Demolition Crew

When I bought Demolition Crew, I sort of expected it to be an indie tribute to Wrecking Crew, the 1985 NES puzzle game starring Mario. I mean, the name is “Demolition CREW”, and “demolition” is a synonym for “wreck”, and besides.. look at it!

After taking this pic, it occurred to me that this might have been an attempt at making a game like Fix it Felix too.

“How odd” I thought, “who would even think to pay tribute to Wrecking Crew? It’s one of the most shit-upon black box NES titles. It was such a non-entity in the collective gaming culture that they didn’t even bother porting the Super Famicom sequel to it (yes, there’s a Wrecking Crew sequel) to North America. Most people probably don’t even know it has a sequel.”

My brain says a lot when I see things. A lot of the time, it says so much it starts leaking out of my mouth. And then I get in trouble and have to claim it was the Ambien.

Well, Demolition Crew is a tribute to a 1985 NES black box title. But actually, the game it’s a homage of is Ice Climber. The jumping physics based sometimes around breaking bricks above your head and the vertical climbing sort of make it a dead giveaway. I fucking hated Ice Climber. It’s probably the worst game Nintendo ever made. And I’ve had three words in italics this paragraph. Eh, fuck it’s, let’s make it four.

Maybe what he did was fix-it Ice Climber.

But actually, at first Demolition Crew wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either, but the concept was solid: platform your way up a building to ring the bell at the top. Along the way, you deal with moving platforms, breakable blocks, movable boxes, buttons and switches, vats of acid or pools of lava, bombs, and mummies. Remarkably, the controls feel like what we all wished Ice Climber controlled like but didn’t. It works. It works pretty good actually. I mean, the combat doesn’t. The combat has no oomph to it, and getting the timing down to smack angry squatters or mummies is brutal. Sometimes you get snowballs to throw at them, but otherwise, I sort of think the game should have eliminated the ability to fight enemies altogether. Or, at the very least, had you use items or the environment to vanquish them. Because the combat in Demolition Crew is some of the worst I’ve seen in a game. Bludgeoning a deadbeat tenant with a hammer should be more fun than it is here.

So, Ice Climber, only done right? Sounds.. okay. Yea, I can’t even pretend Ice Climber at it’s most idealized would be great or anything. But hey, okay is okay, right?! Except Demolition Crew wouldn’t even be okay. It’s be just under earning my seal of approval. The levels are just too bland and repetitive for the most part. Later levels do have much more interesting concepts, like manipulating enemies into blowing up obstructions for you, or using buttons to activate moving platforms to position bombs. These are fine. It just takes too long to get to them, and there’s a lot of dull levels before you get there. Not bad levels, but boring ones. Then again, since the worst thing a game can do is bore, I guess boring is bad.

There’s something of merit here, and with more development time this could have been a very special game. I don’t just want developer xirBX to patch Demolition Crew (though he really should patch it). I want to see more. Maybe he can turn chicken shit into chicken salad with other crappy NES era games like Balloon Fight.

And then, there’s the glitches. Only I guess the glitches must be a feature. Because the developer apparently knows about them. Up until this point, Demolition Crew was just under passing for me, but, I had finally reached some of the more complex, rube-goldberg type of stages. Mostly, I found Crew to be rough. Lots of times I’d jump and the game behaved like I’d hit a wall above my head, only there wasn’t one. This especially happens a lot when you’re next to one of the large walls that hold up the stages. But, whatever. It never really interfered all that much. If it happened once, I could always just jump again. It rarely repeated the invisible wall thing twice in a row. And then, I jumped once and landed on nothing. My character was floating in the air. Then, I tried jumping, and ruined the game. Because now could I clip right through several solid walls and was able to just glitch-jump my way past the entire stage and to the goal. I tried this on other stages and it worked on them all.

I was horrified and felt bad for the developer, because along with the rest of the roughness (one time I died from bad collision detection by hitting bricks that had a pool of lava above my head), this was the final nail in Demolition Crew’s coffin for me. It just plain feels unfinished and completely lacking polish. I see it a lot in indie development: new devs get so excited as they get a working build of their game running that they rush through the all-important play-testing phase and dump it on the market, oblivious to the fact that they’ve sent their baby out to die. I asked someone to find me the developer so I could let them know what I’d found so they could fix it and issue their Second Chance with the Chick challenge to me.

Well, apparently Demolition Crew’s developer knew about it. Because he has a tweet showing a speed runner exploiting the glitches to finish the game faster. As if it’s a good thing.

Dude, you’re supposed to patch the glitches out, and if anyone finds them before you do it, you’re supposed to kill them and any witnesses. Well, that or you just say “I’m going to fix these so enjoy them while they’re there.”

Maybe he deliberately left the glitches in specifically for the speed running community. I guess I’d prefer that over a developer just rushing his game unfinished to the marketplace. Not that leaving glitches in a game in an attempt to pander to speed runners is a good idea. Even if 50,000 of them adopted Demolition Crew as a new tent-pole game for their community at $2 a pop just so they can exploit a glitch that ruins the point of the entire game, they’ll be ignoring the actual effort that went into the levels and the logic contained therein and thus not create any appeal for the general gaming community. And besides, in my experience speed runners are really particular about what games they embrace. And a lot of the community doesn’t like glitching the games they play, so really you’re not even attracting the whole sub-culture. You’re getting a sub-sub-culture. I try to review games here and not developers, but come on dude: the draw of your game is how, when it plays well, Demolition Crew is an effective tribute to first-generation NES games. It looks the part BUT improves upon the originals, like all good classic gaming tributes should do. If it weren’t so rough and had better level design, it’d been a slam dunk for my seal of approval. Neo retro games that improve bad oldies are awesome. That’s why people would want it. That’s why *I* wanted it. I don’t get the logic in a developer showing off that their game that isn’t catching-on is riddled with glitches that can be exploited by a niche game community. It would be like a person losing their virginity offering up their newly-acquired gonorrhea as proof: desperate and kind of embarrassing.

Demolition Crew was developed by xirBX
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch

$2 couldn’t convince anyone in her family to play the game multiplayer with her in the making of this review.

Seriously xirBX: patch this shit out and ask for a redo.

Gyro Boss DX

When I started Indie Gamer Chick on July 1, 2011, the site focused on Xbox Live Indie Games. While there were a few ambitious concepts, most of the games I covered early-on here tended to be small, simple titles that cost 80 Microsoft Points. That’s approximately $1 for the uninitiated. While I’ve since started to cover larger games, over-achieving bite-sized cheapies hold a special place in my heart. Where in my heart the special place is located I’m not sure. Probably somewhere by my cholesterol dam. Also, I want to point out that while I registered the site on July 1, the first review didn’t go up until July 2. So this totally counts as my 8th anniversary review. Or 7th anniversary for you technical kill-joys out there who point out you don’t celebrate your 1st wedding anniversary on the day you’re married. Yea? Well, I beat Cuphead so suck my asshole.

Huge props to Chequered Ink for including the option to tone down intense visual effects for the photosensitive among us. That was very uncommon when I started Indie Gamer Chick eight years ago this week. Now, I see it all the time. And it still warms my heart to see it.

People on my timeline are saying Gyro Boss DX is based on Gyruss, a terrible 1983 arcade shooter by Konami. Because, you see, it has G-Y-R as the first few letters, just like Gyruss. It might be based on that, in the same way Texas Chainsaw Massacre is based on Ed Gein (because, you see, they both involve murders where the killers did weird things with the bodies, but that would mean I’m based on Ed Gein too and my parents say I’m actually based on too much rum and the pharmacy being out of birth control pills) but it sure looks more like Atari’s vector-graphics classic Tempest to me. Of course, both those games involve shooting and in Gyro Boss DX the only shooting is being done at you. And you have to dodge it by spinning around the outside of a cylinder. That’s where my (much more accurate) Tempest comparison comes from.

So yea, the titular Gyro Boss shoots a variety of bullets and other attacks at you, and you dodge that. That’s the entirety of the game. Well, as far as I can tell. I put over an hour of playtime into it, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you remember that rounds end as soon as a bullet grazes you. Or, in my case, flying straight into a bullet because my mind wanders for 1/10th of a second. Maybe there’s an end-game where you shoot back. I don’t know. I wasn’t good enough to get that far. Yea, I wasn’t great at Gyro Boss. I did like it though. I’m a sucker for unassuming arcade scoring games. Even if I suck at them. I’m a sucking sucker that sucks.

I never once died from this wave that I lovingly called “Joey Chestnut’s favorite attack pattern.”

Every attack pattern seems fair and like you should be able to clock it eventually. I mean, I didn’t. But it seems like a competent player could. The patterns are selected at random with a larger attack that dodging causes “damage” to the Gyro Boss every 90 seconds or so. You score based on how long you last. There’s fake achievements to unlock. And, if you struggle with some patterns more than others, you’ll be totally at the mercy of the RNG. Of course, there’s no consequence for dying besides starting over with a score of zero because there are absolutely no online leaderboards. For an arcade style game driven by high scores. Maybe not all that much has changed in eight years.

I really wish devs making games like this would understand that pathetic people like myself need those leaderboards to validate our existence. No global high scores means I don’t know if I’m a better Gyro Boss DX player than XxWindowLicker420xX. What if I’m not? What if I’m not even close? Should I keep playing and hope he’s not spending half as much time as I am improving or should I seek out the next score-driven game nobody will buy and hope it’s something I have a leg-up on him? Or her. It could be a her. It’s rather sexist of me to think pothead window lickers can’t be women. We can be anything!

And that’s pretty much my only complaint. In summary: Gyro Boss DX is a perfectly acceptable indie time waster that I recommend. It might even be a good party game too. I really don’t know because my family is fucking useless at bullet dodging games. Up to four-players can be placed around the cylinder, and in multiplayer, the rules might randomly change on you. You could get a round where you can’t stop moving your ship. You might have to collect coins. You might even get to attack other players by firing missiles at them. It looked like it would be fun, but sadly the longest round my family and I played lasted approximately fifteen seconds. Even the kids that play games couldn’t cut it with Gyro Boss DX, and I ended up yelling at them because they sucked so bad that I couldn’t properly evaluate the mode. I mean, god damn family, there had to have been a baby mix-up at the hospital with me and somewhere out there is a confused family of amazing gamers wondering why their daughter is the drizzling shits at dodging hotdog-shaped bullets. Fifteen fucking seconds at most? Most of our games lasted under eight seconds. EIGHT SECONDS! On the plus side, I learned my entire family would take a bullet for me. Even if they were trying not to.

So do we pronounce it “Guh-Eye-Roe” or “You’re-roe”?

Gyro Boss DX was developed by Chequered Ink
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch, Steam

$0.74 (normally $4.99) said “you’re not the (Gyro) Boss of me!” in the making of this review.

Gyro Boss DX is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

After spending eight years genuinely working hard to improve my writing skills, it’s weird to throw that all out the window in an attempt to write a throwback style IGC review from 2011. I don’t recommend any other game critics celebrating their milestones try such a thing.

Venture Kid

I imagine many NES playing kids of the 80s drew or designed Mega Man characters and bosses. It’s probably the easiest thing in the world to do. Look around your room, find objects, and then turn them into _____ Man. Once you have eight of them, just take normal Mega Man villains, make them bigger so they can be bosses for the castle stages, then slightly redesign Wily’s skullship and BAM, you have a Mega Man sequel. So if Capcom comes to me and says “we need eight bosses for Mega Man 12” you can look forward to battling Keyboard Man, Couch Man, Ashtray Man, 5-Hour Energy Shot Man, Epilepsy Dog Man, Curtain Man, Door Man, and Hair-Tie Man. Well, we’ll make Curtain Man into Curtain Woman. Gotta remember equality.

So, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that so many indies pay tribute to the Blue Bomber. Of any iconic gaming franchise from that era, Mega Man probably lends itself most to adaption. That’s why any long-time indie watcher rolled their eyes as Mighty No. 9 was raking in a kagillion dollars in crowd funding. I know I did. Having played Vintage Hero, which actually held the #1 position on the IGC Leaderboard in the pre-multiplatform era of this blog, it occurred to me that you don’t exactly need four-million dollars to turn out a half-decent Mega Man homage. Frog The Door Games did Vintage Hero on a budget of Ramen Noodles and Basic Cable and the end result was roughly a four-million times better and more Mega Manish than the game so many rubes seeded. Even 20XX, which is based more on the Mega Man X series and did nothing for me (I never liked Mega Man X either) is infinitely more inspired than Mighty No. 9.

Honestly, if you’re more of a Mega Man X fan, you’d probably enjoy 20XX. It’s basically Mega Man X as done like a roguelike. For me, I tried multiple times to sit down and work myself into enjoying it. I just couldn’t get into it. I found everything about it to be boring. I think, above all, Mega Man style games need tight, creative level design or the formula gets dull quickly and the base concept of 20XX forbid such levels.

Do you know what other game is better? Venture Kid. Only this one has been slightly more controversial than I expected, with some people suspecting that they just took original Mega Man sprites and repainted them. If it’s true, “so what?” I say. Who cares? It’s supposed to be semi-satirical. It’s really not all that different than spoof films like Scary Movie casting actors that look like the stars of the flicks they’re lampooning, is it? It’s supposed to look like Mega Man, but not at all like Mega Man. Deliberately so. So, what’s the deal? It’s not like developer Snikkabo just changed a helmet or the shading of the armor. It’s an entirely new look. What difference does it make if they just took an outline of the original sprites or if they redesigned the whole thing but with the intent to still very, very closely invoke Mega Man without it being Mega Man? Because that happens a LOT in Indieland. I’ve had tons of people who I hold much respect for shit on Venture Kid, claiming that it’s “lazy” and a “rip-off.” Really? For fuck’s sake, less than a year ago I played Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, which reskinned every aspect of Castlevania from the heroes to the enemies and nobody said “reskinning! BOOOOOO!” It stinks of a double standard. If Curse of the Moon can have the exact same enemies behaving the exact same way as they did in the 80s, only they look different, how is that different from what Venture Kid does?

Oh, it’s because it’s your chance to puff your chests out and shit on someone in no position to retaliate. Got it. Just so we’re clear: original game with mechanics taken verbatim from classic game with absolute no effort at all to differentiate those characters from the original characters besides base-level sprite repainting ala exactly what Bloodstained Curse of the Moon is: okay as long as the producer is a legend. Same circumstances but small, inexperienced indie dev ala Venture Kid: lazy ripoff. I’ll try to remember that in the future. Even if it makes no sense. I mean in theory, it should be the other way around and NOT okay for the experienced, legendary producer to do that but a great starting point for an inexperienced dev to pop their game making cherry, but what do I know?

If you wish, just tell yourself that Mega Man had to go off on an adventure but his suit was at the cleaner. Also the Venture Kid in the game looks significantly more rotund than the Venture Kid in the cover art and promos.

So yea, you’ll see a lot of familiar ideas in Venture Kid. Bosses that drop weapons you can then use. Eight levels followed by a handful of finale levels (actually, only two, which even I felt that was a bit lite). Enemies like the little helmet dudes that bullets bounce off of unless they rise up to shoot at you, only this time they’re crates instead of helmets. That’s fine. That’s sorta what you should expect in a tribute, right? I mean, y’all liked Shovel Knight, right? The game that played like DuckTales and even had enemies that behaved like other Capcom NES games. Again, what’s the difference? Is it that Shovel Knight and Curse of the Moon improved upon the NES originals or at least tired to feel modern and different? Because Venture Kid does that too.

Right away, you’ll notice the movement feels like you’d expect a Mega Man but not Mega Man game to feel like. And then you have to jump, and you’ll notice that feels completely different. The gravity is much lighter, but it doesn’t exactly feel floaty, either. It works. It seems like it won’t, but it was intuitive and adaptive, even if my brain doesn’t realize it. A lot of people complained about “last pixel jumps”, including me, where you had to get right to the edge of a ledge (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it) in order to clear a gap. BUT, I never once missed one of those jumps or ran into a pit attempting them, even if I was gulping when I tried them. So, was it really last pixel? Or was it my brain telling me “Mega Man can’t make that jump!” Mega Man couldn’t, but Venture Kid could.

Hell, there’s even a Castlevania stage. Venture Kid was a Kid Icarus stage away from being the Captain N: The Game Master release NES kids have been waiting almost 30 years for.

So they made not-Mega Man jump like Super Mario 2 Luigi without the floatiness. Big deal, right? And if that’s the only change that made me sit-up and take notice, that probably wouldn’t have been enough for Venture Kid to stand out. But then I noticed enemies were able to kill each-other with their bullets. It doesn’t factor into the game much, but it’s there and it’s a small touch that stood out to me and everyone else who sampled the Kid. That’s really Venture Kid in a nutshell: small changes that make the entire experience feel fresh. And really, Mega Man’s formula should absolutely NOT feel fresh after eleven primary games (twelve if you count Bass) and more spinoffs than Law & Order. Even the levels change things up with switches, locked doors, and a hidden item in every stage that unlocks the real last boss fight. There’s a store in the pause menu you can use to buy health refills, extra lives and stuff to help assure the item refills don’t go to waste. It’s like seeing someone you’ve known for years get a haircut. Sometimes it feels like they’re an entirely new person, even though really nothing has changed.

I’m not going to complain about the length. Some are. Some are saying the levels are too short and the finale sequence has less areas than a typical Mega Man game. Fine, I’ll complain about that part. Two finale stages is too little. But honestly, I prefer tributes to classic franchises to be a bit shorter. It’s so much more preferable to padding the length, which usually results in spotlighting flaws you otherwise missed while ogling the experience. If Venture Kid made any mistakes in this regard, it’d probably be with the bosses. They’re fine. They feel appropriately on-brand. BUT, then you encounter one that you fight while riding a mine cart that’s so insanely inspired that you wonder if they had that sort of potential for all the others and simply didn’t tap it. Now granted, I let Shovel Knight get away with less than stellar bosses so I have to for Venture Kid too, but I do so feeling like a judge letting an arsonist off on a technicality because the warrant was worded wrong. And now that arsonists is thanking me while ominously flicking their zippo.

I think I might be onto something with the whole Captain N joke.

In fact, up until the last two stages of Venture Kid, I figured this review would have to focus on the little things to complain about. Like how the opening menu has no clarification as to what difference there is between CLASSIC mode and ADVENTURE mode. Get this: classic mode has you play the first eight levels in sequential order while adventure mode lets you select which order to play them. Just like.. uh.. classic.. Mega Man? So why isn’t classic the one that lets you select the order and adventure the one that makes you go from point A to point B like an adventure? I don’t get it. Beyond that, I’d probably complained about how the inspired twisty-turny aspects of certain stages like the Egyptian one don’t factor into enough levels.

And then I got to the Dr. Wily’s Castle style end-game levels, and yeah, I now have something to complain about. Because these levels are a maddening torture chamber of design choices so poorly conceived that I’m convinced the developers are still stuck in the Mirror Universe and their goatee-wearing doppelgängers are causing mayhem. These stages are littered with instakill spikeballs with unforgiving collision detection, along with instakill “skull-balls” that orbit around a central point. That’s bad enough, but then you get to a section where the spikeballs blink in and out of existence with no graphical warning of them. When you encounter these, you’re almost guaranteed to die because the first time they appear. It happens like it was deliberately timed to happen at that point. That’s not challenge, people. That’s kicking someone in the nuts and then telling them you’re playing a game where you have to avoid getting kicked in the nuts and they just lost. You have to know a challenge is happening or else it’s just GOTCHA!

It really puckered my butthole when it happened because everything before this was so well-crafted. This moment was beneath the Venture Kid that I just played through. So was an auto-scrolling section leading to the true final boss that relied less on level design and more on the spikeballs. I think Venture Kid succumbed to relatively inexperienced developers not knowing how to make a game feel climatic. Another problem is they couldn’t decide if they wanted Venture Kid to feature linear levels or Mega Man style stage selecting. Including both sounds like a perfectly fine compromise, but when you think about it, having the option to do both still requires levels 1 – 8 to have little-to-no difficulty scaling. There’s a very small amount of sections that are made easier by using items acquired in other stages, but really you can beat the whole game with just the starting peashooter and it wouldn’t change all that much. Consequently, the final two levels feel like they’re the 9th and 10th levels of a game that scaled properly to get there, only without the scaling. You don’t do swimming lessons by teaching someone how to kick their feet for eight weeks, then strap a barbell to their feet and throw them into the deep end for week nine. I mean, I do that, but sane people don’t.

In fact, a lot of people on my timeline said those stages ruined the game for them. I’m not going there, because they didn’t for me. They were disappointing, but I still could beat them, and did. I just had to trial-and-error my way through them in a way that felt like it belonged to another, lesser game. It was unfortunate because you never want to finish any good game on a sour note, and Venture Kid ends with a degree of sourness normally restricted to laboratory conditions at the Warhead candy factory. But don’t let that distract from the fact that Venture Kid is a very good game. It’s sad to me that so many people are dismissing it as a clone of Mega Man or even a rip-off of someone else’s Mega Man tribute. This is the same community that gave four-million-dollars for a Mega Man tribute sitting on a 52% rating at metacritic. Nobody should be calling any indie a Mega Man tribute when you already gave more money to that steaming turd than you have to most charities.

The final levels do go a bit overboard on the instakill shit. Remember aspiring indie developer reading this: it DOES matter that people put the controller down, game beaten, in as good a mood as you put them in when you game was at its peak enjoyment. Otherwise they might be less likely to spread the word of it.

I hate to keep coming back to this, but the sheer amount of double standards on display from the blowback to Venture Kid is kind of shocking to me. I liked Venture Kid. There’s not a lot to it, but what is here is just plain fun from start to.. uh.. close enough to finish. It’s why I consider myself so lucky that I couldn’t give two shits about nostalgia. It keeps me from being weird about games and over-thinking whether they work or not. If I’d never played Mega Man, I know in my heart of hearts I’d liked Venture Kid every bit as much. That it set out to pay tribute to an iconic franchise is nothing more than trivia as far as I’m concerned. That being the case I probably shouldn’t have spent so much of the review talking about Mega Man. Hey, you have your double standards. I have mine!

Venture Kid was developed by Snikkabo
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch, Steam

$7.50 (normally $10, but $7.50 if you own any other Switch games published by FDG Entertainment) thanked all their fans and the entire indie community for sticking with me through my first six-hundred indie game reviews in the making of this review!

Venture Kid is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard!

Safety First

Alright everyone, pack it in. Cancel your ongoing projects. Indie gaming’s highest peak has been reached. There’s now a game on the Nintendo Switch marketplace where a stick figure pees on things. Including other stick figures. Everything that comes after this will pale in comparison on the grounds that it’s not a game about stick figures giving golden showers to each other. Meanwhile, that sound you hear coming from the east is Hiroshi Yamauchi spinning circles in his grave.

They’re trying to cover for the whole “it’s a guy peeing” thing by saying it’s a robot repairing electric cables using magical yellow repair liquid. Which is like a cop getting caught with prostitutes saying that he’s working undercover to bust them. Also I have to censor the dick. Sorry, rules are rules. I can talk about dicks until I’m blue in the face. I can describe the things I’ve done with dicks in ways that’ll assure my parents will never at their little girl the same way again. But I can’t show them.

I’m normally not a fan of the whole rag-doll physics stuff. I never fell under the siren call of QWOP or Octodad. Games that offer all the fun of being drunk, only without the fun of being drunk. I’m almost positive that line came across the way I heard it in my head. What I mean is that I’m such a play-control supremacist that the thought of games that are based around unintuitive controls I find repulsive. In Safety First, an actual game for the Nintendo Switch, you control only the legs of a stick figure using the analog sticks, while the rest of the body is dead weight. Under this premise, your goal is to position your stick figure’s stick-cock to take aim and, well, pee on targets.

Never mind Yamauchi spinning in his grave. He’s doing full backflips in it.

It’s *so stupid* and so immature. But it’s also kind of fun. Of course, a lot of the humor is based around the console we’re playing on. If Safety First was on Xbox One, I honestly don’t know if I would have laughed as hard as I did. Probably not. I thought I was better than this, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it funny that I was playing a game with stages that require you to pee on someone’s head between play sessions of wholesome Yoshi’s Crafted World. I mean, come on! That is objectively hilarious. The company that once willfully risked industry leadership by turning blood into sweat for Mortal Kombat now prominently has a game with stick figures peeing to solve puzzles on its marketplace. This is not a drill, people! The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists played a round of Safety First and moved the Doomsday Clock to one minute before midnight!

I was going to use a pic of the golden shower stage, but honestly I’d have to cover all the fun stuff with Sweeties so here’s this pic where you can’t even see the dick instead.

But, a big part of why I was able to find Safety First humorous is because it’s at least playable and decent enough. If it’d been unplayable, I think I would have actually found it cynical and offensive. Like, the stick figure dick and piss stuff would have been a crutch to hide faulty, lazy game design. That’s not exactly the case, but almost. Just enough to make me wonder if they didn’t phone it in a bit. A big problem is the stick figure is so fragile that the Knicks are planning to offer it a max contract. If you pull the legs too far apart, or if the limp upper-body sways the wrong way, the appendages get severed and you have to start the stage over. The physics seem a bit unstable, and there were times where I would barely lift a leg to aim my stick dick at one of the targets only to have the leg suddenly go flying off for a death. Or sometimes while moving, the torso would tip over and completely snap with a spurt of red blood (oh yes, it’s TOTALLY a robot), like watching a horrible limbo bar accident. Sure, I giggled like a childish twat almost every single time it happened, but it got less funny on stages where I needed twenty or more tries. The physics are just too unforgiving too often. Plus, there’s limited drips of pee per stage and no quick reset button. You’re forced to rip your legs apart in order to start over. Also, congratulations to me for using the word “limp” earlier without tying it to the stick figure dick. I’m glad I’m here.

Safety First has a “drunken, swearing German” mode where the ground sways and your piss is brown. Oh and I’m pretty sure they replaced the normal stick figure head with a silhouette of David Hasselhoff’s head. I have no words.

But, it’s fun regardless. The stages have enough variety that Safety First never gets boring. Similar to puzzle games like SpellKeeper (of which I’m sure its developer will just LOVE being mentioned in the same breath as this dandy), Safety First is best to whip out when you have a few minutes to kill. There’s no commitment really needed. Hell, it’s even fun in failure, which is rare for a puzzler. AND it has novelty value. Tell someone you’re playing a game on your Nintendo where you pee on targets, or possible go the full urolagnia monty, and soak in the faces of those listening. I did it. It’s priceless. Of course, there’s the lingering fear that someone in Kyoto will find out about Safety First and get pissed about it. We’re laughing now, but if that comes to pass, urine trouble, indies!

Safety First was developed by JCO (published by Headup Games)
Point of Sale: Switch, Steam

$2.99 said it’s probably not as funny on Steam in the making of this review.

Safety First is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. Yeah this is my jump the shark moment.

The Adventures of Elena Temple

The Indie Gamer Chick Paradox: not being nostalgic for older games, but being drawn to neo-retro games. It’s a strange phenomena, but one I’ve noticed in myself, especially lately. When browsing console or PC marketplaces, if a game is all pixel-arty in a convincing way, I’m much more likely to want to try it. I find that strange, because I’m not exactly telling kids about the glory days when all Mario needed was two buttons, a D-Pad, fireballs, and a flagpole at the end of each stage. Frankly, some of those type of gamers are kind of creepy. Like the ones who say they won’t let their kids play any modern games until they play the games of their childhood and learn to like them, or else. That’s not teaching your kids appreciation. That’s brainwashing. Really unnerving shit that turns what should be a beautiful event into something more like indoctrination into a cult.

Still, if I see something that looks like a lost older game that’s been rediscovered and released again for a new audience, it sticks out to me. The Adventure of Elena Temple takes that a step further: it’s presented to us like it really is a lost game from 1982. One that never found its audience because the hapless developer kept porting their work to generic, off-brand game consoles and personal computers nobody owned (like the Nintengo Some Toy or the Maple Computer, a Canadian Macintosh clone that sold 31 units), thus screwing themselves out ever getting recognition (or payment) for what is actually a decent little game.

I wish I was joking when I say I played XBLIGs that didn’t sell that well.

It’s a cute idea, but one that doesn’t factor into the gameplay at all besides changing the shading of the graphics. That’s a shame, because the meta-joke has legs and probably could have been worked into the concept. Like maybe each port of Elena is busted by era-specific limitations or something along those lines. What could have been a truly inspired gag becomes little more than flavor text for different color palettes of the same game. You can’t even change schemes on the fly. You have to exit out to the main menu, which is frankly inconvenient if you’re someone genuinely looking for what style is the most comfortable to use. And to be honest, because of the comedic framing with the dense creator getting conned into releasing on the wrong platforms, I actually thought each different graphics style was going to be a completely different map or even version of the game. They’re not. There is exactly one map and one map only for Elena Temple that plays the same no matter which version you use. That’s fine, but I wish it had been a bit less ambiguous. Sort of like my last home pregnancy test. It’s surprisingly difficult to interpret whether a tiny line is blue or not when you’re stressing over the effectiveness of condoms.

Also, I had to fixate on that stuff because I really don’t have very much to say about the actual content of Elena Temple. It’s fine. There’s only fifty rooms to explore and gameplay is kept very limited in order to stay true to the 1982-developed-game theme. Exploring is limited to hoping around on platforms, occasionally hitting a button or firing a gun to break jars or knock down walls. I asked myself why she had to shoot jars instead of, you know, just kicking them or picking them up and dropping them or anything really besides busting a cap in them? Who shoots a jar unless you’re a Branch Davidian or something? In fact, guns are the solution to almost everything in Elena Temple. It’s like the NRA’s wet dream. Nearly every puzzle requires shooting it, and sometimes I found myself shooting buttons I could have pressed, but you only get two bullets at a time. There’s refills scattered around the map, some of which respawn without having to leave the room and come back in it. It does work, but it never gets more involved than base-level puzzle elements. You can shoot enemies too, but there’s seriously only two types: snakes and bats, both of which can be plugged with a single bullet. It contributes to the consistent theme of Elena Temple: everything works but there’s not enough of it.

You can zoom in for a closer view if you wish, but then you can’t admire the off-brand equipment you’re playing the game on. Come to think of it, maybe Elena Temple is a scathing commentary on cheapskates buying generic brands. Fair enough, though my father insists that Soni televisions are just as good as the real thing.

To developer GrimTalin’s credit, everything that’s actually here is fun. Each room is over and done with so quickly that you don’t have time to ever get bored despite many of the rooms feeling kind of samey having very little in the way of actual content. It wouldn’t be out of the question for a first-timer to knock the game out in an under-an-hour with a 100% completion. It controls good enough to never be annoying. Jumping takes a bit to get the hang of, especially with the rooms being as claustrophobic as they are, but after ten minutes it becomes instinctive. There’s a few hidden secrets that shows the location of the eight diamonds you need to finish the game, or whether a room is finished (never found that one) or secret passages (never found that one either) but otherwise what you see is what you get. The framing device actually covers for the generic setting, traps, and enemies, which does work in the same way Microsoft claiming bugs are actually features does.

But, what’s here is actually so well made that I can’t help but think almost anyone will walk away feeling a bit unsatisfied. Elena Temple is one of those games that strives for authenticity, achieves it, and it’s not entirely to the game’s betterment. It’s too simple and too straight-forward and doesn’t have enough going for it. And clearly GrimTalin understands that gaming has come a long ways, because without the one modern concession it does make (unlimited lives and thus no game-overing), Elena Temple would have certainly been too frustrating. You know, like 99% of all the games it’s paying homage to. Maybe that’s as far as GrimTalin could take it without betraying the theme, but I don’t know. The most randomly strange thing I could “complain” about in the game is that the Elena character is perhaps too tall. Hear me out: she’s roughly 1/5 the size of the playfield, with the spikes, coins, snakes, etc being half-as-tall as she is. If she was shorter, along with things like the spikes and coins and traps and enemies being smaller, rooms could have been bigger and thus been made more elaborate. I don’t know why, but it’s something that was in the back of mind nearly my entire session with it. Or maybe I’m off my rocker and it just needed more rooms. Probably just more rooms would work. And enemies. And traps. And weapons. And.. really it just needed more.

This is what a sucker I am: I actually found a blue/yellow color scheme to be the easiest on my eyes, but played in the gross Game Boy mock-up because my fans liked the authenticity of it. That’s how it starts. Next thing you know I’ll be dancing on command.

But it doesn’t need more to be fun. Elena Temple already is fun. The stuff I’m suggesting is merely to push it to a higher level. And, while the stages are basic, they’re not exactly crap either. Elena Temple never bores, and is inexpensive enough that you don’t feel ripped-off by the length. Unlike some other shorter titles that have little in the way of innovation, like Sigi, it feels like what we do have here is fully fleshed out. Like a gourmet chef took bland ingredients and made something very delicious with them without resorting to seasoning or other culinary trickery. When I went to determine Elena’s leaderboard position, I was actually taken off guard by how high it ended up. So if I came across like I didn’t like it, it’s only because what was here was so good that I realized Catalin Marcu’s only sin was not aiming higher. Hardly a sin at all, really. What do you call something that is close to a sin but not? I was going to say “a blowjob”, but I looked into it and it turns out that actually is a sin. I didn’t know that! Well, my next confession on Sunday just got awkward.

The Adventures of Elena Temple was developed by GrimTalin
Point of Sale: Switch, Steam

$2.99 (normally $4.99, really $2.99 should be the permanent price) asked why explorers in all these games break the priceless antique vases instead of, you know, gathering them to donate them to a museum in the making of this review?

Elena Temple is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

TORIDAMA: Brave Challenge

It’s #DiscoverIndies Friday. But, while I’m the creator of the movement, it’s harder than it sounds for me to actually participate. I’m a game critic who purchases all the indies I review. That requires a lot of marketplace browsing. There’s not too many games I’ve missed. So I have to cruise closely towards new releases. And very, very early this morning, I found my hidden gem. It’s called TORIDAMA: Brave Challenge. It’s a cross between WarioWare and Chicken. Not in the bucket of fried sense, but as in, “how close can you come to dying without actually doing it?” I’m a chain smoker, recovering drug addict, and a video gamer that suffers from epilepsy who is currently running through older, flashier titles. Guys, this game was fucking made for me!

This seems slightly like jabbing the hornet’s nest with a stick.

For example, there’s a game literally based on Chicken with a car. There’s a car. There’s a cliff. You have to hit the break to stop the car as close to the cliff as possible without going over. It sums up the concept of Toridama best. Press button to not die, but come close enough to kick the Grim Reaper in the balls. Which probably should have been a game in it now that I think about it. There’s only nineteen total minigames in Toridama, but really, how many variations of this concept can you possibly squeeze out? As it turns out, not even nineteen. There’s an RPG style minigame where you have to stop a meter as close to the center of a bar as possible. Yes, you can choose to run away, but success requires you to keep trying the meter. It sort of betrays the theme, but really all the games are about timing stuff. Probably the one furthest away from the core concept requires you to cook meat using lava by tapping the button to keep yourself as close to the edge of the lava as possible over the course of ten seconds. Yea, you’re still kinda tempting death and testing your courage, but it doesn’t compare to a game based around waiting to open your parachute as close to the ground as possible. I.. uh.. wasn’t so good at that one.

To be clear: it’s a great theme for a game. It’s clever. But Toridama is relatively light on content and what games we do have wear thin quickly. And some of them are extremely fickle about what constitutes a failure or a pass. Each game has a maximum score of 9,999 points. But with some games, there’s apparently so thin a line between scoring in the 5K range, scoring the 10K, or failing that it feels less like skill and more like sheer luck. And that extends to the online leaderboard, which you land on via “Crazy Mode” that requires you to score 9,000K or more or to advance to the next game. The games are thrown at you in random order and I was fucked more than once over 200+ attempts at posting a big score on the board. Filling a Martini glass with “juice” (uh huh, nice way to dodge that T or M rating), getting it right to the lip and still only scoring in the 5K range? Seriously? Who fills that tall away? Alcoholics don’t. It means more booze you have to slurp from the table. Or the carpet.

TORIDAMA is apparently multiplayer-focused, but unless that’s ALL you use it for, you won’t find it fun.

Toridama starts you with a single player mode that fires three random games at players and rates how big or little a chicken you are. Its only purpose really is to unlock all the games and Crazy Mode. You’ll never want to touch it afterwards, since scoring three really good scores in a row is hard enough. You’ll regret not playing Crazy Mode since those can go towards your online score. And there’s a multiplayer mode, but it suffers the same fate so many games do: the person who owns the game will have a significant advantage over friends trying to compete. One that is probably insurmountable. I played against basically everyone in my family and never lost a single match. My family sucks, as evidenced by the fact that I’m part of it, but still, it’s telling that multiplayer is the focus of the package (2 Player mode being the first option in the menu) and yet the actual multiplayer mode really isn’t very fun.

As of this writing I’m #33 on the global leaderboard. While I wish I could brag about this, it really feels like the ordering of games lucked me into this spot. Still, top ranked American. Could be worse.

Now, take this whole review with a heaping spoonful of salt. I love WarioWare and I’m predisposed to enjoying any collection of microgames. And I did have fun with Toridama. But what’s here feels light on content and destined to get old quickly. It’s satisfying to stop a bomb just 0.03 seconds before it detonates. It is fun to let an alligator come this close to eating your face only to back away at the last possible moment. But Toridama is too random and not tightly enough designed to keep anyone focused on it. Which is ironic, since it counts on people with incredible short attention spans to be its audience in the first place. It took me two-and-a-half hours just to finish that this last paragraph!

TORIDAMA: Brave Challenge was developed by G-Mode
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch

$3.50 (normally $5) noted G-Mode found my G-Spot in the making of this review.

TORIDAMA is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

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Left-Right: The Mansion

I’ve played good ideas made badly, and dumb ideas made well. Left-Right: The Mansion is one of those heartbreaking “dumb idea made badly” type of games. Now I’ll be honest: I don’t even remember buying this. I apparently had a seizure afterwards. But going off the marketplace page, I expected one of those “escape room” type of games with puzzle elements. There’s nothing like that here. The idea is you’re given a left door and a right door. One of them leads to another room. One of them leads to a dead-end that forces you to start the sequence of rooms over. That sounds fine, right?

I spent almost $4 on this 😦

Well, there’s actually no way to tell which door is the correct door and which one is the dead-end. 50-50 odds. A coin-flip. Pure luck. You can’t study the layout of the rooms for clues. There are none. There’s no use for power-of-deduction. It’s completely random chance. The gameplay comes from the fact that the correct order remains the same for each floor, each play-session. So basically you’re playing the Ralph Baer classic Simon with only two options instead of four and without knowing what the next move is. Yea, this is one of the worst ideas for a game I’ve seen in over seven years.

I really don’t have that much to say about this one. I honestly think this wasn’t something designed for grown-ups. The very, very tame horror setting and the concept are more suitable for very young children. I tested this out on a few kids. Ones age 8 and upwards found Left-Right: The Mansion to be boring. The seven-year-old wanted to keep playing, and in fact just came in the room as I was typing this to ask if they could play more of it. Take that for what it’s worth. The issue is I can’t review from the perspective of a seven-year-old. I can only continue to behave like one. Left-Right: The Mansion is one of the worst games on Switch and no amount of infinite modes or “challenge modes” (really the same game with a time limit) help. It’s boring. Who would look at Simon and say “what this really needs is two less buttons and the element of random chance?” I made it about halfway through before finally surrendering to instead do anything else. Shampooing my carpets has never looked more exciting.

Left-Right: The Mansion was developed by Triple Boris
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch

$3.59 (normally priced $3.99, yea I even pre-ordered this, derp) noted the seven year old REALLY wants the Switch back so parents, this could very well raise your kids for you in the making of this review.

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