The Last Tinker: City of Colors

UPDATE: When I played the Last Tinker, after completing the two tutorial tasks, I didn’t have enough money to advance the plot of the game and had to grind money for thirty minutes. It turns out, I had triggered a rare glitch that led to me not having enough money to proceed. The guys at Loot Entertainment and developer Mimimi Productions finally were able to replicate what I had unwittingly done. I have an uncanny knack for finding the worst glitches in games. Because the slow pace of the game was unquestionably my biggest gripe with the Last Tinker, and the pace I played was dictated by the extremely slow start (caused by a glitch), the Last Tinker has jumped over 100 spots on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

As a kid, Banjo-Kazooie represented a defining moment in my life. While the original PlayStation (and Crash Bandicoot specifically) was the first game that I wanted, Banjo was my first gaming obsession. I received it on July 11, 1998, and I could not put it down. I bring this up because I think there’s a strong possibility I would have had the same reaction to The Last Tinker: City of Colors if I had been a nine-year-old when it released. It’s a family friendly adventure that parents can safely let their children play without warping their minds. Then again, my parents banned me from playing most M rated games, and I think I might be a certifiable psychopath if the way I treat my Sims is any indication. Plus I use the word “fuck” so much that my dog thought that was her name for the longest time.

Actually, the comparisons to Banjo probably aren’t good ones. In terms of gameplay, Tinker reminded me a lot more of another Rare title: Star Fox Adventures. All jumping is done automatically, combat is button mashy, you rely on semi-controllable AI helpers to solve puzzles, and the pacing is so slow it can be measured by the cycles of the moon. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, at least if you’re a young’in without the accumulated experience of dozens of games that do what Tinker does, only they did it better. UPDATE: the rest of this paragraph is not accurate, as I had triggered a glitch in the game that caused these pacing issues. However, I fully expect the speed of progression to test the patience of anyone older than, say, twelve. The opening bits of the story and tutorial can take hours to get through. It simply shouldn’t take so fucking long to get into the meat of the game. And the way it feels artificially padded only serves to frustrate more. Initially, your goal is to raise money to enter a race. Players are led to believe that completing two “learn the mechanics” tasks will earn them enough money to enter. It doesn’t. Not even close. Instead, you have to walk around smashing crates and jars. I actually had smashed every crate up to this point and it still took me an extra thirty minutes of walking back and forth, smashing the same crates over and over again until I had enough money. It’s completely unnecessary busy-work and it’s incredibly boring. What were they thinking?

Update: The two tasks described above should be enough money to enter the race.  I had triggered a rare glitch that caused me to not get the money for completing one of the tasks. They are correcting the glitch. It’s almost impossible to accidentally recreate it. Ain’t I lucky?

I swear, this is NOT what it looks like.

I swear, this is NOT what it looks like.

I wasn’t sure if Tinker would recover from the disastrous opening. The only shinning spot early on was where it really did manipulate my emotion by having your best buddy, a mouthy little critter that looks like it was lifted from Viva Pinata, get punched in the nose. The game transitions to night, where you watch it lay in bed, having an unhappy dream and quivering. Then a little ghost color spirit thing talks about how your buddy isn’t doing so well. Then they show it quivering while it sleeps again. Hold on, there’s something wrong with my eyes. They appear to have some kind of leak. Wait, am I crying over this? Just a few minutes ago I was pissed that the game was dragging its ass like a dog with worms, and now I’m genuinely saddened by this little paper mache goat thing getting a little smack in the nose? Hell, I spent the last hour punching every friendly NPC way harder than that, just for the lulz. Now, I’m shedding actual tears.

Well played, Last Tinker.

And really, from this point forward, the pace does pick up. Not that it gets off to a great start. The first real stage takes place in a fortress where you have to sneak past guards, in a scene that feels as if it was lifted directly from the opening stage of Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. In fact, it’s so close to that game that it feels awkward. Forced stealth sections are the kidney stones of gaming, in that it feels good once you pass them, but only because enduring them is pure agony. Thankfully, that’s the last section where the tedium outranks the enjoyment. While nothing after this will surprise you or leave you thinking you’ve played something truly inspired, Tinker is an overall very decent game.

It’s also worth noting that the graphics are striking. When I played The Last Tinker on Indie Gamer Chick TV, a lot of people commented on how damn colorful the game is. Perhaps it’s because we’re used to indies being painted so bleakly that they’re responsible for a 20% increase in cutting among gamers, but seriously, The Last Tinker really stands out. It’s been a while since a game has come along that’s so cheerful that you can’t help but notice it. Yet, this is exactly the kind of game that Rare would have put out during their Nintendo 64 heyday. The story (a thinly-disguised tale about racial tolerance), characters, and setting all would feel at home on Nick Jr. or PBS, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I can’t pretend I’m The Last Tinker’s target audience, but I liked it enough for what it was. It does a LOT wrong. The pacing is horrible, the controls merely adequate, the combat is repetitive, the enemies can be too damn spongy, and it’s even a bit unstable. They had to include a respawn option in the pause menu because it’s possible to get yourself stuck in some sections of the game, like in the screenshot below.

I have no idea how I got here, but I'm stuck. For what it's worth, this is the only time I need to use the respawn option.

I have no idea how I got here, but I’m stuck. For what it’s worth, this was the only time I needed to use the respawn option.

I don’t know if The Last Tinker’s mistakes completely off-balance what it does right. I can only speak for my own experience. And I liked it. It didn’t make me revert to a giggling, happy-go-lucky child like Super Mario Galaxy did, but it never really had the potential to. And again, this game wasn’t made for cynical gaming veterans. I suspected The Last Tinker would be an excellent “ease into gaming” title for younger children. But, I wanted to know for sure, so I secured some copies to hand out to parents with children aged 5 to 12.

My hunch was correct. Reader John Berger‘s kids (a ten-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter) enjoyed it. I included the full text of his mini-review below the trailer, but here’s the paragraph that mattered the most.

“As I type this, my son has beaten the game and is going back through it to get all of the upgrades and do everything to get all of the PlayStation trophies. And even though my daughter was with us and hasn’t played it (we let my son play it while we watched and helped), she wants to play it on her own.  Each time I asked them what they thought of the game up to that point, her response was an enthusiastic, “I LOVE IT!”

Fellow-critic Brad Gallaway wasn’t as forgiving towards the gameplay as I was, but his five-year-old son also loved it.

“The action is simple and straightforward enough for him to grasp, and the basic tasks weren’t a deterrent to him at all. While my eyes were glazing over with boredom, he’s so new to gaming that he has no idea how rote and uninspired the game can feel at times. And really, that’s just fine because it’s clear to me that Tinker was not aimed at the experienced gamer, and I’m quite happy to have age-appropriate software available for the young ones.”
It's also a great way to expose children to the horrible way adults endlessly run pop-culture references into the ground.

It’s also a great way to expose children to the horrible ways adults endlessly run pop-culture references into the ground.

I don’t base my reviews on how anyone else feels about a game, and I’m not starting here. The Last Tinker: City of Colors has more problems than a math quiz. For me at least, it was never better than decent. However, it was consistently decent enough to earn my Seal of Approval. But, if you have young kids? This is probably the type of game that you would have played as a kid. The type of game that can lead to your children being confirmed gamers for life, and I can think of no more powerful a statement to make about a game aimed at that age group. Use the Last Tinker to hook ’em while they’re young. Hey, it works for the tobacco industry!
$14.99 ($19.99 without a PlayStation Plus subscription) lost count of how many times I accidentally typed “The Last THINKER” in the making of this review.
The Last Thinker Tinker is Chick approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.
Here’s John’s full review.
Just for reference, my son is 10 and my younger daughter is 8. All three of us were playing/watching at the same time.
In short, the blending of the game styles of “Ratchet & Clank”, “Banjo Kazooie”, and even “Okami” — with the color brilliance of all three notched up quite a bit — made it a fun game to watch. (I let my kids play it while I sat with them.)
For the most part I let them try to figure out how to progress, although there were a few times where I basically had to order them where to go. (“No, dad, that’s not where we have to go!” “Yes, it is, so do it!” “Oh, you were right.”) A few of the solutions weren’t very obvious, even to me, to where I had to find a “let’s play” video to find out how to progress.
But otherwise, my kids love it.  As I type this, my son has beaten the game and is going back through it to get all of the upgrades and do everything to get all of the PlayStation trophies. And even though my daughter was with us and hasn’t played it (we let my son play it while we watched and helped), she wants to play it on her own.  Each time I asked them what they thought of the game up to that point, her response was an enthusiastic, “I LOVE IT!”
Just to try to get some balance, I asked if there was anything about the game that they didn’t like, and I told them that I need them to be honest about that. Neither of them had anything bad to say about it. So, it was definitely a hit with the kids.
I do kind of agree with you that it doesn’t feel like it’s meant for adults. But considering that it’s along the same gameplay lines as “Ratchet & Clank” and “Banjo Kazooie”, I think this is good enough for adults who just want to wind down and play something that’s not too demanding. After all, you could argue that the LEGO games aren’t really geared towards adults either, but I’ve bought every single one of them.
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Super Amazing Wagon Adventure (Second Chance with the Chick)

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure was a rarity for me on the XBLIG scene. It was one of a very small group of games that I continued to play after I finished reviewing it. Not a lot of time. Maybe a few extra hours, but I couldn’t focus on any other games until I had satisfied my run with Wagon. It happens to me sometimes. I have a term for this: “getting it out of my system.” It’s a term friends, family, and co-workers have come to dread from me. It means my productivity is ground to a screeching halt. Terraria is currently the standard-bearer for this. I reviewed it, hated it, but still felt the need to get it out of my system. Then I realized that I was addicted to it and I had to do a complete 180 and concede that it was something special. I put about ten hours into it before the review went up. Between the time I posted my original review and the time I had to suck it up and admit I was wrong, I put an extra thirty hours into it. And after the second review, I added another fifty or so.

Currently, I’m migrating all my XBLIGs over to PC, and many of them will get a Second Chance with the Chick. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure has the word “Turbo” added to it on the PC build, so I figured I would start with it. I had a few nits to pick in my previous review of it, and I wanted to see if they were addressed.

Nope.

Under the sea! Under the sea! You'll some how not drown, when the wagon digs down, under the sea!

Under the sea! Under the sea! You’ll some how not drown, when the wagon digs down, under the sea!

Of all the games I’ve enjoyed at Indie Gamer Chick, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is the least fair, and it doesn’t give a shit about it. As you make your way through the game, all the events unfold randomly, and many of them revolve around you just plain losing health. Sometimes the game immediately starts with one of your three characters coming down with some hilarious illness and having three of their four hit points get drained. You get them back if you survive a couple of waves, but there’s a chance that if a single enemy makes it past your defense, that character will die. Right off the bat, with almost no chance of survival. What a dick of a game.

If you think that’s bad, try making it all the way to the end of the game with full health (a rarity) only to be forced to sacrifice one team member or starve to death. This can be avoided if you collect 40 animal hides when this scenario comes up. I talked with a lot of players of the game and all of them determined that anything short of perfect shooting with the correct weapon will fail. Many of the weapons in the game completely annihilate the animals you can hunt, leaving no carcass behind for you to chow down on. That happened to me several times. I got so pissed off that I chose to starve once. I figured I would be left with only one heart per person. No, actually, they all died.

You know, Sparsevector, there’s a fine line between making your game challenging and making players want to burn your house down.

As fun as Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is (and make no mistake, it’s really fun), you never feel any sense of accomplishment when you play it. When literally everything comes down to the whims of fate, how can you feel good about it? If you display any skill, the game will bend you over its knee and introduce you to the paddle of “shit happens.”

Wagon 2

Brian FINALLY presents me a flower, which is what initiates a life-restoring ritual known as “fucking each-other’s brains out.” Oddly enough, my original lineup was myself, Brian, and our friend Bryce. Wagon Bryce and Wagon Brian couldn’t stop fucking each-other, much to the real Brian and Bryce’s chagrin, though we all admitted that Nintendo could learn something from their Super Amazing Wagon Adventure’s Brokeback Mountain moments.

Low on life and counting on the fur trader to sell you some health? Fuck you, all he has for sale is the ability to move your wagon faster. Which you will never ever EVER want. All that does is assure you will take more damage, because you have a big moving target and moving faster means moving more recklessly. Having the best run you’ve made in several attempts? Why, here’s syphilis for your characters and also a pack of wolves chasing them. The wolves are the most appallingly overpowered enemies because they move too fast and if you dodge them, they turn around and bite you in the ass. Have the right default weapon to handle them? It might get jammed, or drunk if you’re using the falcon. Shit like this makes me question if I would be brought up on assault charges if the developer was within chair throwing distance of me. It’s the most infuriating good game I’ve played at Indie Gamer Chick.

And it is fucking awesome.

8+ hours into the PC port (with probably around the same amount of time put into the XBLIG version), and I was still discovering new scenarios I had never encountered before. Train robberies. Caves. Aliens.  I had more wagons and even modes to unlock. And the weird thing is, I actually want to press on. I feel like the love-struck school girl trying to catch the attention of the local bully. So, is it a nice game? No. It blows up bullfrogs with firecrackers and pulls the wings off flies. But I’m downright smitten. I also think the guys at Sparsevector are responsible for a 20% hike in my blood pressure. MY PARTY GOT ANOTHER VD? CAN’T YOU GUYS STOP FUCKING FOR TEN SECONDS?

Wagon logoSuper Amazing Wagon Adventure was developed by Sparsevector
Point of Sale: SteamDesuraXbox Live Indie Games
Ports played for this review: Steam and Xbox Live Indie Games.

IGC_Approved$2.99 preferred the wagon that lets you use the falcon in the making of this review. Even though the falcon had a big drinking problem.

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

 

 

Goat Simulator

How does one review a game that isn’t supposed to be good? That started as a joke project inside a studio, a sort of “get a feel for an engine” project that was never intended for release. Then a video of that joke was posted on YouTube, drawing over 1,000,000 (pinky finger to mouth) views, with fans (and even some press) demanding it become a reality. Because that’s where Goat Simulator comes from.

Me? I don’t give a shit about any of that. I just want to buy and play good games. And Goat Simulator is boring. The idea is, you’re a goat. There’s a couple of maps. Go do stuff. What stuff? Whatever you want. There’s no story. There’s no objectives besides a checklist of things like “fall as long as you can” or “get hit by a car.” I’ve never been able to get into games that have no driving force behind them. Some people like to just run amok in a sandbox. In GTA, they’ll load up on guns and see how much shit they can trash before getting busted by the cops or killed. I can’t do that kind of stuff. I need a reason to keep going. Goat Simulator doesn’t do that. It does have a couple of things that are almost missions, like racing from point A to point B or giving the players a minute or so to score as many points as they can. But those get boring too, because there’s no progress.

It’s also unstable as all hell. Without hyperbole, I fell through the world geometry only two minutes into the game. This was nice in the sense that I was able to check off a couple of the tasks, such as falling from as high a distance as possible, but come on. What’s disgusting is people want these glitches. They demanded them, because it somehow makes the game more charming. Great, so we’re now encouraging a generation of highly impressionable young developers to not bother ironing out bugs in their software, because those give their games personality or something along those lines. No, what we’re doing is rewarding laziness and lack of effort. I can’t even make a joke about it because it gives me genuine concern for the future of the indie scene.

I've never actually encountered a real, honest to God goat. Do their tongues work like a frog's, sticking to everything they touch? Because this goat's tongue is like that. A cool feature, or it would have been if there was any fucking point to it.

I’ve never actually encountered a real, honest to God goat. Do their tongues work like a frog’s, sticking to everything they touch? Because this goat’s tongue is like that. A cool feature, or it would have been if there was any fucking point to it.

In a way, Goat Simulator represents a sort of malaise that’s overcome the indie scene. It shows how little we ask of developers. We don’t even care if a game is fundamentally broken, has any point to it, or even if effort was put into it. By doing this, we’re doing a real disservice to the development community. We’re telling them “you don’t have to try. We’ll still be there for you!” Only, we typically aren’t. Maybe Goat Simulator is doing exceptionally well, but that’s a rarity. As someone who has spent that last three years watching a small portion of the scene ruin their lives making their games, I think maybe I have a better feel for the stakes in play. I have seen developers go all-in with their projects. Mortgaging their homes, cashing out their children’s college funds, selling their cars, cashing out their 401(k)s, or all of the above, for stuff that any rational person would realize has little chance of success. Why? Because people told them it was a good idea.

Not that I think Goat Simulator is representative of that level of recklessness. I assume, from its origin as a joke and it’s short (four weeks) development cycle, that it cost very little to release. Instead, I’m concerned about the idea that popularity comes easily. That quality is irrelevant to success. That a developer can actively talk about how awful their project is and still rake in cash like an armored truck crashed into a diamond truck right in their driveway. Like Flappy Bird, Goat Simulator’s popularity is purely on a sarcastic level. By buying the game, you’re essentially saying “I totally get the joke” and your purchase is simply a pricey way of saying “LOL!” I don’t even blame Coffee Stain Studios for doing it. What would you do if you had an established fanbase, a large portion of the gaming media, and instant backing from the largest digital distribution house on your side? I know what I would do: laugh all the way to the bank.

But, somewhere out there right now, a moron is looking at Goat Simulator and saying “why not me?” Even though he or she has none of the advantages that Coffee Stain had. They only see the money and the notoriety those guys are getting. They’re unable to grasp that Coffee Stain is only able to have this kind of success without trying because they worked so damn hard on every other project they’ve done. So they proceed to quit their jobs, sell their stuff, and ruin their lives making their games. Nobody buys the game, because they have no following, no marketing skills, no contacts to help them get listings, and the game doesn’t have anywhere near the polish that years of experience brings. As bad as Goat Simulator is (and it’s awful, make no mistake), imagine how bad it would have been if it had been their first game.

I’m all for personal accountability. It’s not up to you or me or Coffee Stain or any other developer to watch out for people and make sure they don’t destroy their lives in pursuit of a quick buck and infamy. At best, we can tell those that would go down that path “maybe you should think harder about this.” But when they do it anyway, it’s not our fault. What I am saying is, as a community, we have to come together and say “we’re capable of better than this!” Maybe Goat Simulator is the foundation of something that is possibly exceptional. The alpha stage of a game that, with a proper narrative, a wacky take on traditional sandbox missions, and a stable engine, could be legendary. But nobody asked that of Coffee Stain. They showed off a joke, and people said “we want that, right now, just the way it is. That’s good enough for us.” We gave them the path of least resistance, and they accepted it, just like anyone would. Just like I would.

All my attempts at suicide failed as my goat is unfortunately immortal.

All my attempts at suicide failed as my goat is unfortunately immortal.

But we can do better. Consumers, I mean. We can say “our money is worth more than this.” We didn’t with Goat Simulator. We don’t with a lot of games. And we should. People bitch and complain about the landslide of Flappy clones that have flooded the marketplace, but it’s only because we as a community embraced its awfulness that such a goldrush to clone Flappy Bird happened in the first place. We created this mess. And if we keep demanding that unfinished novelty games be released right fucking now instead of saying “hey, this could be cool! you should build off it!”, it’s what the indie scene will revolve around. No, quality games won’t disappear. Not now. Not ever. Talent and genius don’t disappear because the flavor of the month requires no effort or hard work. There will always be developers that will kill themselves to get it right. To make something new and groundbreaking that sets our imaginations ablaze. No amount of crap can ever bury them or their desire to entertain us. No, this is about protecting our identity as a community. We want people to associate the indie scene as being a high quality, imaginative and creative community. When we say “we’re there for you, even when you phone it in”, we become hypocrites. If EA or Microsoft put out something like this, we would shit on them. You know it. Why does being indie make something like Goat Simulator acceptable? Especially when we damn well know we can do better? I don’t want that to be our identity, where unfinished crap is acceptable because it’s indie. We deserve better.

 

Behold the funniest gag in the game: it has the same font as Microsoft Flight Simulator. There, I just saved you $6 to $10.

Behold the funniest gag in the game: it has the same font as Microsoft Flight Simulator. There, I just saved you $6 to $10.

Goat Simulator was developed by Coffee Stain Studios
Point of Sale: Steam

$5.99 (normally $9.99) is very worried that “Unfinished, Pointless Sandbox Game” is now a popular genre in the making of this review.

 

Shutshimi

With my last two reviews landing in the top ten on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard, I’m now worried that my readers will think I’m going soft. Or possibly that I’ve been replaced by my nicer, goatee wearing Mirror Universe counterpart. Neither is true. As far as you know. But really, I have a reputation to maintain here. So what I need is a game from a genre that is my least favorite. Something that looks like it’s been done a zillion times before. Something I can rake over coals and murder with my malicious words. I need a shmup.

So I picked Shutshimi, and it’s one of the ten best indie games I’ve ever played. Well, fuck me.

I should have known better. As many of you are aware, the original Wario Ware on Game Boy Advance is my personal choice for the best game ever made. Probably a sign that I have ADHD or something. But other games based around time crunches have also owned me, such as Pac-Man Championship Edition, Bejeweled Blitz, NES Remix, or XBLIGs Orbitron and Minigame Marathon. I’m wired for shit like this. And Shutshimi is essentially the Wario Ware of shoot-em-ups. Stages last ten seconds. Sometimes less, but never more. Between stages, you enter a store where you have a choice of three different items. The items have overly-long, elaborate descriptions (that are often not very helpful) and you have exactly ten seconds to make your selection. You fight a boss every few rounds, but only ten seconds at a time. And that’s pretty much the entirety of the game. And I call it a game only because it might be slanderous to call it what it really is: a drug.

Hell, it even looks like how you picture being on drugs.

Actually, going off this picture, maybe I’m on to something with the whole drug thing.

And an addictive drug at that. I have no love for this genre. I find the majority of shmups to be boring, samey, typically unambitious, and designed strictly to target those that are nostalgic for shooters. I’m certainly not nostalgic for them, and thus I’m not these games target audience. More over, shmups are the most high-risk genre for my epilepsy triggers, something I honestly haven’t minded up to this point. I don’t want to sound like I’m milking my condition.. even though that’s exactly what I’m doing.. but it’s a genre I do go out of my way to avoid. I skipped this one for weeks. I only gave it consideration to begin with because it came via Anthony Swinnich, a long-time Indie Gamer Chick fan, and because he put “The Switch” in it. In other words, they included an option that made this game more epilepsy friendly.

Ten hours. That’s how long I played Shutshimi the first time I booted it up. Shock doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played. And it did it the same way Wario Ware did: simplifying the play mechanics, and then weaponizing them by throwing them at you in fast-paced, bite-sized chunks. Because the game is randomized, you really can’t count on anything. An item that does one thing will do a different thing the next time you see it. No two play-throughs are the same. The lightning-fast approach is only detrimental because the writing is so damn funny, you’ll want to read it all and simply can’t.

Oh, that’s not the only fault here. Shutshumi is one of those games that is so good, the mistakes it makes frustrates me to a greater degree, because they’re so fundamental they shouldn’t exist. The top of the list for me is the lack of variety of enemies. The opening enemies, the sharks and squids, are too easy to dispose of. It takes too long for newer, more challenging baddies to appear. It’s also too easy to get a feel for enemy patterns. I wish the ordering of enemies had been every bit as random as the items. If Shutshumi had gone for full-on random wackiness like Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, I think it would have made the game stronger. Despite the awesome randomness of the items (which often determine the effects of the next stage instead of giving you a power-up), because the levels unfold more or less in a linear way, Shutshimi almost becomes too easy.

Not that I know how good I am. There’s no online leaderboards as of yet. When the game gets Greenlit on Steam, they’ll come, but that’s no help as of yet. My top score is in the 9,000 point range. I’m not especially skilled at this, but I don’t have to be good at stuff to enjoy it. If that were the case, I wouldn’t still be golfing. But without those leaderboards, the ceiling of addictiveness for Shutshimi is significantly smaller. I’m also annoyed that only the PC version contains the epilepsy switch, meaning I couldn’t play the XBLIG version. Me, Indie Gamer Chick! If you look up XBLIG in the dictionary, there’s a picture of me urinating on Sententia. I mean, I appreciate the switch’s presence, but why did only one platform get it? Epileptics play consoles too, you know.

The lack of variety in enemies (along with the lack of online leaderboards) is the only thing that finally got me to put the controller down. As Brian pointed out, maybe that's a good thing.

The lack of variety in enemies (along with the lack of online leaderboards) is the only thing that finally got me to put the controller down. As Brian pointed out, maybe that’s a good thing.

My other concerns are nit-picky. There’s no variety in the backdrops, except stuff caused by random item pick-ups that result in party effects or for the game to be shrouded in darkness (I’m guessing with epilepsy mode turned off, there’s lightning flashes for that section). And some of the items are just stupid. One of them eliminates enemies altogether for a single stage. Technically that helps you advance an extra wave for free, but it also means you score no points. Just a really bad idea. I also think the shotgun weapon is now my choice for least favorite item in a good game. Fucking thing is worthless.

I’m sure shmup fans will be appalled that this game, which is admittedly overly simplistic, is the only game of its breed to capture my imagination. But it did. For all of its flaws (most of which, oddly enough, seem to be due to lack of ambition), it’s the first game in a long while that I had trouble putting down. It took me an extra couple days to get this review up because I would go back to check something about it and end up putting in an extra hour or two of playtime. Shutshumi is such a breath of fresh air. A great idea, something that will hopefully kickstart a new era of creativity for a genre that often lacks it. It also proves that the best ideas are often the simplest. Shutshumi has not a single mechanic that hasn’t been done before. Every part of it is tired. But it’s how it used its mechanics that makes it special. They should show it off in game design classes. I commend the developers at Neon Deity Games. And I only call them developers because I think it might be slanderous to call them what they really are: a drug cartel.

Yep, I ran that joke into the ground.

xboxboxartShutshimi was developed by Neon Deity Games
Point of Sale: Xbox Live Indie GamesIndie Game StandHumble Store

IGC_Approved$1 noted that “the wacky smoking animal” stuff is getting tired. First the pipe smoking cat from Aqua Kitty and now a cigar-smoking goldfish? Give it a fucking rest, guys in the making of this review.

Shutshimi is Chick-Approved and Ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

 

 

Foiled

The mechanics in Foiled are astonishingly simple but not void of nuance. The game is good at being accessible while retaining an element of competitive play.

Oh, and it made me beat the shit out of my brother. And it made my girlfriend beat the shit out of me. Rare is it that a game can provoke violence from normally docile beings. I like to think that’s a testament to its quality.

The reasoning for these brutal shoulder punches, I imagine, is that the outcome of a match directly reflects upon a player’s skill. And when that skill has a lot to do with head games, and without the ability to blame complicated controls, losing a match can affect your ego. I’ll explain:

Players have only two attacks. Swipe, which is an upwards slash to fend off death from above and Dive, a jumping attack that causes the player character to plunge violently downwards. The foils idle menacingly, poised parallel to the stage, ready to hurt. If two foils collide, they deflect. If a foil touches the other player, they perish and the victor collects their soul.

At this point, a goal appears on-screen. The recently felled player spawns at the goal to defend it while their assailant attempts to reach that goal with the soul in hand. If they are killed, then they spawn at a goal and the roles are reversed. If a player reaches a goal, they get a point. If a player gets three points, they become a giant, invincible fencer who will obliterate their rival. They also win the round.

Win two rounds, win the match. The essence of simplicity.

Only, not. From the get go, the tension is high. Two players face off, unsure of what the other one will do. Through repeated rounds, they start to get an idea of how their opponent plays, but you can never rely entirely on the ability to read your opponent. And you have to realize that they are adapting to you as the matches progress, too. Even playing defensively is unnerving, as an offensive player, who will usually have to jump to be aggressive, can simply bait you into a missed swipe. They can land behind you, in front of you, atop you… and if you make a bad read, then you’re more screwed than my attention craving sister.*

The stages are extremely vertical, encouraging lots of wall jumps and climbing to reach the goals. The systems of the game cause the position of power to chaotically swing between the two characters. When a player falls, they stand stoic sentry over their rival, with a very desirable footing.

And that ability to frequently deny a point is amazing. You never feel entirely disempowered, and no matter how the game has played out, there always seems to be some sliver of hope to edge out a victory. 

Foiled represents a spectacular effort from first time developer, Gabe Cuzillo. I look forward to seeing what he produces in the future.

Oh, and it’s free. So find a friend and stop being a total lame-ass.

52756cdee4b0782c048c5ec0Foiled is available for free here.

IGTlogo-01Foiled has earned the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.

*that’s a joke. Sorry, Mercedes.

Cosmic Predator

I chose to play Cosmic Predator to end my short-lived SHMUP September.

This shooter follows the traditional SHMUP format: you pilot a ship (or alien being in this case), fire at enemies, upgrade your ship, and either finish the end boss or die in a blaze of glory.

Killing creatures as a creature while in another creature.

Killing creatures as a creature while in another creature.

In Cosmic Predator you are a creature of some kind, hurtling through space as you try to get the Life Stone back to save what’s left of your people (“the last of your people,” another trope of this genre). As a sort of “fuel” game mechanic, while you’re taking down the evil corporation that took the Life Stone, you are constantly bleeding or something because in order to stay alive you not only need to dodge bullets and scenery, but also drink the blood of your enemies. If your health bar empties completely, your little dude passes out and dies, left floating alone in the cold darkness of space.

The other twist in this game is that upgrades happen at the end of each mission; you get to choose from regular bonuses such as a ball of protection that hovers around you or a powered up shot that is rather self-explanatory. You cannot alter these upgrades one you have selected them, so your decisions will affect gameplay in later stages. There isn’t anything that will outright ruin the experience, though some areas would be easier depending on which upgrade you pick. One of the best quality of life improvements is an upgrade that pulls the blood of enemies you kill to you rather than making you chase it down. When this is your main way to keep being not dead, this is huge.

One major downside to the game as a whole is that there is no native controller support. The keyboard works okay, but until this I hadn’t played a full-fledged game without a controller, unless it was a first-person shooter, in ages; it felt odd to not have this as a built-in option in this day and age. I talked to a friend about this game, and the instant I mentioned the controller thing, he lost his interest in playing.

The game is funny if you look for it.

The game is funny if you look for it.

There are times, particularly during boss fights, when you know that there is no way to defeat a boss before your health bar fades into nothingness and you’re helpless to prevent this. It’s frustrating because the action moves fast enough to where you don’t watch your health meter all that closely and your character stops responding to your movements because he died at some point. Some additional enemies to refill the health meter would be an amazing improvement.

Spoiler alert?

Spoiler alert?

On the positive side, you don’t have a limited number of lives; you can keep going to your heart’s content. Stages are broken up into sections, so if you die you don’t have to go all that far back to reach where you were. On the harder difficulties you will die a lot. In the later parts of the game you’ll find some good humor here and there on the evil corporation’s signs.

The game isn’t bad, really, but it doesn’t make me want to go back for more. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but fans of the genre will likely have fun with this title.

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Cosmic Predator was developed by Steel River Games.

For a mere $4 you can help save your people by shooting energy weapons out of your nethers.

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