FortressCraft and CastleMinerZ

There were two reasons I’ve avoided the whole Minecraft craze and most of the clones that have followed in its wake.  I figured I would either not get into them, or I would get too into them.  I decided temperance was the best solution.  Then again, I wasn’t expecting hundreds of requests for these reviews.  Requests that come from people who already own and are fans of these games.  I’m not sure why they want to know what I think, especially if they already like them.  I guess my opinion is just that cool.

Well, while I certainly won’t argue that they’re badly made games (they’re not), I now have the verification I need that this genre isn’t for me.  Probably.  I mean, I couldn’t get as deep as I wanted in either of them due to my epilepsy, but I think I played enough to get the gist of it.  I’ll start with FortressCraft.

xboxboxartYou know how there are people who will get a set of Legos and come up with the craziest contraptions on their own?  Yea, I’m not one of those people.  When I was a kid, I would get a set of Legos, whip out the instructions, follow them to the T, and once completed, never touch that set again.  I just don’t have the imagination to take a set designed for, say, Indiana Jones, and create my own Starship Enterprise from it.  I’m just as bad at playing sandbox games.  I need a specific goal when I play.  FortressCraft has no goal.  If you’re the creative type, hell, it’s probably exactly what you’re after.  I tried to set a project for myself: a giant version of my Sweetie character.  The little angry yellow-faced monster thing in my logo.  But the monument never quite came out looking the way I envisioned.

Give me the world to mess around with and I couldn't come up with anything to do.

Give me the world to mess around with and I couldn’t come up with anything to do.

I also had issues with the speed of building.  This won’t be typical for most people.  Unfortunately, the little ray-gun building thing that allows for faster construction is also what nearly triggered my epilepsy.   So I was stuck using the slow-as-constipated-shit pick-axe.  I don’t think it would have mattered either way.  If you like to build voxel-style and want a clean slate to do it with, FortressCraft might be for you.  For me?  Not so much.  This is a Lego set without my instructions.  It leaves me like a flock of sheep without a border collie: utterly useless.

xboxboxart1CastleMinerZ has more of a point.  There’s zombies.  I mean, hey, zombies!  Who doesn’t love zombies?  I’m fucking shocked that General Mills hasn’t added a zombie to their Monster Cereal lineup.  Probably something that would taste like a blander version of Cap’n Crunch, only with stale marshmallows.  Yea, I’m stalling.  The truth is, whereas I could avoid having a seizure by not firing the build gun in FortressCraft, there was no way to avoid my personal epilepsy trigger in CastleMinerZ.  There’s a lightning effect that seems to go off fairly regularly in the background.  Thus, I was limited to smaller, shorter sessions.  But even without the lightning stuff, I wouldn’t have been able to get into this.  I’m not into the concept of zombies or voxel building.  Getting into something that centered around both would probably be a sort of miracle.

I did almost get into a game mode that requires you to run as far away from your spawning point as possible.  Unfortunately, in order to play this successfully, you typically have to be able to look up, so as to see and shoot the zombies.  Looking up wasn’t really an option for me, unless I wanted to do my best impression of someone holding onto an electric fence.  What would have helped was some kind of radar, so that I could tell where the zombies were spawning in at.  However, what little I did monkey around with in the zombie shooting department slightly disappointed me, as it felt like there was no “oomph” to capping the undead.  There’s so many games that involve shooting zombies, I’m really to the point where the act of killing them has to be satisfying in and of itself.  Otherwise, it’s just as stimulating as shooting those mechanical ducks at the carnival.

I saw more dragons in five minutes of CastleMinerZ than eleven hours (at least that's what it felt like) of watching The Hobbit.

I saw more dragons in five minutes of CastleMinerZ than eleven hours (at least that’s what it felt like) of watching The Hobbit.

If you’re into building stuff, you can do that too in CastleMinerZ.  I couldn’t.  Again, I tried to create Sweetie, and again it came across looking like a smiley face with two pink horns sticking out of its head.  Then again, my logo isn’t exactly the most complex thing in the world and I can’t draw it on paper either.  I think games like this or FortressCraft or Minecraft are probably designed with artistic types in mind.  I’m certainly not that.  Even in Terraria, I did NONE of the building when I played our main world with Brian.  When I made my own world, the building were really just boxes with doors that took minimal effort to make.  If you’re a into building stuff, you might like these games.  They seem to play pretty well from a technical standpoint.  I can’t compare them to Minecraft, but the graphics were crisp, the framerate was consistent (though CastleMiner had the occasional hiccup), and the controls are accurate.  I guess.  But I’m certainly not among this game’s target demographic, and my opinion shouldn’t factor into your purchase of either of these titles.  I’m not really great at building things.  Except animosity among Shenmue fans.

FortressCraft was developed by Projector Games (240 Microsoft Points asked if the whole “world is cooking” thing is what Al Gore warned us about).

CastleMiner Z was developed by DigitalDNA Games (80 Microsoft Points have a boyfriend who is PISSED about the Hobbit joke)

Please note: I know that for some people, the whole epilepsy and games thing is a sensitive subject and they get very vocal about how games don’t cater to their needs.  For me, my doctor has made it perfectly clear to me: playing games is a risk, period.  I can alleviate some of those risks through proper lighting, distance, and medication, yes.  But, if a game gives me a seizure, it’s my fault, not the developer’s.  If you have a preexisting condition such as me, I sympathize with you, but I also ask you to assume personal responsibility.  I don’t expect developers to cater to my relatively rare condition, and you certainly shouldn’t DEMAND it like I’ve seen some people do.  I’ve found that in my nearly two years of being Indie Gamer Chick, developers want to learn about my condition.  I’m guessing they do that because I’m cool about it, and assume all the risk myself.  So while I couldn’t fully play a game like CastleMinerZ, that’s my circumstance.  If you’re an asshole to developers, you’re not helping.  They’re eager to be educated, not yelled at.  I generally start by pointing them in the direction of the Epilepsy Foundation.  But seriously, just be cool and you’ll find they’re receptive.  Indies especially.


I’ve never played Minecraft.  Or FortressCraft.  Or CastleMiner.  Or any number of other voxel-type crafting games that are more trendy now than tramp stamps.  Incidentally, I don’t have a tramp stamp either.  I guess I’m not a very trendy person.  But, there’s no malice behind my ignorance of the crafting scene.  I just haven’t played it because it doesn’t look like something I would have fun with.  Yea, I started Indie Gamer Chick to have new experiences, but I was thinking more along the lines of games that simulate what it’s like to be a penguin in heat, or a game where you fling mashed potatoes at gophers.  Let this be said: if you hate something without playing it, you’re an idiot.  To all of you guys who denounce Minecraft, FortressCraft, CastleMiner, or any other crafting game that you haven’t even played, you’ve really lost the plot.  I know trying to appeal to the irrational core of gamers is silly, but I figure I should at least try.

Obvious joke warning: Minecraft…..IN SPAAAAAAACCCEEEEEEEEEE!!!

I can’t compare Xenominer to something I haven’t played, so this final Uprising review will be somewhat unique.  I go into it with no preconceived notions of what to expect.  I have no bias acquired from the games it borrows elements from.  This is a slate so clean you could perform surgery on it.

So I started the game and went through a brief tutorial that made me suck up various blocks and then reposition them in the open world.  First thing I noticed: the graphics are clean.  Second thing: the jumping is really good.  Like, almost Metroid Prime good.  Third, the frame rate was really good.  Hey, this might not be so bad, I thought.  Then the game wanted me to suck up ice to replenish my dwindling oxygen.  This was a problem.  Although I got as far as “ice = shiny” I couldn’t actually tell the difference between an ice block and a crystal block.  Even with a TV large enough that it’s one of the seven wonders of the world, the text that identifies the blocks is practically microscopic.  It’s also written in an alpha-numeric font, which never looks good when it’s smaller than an ant’s penis.

Most of the HUD displays are too small, but I was able to suck up the ice and covert it to oxygen.  And then the sun went to rise up.  This causes radiation to rain down upon you.  The game warned me to take shelter.  So I dug myself down a few blocks and covered myself up with them.  I wasn’t sure how long to wait, and I didn’t want to press my eyeballs up against the TV to find out, so I undug myself and ended up irradiated.  So I redug myself and waited for the sun to pass.  Most games that makes you wait for stuff to happen are probably not going to win any Nobel Prizes for Fun.  I did attempt to pass the time by drilling deeper, but then my battery ran out of juice, and then I ran out of oxygen, and then I expired.  Sigh.

Upon respawning, the sun was still up and I instantly started taking damage.  I did survive and was tasked with building something that required copper.  I fucking turned over half the world looking for the shit, going through more oxygen tanks than a 70-year-old chain smoker.  After an hour (including more respawns) I had found the silicon I needed, but no copper.    Xenominer was unquestionably going to be a time sink.  I tend to view such games favorably.  Hell, there’s two time sinks on my top 10 list: Miner Dig Deep and Smooth Operators.  But I had fun with those.  Once I noticed how much time had passed versus the amount of fun I had up to that point (which would be none), I couldn’t hit the power button fast enough.  I’ve talked with other XBLIG reviewers and they agree: Xenominer doesn’t get you off to a quick enough start, like all great time sinks do.  Some more direction.  Just a big enough push to get you feeling like you’re actually accomplishing stuff.  But there is none.

No, there’s no killer space bees or space ants. Too bad. That might have livened things up.

So my first real crafting game is in the books.  I didn’t really hate it, because it controlled really well (can’t stress enough how good the jumping physics feel) and the graphics held up.  Mostly.  Actually, the game starts skipping the more you walk around.  I wanted to test how bad it was, so I decided to walk in a straight line with a stopwatch and time how long it would take to start skipping.  Ready for this?  It took less than two seconds per a pause (the average was about 1.7 seconds) .  When the game freezes every two seconds, chances are it might not be quite done yet.  Maybe Xenominer is in an early beta stage, and something amazing will come of it.  I could see myself getting totally hooked into it, just like I did with Miner Dig Deep.  Xenominer’s biggest problem is that it has nothing to hook you in early.  If games are drugs, then picture Miner Dig Deep as heroin.  Every good drug pusher knows you have to hook ’em early, and that game does it.  Xenominer, on the other hand, doesn’t offer you the drug until it makes you watch a documentary on grass growing and the latest episode of the World Series of Paint Drying Watching.  Thanks, but I’ll just say no.

Xenominer was developed by Gristmill Studios

80 Microsoft Points said the Uprising had a 44.44% success rate at making the Leaderboard.  In other words, the promotion had the same success rate as any nine random XBLIGs would have had in the making of this review.

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