King Oddball

There are a lot of Angry Bird clones in indie land. With the market so crowded, it’s tough to stand out. King Oddball tries to be different enough that people watching it will say “it’s like Angry Birds, but..” Laugh if you will, but that “but..” is pretty valuable to have in a crowded market. If you get saddled with just “like Angry Birds” and let it linger there like that, you get dismissed instantly. In the case of King Oddball, it’s “like Angry Birds, but.. you’re blowing up military vehicles with a giant stone pitching smaller stones at the vehicles using your swinging tongue.” You know, just like the Ottomans did.

I appreciate the utter insanity of King Oddball. It harkens back to the days when video games didn’t need to make a lick of sense. I also appreciate the value it offers. $7 nets you a pretty decent amount of levels plus a ton of specialized extra challenges. And calling this an Angry Birds clone is a tiny bit lazy on my part. The mechanics are totally different, with a bigger emphasis on timing and combos. You get three shots in each stage, and can earn extra ones if you kill three or more baddies, or if the rocks bounce back to the king. Well, except when they bounce back and randomly kill the king, in an apparent attempt at a quirky Easter Egg.

While we’re on that subject, another “Easter Egg” is sometimes the tongue will just randomly be smaller. It’s a rarity. It only happened to me once the entire time I was playing the PS4 version, but it was hugely infuriating when it happened. I actively wondered if I had the ability to adjust the tongue-size the entire time, and spent the next five minutes pressing every combination of buttons on the PS4 pad trying to recreate it, cussing a blue-streak the whole time. As it turns out, this is just a random occurrence, sort of the developers trolling the players. On one hand, I’m guessing my reaction is exactly what they were aiming for, and that’s admirable in an Andy Kaufman sort of way. On the other hand, it’s just plain fucking annoying. You can’t call something like that an Easter Egg. That would be like designing a car and saying one of the features is the airbag will randomly go off whenever you’re driving above 60MPH.

I genuinely had fun on with King Oddball, especially when I was carting it around on my PlayStation Vita. Games like this belong on portable platforms, where you’re free to kill anywhere between one minute to one hour or longer, quit at any time, and lose nothing. And, despite all the problems I’m about to bring up, I wanted to see King Oddball through to the end. Plus I fully intend to knock out some of the bonus challenges (stuff like clearing levels in a single shot, or using grenades instead of rocks) whenever I have time in need of murdering.

King Oddball has a lot of problems. It’s not a particularly difficult title. Most of the later stages I cleared out in under a minute or two. Maybe I had just gotten good at it, but the game fails to scale up enough. With the exception of when I was playing on Indie Gamer Chick TV (my suckiness on there I chalk up to performance anxiety), the longest it took me to finish any stage was about five minutes, for this one. It wasn’t unusual for me to string together ten or more stages that I cleared out on my first attempt, even late in the game. And then you get to the finale. It took me about a minute to finish the final stage, at which point a boss battle opens featuring a giant tank. I was actually amped up for this climatic moment. Fourteen seconds later, on my very first attempt, it was over and the credits were rolling. This is the equivalent of one of those finale fireworks on the Fourth of July being a dud. The look of disappointment on my face was later described as “heartbreaking, as if you had just learned of the existence of puppy cancer.”


This shows me playing the final stage I hadn’t cleared (under a minute to finish) and the boss fight (14 lousy seconds).

Maybe I just got lucky. There’s no real way of knowing. There’s no scoring system for the stages, like most games in this genre have. No three star ratings, or gold trinkets, no anything. They’re over and you move on. This of course means no online leaderboards, and thus no way of telling if I’m just fucking insanely awesome from all this indie gaming or if King Oddball really is too damn easy. Oh sure, you do quickly unlock a “diamond mine” that allows you to replay all the stages you’ve cleared, and where the special object is to beat the stages again without using your final rock. But this actually kind of ticked me off. I had already beaten many of the stages with two or fewer rocks remaining, and now you mean to tell me that didn’t count? Fuck that. Some of those incredible shots I made were so lucky that I could never hope to recreate them. Not even on accident. It seems like this diamond stuff should have been part of the main game itself.

The physics of the rocks, which are not uniformly round, often left me screaming in emotional agony.

The physics of the rocks, which are not uniformly round, often left me screaming in emotional agony.

So clearly King Oddball has a lot to dislike about it. But, and I can’t stress this enough, it’s also one of the most addictive experiences I’ve had at Indie Gamer Chick. That might just be on me, but sometimes I finish a game and then have to go back to do all the extracurricular stuff in it just to “get it out of my system.” King Oddball is the king of that in 2014 so far. Over the course of writing this review, I had to go back to, ahem, “check it against my notes” about five to six times. All the silly extra challenges are worth a look (except the Diamond crap). Hell, there’s even an entire second world. The way you unlock it is silly and a waste of time (why not just have it unlock when you beat the game?) but at least real effort was put into it, instead of it just being mirrored versions of the original stages. It’s an anomaly for sure: both ambitious and unambitious, King Oddball packs a ton of content, but it could have used more reasons to keep you interested. I can easily recommend it, but I can also see why it leaves many players feeling blue-balled.

King Oddball logoKing Oddball was developed by 10tons Ltd.

IGC_Approved$6.99 (Cross-Buy PS4 & Vita) noted that I could have saved $4 and picked this up on iPad instead in the making of this review.

King Oddball is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

 

 

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David

I played the PC version of this game. It is out for Mac and iOS as well and I cannot speak for how it plays on those platforms.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one when I read the description. Hell, even after watching the trailer, I still wasn’t sure what to expect when I booted it up. What you see is a square flying around as it throws things at a number of other shapes. While it’s clear something is happening, it’s unclear exactly what until you try it for yourself.

The "Skittles" are what you shoot at enemies.

The “Skittles” are what you shoot at enemies.

Playing the part of a square named David, you are on a quest to destroy a number of evil, polygonal figures with your “slingshot”. This slingshot is your only attack and uses a drag and release method of mouse control that requires a bit of precision in setting up and launching your attacks against the quadrilateral onslaught.

To avoid enemy fire, or the enemies themselves as they have a tendency to launch their entire bodies at you, you bounce around each stage with the WASD keys. It can be tricky at first and I’d be lying if I didn’t say my hand cramped up a bit, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to excel at. During the time that the game flows at its “normal” speed, movement itself feels similar to that of Super Meat Boy. The majority of your time, however, you are in a slowed down state as you charge up and aim your shots. In this altered state, you plot out where you’re going to move next and where you should attack next. The experience leaves you feeling like you’re a leaf on the wind after some practice.

Huh?

Huh?

The only thing in the game that had my head scratching is the use of confusing symbols used in some of the game over screens. Perhaps there are some universal meanings behind them but the only way I discovered what they meant was through trial and error. (Yes, the screenshot to the right was taken from my phone. Shush.)

This is a short game and it won’t take long to get through the “easy” version of the missions. Taunting you, however, is the fact that in order to truly beat the game, you need to run through the missions again on the hard difficulty in order to reach the final boss. The stages all play exactly the same except unlike in easy mode you have a fair amount of hit points, hard mode leaves you hanging with only one. Deaths in this mode are frequent but limitless and they rarely feel “cheap” and that you cannot improve upon what you tried before.

All of this may sound like a lot but by the time you complete the ninth mission and replay the missions at a harder difficulty, you discover that at some point along the way you got really good at this game. Completion only took me about an hour but at its price point, it’s well worth the cost and it’s fun and easy to pick up. The game sucks you in without you even noticing it and completing the more difficult missions feels satisfying.

davidlogo

David was developed by Fermenter.

IGTlogo-01For $2 (temporarily $1) you, too, can help me translate the glyphs in that menu system in this fun adventure.

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