Three Dead Zed (Second Chance with the Chick)

It’s been over two years since I reviewed Three Dead Zed, by former Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard sponsors Gentlemen Squid. Last time, I interviewed them alongside the review. And I didn’t like the game. The only way that whole situation could have been more awkward is if I had just run over their dog beforehand. I considered bringing them back for this Second Chance with the Chick, but I’m not doing that for the same reason I decided not to pursue a career as an obstetrician: because I didn’t want to ever have to tell an anxious parent that their child was stillborn.

To their credit, Gentlemen Squid fixed the worst issues from my first play through. I never once reached for a switch that didn’t activate on my first attempt. Just having that work by itself makes Three Dead Zed playable. But I still really didn’t like it. It’s not for a lack of personality, either. The hilarious story of a shape-shifting zombie getting loose and trying to find cats with tinfoil hats is raving lunacy. And I mean that in the best possible way. I sort of wish the best bits unfolded when you started and completed levels, instead of having to find hidden rooms. In the event I missed one, I shook my hand at the sky, as if God himself was responsible for me somehow missing it. I never once wanted to replay a stage to find those secrets. I just wanted the fucking game to be over with, which is never a good sign. Having said that, the writing is extraordinarily sharp. If you can put up with everything else I’m about to say, Three Dead Zed might be worth it for you.

You know a game is in trouble when its best comedy bits are often hidden in the background. Like the warning about the company BBQ. Why would a company need to caution against a barbeque you ask? Maybe my father is there serving his infamous chili. Though if that were the case, the only place they would draw the fire is around the buttocks.

You know a game is in trouble when its best comedy bits are often hidden in the background. Like the warning about the company BBQ. Why would a company need to caution against a barbeque you ask? Maybe my father is there serving his infamous chili. Though if that were the case, the only place they would need to draw the fire is around the buttocks.

It wasn’t for me. Movement is just all over the place. Which, um.. you know, come to think of it, movement by definition should be all over the place. What I’m trying to say is the controls are crap. Honestly, with the game’s engine and the way the characters were built, there wasn’t much they could do to fix this part of Three Dead Zed from the first time out. So I was sort of bracing myself for the worst when I restarted it. And I was right. There’s just a lack of parameters for certain actions. Like it’s easy to have a tiny sliver of your body standing on the edge of a moving platform and getting crushed from passing by a ceiling. Or you’ll struggle to make jumps with the moves-too fast while jumping-too-loose frog-athlete-zombie thing. You have to use this zombie all the time too, because it’s the only one that can make long jumps, or do wall jumping. But judging how close you can get to something before you die never quite clicked for me.

It’s really hard to put a finger on the difference between a good platformer and a bad one when it comes to just the act of movement. It almost defies explanation, but I’ll try. In a good platformer, you form an equilibrium with the layout of stages. You can instinctively judge distances in jumps, or how close you can get to that buzz saw trap before you’re going to die. I never got that from Three Dead Zed. A long time ago, I might have thought that would be on me, but considering that I’m able to easily find that balance in almost any other platformer, I think I sort of have to blame the game. I also don’t think it has to do with switching between three characters. I had to do that in Trine as well, but never had that issue. Three Dead Zed lacks a certain elegance of movement and jumping. I don’t think with the engine they used, it could have ever been precise.

I did appreciate the effort. The stages are pretty well constructed, even lending themselves well to non-linear exploration. I would have probably taken more advantage of this, if not for the bad controls, or if Gentlemen Squid haven’t been so obsessed with dick-move enemy placement. They really had a fetish for putting soldiers on the exact spots where they best stood to unfairly tag you with bullets in a way that you never had a reasonable chance to know they existed, and even less chance of avoiding their attacks. I hate it when games do this. When I mention it to developers, sometimes they giggle and say “I know right?” as if they expect a high-five. Sorry to leave you guys hanging, but I need to level with you: any idiot can make an unfair game. It takes no talent. It takes no creativity. It takes no artistry. When Mario Maker hits the Wii U, you’ll probably see hundreds, if not thousands, of user levels that center around “last pixel jumping” or dick move enemy placement. I assure you, nobody will complement the twelve-year-olds making those stages on their mastery of level design. When you have absolutely no hope of dodging attacks, or even knowing the enemies exist, that takes no skill to create. This also shouldn’t be mistaken for adding “difficulty” to your game. Difficulty should be something where a player has a reasonable chance to overcome it, thus displaying their skills. When they have no hope, that’s difficult in the same way you would use the word to describe someone who chains themselves to a McDonalds and claims they’re going on hunger strike until they stop serving beef. “How’s it going with that nut who chained himself to McDonalds?” “Well, sir, he’s being.. difficult.”

Three Dead Zed 2

Hooray for busywork!

Did Three Dead Zed ever have a chance, even with patchwork? Probably not. The devs were frank with me in admitting that they could only do so much with the engine they used. That’s fine. You know what? They showed me that they have a lot of talent to work with in the future. The writing was very sharp, even inspired, and the level layouts (sans bastard enemy placement) were well done. With a better platforming engine with more precision movement, Three Dead Zed probably could have been something special. Chalk this one up to life on the learning curve. I’m certain Gentlemen Squid will blow me away next time. They seem determined to. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have bothered fixing the stuff that made Three Dead Zed unplayable the first time around. I’m excited for their future. I think they are too, since they just squirted ink all over me. Well, at least I hope that’s ink.

Three Dead Zed logoThree Dead Zed was developed by Gentlemen Squid
Point of Sale: Steam, Xbox Live Indie Games

$4.99’s father’s chili is banned by the Ginevra Convention in the making of this review.


Cuddle Bear (Second Chance with the Chick)

I played Cuddle Bear back in May, and it was an honest and true contender for, at best, the worst game I’ve ever played in my life. Horrible button layout. Terrible level design. Abysmal graphics.  Annoying sound effects.  Thinking of all the games I’ve played this year, I don’t think I can think of a better game that fits the “worst game of the year” description. But, to their credit, the developers read my review and responded with good humor and a vow to do better. On one hand, it’s nice to have one of those rare developers who actually intend to invoke their Second Chance with the Chick. I created the policy figuring I would be doing these types of reviews on a weekly basis, instead of the bi-monthly rate I have going right now. On the other hand, I have to admit that the thought of playing Cuddle Bear again almost drove me to take a razor to my wrists. I almost did it too, but then Brian reminded me that suicide is a mortal sin and if I bled myself out I would go to Hell and get stuck playing Cuddle Bear anyway. Well fuck, he has a point I guess.

“Cuddles, I’m impressed that you pissed the word “Redrum” in blood on my wall. BUT, I don’t think pissing blood is ever a good thing. Have you ever heard of prostate cancer?”

You know what? Happy Sock.. Christ, that sounds like something teenagers jerk off into.. actually did fix the game. They eliminated most of the leap-of-faith gameplay and dick move enemy placement that made Cuddles such a brutal chore of a game to play. Levels can actually be completed without having to trial-and-error your way through them. All other problems are still firmly present, but hey, baby steps!

♫ She’s a Barbie girl, in a shitty world. Crapped and spastic. It’s shitastic! ♫

Did that one change make Cuddle Bear more fun? A little. The problem is the enemies are still fast-moving, annoying sounding bullet sponges that gang bang you if they get close. The enemies tend to “bounce” when they hit you, turning you into one of those ball-on-a-paddle things. If you’re near a ledge when this happens, things really get fun. And getting items is still painfully slow. Yea, the developers stuck cheat codes in, but who outside of those who read the comments on this site would know about those?  I must say, once I had the one shot (or two, but who’s counting?) sniper rifle, the pace of Cuddle Bear quickened and it actually went into consideration for making the leaderboard. Then I got to the fifth stage of the Chinese themed levels, which apparently missed the “don’t do leap-of-faith platforming with enemies dickishly placed on the platforms that cause you to recoil like you just got a whiff of Roseanne Barr’s body odor” memo, and I decided to quit again. Sorry guys, you have a long ways to go. Is it a vastly improved experience? Yes. But, at the end of the day, a polished turd is still a turd.

Cuddle Bear was developed by Happy Sock Entertainment

80 Microsoft Points laughed at Indie Gamer Chick for originally spending 240 points on this piece of shit in the making of this review.

Happy Sock, I saved you the time of cherry-picking my words for the misquoted review blurb. Just copy the words in bold. Hopefully the time I just saved you can be applied towards making your next game suck significantly less. 

Dead Pixels (Second Chance with the Chick)

It’s been just over nine months since I reviewed Dead Pixels, the #2 game as of this writing on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard, and the former king of the mountain.  Despite really enjoying my time with the game, I never really got around to playing the two extra modes that launched months after its release.  With less than two weeks to go before my first anniversary as Indie Gamer Chick, I figured I should finally take a look and see if the content would be enough to elevate Dead Pixels back into the #1 spot on the board.  Of course, my expectations that it might do just that were somewhat dashed by the developer outright telling me that it would not reclaim the spot.

You get more characters to choose from in The Solution, all of whom have been bad little boys. Lord knows that when you have an emergency situation, the only solution is to send in hardened criminals to do all the heroics. I know how it works. I saw Pitch Black too.

He wasn’t being coy.  In fact, he’s right.  The two new modes of Dead Pixels are swell extras, but they ultimately add nothing to the experience.  First up is The Solution.  It’s kind of like a survival mode, where you have to run X amount of streets (depending on the difficult level) and then back again.  You have even more limited resources, and the city is vacant so there are no humans to negotiate goods with.  You can still loot empty buildings for goods, but you don’t want to get bogged down by carrying too much weight.  I had that happen to me when I played the main quest, and I think I would have moved faster if I had waited for plate tectonics to push me to the goal.

I ended up carrying only the default shotgun, and only stocking up on shells for it.  If that doesn’t sound like the most exciting way to play the game, that’s because it wasn’t.  I ended up just holding down left and avoiding enemies.  This did come in handy on the final part of the “walk left” section of the game, when the lights started flickering on and off.  Due to my epilepsy, this was a high-risk section of the game for me to play.  I decided to walk up to the top of the screen, hold the stick left, and not do anything else.  Boring but effective, because it worked.  However, this mode proved to be dull, and not really worthy of the excellent main game.

Last Stand worked better.  It’s a wave shooter where you play as a couple of twats named Hurley and Nate (no joke) as they lock themselves in a mall with a bunch of zombies.  I doubt they would actually do something like that, because I know I wouldn’t do that.  Since they exist only to steal my ideas, their zombie plan would probably involve some kind of elaborate suicide, because that’s what I’m going to do.  If the zombies attack, I’m going to kiss the end of a shotgun that has bullets soaked in cyanide while wearing a vest made of dynamite and the timer set for five seconds from now.  I am taking NO chances of surviving the outbreak.  Among other things, I never see a working Taco Bell in these games or movies, and I will be damned if I’m going to live out the rest of my life without a Chulupa.

I ended up playing as Hurley. And no, that doesn’t mean I ended up with blisters on my hands and a craving for bacon. It’s just a game, not a transmorphic body swapping thingie.

So Last Stand.  The wave shooter part.  Well, you shoot a bunch of zombies and they drop money.  Then between waves you can upgrade your stats, buy different guns, more ammo, health kits, etc.  Every round the zombies grow in numbers.  That’s pretty much it.  This mode is more fun, but then again I’m predisposed to enjoying wave shooters, which is why such a game could overthrow Dead Pixels for the #1 spot on the leaderboard in the first place.  However, I didn’t love the wave shooting mode the way I did the main campaign.  Part of that is there’s no online leaderboards to show off how far you’ve made it.  But it’s mostly because I already got all the value out of Dead Pixels that I could.  The game rocked in single player mode, rocked harder in co-op (even if Brian didn’t like the game as much as me and thought I was out of my mind for putting it #1 in the first place), but its time has come and gone.  Dead Pixels is still an amazing game and will probably hold onto a high spot on the leaderboard for a long time to come, but I’ve moved on.  Granted, what I moved on to has been mostly inferior games, negating my point.  I’m just going to shut up now and leave this review.  Buh-Bye.

Dead Pixels was developed by CSR Studios

80 Microsoft Points have an alternative zombie plan, but it requires duct tape and a steamroller in the making of this review.

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