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.

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

Check out the latest reviews at Indie Gamer Team!

Maize, Haunted Island, 99Vidas

SpiritSphere DX

SpiritSphere DX is the Clamato of gaming. For those of you lucky enough to have never heard of Clamato, it’s a “beverage” we have in the US (and I use that term purely ironically) which combines tomato juice (which I love) with the steamed bodily fluids of what some people insist on calling “clams”, when really what they are is bottom-feeding, armor-plated sea-vaginas (oddly enough, that’s also what my detractors say I am). People pay money for this. Many add it to cocktails, which makes sense to me since I would need to be properly blitzed before I would ever consider letting that disgusting swill drain into my digestive track.

SpiritSphere DX for the Nintendo Switch isn’t really disgusting, but the combination is every bit as baffling from a “what kind of madness saw potential in THIS combination?” point of view. And what’s that combination?

How about crossing Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX for the Game Boy Color with Tennis. Any Tennis basically. Or Pong since that’s more gamey.

Bonkers.

The girl I’m playing as is named “Lin.” K.

Now I’ll be honest: I played Link’s Awakening DX once. I finished it, but of all the 2D Zelda games, it was the weakest and left the least impression on me. I vaguely remembered having some sort of “use the sword to knock an attack back at the enemy” section where it basically turned into an extended tennis-with-swords part of the game, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember if it was a boss or a minigame. It was a boss. The shadowy version of Agahnim from Link to the Past, and there was no “volley” part of it. Just knock the attack back at the enemy and that was that. Still, someone clearly liked the idea of turning that into a full-fledged Zelda-meets-Tennis game because that’s what SpiritSphere DX is.

And it’s sooooooo boring. The problem is the pace of the matches is too slow to be exciting, and without excitement, what’s the point? Wacky “can only be done in video games” sports are one of my favorite unsung genres, and a tennis game with swords and items sounds like maybe it can be fun. But the ball glides back and forth at such a casual pace that it’s just a snoozer, and even during extended volleys it doesn’t gain enough speed. You can eventually unlock a “fast sphere” for matches (through an overly-convoluted and apparently random coin-grindy shop thingy) but even that feels off. Games of SpiritSphere DX feel like watching two old people pass a wadded up piece of paper back and forth.

Probably the best ball to use is the “item ball” which, like the name suggests, drops items. Some of those are inspired, like a shield that you can place anywhere on your side of the court for added defense. Others, like the bow & arrow, are used to temporarily stun your opponent. That sounds nifty, but it comes with two problems. First, you still have to be paying attention to the ball, which makes getting clean and accurate shots off a bit of a chore. Of course, the ball is erosion-slow, so it’s not too hard to keep up with. But, if you become skilled at using the bow and play against anyone who isn’t, SpiritSphere DX suddenly becomes a game of the Golden State Warriors versus your local high school girl’s JV team. The bomb item does that too. Unless you play the single-player mode, you won’t grind up coins fast enough to add variety to the multiplayer matches (which, again, you unlock randomly, horrible choice), but if you grind up coins to add variety to the multiplayer matches, you won’t find an opponent equal to the challenge of the skills you’ve picked up. And since SpiritSphere DX is local-multiplayer-only, you might struggle to find someone able to keep pace with you. The single-player campaign can only stimulate you for so long. In my case, it was a single play-through that took me about fifteen minutes. Not a lot of value there.

This is the tabletop mode. It’s neat and it works, but the problem is you’re still playing a dull game with it.

The one and only curio that held anyone in my circle of family and/or friends attention was the tabletop mode, where two players hold opposite ends of the fully-assembled Switch and use the screen like one of those old Ms. Pac-Man cocktail machines. It works, but it’s still the same, boring game and the novelty of the layout gets old quickly. I feel horrible because developer Eendhoorn did nothing wrong here, mechanically speaking. SpiritSphere DX has accurate, responsive controls and a nice, simple visual style that invokes nostalgia successfully. The game isn’t broken, and he did his best to break up the monotony with a variety of maps and characters, each with their own special moves or quirks. I *wanted* to like it, because it looks like it should be fun. But it’s not. It’s boring, and there is nothing worse a game can be than boring. You know what? You can’t know it won’t work until you try, and so all credit to him for trying. I hope Eendhoorn keeps this indie development thing up though, since actual talent is on display here, even if the concept was DOA. I mean, it didn’t work. Dead on Arrival, not Dead or Alive. It wasn’t anything like DOA the game series. Not enough boobies, among other things.

SpiritSphere DX was developed by Eendhoorn
Point of Sale: Switch (non-DX version on Steam)

$10 said everything is better with boobies in the making of this review.

%d bloggers like this: