Gunslugs

If I waited until I was good at Gunslugs to write this review, it would basically never go up. Roguelikes are just not something I’m good at. I get accused all the time of disliking certain games only because of my lack of skill with them. Instead of wasting time defending myself, I’ve taken to waving Spelunky back-and-forth with one hand while flipping the bird with the other. I *suck* at Spelunky. I’m fucking terrible at it. And yet, it’s the only game I’ve played for review at Indie Gamer Chick that I play every single day, especially since they added Daily Challenges to the console and handheld ports. Mind you, my skill level is still nowhere near being classified as “respectable.” But I love it.

Or, a more recent example would be Don’t Starve. I put a lot of time into Don’t Starve, fulling expecting to review it here. While I liked it.. a lot.. I was so bad at it (as people who watched me play it on Indie Gamer Chick TV will testify to) that I didn’t experience 90% of the content. I still play it and plan on being good at it some day. But, considering how little of the game I’ve as of yet seen, reviewing it now seems somehow unfair. I typically have no problem slamming bad games that I don’t make it far into. I’ve never yet encountered a game that was bad or boring for the opening hours suddenly become worth playing. On the other hand, I’ve played a LOT of good games that went bad later on, and for all I know, Don’t Starve is ready to jump shark on me.

Okay, okay, I'll start talking about Gunslugs now. Yeesh. Impatient much?

Okay, okay, I’ll start talking about Gunslugs now. Yeesh. Impatient much?

There’s really no worry of that happening with Gunslugs. It is what it is: a fun, quirky, simple, and charming roguelike-like shooter. Think Contra or Metal Slug, only with a lifebar instead of one-hit-kills. Oh, and the graphics are ultra-cute 8-bit fare. I’m kind of over the whole “cutesy graphics juxtaposing FUCK YOU levels of difficulty” thing, which is about as common in gaming these days as the ability to jump is, but at least Gunslugs does it well. I can’t stress enough how tough this game gets. I’ve had multiple instances of where I thought I was having a good run only for some cunt with a flamethrower to jump out and drain my health almost instantly, resulting in me screaming unintelligible gibberish that my boyfriend believes translates to “I’m appalled that you would ambush me in such an unbecoming, ungentlemanly manner and I wish to state my displeasure over the situation.”

He’s wrong. I’m trying to say “fuck you, you fucking fucker!” but I get choked up on my own rage.

But, the formula works. Difficult enough to be addictive, like loading a Pez-dispenser. Gunslugs is genuinely fun. It’s not perfect by any means. Like any randomly-generated game, not every run is equally as fun or rewarding. Or fair, for that matter. Gunslugs has all kinds of quirky ideas, like being able to enter levels modeled after Game Boy stuff. But the problem is, that all costs coins. Just now, as I was writing this section, the first randomly generated level asked for 50 coins to enter an “art school” minigame thing. The problem is, I had just started. I couldn’t have possibly had 50 coins by that point. So I went off to murder some enemies, all of whom liberally drop money, ammo, and health refills. By time I had the 50 coins, the door to the art thing was locked. Shit like that happens constantly in Gunslugs, and it’s infuriating.

The random weapon drops often lack “oomph” too. I kept getting stuff like the double gun, which allows you to shoot in both directions. Sounds great, except 90% of the enemies you encounter are in front of you, and thus shooting behind you is about as useful as a snorkel is for exploring the Mariana Trench. The ratio of double-guns to anything else was about 10 of them for any other item. When the most boring item is far and away the most common pick-up, it lessens the entertainment value of the game.

Enjoy this screencap, because I died attempting to take it. Paid 75 coins for it. This job sucks sometimes.

Enjoy this screencap, because I died attempting to take it. Paid 75 coins for it. This job sucks sometimes.

Basically, every problem I have can boil down to the random-generation engine not being refined enough. On one stage, I was able to get a bottle of alcohol (a spendy 25-coin purchase), which makes everything move in slow-motion. “FINALLY!” I screamed. Sure, it had a limited timer, but at least I would be able to put that bad-boy to good use while it lasted. Unfortunately, I got this at the very end of a level. As in, the exit was right next to the building I got it from. As I hopped in the escape helicopter, I watched in fucking horror as the power-meter for it instantly disappeared. No, what remained did NOT carry over to the next level. Sigh. What a dick this game is.

Gunslugs is a lot of fun, in the same way hanging out with one of those whack jobs that blows up bullfrogs for giggles can be. But, unlike a game like Spelunky, it lacks a certain intelligence in design. Not that Spelunky is a genius or anything. Anyone who has seen the damsel stuck in ten feet of solid rock when you’ve almost certainly not had a chance to collect enough bombs to get to him or her can attest to that. Gunslugs is too dumb though. Not so dumb that I would say “skip it.” Fuck that. At $2.49 ($1.99 with PS+ discount), it’s one of the best steals in gaming at this point in 2014. But I feel they had something special going here, and blew it by being too lax in how the computer can spit out the layout. And I’m not saying that because it would make Gunslugs easier. The difference in difficulty fixing all this stuff would result in is negligible. No, I’m saying all this because it would make Gunslugs more fun. That’s what you guys are supposed to be doing. Entertain us. I’m ranking Gunslugs as the 68th best indie I’ve reviewed as of this writing, and that’s somehow disappointing to me. It should have been better. It *deserved* to be better. Instead, Gunslugs is like one of those prodigies that by all rights should be lecturing at Harvard but instead is flipping burgers.

GunslugsGunslugs was developed by OrangePixel

$1.99 with PlayStation Plus discount ($2.49 normal price) shot a man just to see him die in the making of this review.

Gunslugs is also Chick-Approved on Ouya ($2.99 there). The best version to get is the Vita version. Cheaper and portable.

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

*Note: only the PlayStation Vita port is approved here. The iPhone/Android versions are horrendous, like any game that features on-screen digital control schemes. Can we all agree those suck and abolish the fucking things?

Advertisements

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.

%d bloggers like this: