up a gun and spent the next couple seconds trying to unload all the ammo out of it so I could go back to my good old fireball. By the way, why would someone who can create fire with their hands and nothing else ever even look at a gun? If I could, I wouldn’t. I would hang one of those “gun on premises” signs on my door, only it would say “person that can create projectile fiery death on premises.” I would have the safest house on the block and be the go-to person if you had trouble starting your barbeque.

All quiver in front of the might of a fully-upgraded fireball, which renders all the carefully crafted guns in the game worse than useless. It makes them obstacles to be avoided.

All quiver in front of the might of a fully-upgraded fireball, which renders all the carefully crafted guns in the game worse than useless. It makes them obstacles to be avoided.

The frenzy of pace is also one of the major problems in the game. Some stages have springboards, which launch you quickly to the upper parts of rooms.. and often into an enemy that you couldn’t have possibly seen. I lost count of how many times I brained myself against an enemy with no reasonable way of avoiding it, but over ten or so hours, it had to have been over a hundred times. And the controls aren’t always responsive. Especially the double jump. I would often land, jump, then try to jump again and nothing. This happened a lot, and I talked with other critics who it happened to. It never really caused me to take damage, but in a game where you have a limited amount of time and need precision jumping, everything working spot-on at all times without failure is completely necessary.

Finally, I hated that every world finishes with a stage where you just have to kill a lot of enemies. I can’t believe they made it through development without anyone standing up and saying “compared to the coin-grabbing stuff, these stages are incredibly boring.” Maybe someone did. If that happened, that person was ignored and the game is at least 25% less fun because of it. Bravo. I’m sure those stages were there because indies have an unwritten rule that they must be at least 25% horrible, or else they’re not indie anymore. Whatever the reason, I still enjoyed the majority of my time with Mega Coin Squad. Well, what I played of it. Again, I wasn’t able to enjoy the mulitplayer stuff, which is the game’s primary focus. Probably the best compliment I can give to this title is it’s the first multiplayer-focused indie I’ve played where the single-player stuff doesn’t feel like it was tacked on as an after-thought. Not even close. I’m actually skeptical that the multiplayer stuff could eclipse the single-player campaign. Also, I’m trademarking Ultra Coin Squad. It’s for Big Pixel Studios’ own good. It’ll force them to put three full seconds of thought into the sequel’s name.

Mega Coin Squad LogoMega Coin Squad releases on August 15

IGC_ApprovedMega Coin Squad was developed by Big Pixel Studios
Point of Sale: Steam
$14.99 ($11.99 first week sales price) has a father that always said “do you think I shit money?” Well, I’ll show him the rainbow-colored coin in this game and say “if you had one of these, you would. Can I have my Porsche now?” in the making of this review.

Mega Coin Squad is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

A review copy was provided by Adult Swim Games to IndieGamerChick.com. A full copy of the game will be purchased by Cathy when it releases on August 15.

Goat Simulator

How does one review a game that isn’t supposed to be good? That started as a joke project inside a studio, a sort of “get a feel for an engine” project that was never intended for release. Then a video of that joke was posted on YouTube, drawing over 1,000,000 (pinky finger to mouth) views, with fans (and even some press) demanding it become a reality. Because that’s where Goat Simulator comes from.

Me? I don’t give a shit about any of that. I just want to buy and play good games. And Goat Simulator is boring. The idea is, you’re a goat. There’s a couple of maps. Go do stuff. What stuff? Whatever you want. There’s no story. There’s no objectives besides a checklist of things like “fall as long as you can” or “get hit by a car.” I’ve never been able to get into games that have no driving force behind them. Some people like to just run amok in a sandbox. In GTA, they’ll load up on guns and see how much shit they can trash before getting busted by the cops or killed. I can’t do that kind of stuff. I need a reason to keep going. Goat Simulator doesn’t do that. It does have a couple of things that are almost missions, like racing from point A to point B or giving the players a minute or so to score as many points as they can. But those get boring too, because there’s no progress.

It’s also unstable as all hell. Without hyperbole, I fell through the world geometry only two minutes into the game. This was nice in the sense that I was able to check off a couple of the tasks, such as falling from as high a distance as possible, but come on. What’s disgusting is people want these glitches. They demanded them, because it somehow makes the game more charming. Great, so we’re now encouraging a generation of highly impressionable young developers to not bother ironing out bugs in their software, because those give their games personality or something along those lines. No, what we’re doing is rewarding laziness and lack of effort. I can’t even make a joke about it because it gives me genuine concern for the future of the indie scene.

I've never actually encountered a real, honest to God goat. Do their tongues work like a frog's, sticking to everything they touch? Because this goat's tongue is like that. A cool feature, or it would have been if there was any fucking point to it.

I’ve never actually encountered a real, honest to God goat. Do their tongues work like a frog’s, sticking to everything they touch? Because this goat’s tongue is like that. A cool feature, or it would have been if there was any fucking point to it.

In a way, Goat Simulator represents a sort of malaise that’s overcome the indie scene. It shows how little we ask of developers. We don’t even care if a game is fundamentally broken, has any point to it, or even if effort was put into it. By doing this, we’re doing a real disservice to the development community. We’re telling them “you don’t have to try. We’ll still be there for you!” Only, we typically aren’t. Maybe Goat Simulator is doing exceptionally well, but that’s a rarity. As someone who has spent that last three years watching a small portion of the scene ruin their lives making their games, I think maybe I have a better feel for the stakes in play. I have seen developers go all-in with their projects. Mortgaging their homes, cashing out their children’s college funds, selling their cars, cashing out their 401(k)s, or all of the above, for stuff that any rational person would realize has little chance of success. Why? Because people told them it was a good idea.

Not that I think Goat Simulator is representative of that level of recklessness. I assume, from its origin as a joke and it’s short (four weeks) development cycle, that it cost very little to release. Instead, I’m concerned about the idea that popularity comes easily. That quality is irrelevant to success. That a developer can actively talk about how awful their project is and still rake in cash like an armored truck crashed into a diamond truck right in their driveway. Like Flappy Bird, Goat Simulator’s popularity is purely on a sarcastic level. By buying the game, you’re essentially saying “I totally get the joke” and your purchase is simply a pricey way of saying “LOL!” I don’t even blame Coffee Stain Studios for doing it. What would you do if you had an established fanbase, a large portion of the gaming media, and instant backing from the largest digital distribution house on your side? I know what I would do: laugh all the way to the bank.

But, somewhere out there right now, a moron is looking at Goat Simulator and saying “why not me?” Even though he or she has none of the advantages that Coffee Stain had. They only see the money and the notoriety those guys are getting. They’re unable to grasp that Coffee Stain is only able to have this kind of success without trying because they worked so damn hard on every other project they’ve done. So they proceed to quit their jobs, sell their stuff, and ruin their lives making their games. Nobody buys the game, because they have no following, no marketing skills, no contacts to help them get listings, and the game doesn’t have anywhere near the polish that years of experience brings. As bad as Goat Simulator is (and it’s awful, make no mistake), imagine how bad it would have been if it had been their first game.

I’m all for personal accountability. It’s not up to you or me or Coffee Stain or any other developer to watch out for people and make sure they don’t destroy their lives in pursuit of a quick buck and infamy. At best, we can tell those that would go down that path “maybe you should think harder about this.” But when they do it anyway, it’s not our fault. What I am saying is, as a community, we have to come together and say “we’re capable of better than this!” Maybe Goat Simulator is the foundation of something that is possibly exceptional. The alpha stage of a game that, with a proper narrative, a wacky take on traditional sandbox missions, and a stable engine, could be legendary. But nobody asked that of Coffee Stain. They showed off a joke, and people said “we want that, right now, just the way it is. That’s good enough for us.” We gave them the path of least resistance, and they accepted it, just like anyone would. Just like I would.

All my attempts at suicide failed as my goat is unfortunately immortal.

All my attempts at suicide failed as my goat is unfortunately immortal.

But we can do better. Consumers, I mean. We can say “our money is worth more than this.” We didn’t with Goat Simulator. We don’t with a lot of games. And we should. People bitch and complain about the landslide of Flappy clones that have flooded the marketplace, but it’s only because we as a community embraced its awfulness that such a goldrush to clone Flappy Bird happened in the first place. We created this mess. And if we keep demanding that unfinished novelty games be released right fucking now instead of saying “hey, this could be cool! you should build off it!”, it’s what the indie scene will revolve around. No, quality games won’t disappear. Not now. Not ever. Talent and genius don’t disappear because the flavor of the month requires no effort or hard work. There will always be developers that will kill themselves to get it right. To make something new and groundbreaking that sets our imaginations ablaze. No amount of crap can ever bury them or their desire to entertain us. No, this is about protecting our identity as a community. We want people to associate the indie scene as being a high quality, imaginative and creative community. When we say “we’re there for you, even when you phone it in”, we become hypocrites. If EA or Microsoft put out something like this, we would shit on them. You know it. Why does being indie make something like Goat Simulator acceptable? Especially when we damn well know we can do better? I don’t want that to be our identity, where unfinished crap is acceptable because it’s indie. We deserve better.

 

Behold the funniest gag in the game: it has the same font as Microsoft Flight Simulator. There, I just saved you $6 to $10.

Behold the funniest gag in the game: it has the same font as Microsoft Flight Simulator. There, I just saved you $6 to $10.

Goat Simulator was developed by Coffee Stain Studios
Point of Sale: Steam

$5.99 (normally $9.99) is very worried that “Unfinished, Pointless Sandbox Game” is now a popular genre in the making of this review.

 

Star Runner

Have you ever thought you should dig out your old Game Boy and relive some old memories? Have you ever given thought to the idea that garage door openers and their one-button controls should also be able to play video games? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then do I have the game for you: Star Runner.

Their light-hearted advertisement.

Their light-hearted advertisement.

Unfortunately, Star Runner made me realize that there is a definite knack to recreating the Game Boy experience and that the guys at Revolvus do not have it. On the Game Boy you had a directional pad and two buttons to work with to create some fantastic experiences such as Wario Land, Link’s Awakening, and Kirby’s Dream Land. The creators of this game boiled what made the Game Boy great down to something between Tiger Electronics games and playing with a rock.

At the start this game had everything going for it to me: The devs seemed to have a sense of humor in their ad, it was $1, it had a female character, and she had pigtails. (Shut up, it doesn’t take much.) From the description of the game, things sounded like they were going to be great: You run from zombies, you run with parkour ninjas, and you collect pizzas from pizza delivery robots while jumping between planes that are flying in a very unsafe formation. I learned that last bit while attending a school known for its flight program. Hey, how do you know if a student is in aviation? They’ll tell you. (Go UND!)

The game itself is just flat out boring. There is only one thing you can do and that’s jump–jump over obstacles, jump over walls, and jump off the heads of other people. You’d think that with jumping being the only thing you’re able to do in the game, it would be very well refined. Nope. The hit detection when you land on an NPC, something vital to the first third of the game, is so horrible that you will constantly miss and wind up dead very quickly. It’s infuriating when, time after time, you feel as though you should have landed a jump yet wind up as zombie chow.

I tried this game three different times, and every attempt ended in a rage-quit, each caused by frustration at the jumping. My final and most ragey rage-quit happened during the ninja portion of the game. You follow a number of ninjas as they parkour their way over rooftops, timing your jumps with theirs to reach the end of each level. At first this was going better than the zombie area, and I thought that perhaps there was some enjoyment to be found in this title. That feeling faded instantly when I reached a section of the level that was completely obstructed from view, yet I was expected to avoid some obstacle. There was absolutely no way that I could discern when to jump to avoid a death caused by being unable to see my character. At that point it’s not even giving the player a chance, so I turned it off with a huff and promptly deleted the game.

I take it back. Even playing with a rock is more fun than playing this game. At least with a rock you could chuck it at some snobby aviation students.

xboxboxartStar Runner was developed by Revolvus.

At $1, you could buy batteries for your Tiger Electronics game at a discount store.

Power-Up

The timing on being asked to look over this game was impeccable as I recently watched the movie “100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience” which featured a section on the classic Japanese bullet hell shooters. I have had a craving to play one ever since, and Power-Up helped fill that need.

Powerup1
Power-Up is a throwback to the classic space shoot ‘em ups of yesterday such as R-Type and Gradius. There are aliens, upgrades to your ships or weapons, and bullets galore to dodge. It’s a tried and true formula and a general description of most of these games that have come out over the past thirty years.

In Power-Up there are five weapon types that you can select at any time: straight ahead, straight back, straight up/down, a forward spread, and a plasma weapon that… does something? I’ll get back to that in a moment. Each weapon can be “powered-up” to give it an incremental boost from items that fly onto the screen as is tradition. From what I could tell, for the most part, these upgrades only increase the rate of fire and lengthen the beam for each shot. If weapons actually do increase in strength it was a small enough increase that they never felt stronger to me. Enemies appeared to take just as long to kill as with “weaker” weapons. The upgrades you collect also don’t appear to be based on anything such as killing a particular enemy; they appear on a set schedule. It took me a number of plays to realize this: “What did I just do to make the bonus points appear? Did I kill something to spawn that power-up?”

Although there are five weapons, you really only need two of them to advance far into the game: the forward spread and the reverse laser. I was able to cheese my way easily through the first three chapters by upgrading my spread weapon before I touched the reverse-firing weapon. It wasn’t until chapter 4, and those little assholes running around on the ground shooting at me, that I needed to work on the up/down-firing weapons. I felt severely outgunned when trying to play with only the single forward shot, and even worse, I never quite figured out what the plasma weapon was supposed to be good for. Its firing range is extremely short so you have to get very close to enemies to be able to use it. I thought perhaps it would deflect bullets like one of the weapons in the classic game 1942 but nope. It felt useless except to fill my screen with a pretty purple.

Purple lasers of ???

Purple lasers of ???

One final problem with the weapons: the fully-charged shots all make the outside of the screen glow white when fired — the faster the shot, the more intense the flashing. I could usually ignore it under normal conditions, but when I was playing while tired one night, the flashing really got to me to the point that I had to turn off the game.

The story isn’t going to win the award for the next Lord of the Rings (that’s an award, right?), but it feels like a classic shooter tale. You’re one of the last humans alive, trying to destroy the people who destroyed Earth. The pilot is a bit easy to rile up and gets himself into trouble. It’s amusing listening to the pilot talk with his computer AI as they determine what to do next.

You don’t have access to a high score list like I would have hoped. The game keeps track of your high score, but the only time you ever get to see it is when you lose all of your lives. It would be nice either to see this score on the title screen or to be able to see a list of them somewhere.

This is beginning to sound like a long gripe-fest but to be honest, I had fun playing this game and it’s a good piece of work for a one-person entry. There are a number of things I feel could be improved upon, but it’s a good value for the price and there is plenty of fun to be had. None of the issues I describe above really make the game bad in any sense. If you’re a fan of shoot ‘em ups, definitely give this one a try.

xboxboxartPower-Up was developed by Psychotic Software.

IGTlogo-01For $1 you, too, can shit yourself when the logo appears at the launch of the game.

Power-Up has earned has been awarded the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval by Miko. Leaderboards for Indie Game Team are coming soon.

Dots

Having epilepsy sucks.  Between Jerry and I, we rolled off eight straight days of new reviews here, a new record for Indie Gamer Chick.  Then I got absolutely obliterated over the weekend by a spell, and wasn’t fully recovered by time the next spell hit on Wednesday.  I’ve had no coordination.  I’ve been sleeping a ton (cause for alarm for anyone who knows me).  I almost checked myself into the hospital under suspicion of brain damage after finding myself enjoying Duck Dynasty.

Mostly, I was pissed at not being able to play the games I planned on doing for Indie Gamer Chick.  Then I realized that I had been spending my recovery putting a sickening amount of time into a simple, addictive little iPhone game called Dots.  Before I get to the game itself, I have to browbeat the developers for a bit.  Dots?  Seriously?  You put all that effort into making a really fun game and Dots was the best you could come up with?  It’s appropriate the game is on mobile because you guys totally phoned it in with that name.

Connect the dots. Nanna nanna nah. Connect the dots. Nanna nanna nah.

Connect the dots. Nanna nanna nah. Connect the dots. Nanna nanna nah.

So the basic idea is you have a 6×6 grid of colorful dots that you have to link together to score points.  If you are able to link colors in the shape of a box, it clears all of that color (and any extra dots trapped inside the box).  There are two modes: one where you have sixty seconds and one where you have thirty moves.  Like Bejeweled and its ilk, Dots relies as much on luck of the draw as on anything resembling skill or cognitive thinking.  Because of that, it’s not deeply rewarding.  I look at those pricks on the high score board and think, nay, KNOW that they not only used all the premium boosters, but still have the luckiest board to work with you could hope for.  When it comes to randomness in games, I’m not lucky.  The only time I beat the odds is when doing so works against my favor.  If I was to play Russian Roulette with a special revolver that had 10,000 chambers, one of which was loaded, I guarantee you that Jerry would be writing my obituary.

So why have I been hooked on a game that is based almost entirely on luck?  I can’t even really explain it.  Dots is almost hypnotic in its simplistic pleasure.  Part of it is the sound effects.  The chimes that grow louder as you string together longer lines, which creates a soothing STOP LAUGHING AT ME!  I’m serious!  This is like getting a sensual massage in your ears.  Plus, I kept playing hoping for that off-off-off chance of me getting onto the global leaderboard.  Actually, these guys could really suck people in by making a separate leaderboard for games where no boosters were used.  Of course, doing so would probably discourage people from buying the boosters, but still.  You can grind up money to spend on the bonuses, two of which can be used once each per game.  Add extra time (or five extra moves in 30 move mode) and clear all dots of a color are pretty effective, but the clear-all color booster is very spendy.  There’s also a booster that allows you to remove a single dot from the grid, which might open up a run of square-making.  None of them are necessary to enjoy the game.  In fact, it was days before I used my first one.  But, you probably do need them to have any remote hope in Hell of making the Leaderboards.  Again, there should have been more.

IMG_0139I’ve been stuck at my house for almost a week now.  In that time, I’ve been a bump on a log, watching marathons of House or Dexter with my boyfriend.  But, I suspect that Dots is the perfect “play it while waiting in line” game.  That’s what mobile games should be about.  Hypothetically, that’s what the best handheld games should be too.  Sure, epic RPGs have a place on your Vitas and 3DSs, but what about games that take advantage of the best thing handhelds exist for: killing time when you’re waiting for shit away from home?  Phones have completely conquered that market.

It’s a shame that Nintendo and Sony have given up so much ground to the cellular industry in the time-wasting department.  Games like Dots, not to mention abysmal sales of really good pieces of hardware like Vita, make me wonder why they even bother anymore.  The Vita and 3DS are essentially hand-held versions of recent consoles, and their libraries reflect that.  Maybe the era of the dedicated handheld gaming device really is over.  I mean, yeah, it’s cool that you can play Ocarina of Time while waiting for the bus.  But you have to spend $40 for that, not to mention buying an expensive piece of hardware that really doesn’t have any other functions to do so.  Meanwhile, the device I play Dots on can also play movies, Netflix, anything off my DirecTV, and music.  I can use it as a GPS, as a calculator, as a camera that doesn’t take crappy low-resolution pictures.  I check my stocks on it, or the weather, or movie showtimes.  I can tweet from it, or update my Facebook, or browse the internet.  I can send text messages and emails, or unlock my car door with it.  Oh, and make phones calls too.  Really, Nintendo and Sony, no matter how cool the technology in your gaming devices are, they’re still mechanical relics from a bygone era.  I would tell you to get with the times, but Sony is charging an arm and a leg for a couple measly gigs worth of memory cards and Nintendo is.. well.. Nintendo.  The times are not something they’re going to be getting with anytime soon.

DotsSeal of Approval LargeDots was developed by Betaworks

Dots is Free to Play, and Chick-Approved

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