The Walking Dead: Season Two

Every single paragraph below the first picture contains spoilers. If you’re looking for a recommendation on Walking Dead: Season Two, I’ll keep all my spoiler-free critiques on the story and gameplay up here. I had fun with it. It wasn’t as good as season one (you can read my review of that here and here), and I think that’s because my words and actions seemed to be much more inconsequential this time around. One character is on the verge of cracking, and you’re given the option to defend that character or agree that they are about to snap. I went with the “about to snap” option at least a half-a-dozen times, sometimes with the same characters who I had spoken with about it before. As if I had changed my mind on the subject. I hadn’t. I had been consistent from the start: person of interest was going bonkers. I’m guessing the problem is the developers had a very specific way they wanted the players to respond to dialog, and if you didn’t go along with it, they would keep knifing you to do it until you did it their way. It took the “oomph” out of the big decisions I had to make.

Meanwhile, the play mechanics are exactly the same as last season. I did notice there seemed to be a lot less glitches and slowdown, but otherwise, this is the same as pretty much any Telltale game. If you hated the style before, nothing is improved here in the slightest bit. And that’s pretty much all I can say without spoiling the whole thing. Walking Dead: Season Two is worth the $20 season pass, but the story was weaker, the emotional weight significantly smaller, and I have no lingering interest in playing the series any further unless I don’t have to pay for it. SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT

Awwww, isn't that adorable? She's completely lost her sense of innocence. Well, except later in the game when she thinks a couple that had gone off to fuck were actually "kissing and stuff." Which actually made me laugh, so kudos.

Awwww, isn’t that adorable? She’s completely lost her sense of innocence. Well, except later in the game when she thinks a couple that had gone off to fuck were actually “kissing and stuff.” Which actually made me laugh, so kudos.

 

Meet the cast! This is Clem. Last season, she was Yorda. This season, she was the only person with half-a-brain. She was also a vindictive, sarcastic psychopath. At least she was the way I played.

Meet the cast! This is Clem. Last season, she was Yorda. This season, she was the only person with half-a-brain. She was also a vindictive, sarcastic psychopath. At least she was the way I played.

In Season Two, you take the role of Clementine, the yellow-eyed (so help me God, yellow eyes!) tag-along of season one, and she immediately proves herself to be more capable than last season’s protagonist/sleeping pill, Lee. A scene in chapter one requires Clem to stitch up a dog bite, and she handles it just fine. Lee would have stabbed himself in the eye with the needle, shot off his left testicle, and then knocked himself unconscious on the counter. And everyone in the group would have commented on how clever he was. This time around, your new group sort of recognizes Clem as the only person with her act together, but they’re too busy asking her the same series of questions over and over again to just shut and up collectively declare her group dictator. Which is pretty much why they all die.

There’s no real consistent plot that keeps the story moving this time around. Each chapter feels different from the one before it. In the first chapter, you let the fates quickly thin out any lingering characters you were still with at the end of season one. You get bit by a non-zombified dog, then get rescued by a group of survivors that mistake the dog bite for a zombie bite and lock you in a shed. This is the chapter where you meet all the new future zombie-chow of the season. Among them was a nervous, reckless, itchy-trigger-fingered douche named Nick. He was the nephew of the leader of the group, a dude named Pete.

This is Pete. He's the leader of the group of survivors that you meet up with in the first chapter. He's intelligent, insightful, and the only person holding the group's mental stability together. In other words, he's dead meat.

This is Pete. He’s the leader of the group of survivors that you meet up with in the first chapter. He’s intelligent, insightful, and the only person holding the group’s mental stability together. In other words, he’s dead meat.

I liked Pete. He was cool. He recognized how strong Clem was. So obviously he was going to die, and it would probably be Nick’s fault. Sure enough, that happened. In chapter two, everyone spent half the game talking about how unstable Nick was. How big a danger to everyone around him he was. But, nobody (except myself) was willing to do the right thing: lead him into the woods and shoot him. Or tie him to a tree and let him lure the Walkers away from you with his girly screams. Later, you meet a stranger on a bridge who poses no threat and Nick kills him. Yeah. And again, instead of everyone shitting their pants in terror because they’re dragging this worse-than-useless human wrecking ball with them, they just talk about what a threat he is. Sigh. So I’m starting to think Nick will obviously be the season’s antagonist.

This is Nick. He's the main antagonist of the first two chapters. He's a danger to himself and others. You know, just like all the other characters. Just his prescence alone puts everyone in mortal danger, as if he's trying to get them killed. Okay, yeah, that's exactly what I was doing too. But I wasn't such a dick about. Well, actually come to think about it I was. Move along.

This is Nick. He’s the main antagonist of the first two chapters. He’s a danger to himself and others. You know, just like all the other characters. Just his presence alone puts everyone in mortal danger, as if he’s trying to get them killed. Okay, yeah, that’s exactly what I was doing too. But I wasn’t such a dick about. Well, actually come to think about it I totally was a dick about it. Okay, then. Move along.

But, no. He gets killed at the end of the second chapter by the buddy of the guy who he shot on the bridge. Huh. I mean, okay. Fine. Weird pacing but obviously they had bigger plans for the season’s antagonist. This chapter also reintroduces Kenny, the short-tempered, ignorant, drunken redneck from season one who watched his whole family die. I took the option of hugging him when I met him only because I was hoping there would be a second option that allowed me to plunge my hatchet into his back while doing it. Much like season one, I spent the remainder of the game being as antagonistic towards Kenny as I could. Later, when one of the chicks you’re dragging around shits out of baby, Kenny takes a shine to it and talks about how much he’s going to protect it. At this point, I was cursing the game for not giving me more dialog options. I had been basically spending the last several hours trying to talk Kenny into suicide. If given the option, I would have needled him into kissing the end of his gun right there.

“So you’re going to protect this baby, huh? Well, that’ll be a change. Remember when I met you and you had a family? Where’s that family now, Kenny? Remember when you let your son get bit? Kenny? Do you remember that? Or then your wife shot herself? My sides still hurt over laughing at that. I mean, you totally drove her to it, Kenny. Kenny? Hey, do you think when she blew her brains out, she still had more brains in her head than you? Kenny? Hey Kenny, remember when you met that new wife, and then I showed up and cut her arm off? Kenny? Hey, Kenny, if you want, I can go back there and lend her a hand. Kenny? Come to think of it, that one was totally your fault too. Wow. What’s your body count, Kenny? Seven? Eight? Be honest Kenny, you’re just hoping someone will trade you a bottle of vodka for the baby, right Kenny? Did you drink a lot when you were ignoring your family before the outbreak, Kenny? Kennnnnnyyyyyyyy?”

This is Kenny. His mental instability is the overall focus on the season. Maybe the other characters still had a moral compass and believed killing is wrong. Well guess what? I don't! So don't make me wait five fucking chapters to do what's right.

This is Kenny. His mental instability is the overall focus on the season. Maybe the other characters still had a moral compass and believed killing is wrong. Well guess what? I don’t! So don’t make me wait five fucking chapters to do what’s right.

Eh, not that it would have mattered. Kenny stubbornly hangs around until the end of the game. And in chapter three, you’re held prisoner by a new antagonist named Carver. He’s set up base in a hardware store and runs a tight ship. I actually liked him. I mean, he arbitrarily killed people too weak to survive, which is what I had been trying to do the entire fucking time. My kind of guy. One of the people in your group is a helpless little girl named Sarah. She had been kept in the dark about the whole zombie apocalypse thing, and it was clear once she got a glimpse of the real world, she was going to put the group in danger. So, even though my slate of trying to get people killed was full, I quickly penciled Sarah in for “be as hateful and vindictive as possible to her in an attempt to get her dead.” When we had work to do, I did her work for her, because she was too stupid/spoiled to know how to prune a tree. I was hoping Carver, who had already forced her father to viciously smack her across the face, would throw her off the building. Instead, he threw our supervisor, a Pakistani stereotype, off the roof and to his death instead. Well shit. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I was going to attempt to get him killed too. I was pretty much trying to get EVERYONE killed but myself. Well, except Carver. Yeah, the dude was an asshole, but at least he fucking got it. This is the apocalypse. You’re better off keeping the strong around. Not too long after that, I had a sit-down conversation with Carver where I told him exactly that. Except the game interpreted that as me just telling him what he wanted to hear. I wasn’t. I legitimately wanted to join him.

This is Luke. He's one of only two non-Pete characters that I was okay with not killing immediately. He also takes over for Lee in the human train-wreck department. Just looking at him causes his ribs to break. He somehow makes it to the final chapter, where he dies after falling through the ice of a frozen lake. Given that this is one of the only characters that had a proper build-up, his death was very anti-climatic, but hey, we had to have another reason for Kenny to beat up someone while the rest of the group pondered whether he was losing it.

This is Luke. He’s one of only two non-Pete characters that I was okay with not killing immediately. He also takes over for Lee in the human train-wreck department. Just looking at him causes his ribs to break. He somehow makes it to the final chapter, where he dies after falling through the ice of a frozen lake. Given that this is one of the only characters that had a proper build-up, his death was very anti-climatic, but hey, we had to have another reason for Kenny to beat up someone while the rest of the group pondered whether he was losing it.

Shortly thereafter, with my crew of morons having devised a plan to escape, I was asked if I was in on the plan. I was able to answer this in four possible ways. #1: yes. #2: yes. #3: say nothing, which is saying yes. #4: say “do I have a choice?” That’s the one I chose, and then I found out the answer was “no.” Holy shit, choosing your own path is FUN! I mean, there’s just so many options and so little time to choose between them that I had to pause the game and pinch myself. Seriously, Telltale, light switches have more options than you give players most of the time.

Anyway, I figure we’ll end up fucking up the hardware store, opening it to attack by the zombies, and Carver would end up stalking us for the rest of the game, picking our crew off one-by-one as we went along. But no, I ended up shooting him and then watching as Kenny caved his head in with a crowbar. Fucking seriously? Okay, fine. His itchy-triggered lieutenant named Troy is still alive and undoubtedly he’ll be the new antago.. nope, scratch that, he’s dead too. It was then I realized that Walking Dead: Season Two was the ultimate “instant gratification” game for a generation that wants instant gratification right now, or else. Nick was an annoying, dangerous little shit. He dies. Carver was a brute. He dies. Sarah was a terrified, annoying little brat. She dies. Though the way I played it, she died sooner than she did for most people. During a zombie attack on a trailer, I decided to leave her behind. I was shocked it actually worked, though I was a little disappointed that I was not given the option to kill her myself, then piss on her body.

This is Bonnie. She's the only character from the 400 Days expansion that has a significant role in Season Two. All the other characters make very brief cameos, assuming you played the expasion the "right way." Really, what was the point of 400 Days again? I was under the impression that the characters and actions in 400 Days were have some kind of important impact on Season Two. They didn't. Not even Bonnie, really.

This is Bonnie. She’s the only character from the 400 Days expansion that has a significant role in Season Two. All the other characters make very brief cameos, assuming you played the expansion the “right way.” Really, what was the point of 400 Days again? I was under the impression that the characters and actions in 400 Days were have some kind of important impact on Season Two. They didn’t. Not even Bonnie, really.

The final two chapters are mostly spent talking about how unstable Kenny is. I had the exact fucking same conversation about it no less than a half-dozen times. “Do you think Kenny is cracking?” Um, yeah. Just look at him! He’s all wide-eyed, staring off into the void, lips quivering, fingers twitching, WHAT THE FUCK ELSE DO YOU PEOPLE NEED? For him to randomly just spout off “you know guys, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Hitler was right”? Meanwhile, the group keeps getting picked off. Pregnant chick Rebecca gives birth, then becomes a zombie. Again, I cursed the lack of dialog options. When people defended my decision to shoot her with “she had turned!” I wasn’t allowed to answer back “Wait, she did?”

Ultimately, it comes down to you, Kenny, the baby, and some chick that the game kept trying to make you feel some kind of sisterly bond with, but it was so badly handled that I never felt any true connection to her. Unlike season one, where the ultimate fate would either be Lee dies and stays dead or Lee dies and turns into a Walker, season two had multiple, completely different endings. In mine, I shot Kenny, paused the game to go masturbate for a while, then went back to listen to him have his heart-warming moment of redemption where he talked about how I had done the right thing. Oh fucking gag me with a garbage bag full of dog shit, what a crock. I did take solace in the fact that we just let him die without stabbing him in the head, so he’s now walking around as a mindless monster that will undoubtedly kill or wound every human he comes in contact with. In other words, no change. Clem, the baby, and the sister return to Carver’s hardware store, and the season ended with me telling another group of survivors to fuck off.

This is Alvin Jr, or A.J. for short. I only included him in this because my Godfather's name is A.J. and the "A" stands for Alvin. So I showed it to my A.J. and convinced him that I was so popular now that people were naming characters in games after my family. After seeing strangers recognize me as Indie Gamer Chick, he has no reason not to believe it. Well, unless he reads this. Yeah, sorry A.J.

This is Alvin Jr, or A.J. for short. I only included him in this because my Godfather’s name is A.J. and the “A” also stands for Alvin. So I showed it to my A.J. and convinced him that I was so popular now that people were naming characters in games after my family. After seeing strangers recognize me as Indie Gamer Chick, he has no reason not to believe it. Well, unless he reads this. Yeah, sorry A.J.

BUT, it could have also ended with both the sisterly figure and Kenny dying. OR, it could have ended with the girl dead and you and Kenny finding the mythical survivor stronghold called Wellington, where you can either leave his ass and take the baby with you, or you can continue along with the unstated suicide-pact everyone seems to have subconsciously entered into when the apocalypse began and leave with him. The vast differences all these endings offer almost certainly eliminates Clem’s chances of being the protagonist of season three. And that sucks, because she is literally the only character I liked. I even wanted to kill and eat the baby. I mean, it’s the fucking apocalypse. I’m guessing veal has been hard to come by as of late.

I liked Walking Dead: Season Two, but it’s such a deeply flawed game. And I’m not talking about the gameplay. I’ve given up all hope they’ll ever improve it. No, I’m talking about the story. It is a compelling story. That’s why I stuck it out through ten chapters and a still-useless DLC pack so far. But this idea that you have actual power over the course of the story? It’s an illusion. The writers have a very specific way they expect you to play the game. I understand that they can’t branch off the path too far, because it would make development too complicated. That’s fine. But give us a greater degree of control over how the player’s character feels about each person, and then trust our own judgment on it. Telltale wanted us to sympathize with Kenny. That’s why, after choosing to answer how I felt about Kenny with “he’s unstable. I’ve seen him like this before”, the game kept hitting me with the same question, sometimes from the same characters that originally asked me, over and over again. It’s because the writers envisioned this amazing moment of redemption. I didn’t, because I had determined that Kenny was beyond redemption. He was an unstable, psychopathic monster who endangered everyone around him. Any person in their right mind would have clipped him the moment they met him. But that wasn’t their plan. In the ending I got, Clem was tearful as Kenny said his goodbyes. Clem would NOT have been crying the way I played the game. I was as mean-spirited as possible towards him from start to finish. I always answered questions in ways that would piss him off. Yeah, the ending where you leave Kenny behind and take the baby into Wellington felt more authentic than any other bullshit chance of redemption you’re given, but it still lacked the brutal emotional weight that season one ended on.

This is Jane. Her sister basically gave up on life and got eaten. Since then, Jane has been on her own. She was the other character I didn't immediately hate. In fact, I would have been perfectly fine with Clem getting killed and her becoming the main character of season three. That would have at least kept me interested. But, she actually dies in some of the endings, which renders that possibility impossible. Also, if Clem is the star of season three (which is also very unlikely at this point), that means Jane has to die early on in the first chapter. That sucks.

This is Jane. Her sister basically gave up on life and got eaten. Since then, Jane has been on her own. She was the other character I didn’t immediately hate. In fact, I would have been perfectly fine with Clem getting killed and her becoming the main character of season three. That would have at least kept me interested. But, she actually dies in some of the endings, which renders that possibility impossible. Also, if Clem is the star of season three (which is also very unlikely at this point), that means Jane has to die early on in the first chapter. That sucks.

And, the reason for that is the way I played didn’t line up with the writer’s grand vision for Kenny’s character arc. The ending I got essentially rendered my entire experience as nonsensical and irrelevant. What’s really annoying is the game kept trying to give me a chance to recant my statements. It did that when it asked if I regretted watching Kenny cave in Carver’s skull. I had to repeat that I didn’t multiple times in different chapters. The only logical reason why it would keep asking is if the choice I made wasn’t the choice Telltale wanted me to make. When people disagree with my reviews, I’m often told “you must have played the game wrong.” It’s condescending and insulting, but I get that a lot. It’s how snobs come to terms with the revelation that someone doesn’t like the things they like. But, in the case of Walking Dead, I really did seem to play the game wrong. Because the writers wanted me to feel one specific way about the characters. I didn’t, and thus the dialog at the end made no sense at all. Whatever. I still enjoyed the story, even if I had no real influence over it. I still enjoyed it even if Clem’s words and emotional state didn’t reflect the way I had played. Even when a decision had consequences, it still felt wrong because the story had no consideration for why I had made the decision in the first place, and thus Clem and I weren’t on the same page. Then again, if we had been on the same page, she would have been walking around with a necklace made out of ears and a taste for human flesh. You know, maybe I was the monster all along. Sorry, Kenny.

The Walking Dead LogoThe Walking Dead: Season Two was developed by Telltale Games
Point of Sale: PlayStation 3, Xbox Live Arcade, Steam
$19.99 just realized the Walking Dead actually refers to the survivors in the making of this review. Yeah, I’m quick.

IGC_ApprovedThe Walking Dead: Season Two is Chick-Approved, but is not leaderboard eligible.

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Adam’s Venture: Chronicles

Cathy’s notes on Adam’s Venture

I’m supposed to be taking notes when I game for reviews now. Stupid brain. It used to soak up information like a sponge. Now it soaks up information like, I dunno, a washcloth or something. Stuff still clings, but it gets wrung out whenever I have a seizure. Now I have to write down everything like a fucking savage. And what is my first game I’m doing under this primitive system? Some piece of shit religious game that feels like it fell out of a time warp from 1999. Oh, and get this, it’s called Adam’s Venture. The only problem is, the character is called Adam Venture. It’s Adam Venture’s Venture. Works for me. My name is Cathy Vice. Cigarettes are my vice. They’re Cathy Vice’s Vice. I should use that in the review. It’s fucking clever.

9:18 AM: Okay, well let’s just fire this fucker up. Yes, I’m aware that this game autosaves. What kind of idiot just randomly turns off their console when a little circle-thing is spinning in the corner, indicating that the game is saving? Oh shit, Judge Judy is on. A…….. oops.

10:11AM: All system errors are now fixed. Stupid short attention span. Now I feel like an idiot. Later today, I’ll go on Twitter and get all preachy and self-righteous about Nintendo or how much cooler I am than everyone else. That always cheers me up. Okay, onto the game.

Da nanana, nu nu nuuuuuuuu. Da-nana, nah nu nah nah nah.

Da nanana, nu nu nuuuuuuuu. Da-nana, nah nu nah nah nah.

10:30AM: Ugh. I can’t believe they still make games like this. The character moves like he’s shit his pants. He jumps like he’s liquid-shit his pants and it’s seeping through his underwear. Dude, I have epilepsy. Been there, buddy. I’ll save my own panty-oopsie stuff for later, when I say something stupid on Twitter and need to get sympathy. Suckers. So easy to manipulate.

12:15AM: Adam’s Venture is trying to do the Indiana Jones thing. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. Which was an alright game back in 1999, when I was stupid. All kids are stupid. I was STOOPID stupid. I watched Big Bad BeetleBorgs. Oh, set a reminder to bring that up on Twitter at some point, preferably when someone talks about their superior 80s shows. Even though I found their shows better, I will stand my ground and insist my shows were better. Hell, the retweets I get for mentioning BeetleBorgs will up my geek cred and probably land me at least six new followers.

Anyway, the set pieces are nice. It really does kind of feel like I’m exploring a vast, abandoned, booby-trapped cavern. If not for the Dreamcast-era graphics, I might be positively immersed right now. Oh, and I’m now being followed by an evil cloud-monster-thing that reminds me of Dark Heart from Care Bears II. But it only shows up in cut scenes. There’s no enemies or combat. It’s just about getting from point A to point B by solving rudimentary math and logic puzzles. It’s really linear, so it’s almost impossible to get lost. In a way, I appreciate that. But it all comes back to those controls. It’s like the designers of this game went into full-on panic mode as the millennium neared and locked themselves in a fucking bunker for fourteen years to escape the Y2K fallout. Then they spent the next fourteen years kicking themselves for not hanging the “We’re in here, Jesus!” sign that they had lovingly quilted and figured the rapture had passed by without them being saved . Then, one day, they emerged, blurry-eyed, and discovered the world hadn’t ended. After the initial disappointment, and trying to figure out their cover story for why they only waited two weeks to cannibalize their buddy Harry when they had plenty of rations, they tried their hand at game making. They had a PlayStation 1 and a copy of Tomb Raider and Legacy of Kain to play endlessly to pass the time, and that shit was so cutting edge that there was NO WAY the format was improved over the last fifty-six seasons. Oh, and this is a religious game, so stick a snarky “what a surprise, a religious game that disproves the theory of evolution” quip in the review. Maybe too obvious and lazy a joke, but fuck it, I’ve got shit to do today.

12:20PM: Brian just pointed out to me that I, in fact, don’t have anything to do today. Whatever. You know what? Fuck him. No sex for him tonight.

The settings are the best part of the game. A lot of care went into them. It makes it look like the game will be exhilarating. It's not. It's very slow paced.

The settings are the best part of the game. A lot of care went into them. It makes it look like the game will be exhilarating. It’s not. It’s very slow-paced.

1:15PM: There’s really not enough story to sink my teeth into. Just lots of vague religious stuff. Some of the puzzles involve arranging three lines of scripture in the correct order. I’ll bring up that I’m actually a practicing Catholic here, even though I don’t actually believe that shit. Just hedging my bets, in case when I repent on my deathbed God sees my fingers crossed. Still though, it’s not horrible or offensive. A little old-fashioned, but then again, so is religion. You know what? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this will win my seal of approval after all.

1:16PM: OMG, fuck this game. Fuck it in its mouth with a hepatitis-laced rusty scrub brush.  It has timed environmental puzzles. And the timer is too short. For this one puzzle, you have to light two torches, climb a rope ladder, jump up on a platform, and duck under a door before one of the torches goes out and it closes. Why that sucks is, lighting the torches is done via context sensitivity. Simply pressing the button doesn’t light the torch. When you do press it, the game takes over movement and gingerly stumbles back and forth until the character is locked into place. Then, it slowly lowers your torch into the torch you’re trying to light. This whole thing DOES NOT STOP THE TIMER, which wouldn’t be an issue if there is only one torch. But, because there’s two, if you don’t hit the button in the very small space that is lined up most ideally, you’re going to watch while the game operates your character like it’s trying to not break a nail.  Mind you, even if you do it correctly, you still have to line up correctly with the ladder, get up it fast enough, then get to the ledge and jump on it. Jumping on it isn’t smooth either. In the very first part of the game that required you to jump, I had to try five times to jump up a ledge that was about six inches off the ground. This is not a game designed with dexterity or speed in mind. I spent forty minutes trying to get this room correct. I was convinced I was doing it wrong and looked for an item or something else I was missing. I can’t believe this made it through play testing without the poor sap playing throwing down his controller in disgust and converting to Scientology. Suddenly, the whole religious thing makes sense. By the time this room was over, I was praying. “Please God, don’t let there be another room like that.”

2:04PM: There was another room like that. This one had four torches that seemed to have even shorter timers. They were all spread out in the corner of a large room. The only thing I had to do was light the torches. No other hoops to jump through. It took me another thirty-minutes to do it, just because of the animation thing. It felt like one of those plate-spinning gags, only it would be like if the plate spinner had to tie his shoelaces before spinning the plate more. 

2:35PM: I’m finally done with Adam Venture’s Venture. Well that was short and…………

2:36PM: Shit. I forgot this is a compilation of a game that had been released episodically on PC. Well, I’m done. I can’t take anymore. If they patch the torch thing, which I’m sure can only be done by increasing the timer on the torches or stopping the timer while the auto-animation is going, I’ll come back to it. I don’t even know if there are going to be more rooms like that, but the fear of it is stronger than my fear of cigar-smoking clowns. Damn that Are You Afraid of the Dark? show. Twenty years later and I still have nightmares. Those sections really were the only things remotely challenging, but not in a good way. I’ll wrap up the review by reenforcing that Adam’s Venture Chronicles is far from horrible, but it really is too old-fashioned for anyone expecting a game released in 2014 to have control-sensibilities from the last ten years. Maybe this would have been a terrific game in 1999. But it’s not 1999. 

Seriously, Vertigo Games. Patch those timed-puzzles and I think I would be ready to award this my Seal of Approval. Also, you guys need to flog yourselves with a cat o' nine tails for committing such a sin in the first place.

Seriously, Vertigo Games. Patch those timed-puzzles and I think I would be ready to award this my Seal of Approval. Also, you guys need to flog yourselves with a cat o’ nine tails for committing such a sin in the first place.

I bet if I had been a kid when this came out, Mommy and Daddy would have gotten this for me. I mean, assuming they could find out about it. How do you find out about games of this nature, anyway? The religious aspects of the Adam’s Venture Chronicles aren’t even mentioned on its PSN profile. Imagine if a militantly secular family accidentally bought this. It seems like it wouldn’t go over well. More over, to not boast of the nature of the game itself defies the scriptures. Timothy 2:15 tells us “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Of course, it also tells us to kill every mouthy child, homosexual, or person who works on a Sunday. Grand Theft Auto isn’t this bloodthirsty. But it would be facetious if I put that in the review, even if the liberals who read me would lap it up. In truth, if parents only want their kids playing games of this nature, the kids life wouldn’t be ruined by Adam’s Venture. It’s mostly only a bad game because it’s so outdated in the way it’s executed. Had this controlled like Tomb Raider 2013 did, it wouldn’t have been amazing or anything, but I probably would have liked it a lot more. Hmmm, executed wrong. I should probably work in some kind of really inappropriate joke here. Something involving Jesus and an electric chair or something.

Now for the crappy part: I have to turn these notes into a review. I could just post them like this, lazy as it would be. But then people would realize I’m an aloof, pompous, self-indulgent, self-righteous, stuck-up bitch, instead of the awesome crusader for indie developers people think I am. Hey, wait a second. I’m a game critic. I’m SUPPOSED to be those things.  And…. published.

Adam's LogoAdam’s Venture: Chronicles was developed by Vertigo Games

$9.59 with PlayStation Plus discount ($11.99 MSRP) probably didn’t stick to the concept behind this review well enough in the making of this review.

There are two Vertigo Games as far as I can tell. One of them should consider changing their name to avoid market confusion. The link above points to the guys behind Adam’s Venture. But these guys are also Vertigo Games. It’s an uninspired name anyway.

A review copy of Adam’s Venture: Chronicles was provided to Indie Gamer Chick by publisher Playlogic before the game’s scheduled release on February 4, 2014. At Indie Gamer Chick, all games reviewed are paid for in full by the writer. Upon the release of the game, Cathy provided a $20 PSN card to a friend who purchased the game. The friend has a PlayStation Plus subscription, meaning the purchase price was $9.59. For more on this policy, check out our FAQ.

Doki Doki Universe

Doki Doki Universe comes from famed developer Greg Johnson.  Owner of the most generic name in the universe that doesn’t contain “John” or “Smith” in it.  I suppose that’s why his most famous title, ToeJam & Earl, is so outlandish.  Somebody is overcompensating.  But really, you can see the influence to a degree, along with the situational comedy of other titles he contributed to, such as Spore or the Sims 2.  And, by situational comedy, I mean such events as adolescent, anamorphic sushi volunteering to be eaten alive by a nauseated sumo wrestler, or having to get a man turned into a toilet seat turned back human in time for his wedding.  All this is presided over by a robot named QT3, who was abandoned by his family and set to be scrapped because he lacks humanity.  However, if he can learn humanity from an alien named Jeff, he’ll be spared from the junkyard.  Oh, and if you so desire, he can travel through space while ridding a giant mound of poo.

Eat Me

I typically only say this to haters.

Okay, so Doki Doki might pile on the “absurdity for the sake of absurdity” brand of humor a little too thick, but actually, it all is really quite sweet.  Gameplay consists of choosing a planet to land on.  Each planet has some human-condition theme to it.  It might be jealousy.  It might be bullying.  I thought this was going to be obnoxiously heavy-handed.  Instead, the over-the-top dialog and comical stupidity of it makes the delivery of the morality digestible.  Basically, you’ll walk around the planet collecting “hidden” presents (that are often in plain sight) and conjuring up art-assets to solve the problems for each world’s residents.  Every planet has a set number of tasks to complete.  Once you finish those, you can go around trying to please or anger the population to earn more presents, which will either be experience points, new art assets to summon, or new decorations for your home planet.  It’s sort of Scribblenauts, without the typing, done as a series of fetch-quests.  But, unlike Scribblenauts, I found the whole thing really rewarding.

Doki Doki Universe plays out like a simplified personality tester.  It’s not subtle about this at all.  Sometimes, when making a decision, the game will declare in bold letters some attribute you have, based on your choice.  If I told a rock that his name is Rock because he’s a rock, the game declared that I was a realist.  What else are you going to name a Rock?  Dwayne?  Also, between planets, there are multiple little moons that feature a handful of questions that further test your personality.  I tried to answer them as honestly as I could.  After finishing each quiz (which are between 3 to 5 questions in length), the game will give you an assessment of your personality, and explanations for how they came to that conclusion.  You can then return to your home planet to get a more thorough explanation that sums up all the questions you’ve answered.  The game determined the following things about me, which I crossed-checked with friends and family to see how accurate they felt it was.

Sorry, no follow-up questions allowed.  Like I wasn't able to find out if the Grim Reaper toy had actual governance over the mortality of other toys or just make-believe powers.  So I chose the RC Car.

Sorry, no follow-up questions allowed. Like I wasn’t able to find out if the Grim Reaper toy had actual governance over the mortality of other toys or just make-believe powers. So I chose the RC Car.

  • I enjoy wild and silly humor and visual comedy.  100% agreement.
  • I am a creator of art (not remotely accurate), and seek to enrich the world.  The creator of art thing was debated upon.  Is the stuff I write at Indie Gamer Chick a form of art?  If the answer is no, the art thing is completely inaccurate.  Everyone felt the enrich the world part was fair though.
  • I like stories set in the distant past or future.  Change is exciting.  Another direct hit.
  • In stories, I look for strong plot over emotion.  We all agree, that’s not remotely accurate.
  • I search for beauty in the world around me.   100% agreement.
  • I have a good memory and I’m good at finishing things.  My memory is great when it’s not messed up by having seizures.  The finishing things part?  I have like twenty reviews and editorials I’ve started but never finished here.  I think that means “wrong.”
  • It also noted at various times that I’m motivated by money (check), have an excellent sense of rhythm (wrong), stand up for others (check) but never in a mean way (some XBLIG developers might disagree with that).
  • In total, we figured it was about 50% accurate.  Which at least beats my level of accuracy when playing Remote Viewer.

    In total, we figured it was about 50% accurate. Which at least beats my level of accuracy when playing Remote Viewer.

So basically horoscope-accurate.  In fact, I’m sure the blind horoscope test will apply to pretty much anyone playing Doki Doki Universe.  The blind horoscope test is where a room full of people are given the same horoscope, but told each person is getting a unique one based on their birthday.  Typically, between 75% to 90% of the room will say the horoscope is “mostly” accurate in describing them.  So while I was playing Doki Doki Universe, as my boyfriend watched, he often said “wow, scary accurate” to many things.  When something is a hit, the reaction it generates is typically pleasure and awe, which causes your average person to not dwell upon the stuff that is grossly inaccurate.  No, I’m not particularly artistic, nor am I rhythmic.  But then again, I’m not sure if I expected different from a game that decided to test my personality by asking if I would wear an octopus as a hat.  Which, for the record,  I wouldn’t.  A scarf?  Maybe.  But not a hat.

Beyond the personality crapola, my biggest complaint is that occasionally you’ll pick an item to conjure up for a local, but it will spit out an entirely different item and call it a “BACKFIRE!!”  You can count on this happening at least once, maybe as much as four times, on a single planet.  It doesn’t really impede progress, since you can’t game over, so it just because a brief, annoying waste of time that could quickly be overcome.  It serves absolutely no point in the game (unless you believe my buddy Bob, who pointed out that sometimes you don’t always get what you want in life.  Yea, but this isn’t life.  It’s a fucking video game.  Give me what I want).  I also never really came remotely close to running out of the energy (called Dust-Bunnies) that you use to create the objects.  In order to earn the trophy for using them all, I had to use the otherwise useless “find the hidden treasures” power about fifty times in a row.  Doki Doki Universe is not a game you should approach if you’re looking for a challenge.  I had Christmas presents that gave me a tougher time trying to open than Doki Doki gave me trying to get every trophy.

This is one of the DLC Levels. You can get all six extra planets for $3.98.  If you're into the personality tests, you can get all 24 extra of those for $2.98. The $24.99 "Limited Edition" pack is a total waste of money, with many of the features unrelated to actual gameplay.  Skip it, buy the extras separate.

This is one of the DLC Levels. You can get all six extra planets for $3.98. If you’re into the personality tests, you can get all 24 extra of those for $2.98. The $24.99 “Limited Edition” pack is a total waste of money, with many of the features unrelated to actual gameplay. Skip it, buy the extras separate.

But it was really fun.  What I found most satisfying was the relationship between QT3 and a small red balloon on the home planet, which is actually named Balloon.  It was the most genuine, heart-string-pulling gaming relationship I’ve seen in quite a while.  Very moving, very loving, and it reduced more than one or two tough guys into blubbering crybabies.  I was way more interested in what was going on between them than I was with QT3 and his girlfriend that shows up at the end.  That whole bit reminded me of Snoopy Come Home, where everything revolved around Snoopy’s reunion with his previous owner, Lila, but when they finally met up it was still sweet, but kind of disappointing.  Really, my biggest regret with Doki Doki Universe is that Balloon didn’t accompany QT3 on all his adventures.  Instead, you’re supposed to catch up between planets.  I didn’t mind though.  I loved the innocence of their dynamic.  For a game with numerous shit jokes, it kept things between them pure, sort of like Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh, only without the mental illness overtones.  So I really recommend Doki Doki Universe.  It’s the first really good game available on PSN for PlayStation 4.  Don’t worry, PS3 and Vita owners can play it as well.  No having to sell a kidney on the black market to be able to play this one.

Doki Doki logoDoki Doki Universe was developed by HumanNature Studios

Seal of Approval Large$14.99 (plus $6.96 worth of DLC) also found out that this doesn’t make the most exciting game for live streaming in the making of this review.

Doki Doki Universe is Chick-Approved and Ranked (pretty dang high) on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

ibb & obb

Do you know how long it’s been since I downloaded ibb & obb with the intent of reviewing it?  128 days.  They even threw me a review code to pass out to a friend to test the online play.  It’s not out of laziness that I haven’t gotten around to writing it up.  It comes down to two things.  First, the original build that released had some patchwork needed, and since my slate was full at the time, I let the developers fix it up before continuing further.  And second, and certainly most importantly here: I couldn’t find a partner to play with, even after I handed out the code.  Because apparently I have a bit of a temper about me and my partners didn’t appreciate being called idiots.  Even my boyfriend.  But, it’s not my fault.  ibb & obb is a game designed to ruin relationships.

ibb & obb is a cooperative puzzle-platformer.  Well, unless you’re talented enough to play solo by controlling Ibb with the left stick and Obb with the right stick.  Freak.  I don’t possess that talent, or any other coordination-based talent.  I can barely throw a robe on without breaking at least one bone in my body.  Thus, I was forced to play with partners.  The results were not pretty.

Do you know what I hate about the PS Store?  It often has either the trailer or pictures, but not both. In the case in Ibb and Obb, I had to swipe the pictures from Ibb and Obb's official site, which only had pics of the prototype.  Screw it.  Just look at the trailer below.

Do you know what I hate about the PS Store? It often has either the trailer or pictures, but not both. In the case in ibb & obb, I had to swipe the pictures from its official site, which only had pics of the prototype. Screw it. Just look at the trailer below.

Partner One: the Boyfriend

Our first attempt at playing ibb & obb came back in August.  At first, we thought we would really dig the clever level design, which heavily stresses teamwork.  Especially using each-other as platforms to reach higher plateaus.  ibb & obb has a hard-on for that set-up.  Of course, it also heavily leans on the “reverse-gravity, walk on the ceiling” school of platform design that I used to think was cute before I became Indie Gamer Chick.  Since then, I’ve seen no less than twenty games attempt it, and it gets more annoying and unoriginal every time.  Ibby Obby tries to at least mix it up by having the gravity stuff take place all over the map, often forcing you to use the gravity as a sort of springboard that you launch yourself to a higher platform with.  And, for what it’s worth, Brian still thinks the level design is splendid.  He just refuses to play with me.  Because he doesn’t like being smacked in the head and called an imbecile when HE screws up jumps.  I never screwed up jumps.  Perfect jumping is one of my finer qualities, second only to my modesty.

ibb & obb demands utter perfection in the puzzlish jumps it presents you.  There is nothing wrong with that kind of platform design, if the game’s controls are tight and responsive.  ibb & obb does not possess those qualities.  That, and that alone, kills it dead.  It’s just too damn frustrating how loose and slippery the controls are.  Now, in the original build, the D-pad was completely unmapped, which meant you were stuck using the incredibly over-sensitive analog stick for all the movement.  The patient team at Sparpweed Games, who I utterly respect the shit out of despite hating their game, promised they would use my early feedback.  And they did.  They added D-pad support, which made a world of difference, but the characters still slid a lot when moving and jumping.  The looseness and imprecision of the controls was far and away the most challenging aspect of ibb & obb.

Even with the D-pad, we found it hard to line-up jumps, stack ourselves, or aim long-distance jumps without overshooting.  If this had been a single-player game with only one character to worry about, I would have been frustrated to the point of meltdown.  But ibb & obb is a cooperative game, which means you need precision of not just one, but two players.  Both of whom need to play absolutely perfectly, especially in later stages.  Every enemy is an instata-kill, and one player dying means both players have to start from the last checkpoint.  Now granted, the checkpoints are very generously present, often immediately before each new “puzzle” in a stage.  But when the loose controls result in puzzles that can take up to thirty minutes to clear, in part because coordinating two people to solve a puzzle is akin to learning a new dance from scratch, my frustration reached a level that I later learned is called “domestic violence.”  Brian took it with good grace, because he’s that kind of guy (and also because I wear the pants in this relationship), but he’s not a regular gamer, or a puzzle person, or particularly smart.  He also got sick of me saying he wasn’t particularly smart, then showed his intelligence by telling me to find someone else to play with.

The reverse gravity thing used to be novel. Now, it's almost a prerequisite if you want to make an indie platformer.

The reverse gravity thing used to be novel. Now, it’s almost a prerequisite if you want to make an indie platformer.

Partner Two: a friend I met through Indie Gamer Chick

A few weeks ago, I was bitching about the, ahem, quality of my partner on Twitter when a skilled platforming fan that I met through Indie Gamer Chick offered to play a bit with me.  Mindful that I have difficulty communicating, we hooked up and attempted to play.  This was a bit of a disaster, partially unrelated to the game itself.  I do have quirks related to my autism, one of which being I tend to talk over people during those times I can speak.  I try not to, but it’s tough.  That annoyed him.  He annoyed me by being non-stop sarcastic.  Sarcasm is a tricky thing for me, because most of the time I’m incapable of recognizing it, even when it’s obvious.  My brain processes information literally.  If I write it, I know my intent, but hearing it from others throws me off.  And this dude could not grasp this concept.  We got on each-others nerves.

Now thankfully, there is a communication-aid in the game that draws the pathway you’re trying to show by using the right analog stick.  Sounds great, except even once you and the partner get done arguing over the solution, you still have to both be very precise with very imprecise controls.  Again, the later levels leave little room for error, which meant both of us were screwing up.  Like I did with Brian, we both laughed during the first few screw-ups.  But once you’ve crossed a dozen between you (mostly via me, I admit), frustration and anger sets in.  We did make progress, but the constant follies that were more on the shoddy controls than us were too much and we both agreed we weren’t having fun.  And that if we had been sitting next to each-other with sharp objects, at least one of us would be dead.

Partner Three: The Business Partner, then his Kid

I don’t even remember what game it was, but last year my partner Christian dropped by my house to talk about something or another and we ended up playing a game I was reviewing for Indie Gamer Chick.  We don’t exactly have a relationship outside of work, so it was a cool bonding moment.  Last week, Chris dropped by the house and I thought “hey, I should show him ibb & obb.”  Chris had recently been playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii U with his son, age eight, so I figured I would show him an indie version of a platformer.  It took me about ten seconds to realize he wouldn’t exactly be a premium playing partner.  He literally couldn’t do such simple actions as jumping on top of me.  So his kid Brent took over.  An eight-year-old, mind you, who kept asking why the controls weren’t more Super Mario-like accurate.  It made me wonder how high the ceiling for ibb & obb would have been if it had NSMB-levels of accuracy.  Although Brent took direction relatively well, not to mention that ibb & obb sure looks like it would be aimed squarely at his age-range, it was too difficult for him.  We then booted up Wii U and he proceeded to utterly humiliate me at Mario.  Kid is going to be a pro someday.

Sorry guys, I had to make due with the pictures I had available. For what it's worth, the  whole game doesn't look like this.

Sorry guys, I had to make due with the pictures I had available. For what it’s worth, the whole game doesn’t look like this.

Partner Four: Daddy

So it’s come to this.  By this point, I had tried ibb & obb multiple times with Brian, and a few times with various other people.  I never really got over how loose and annoying the controls were.  But, ibb & obb’s level design is undeniably clever.  I get accused of quitting many games I play at IGC too early.  Actually, often I quit and then while writing the review I go back and give it another shot, just because I don’t feel good about it otherwise.  I try my best to be fair.  In that interest, I borrowed my father.  Even he commented on how bland the game looked, and he was unaware that this had been a showcase title during Sony’s last Play event.  Alas, my father is not a gamer.  ibb & obb’s more challenging platform sections and loose controls require someone with experience, and my father is always the one holding everyone back when we play New Super Mario.  He’s also probably reading this right now.  Hi Daddy.  Don’t worry, I didn’t tell anyone that you pronounce Mario “Merry-Oh.”

In conclusion, ibb & obb is a game that probably should have been a lot better than it turned out.  I feel like Tim Russert, writing “CONTROL CONTROL CONTROL” on a marker-board, because that’s all that ibb & obb needed.  The concept is as niche and indie as possible, and if you don’t have a partner, don’t bother even trying.  But currently ibb & obb is free on PS+, and at that price, it’s probably worth looking at, just based on how good the intentions were here.  A lot of thought was put into the puzzles, the level design, and the cooperative gimmick.  But, I didn’t really like it.  And maybe it’s not entirely on the controls.  I love puzzle games, but puzzles to me are something I prefer to work out on my own.  Portal is one of my all time favorite games, but even playing Portal 2’s coop with people who I genuinely love felt like I was having my space violated.  And then you have the moments where ibb & obb is more about the platforming precision, almost like a punisher, where one or both players end up holding each-other back over multiple attempts.  It’s not an experience that’s best shared, in my opinion.  Little Big Planet kind of figured that out.  It’s not a game that, on its own, is especially difficult.  But the more players you add, the greater the odds that someone is going to fuck up and force everyone to restart.  Now imagine ramping the difficulty of level design on that up.  It would be maddening.  Combine that with the loosened controls, and any fun would have long been replaced by aggravation.  ibb & obb has been critically popular (though I think the big-league critics give minimalistic indies a lot of leeway they otherwise wouldn’t), so maybe I’m in the minority here.  Or maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had personally been more skilled at it.  I mean, I get that a lot, where people determine that the only explanation for my dislike of a game is that I must suck at all games.  It’s a bullshit theory.  I love Spelunky about as much as anyone reasonably could, and if I were any worse at that game, I would be able to use it to qualify for disability.

ibbibb & obb was developed by Sparpweed Games

$7.99 with PS+ discount (at the time I purchased, currently free with PS+) thought the name sounded like something that would be seen on Nickelodeon in the making of this review.

A review copy of ibb & obb was provided to Indie Gamer Chick.  The copy played by Cathy was paid for by her with her own money.  The review copy was passed on to a friend to test online play.  That player had no feedback in this review.  For more on this policy, check our FAQ.

DO NOT FALL

Sony just started its annual Play event, where some of the top indies (and one random licensed title) get put on PlayStation Network, complete with PlayStation Plus discounts and a special bonus if you buy all the games in the event.  DO NOT FALL is not one of those games.  It just happened to come out the day the event started, alongside actual participant Stealth Inc.  It’s also not really an indie, per se.  It’s by developers XPEC Entertainment.  I get it.  Heh.  XPEC.  That’s like expect. They’re saying “expect entertainment, like, from the games we’re making.”  As opposed to what?  I expect every game to be entertaining.  It’s only when they don’t that I get pissy about it.

I didn’t do the five seconds of research on Google that would have alerted me to these guys’ non-indie status.  They’ve handled such franchises as Shrek, Hello Kitty, and Kung-Fu Panda.  That got me briefly excited, because I thought Kung Fu Panda was a pretty underrated little game.  Then I got unexcited when I found out they only developed the Wii and PS2 version, not the pretty decent Xbox 360 port.  Okay, so I totally screwed the pooch in selecting this game for review.  Unless it doesn’t suck.  Shockingly, it doesn’t.  DO NOT FALL is not bad at all.  It’s not much better than decent either, but at least I found a game that nobody is talking about to review.  Still counts.

do not fall

Behold: the least controversial screenshot any game I’ve reviewed will ever have. That’s what I get for accidentally reviewing a non-indie.

So the basic idea is DO NOT FALL is a maze-like platformer, with the hook being the ground crumbles beneath you as you run along it.  Most of the time it eventually respawns.  Occasionally it doesn’t.  Neat hook.  Original.  The crumbling floor thing is a common theme in games, but never has a game outright centered around it.  At first, I didn’t really care all that much.  DO NOT FALL gets off to a horribly sluggish start.  The opening tutorial stages show off the cutesy animal themes and cheerful music that just beat you over the head with adorableness so much that I wanted to kill myself.

But, it does get better.  In fact, once the game grows some teeth and the difficult ramps up, DO NOT FALL is actually a bit exciting.  Because of the crumbling block hook, you’ll sometimes go long stretches of a level without having a moment to pause, set yourself, and plan out your next move.  Thinking on your feet is the focus here.  Once you reach the third world, level design really takes off.  Worlds become more sprawling, keys get spread further apart, and having to lure enemies to their deaths by crumbling the floors underneath them while still having room to get where you need to go is actually a lot of fun.  When DO NOT FALL does right by its own idea, good times are had.

Unfortunately, numerous problems hold it back.  My biggest issue was perception.  When levels go from being flat to having height and  depth, I had trouble lining up jumps, because it really looked like the blocks I was leaping towards were straight across from the one I was on.  Or at least they did when I had about a second to glance over at them while plotting the course I was taking.  This issue comes up a lot from the third world onwards, and it never failed to frustrate.  It also doesn’t help that you can’t rotate the camera.  You can move it slightly left or slightly right, and you can zoom it out, but you can’t rotate it.  This was apparently done so that they could occasionally hide hidden trinkets behind objects.  I’m fine with that, if the amount of fun from that concept outweighs the amount of frustration not having a better camera option causes.  Not only is that not the case here, but the stuff hidden behind scenery glows so that you can’t possibly miss it.  I hate it when games screw up their concept and are condescending about it.

Controls are an issue too.  DO NOT FALL uses a full 3D game engine, but all the action should hypothetically take place one block at a time.  Because of that, I would think the D-Pad would be the preferable control option.  It’s not an option at all.  Thus, movement is imprecise and too loose to fully be comfortable while maneuvering the stages.  Often, the platforms you’re running across only have a width of one block.  This left me a frequent victim of simply walking off a ledge.  I can’t help but wonder if it would have played better if movement is was handled one full block at a time.  I honestly don’t know if it would have worked better or not, but the current scheme is problematic.  It was never a deal breaker, mind you.  Once you get over the learning curve of the physics (could take a while) and get a feel for distance, you’ll be zipping through levels with the only fusses being those there by design.

I can't help but think this was designed more with the phone market, or possibly Nintendo 3DS, in mind. Not that phones would have been suitable for DO NOT FALL.  I'm pretty sure this game combined with fake touch-screen buttons would have been a complete disaster.  3DS, on the other hand, would have probably been a better fit.  It might have helped with the depth-perception problems.

I can’t help but think this was designed more with the phone market, or possibly Nintendo 3DS, in mind. Not that phones would have been suitable for DO NOT FALL. I’m pretty sure this game combined with fake touch-screen buttons would have been a complete disaster. 3DS, on the other hand, would have probably been a better fit. It might have helped with the depth-perception problems.

There’s a lot not to like about DO NOT FALL, and I focused on the negatives perhaps a little too strongly here.  Trust me, there’s a lot more I left out, like the generic setting, the shop where items are far too expensive, and the difficulty going absolutely bonkers about two-thirds of the way through.  So I would like to close out by saying, DO NOT FALL is worth your money, because it does a lot right.  Level design isn’t always perfect, but when it’s at its most inspired, DO NOT FALL is a lot fun.  Plus, I really dug the concept here.  It took something that is so common a hazard in platformers that it’s practically a cliché and successfully built an entire game around it.  You don’t see that very often at all.  To make a mechanic that has existed and been stale since before I was born fresh and exciting is something to be admired.

Really, what DO NOT FALL could have used was polish.  Instead of fine tuning the campaign, the developers seemed to have spent their free time making an utterly boring series of online-enabled, multiplayer minigames.  None of them are fun.  All of them feel like rejected Mario Party fare with no connection to the main game.  That’s a shame.  If they insisted on including multiplayer support, a co-op mode with levels tailored for that would have been much more preferable.  I guess.  I mean, going off the family-friendly characters and environments, you would forgive me for assuming that DO NOT FALL is designed with the kiddie set in mind.  I’m thinking children will like this more than I did.  Considering that I did like DO NOT FALL, that might be significant.  So if you have kids, this might be a good purchase for them that you won’t get bored with yourself.  And if I’m wrong and they don’t like it at all, do me a solid and tell your kids the guys at PSNStores.com gave you the idea and not me.

imageDO NOT FALL was developed by XPEC Entertainment

Seal of Approval Large$9.99 thinks this is an almost certain nominee for the First Annual Indie Gamer Chick Award for Mediocrity in the Field of Generic Character Design in the making of this review.

DO NOT FALL is Chick Approved but not Leaderboard-eligible (non-Indie)

A review copy of DO NOT FALL was provided to Indie Gamer Chick to test online multiplayer.  If I had known what the online multiplayer would be like, I would have turned it down.  Another thing I didn’t research properly.  Anyway, the review copy was provided to a friend who had no input in this review.  The copy played by me was paid for by me with my own money.  For more on this policy, check my FAQ.

Hotline Miami

I’ve always hated using the cop-out “it’s just not for me” in relation to anything.  It just seems so non-committal.  And yet, after putting a few hours into Hotline Miami and simply not getting what everyone else is raving about, I feel “it’s just not for me” is the only answer I can give, because it really isn’t for me.

And that has nothing to do with the violence.  I like violence.  I’m proud that I live in a time where the violence on television is so awesome that it makes even the most grizzled of war veterans become physically ill.  People are talking about the violence in Hotline Miami like we’ve reached the zenith of virtual murders.  Where have you people been the last few years?  There’s shit in the latest Mortal Kombat that would make even the most fetishistic psychopath go limp with shame.  Hell, I’ve played a game that gives you an achievement for tying a nun to railroad tracks and letting her get hit by a train.  And I loved it.  Sorry Hotline Miami, but your eight-bit violence is just not cutting it with me.

The typical after-party at the MTV Music Video Awards.

The typical after-party at the MTV Music Video Awards.

I think the raving is based mostly on the novelty factor.  Violence was never this masterful when games looked like this.  With modern indie gaming, we can take all the theatrical bloodshed we’ve accumulated from years of premium cable shows and modern M rated titles and apply it to games that seem like they could have existed in the 80s.  So the thrill comes from “hey, it’s an old game but it’s really gory.  Neat!”  But it’s not an old game.  I’m not saying Hotline Miami isn’t extraordinarily fucked up.  It is.  What I’m saying is, shouldn’t everyone over the age of twenty  be desensitized to this type of shit by now?

What turned me off most about Hotline Miami was the difficulty.  I just could not make any progress, often repeating stages several dozen times to no avail.  Hypothetically, the game is a bit of a puzzler, a bit of a brawler, a bit of a shooter, and a bit of a stealthy dungeon crawler type of thing.  It’s a cavalcade of ideas and it doesn’t always blend together smoothly.  This also helps mute the violence that is, let’s face it, the chief selling point of the game.  For example, the scalding water thing.  Everyone had been telling me about the water thing for the last year.  Grab a pot of boiling water off a stove and throw it on some dude.  Pretty brutal, right?  But the act of throwing boiling water loses its sting when you have to repeat that upwards of fifty times because of any number of reasons, such as having one of the enemies randomly move off its preset path and blow you away.  Or having enemies that can turn and fire on you faster than you can react.  Or clearing out a room only to miss one dude who gets up and casually blows you away with a shotgun.

My guess is Hotline Miami would have played better if I could have played it with a mouse and keyboard.  Using the PS3 controller was an exercise in frustration.  Locking on to an enemy requires lining up a cursor somewhere near them.  Of course, sometimes enemies bunch together, so trying to line up exactly the right is tough.  The game probably needed something along the lines of Metroid Prime’s lock-on system that generally lined up the closest person to you.  Not that it would have mattered.  The AI is a crack shot every time from seemingly all distances, and it can process information faster than you.  Thus the moment one centimeter of your body is exposed, you’re dead.  The puzzle aspect doesn’t really work right because the AI can be so brutally unfair but also prone to fits of randomness where guys break off their preset paths.  Or sometimes they just wouldn’t play along at all.  I would play rounds where I would fire a shotgun through a door and set off every single dude in the place to come and murder me.  At other times I could fire from the exact same location, killing the exact same guy, and have nobody react to it.  There was no consistency from one life to the next.

As a full disclosure type of deal, I had to play Hotline Miami in shorter play sessions (about 30 to 45 minutes at a time) due to epilepsy concerns.  But I was never bummed when it was time for a break.  The repetition can be exhausting.

As a full disclosure type of deal, I had to play Hotline Miami in shorter play sessions (about 30 to 45 minutes at a time) due to epilepsy concerns. But I was never bummed when it was time for a break. The repetition can be exhausting.

I will say this: if you absolutely do not want to play the PC version and you have Vita as an option, go with it.  It’s a trend I’ve noticed with these cross-platform PS3/Vita releases.  The Vita version always has superior control.  For Miami, movement isn’t as loose, aiming is more efficient because targeting is handled via the touch screen, and scrolling is done by dragging your finger around.  By comparison, the PS3 port is clunky, cumbersome, and imprecise.  As if the too smart, too quick, too accurate AI isn’t enough of a problem, you have to deal with controls that never feel intuitive or smooth.

I can’t really explain how I could enjoy a game like Spelunky and not enjoy Hotline Miami.  Both had control issues.  Both are based around frequent dying, trial-and-error gameplay and unfair design.  I wish I could explain it.  It would probably save me a lot of grief that I’m already getting from fans of this game.  I can’t even say I hate the game.  Maybe it’s been the year of crushing hype that everyone has been showering me with.  People talked about Hotline Miami like it was the second coming of Grand Theft Auto.  But I don’t think it’s that.  I really don’t think this game is as good as everyone is saying.  What it does do is meet the three rules for an indie game to get critical acclaim no matter how flawed or broken it is.  They are:

1. Have retro graphics.  Because if you hate a game with retro graphics, you’re pissing on gaming’s heritage and thus your opinion is invalidated.  Even if you’re talking about a brand new game released this year (or the port of a PC game released last year).

2. Be insanely, unfairly, unreasonably difficult.  Because if you hate a game that’s all of those, you’re just a low-skill gamer whose opinion is invalidated by the sheer force of your sucking.  Or you’re too young to remember a period when all games were this hard (there’s no such thing) and thus your opinion is invalidated because you’re a whippersnapper used to be coddled by games that hold your hand from start to finish.

3. Be gratuitously violent and shocking in ways so brazen that if you were to describe them to a psychiatrist out of context, you would be committed.  Disliking games like this means you’re a prude at best, and an anti-gaming sissy in league with the Jack Thompsons of the world at worst.  Clearly someone whose opinion isn’t valid.

Me?  I’m a neo-retro loving, violence embracing gamer.  Okay, fine, I’ve never understood the whole “be as insanely difficult as possible” thing that some people thrive on, but I can put up with it if I’m having fun.  I didn’t have fun with Hotline Miami.  Not just for the controls or the unfair AI.  I just didn’t like it.  It was boring to me.  Almost everyone else seems to like it.  Which is fine, because the groundwork for something spectacular is laid here.  I just couldn’t get into it.  So I’ll chalk this one up to “it’s not for me” and move on.  By the way, Brian is noting right now that I’ve used the “it’s not for me” excuse to avoid watching F1 with him, so I can’t claim this is my first use of it.  Fine.  I’ll you what Brian: when drivers start throwing scalding water on each-other and are allowed to use firearms during the race, get back to me.

imageHotline Miami was developed by Dennaton Games

$9.99 admits that I didn’t make it very far, but not for a lack of trying.  Having said that, I spent five hours failing again and again, so I feel I have enough room to talk about this game in the making of this review. 

Guacamelee!

I wasn’t even sure I was going to get to play Guacamelee!  Many readers, aware that I have epilepsy, warned me that the game occasionally vomits flashy, eye-hurting rainbows.  However, I was given assurances from readers that such effects only happen when you pick up an upgrade or immediately as you enter a boss battle.  They were right, and I was able to play Guacamelee.  Hooray for me!

Unfortunately, after a couple very promising opening hours, Guacamelee fell apart.  For me at least.  I felt the game had issues with padding, humor, and the occasional game-killing bug.  Someone who I think is part of the development team assures me a patch is on the way for such bugs, which might be able to bump the game up to a Seal-of-Quality title.  Despite all the bitching I’m about to do, there’s a pretty good game somewhere in this mess.  A game that at times made me laugh, cheer, and occasional spit on my television.

Guacamelee 0

They should have found someone else to be the hero. Juan slouches. Real heroes don’t slouch.

The idea is you’re a dude who was tragically born with his neck coming out of his chest.  The president’s daughter is kidnapped by an evil undead bullfighter person.  In the process, you’re murdered, but you come back as a super-powered luchador who must save the girl and the world from being merged with the realm of the dead.  I appreciate how the guys behind this took a moldy-old game story and dressed it up with funny dialog and a couple twists along the way.  Having said that, I wasn’t a big fan of the whole luchador thing.  It seems like it was done more out of a desire to be quirky.  The gag seems to be “luchadores are random and weird, get it?”  Yea, I got it.  I got it years ago when Killer 7 had a luchador in it.  I got it when Jack Black played a luchador in a movie.  I got it when WB had a Luchador-themed children’s cartoon and an accompanying awful Game Boy Advance game.

The luchador setting only serves a purpose to the game in the combat, which has a wrestling theme to it.  You punch, you grapple, you throw, or you buy advanced moves like a suplex or a piledriver.  Great.  But why wasn’t the theme more incorporated into the plot or the humor?  Juan becomes a luchador, and then he’s just a luchador for the rest of the game (except for when he’s a chicken.  Don’t ask).  They could have made gags or a plot that revolved around him having to avoid losing his mask, since that’s a central theme for luchadores.  Or they could have made jokes about how wrestling is staged.  Instead, it’s left at “he’s a luchador, and that in and of itself is quirky.”  No, it’s not.

Other humor in the game comes in the form of referencing online memes, the joke being “it’s that thing you know of.  We also know of it, and we made reference to it in our game!”  That’s not a joke.  If I go up to a stranger and say “did you ever see that video of a monkey that picks its ass, smells its finger, and then passes out?” that is not me performing stand-up comedy to that person.  Guacamelee way over uses this, and that’s sad because there’s some characterizations and bits of dialog that don’t use the referential-humor crutch.  Like the slutty demonic chick that hangs out with the bad guys and shakes her ass at you in an attempt to get her way.  Which doesn’t work, making her pout.  That’s funny.  “Hey look, it’s Strong Bad!” or “Hey look, it’s Link!” is not funny.  It’s just not.  Retro City Rampage had the same problem, where the jokes were mostly “It’s funny because I too have seen the games you played or watched the movies and/or television programs you watched!”  Some people enjoy this type of humor.  There’s been eleven seasons of Family Guy and five installments of Scary Movie.  I personally don’t get it, but I guess there is an audience that just wants assurance that, yes, other people remember the pop culture trivia that you remember.

Why does Juan have a championship belt on? That should have been something you get for beating the game. "He got it for beating death! Get it?" says Brian. I suppose.

Why does Juan have a championship belt on? That should have been something you get for beating the game. “He got it for beating death! Get it?” says Brian. I suppose.

Guacamelee is a 2D Metroidvania, something I probably should have mentioned early.  I love this genre, and I really wanted to love Guacamelee.  At first I did.  The graphics are absolutely stunning, and the play controls seems like it will be pretty good.  The world of Guacamelee is well designed, with vast dungeons to explore, towns to mingle in, and lots of hidden pathways to open up unlockables.  However, I wasn’t thrilled with the combat.  Many are considering it to be the game’s greatest attribute, so I think I could probably have trimmed this review down to “play the demo.  If you like the combat, you’ll like the whole game.”  I really didn’t mind fighting, for the most part.  It’s actually fun to string together huge combos, throw enemies into each-other, or see how long you can keep yourself airborne while dishing out damage.

But then the game starts to lock-down for forced arena-style combat.  This was presumably done to pad out the length.  I came to dread these sections because it kills the pace of the game and makes the combat needlessly feel like busy work.  The developers tried to keep it from stagnating by giving enemies shields which require a specific special move to break, or having enemies appear in one dimension and their shadows (which are still capable of causing you damage) in another.  This forces you to switch from dimension to dimension (this is a thing you can do, I probably should have mentioned that too) to fight the baddies off.  The intentions here were good, but the shields and the phasing-planes combat just adds to the tedium and makes fighting a chore when you’re locked in a single-screen.  Worse yet, your dude dramatically flies back, Simon Belmont-style, when you get knocked down.  Getting up is slow, and once up, your temporary-invincibility is too brief.  Thus, enemies can and will juggle you.  I went into a room late in the game with full health, got knocked down once, and never again had a real opening to fight back as multiple guys (some of whom fire projectiles) just endlessly pounded the crap out of me.  You do have a dodge attack, but the window to use it is too brief.  It also doesn’t help when a room has multiple enemies attacking just out-of-synch enough that, when one attack animation is ending, the other is beginning.  Now admittedly, I have no sense of timing, but a quick look at a few YouTube videos confirms that other players are the victims of cheap hits as well.

By the way, most of those videos end with the players talking about how much they love the combat in Guacamelee.  I guess some people are just wired to enjoy this type of shit.  I really did like the combat, but there’s too many foibles associated with it that I couldn’t get over.  Personally, if I wanted to get ganged up on with no opening to fight back, I’d book myself to go on the O’Reilly Factor.

I'm not so sure Juan would make a good wrestler. He spends most of the combat laying on his back.

I’m not so sure Juan would make a good wrestler. He spends most of the combat laying on his back.

Controls can be frustrating too.  I had trouble hitting just the basic (press circle) headbutt on yellow-shielded enemies, as I would typically do some other form of attack.  This became especially true after I opened up the blue “dash-forward” move.  In order to throw those headbutts, I had to completely stop moving and set myself, as any forward momentum seemed to cause the wrong attack.  This gets kind of difficult when you have multiple enemies ganging up on you and no pure method of blocking.  The only way to avoid getting juggled is to move around, but the only way to break an enemy’s shield is to sit still.  You can see how this might be a problem.  It gets really swear-inducing when enemy shields reappear after you’ve broken them because you didn’t kill them fast enough.  This all just makes the game so much more aggravating than it needs to be.  Those locked in combat rooms too, only done to pad out the play time.  Games don’t need to be long to be amazing or earn critical acclaim.  Look at Journey.  The average player takes barely three hours to finish it, and it won numerous Game of the Year awards over big-hitting contenders and multimillion dollar AAA titles.  So would it have mattered if Guacamelee was an hour shorter and didn’t have those combat rooms?  I don’t think it would have hurt its reputation at all.

I didn’t finish Guacamelee.  Towards the end, it started to bug out on me.  First, I couldn’t complete the training room because every time I got half-way through a combo, the screen would go completely black.  I wasn’t sure if this was done intentionally to add challenge, but then I found out that wasn’t the case.  Then the stuff with the yellow shields took over the combat and slowed the pace down even more.  Finally, I got into one of those combat rooms.  This one was especially annoying due to having nearly-out-of-reach bomb/enemy things that you have to kill before a timer ticks down, or they explode and claim a lot of your life.  On top of those, there was a large pillar with a spike on top of it that you had to hop back and forth over.  The controls were decent, but not so great that such actions could be completed smoothly every time.  On top of those, there were projectile-throwing enemies who (along with the bombs) could phase between the two planes of existence.  I did suck at the combat, quite frankly, and I had reached that point I sometimes get to where I just want a game to be over with.  Well, after failing a couple of times at this room, I finally cleared it out.  Only the game glitched out and the doors never unlocked.  Thus I would be forced to exit to the title screen and start the room over.  But, I don’t want to.  I’m done.  Seen enough.  Satisfied that it’s not going to get better.  Don’t want to risk this happening again.  Get back to me when you’re patched.  It will probably end with the stupid “A Winner Is You” line from Pro Wrestling on the NES anyway.

(spoiler alert, highlight: holy fuck, it does.  Jesus Christ, I was fucking joking!)

Hello? Please let me out? Please? 

There’s a ton to like about Guacamelee.  It has personality.  It has charm.  It has an incredible map.  It’s very beautiful to look at.  Most people even like the music.  I don’t.  Personally, I think Mexican music must have been invented by an atheist to disprove the existence of God.  Really, though, your like or dislike of Guacamelee will come down entirely towards whether or not you enjoy the combo-heavy combat of the game, cheapness and all.  I liked it but couldn’t get past the cheapness.  I would still barely recommend it despite that, but the game has issues with glitches and I really think those need to be cleaned up before I say “okay, now you can get it.”  I’m told fixes are on the way, so if you have PlayStation Plus, get it now while it’s on sale and just wait to play it.  Just don’t expect a game of the year contender.  Expect yourself to say “what were they thinking, making you push this many buttons mid-air just to get across this one room?  Were they fucking mad?”

I have to say, I've never been a fan of the "being chased by a gigantic monster" action beats in games.

I have to say, I’ve never been a fan of the “being chased by a gigantic monster” action beats in games.

Oh, and in closing, I know this wasn’t my funniest review (was my longest though).  To make up for it, here’s a random sampling of games I’ve played and movies I’ve seen.  Feel free to bust a gut if you’ve watched/played the same things.  Remember, this qualifies as humor: Portal, Final Fantasy, Mario, Sudoku, Parcheesi, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Seven Psychopaths, Se7en, Seven Samurai, Total Recall, Total Recall that sucks, the Zapruder film of Kennedy’s assassination, and a video of a monkey that picks its butt, sniffs its finger, then passes out.  Okay, you can stop laughing now.  The review is over.

GuacameleeGuacamelee! was developed by DrinkBox Studios

$11.99 ($14.99 for non PlayStation Plus members) said “it’s different when *I* make referential jokes because.. um.. hey look over there!” in the making of this review. 

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