Wind-Up Knight

Wind-Up Knight is a pretty decent game, and Ouya is in short supply of those. I figured I should say that in the first sentence of this review since I have a lot of not-so-nice things to say about it. It’s yet another take on BIT.TRIP RUNNER, a game so frequently cloned that it’s posed to be a genre in and of itself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Gamers really need to remove the corks from their blowholes regarding the issue. Popular games get cloned. They have since the dawn of time. Some people seem to think indies shouldn’t be subjected to this, out of respect or something.

Heh.

Haha.

WAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Oh God. Good times.

Annoying marketing covering the game's pictures? Yep, it's a mobile port.

Annoying marketing covering the game’s pictures? Yep, it’s a mobile port.

Seriously, what planet are you guys from? All forms of entertainment are based on the principle of monkey see, monkey do. And in the case of indie games being copied, it really doesn’t bother me because this is how genres get established. In the case of Ouya, BIT.TRIP isn’t on here. Never mind that there probably isn’t a single person on the planet who owns a Ouya but doesn’t own a platform that you can find RUNNER on somewhere. That’s not the point. Personally, I think it’s cool that a reasonably good facsimile of RUNNER is on the little indie box. Cool in the same way that someone with one of those fully functional Optimus Prime cosplay costumes is, the ones that make you stare in awe and wonder “how the fuck did he make that out of caulking and used paper towel tubes?”

Not that Wind-Up Knight tries to copy BIT.TRIP entirely. To its credit, it really does try to be something more. Unfortunately, “more” involves micro-transaction oriented upgrades. Yes, you can earn the cash to get these over the course of the game, and maybe most players will do better at it than I did. I’m a busy person, and I was trying to fly through Wind-Up Knight as quickly as possible. Hell, I completely forgot about the upgrades until there were only a few levels left. At which point I bought a sword that shoots a beam out that kills enemies quite far from you. I guess my forgetfulness was lucky in this case, because that sword pretty much stripped more than half the difficulty out of the game. I call this the “scissors on a tube of toothpaste effect.” But, if I hadn’t forgotten about the upgrades and had at any point purchased anything, I almost certainly would never have owned that sword unless I paid extra for it. It makes it feel like a free-to-play mobile game, which it in fact is.

Wind-Up Knight’s biggest problem, besides doing that thing most decent Ouya games seem to do where the seams from the game’s mobile roots stick out like a sore thumb, is the difficulty curve. Too often, a moderately challenging stage is immediately followed up by multiple levels that could be generously described as a cakewalk. (By the way, that term has meant “something incredibly easy” since the 1860s. Who even knew they had cake back then?)

Is wall jumping really something worth advertising? It's so commonplace these days it would be like having a car advertise that it comes with wheels.

Is wall jumping really something worth advertising? It’s so commonplace these days it would be like having a car advertise that it comes with wheels.

Or maybe not. Until the 47th level (of 48 total), I absolutely flew through Wind-Up Knight, which is weird because I got off to a rough start over the first ten or so levels. The same thing happened to me with BIT.TRIP RUNNER 2. I have to consider the possibility that I just got really good at it. Then it took me a few days to finish level 47, though a combination of seizures and having my annoying boyfriend around might have had something to do with that. Funny enough, once I beat that stage, I cleared the final level on my third attempt. Sadly, it was unquestionably easier, and only serves as the final stage because the graphical backdrop is more climatic. Sigh.

Oh, and in the really petty complaint department, I have a policy at Indie Gamer Chick that I pay for all the games and avoid demos. The Ouya obviously isn’t a system suited for this, even though you can now purchase a game without the mandatory play through. So I purchased Wind-Up Knight for $7.99. After finishing the first book, it gave me the option to purchase it for $4.99. I don’t know why, but that really pissed me off. It’s like punishing me for buying it earlier than expected. A lot of games do this, and trust me developers, it always annoys the consumers. Stop doing this.

Maybe my counting is off, because I only noticed 48 stages. Meh, whatever. I got an ending screen and thus I'm satisified. I mean, the ending screen then wouldn't go away. It was laid on top of the menu. The menu still worked under it though. It's weird, but I've had that happen at least a dozen times over the course of Indie Gamer Chick.

Maybe my counting is off, because I only noticed 48 stages. Meh, whatever. I got an ending screen and thus I’m satisfied. I mean, the ending screen then wouldn’t go away. It was laid on top of the menu. The menu still worked under it though. It’s weird, but I’ve had that happen at least a dozen times over the course of Indie Gamer Chick.

You know what though? I would be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy Wind-Up Knight a lot from start to finish. It’s a pretty satisfying game. With a PlayStation 3 pad, the controls were responsive, the graphics worked, the level design was mostly good (unavoidable GOTCHA! style traps don’t appear until the very end of the game), and there’s plenty of extra challenges to extend the gameplay. Where Wind-Up Knight falters most is in personality. Or, more specifically, not having any. Characters are bland, writing is bland, levels look bland, weapons look bland, the music is bland, and the sound effects are bland. It’s almost tiring in how joyless the atmosphere is. Wind-Up Knight was inspired by BIT.TRIP RUNNER, but the inspiration begins and ends with gameplay. It has none of the charm or quirkiness of BIT.TRIP, which is one of the major attractions of that franchise. The developers at Robot Invader are making a sequel, and if they take away only one thing from this review, I hope it’s this: have more fun making it. I can always tell when developers were too serious when developing a game, and I suspect that’s what went wrong with Wind-Up Knight. So please, pull the sticks out of your asses and put them where they belong: up Ben Kuchera’s ass.

windupWind-Up Knight was developed by Robot Invader

$7.99 (Grumble) said Robot Invader could make me feel less butt-hurt over that extra $3 I spent by donating the difference to Autism Speaks in the making of this review.

IGC_ApprovedWind-Up Knight is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. I also played the iOS and Android ports, and they also are Chick-Approved. Levels 13 through 48 can be unlocked for 1,200 “notes” (in-game currency) or $1.99 for each pack of 12. Go with the Ouya version if that’s an option.

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Clear Vision and Clear Vision 2

Last year, I tried for a while to write a review of Clear Vision, a sickeningly addictive iPhone title that I ultimately didn’t write about.  Part of that is the game is fairly one-dimensional, takes only thirty minutes to beat, and I feel that praising a game that involves violently assassinating unsuspecting victims will get me listed on some type of government watch list.  Since then, a teeny tiny bit of DLC was released for the original, and this month a sequel hit, and I can’t turn it down.

IMG_0964

So here’s the concept: there’s a world of stick figures, and you’re an assassin for hire.  Someone will slip a request for murder under your door.  You then murder that person.  Rinse and repeat around twenty or so times each game.  Murders are typically done with a rifle, but occasionally you’ll interrogate someone in a car crusher, or make a murder look like an accident.  At the start of each game, you simply line the person up in your sight and fire.  Later, you have to account for distance and wind resistance.  It’s the same thing over and over again, but it never gets old.  In fact, the splatter of blood and slumping body are pretty dang satisfying to watch and an indication of a job well done.

Hold on.  A self-realization and reflection moment just overcame me.

I make no apologies for the fact that I had a good time playing these games.  I would have had a better time, if not for some glaring technical issues.  No matter which iDevice I was using, both games tended to crash.  Last year, the original Clear Vision, at times, crashed nearly every mission.  This year, Clear Vision 2 not only crashed on both my new iPhone and iPod, but would also have the occasionally stunted-frame rate that would require me to completely exit out of the game and reboot it.  Obviously this can be patched out, since I had to go through the original Clear Vision all the way from the fucking beginning just to play a measly five-minutes worth of DLC, and the game never once failed.  Crashes are not infrequent on iOS, for whatever reason.  This is one of the major reasons why I quit reviewing iPhone games.  On Apple platforms, even major titles (your GTAs, Dead Spaces, and Angry Birds) crash if you so much as attempt to play them.  I can’t really complain about indies doing so frequently.  But it craps up the play experience.  Clear Vision 2 was one of the worst offenders of this ever.  I counted it out: the game had seven hard crashes and four instances of game-killing frame rate issues on my fifth gen iPhone alone, plus several more while attempting it on my iPod.  Not even XBLIG puts up this big a fight when you attempt to use it.

I fucking HATED this minigame in the sequel.  It took me about twenty tries to get it right.  I felt like an ignoramus.

I fucking HATED this mini-game in the sequel. It took me about twenty tries to get it right. I felt like an ignoramus.

If you can get past the crashes, Clear Vision is fun.  You need both parts to get the full story, but they will only run you a combined $1.98.  You can also play half of the first game (or fifth game, depending on how you look at it) for free online.  Though there’s probably no harm in waiting a year to pick up Clear Vision 2, or at least waiting long enough for all the bugs to be cleaned up.  I do recommend both, but remember something before each time you pull the trigger: stick figure dudes have stick figure families too.

Clear VisionClear Vision and Clear Vision 2 were developed by DPFlashes Studios

IGC_Approved$0.99 each widowed and orphaned more stick figures than drunks running over street signs in the making of this review. 

Clear Vision is Chick Approved. Clear Vision 2 will be once they patch up all the technical issues.

The Impossible Game

The Impossible Game is, as of this writing, the biggest selling Xbox Live Indie Game of all-time that isn’t a Minecraft clone.  It’s a punisher, sure, but since you can’t improvise anything and every jump you have to make is predetermined, it’s more akin to trying to ace a Guitar Hero song set on expert.  I’m not really into those kind of games, and my early experience playing the demo of this long before I founded this website left me feeling self-mutilatious.  And no, I don’t care if that’s not really a word.  It is now.

I’m guessing anybody that has hung around the XBLIG scene has probably at least played the demo for Impossible Game.  Until last month, that was my only experience with it.  Now that I officially do not play demos, I sprung for the full version, with the intent of catching up to all the top-selling games.  The first thing I noticed about it?  How clunky the jump button is.  It’s slow.  There seems to be a slight delay in the game’s reaction time.  In a game that requires perfect precision with no room for error, I found the control scheme unacceptable.  I found it baffling that this was a top game.  #3 all-time selling and #10 in total rank.

Part of the problem is the only way to jump is with the A button.  None of the other face buttons are used at all.  What it could have used was jumping mapped to the bumpers.  The least resistant buttons should have had jumping on them, which would have allowed for quicker actions and smoother play.  Alas, it was not to be.  I said to myself “the idea for this game isn’t bad or anything.  If only there was a platform that did not have clunky buttons and inputs were almost completely instantaneous.  Too bad such a device is purely hypothetical.”  And while I was doing this, Brian was waving my iPhone at me.  Weeks later, I figured out why he was doing so.

So I bought Impossible Game on iPhone, and it worked just swell.  First off, the layout of the level is completely different from the Xbox version, which is a nice touch.  There’s no “push here” area.  You can pretty much push anywhere there isn’t some kind of overlay to cause the cube to jump.  There was no delay in the jumping, leaving the only challenge as the actual challenge the game is meant to have.  Fancy that.  I still wasn’t convinced the game was anything special.  You jump a cube over spikes.  It scrolls quickly.  You need to memorize the layout.  Whoopee do.  Then I noticed that over an hour has passed.  Okay, so maybe it’s a little addictive.

This was back in late April.  Since then, the Impossible Game has factored into my bathroom time, smoke breaks, TV watching, waiting rooms, and traffic jams.  Every time I made it one space closer than my previous best, I would check the stat bar to see what percentage of the first stage (we’re only talking the first of five stages here) was finished.  Finally today, after 603 total attempts (it keeps track), I fucking did it.  I beat it.  I beat a shallow, one-dimensional, total time-sink of a game.  Brian asked me if all the time I had put into it was worth it just to get this:

Totally.

The Impossible Game on Xbox 360 and iPhone was developed by FlukeDude

80 Microsoft Points and $0.99 said this is the biggest case of false advertising since the Neverending Story in the making of this review.

My intent had to go without placing any practice flags down, but I slipped at one point. Damnit all, oh well.

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