Volchaos and Hypership Out of Control (Second Chances with the Chick)

Full disclosure: developer Kris Steele of Fun Infused Games isn’t just a friend of mine. He’s one of my best friends. I treasure our relationship, which is one of the first I got through Indie Gamer Chick. Whether he’s helping me cope with Golden State choking away the NBA Finals (and when that didn’t work he simply yanked me off the ledge I was on) or we’re just talking about life stuff, I’ve always thought to myself “how lucky am I that I made friends like this from my silly little indie review blog?” While I haven’t always reviewed his games kindly, I’ve always respected and admired him, and my readers should know that, in the interest of fairness.

Got it? Good.

I hate Volchaos by Kris Steele and his Fun Infused Games. And it has nothing to do with punishers not being my genre of choice. It’s just a very unenjoyable game, far too concerned with dick-move enemy placement and leap-of-faith platforming than it is being entertaining. I first played it way back in December 2011, when it debuted on XBLIG. It was hampered by miserable controls that made it hard for me to realize just how bad the game is from a purely design point of view. And it really pisses me off because I know Kris is better than this. I never really planned on giving Volchaos a second look, and Kris never activated his automatic Second Chance with the Chick for it (refresher: it is my policy that every single game I review is subject to a no-questions-asked second chance upon developer request, provided the game has been patched in a way that addresses at least one criticism of mine). But, with the arrival of Volchaos on Steam with improved controls and minor cleanups of issues, I figured, why not?

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The game is not glitching here. I’m standing on an invisible platform. It really came across as a glitch that the developer left in and called a feature, but actually Kris told me this was a design choice. I spent an hour telling him it was a bad one that the average player would think is just an exploitable glitch. He disagreed. But I’m right.

But no, it’s still not good. Don’t get me wrong. Volchaos on PC is much better than it was five years ago. The controls are still too loose, but they’re more responsive. The problem is level design is too brutal to be enjoyable. This is a punisher based on relatively short time limits, forcing you to charge through stages as quickly as possible. I don’t mind split-second decisions. Hell, anytime I made it two extra inches further on the Impossible Game per life instead of just one felt like an incredible achievement. But in Volchaos, the enemy placement is so unfair as to be infuriating. This was undoubtedly a case of a developer forgetting that he is the best player in the world at his own game, ramping up the difficulty to challenge himself and forgetting that nobody else has or ever will devote as much time to it as they have. In fact, Kris admitted as much to me. Note to all developers: get others to tell you how hard your game is. Do not attempt to judge for yourself. It is impossible to divorce yourself from your own development. Unless you have multiple personalities, and if that’s the case, make sure one of them isn’t a complete dick.

Oh I will, Hypership. Probably from overdosing on Hypership.

Oh I will, Hypership. Probably from overdosing on Hypership.

Skip Volchaos and take a look at Hypership Out of Control on Steam instead. The game retains all the charm of the mobile version. This is Kris’ masterpiece. A twitchy, lightning fast, scoring-based arcade shmup that’s so addictive that owning it on two platforms feels like it should be prosecuted the same way you would for doctor shopping. It’s basically the same game as the iPhone version. I prefer the super accurate movement of the mobile version, but the PC version has buttons and thus it’s easier to use bombs than the clumsy double-tap on mobile. The biggest news is that, once you’re carrying a maximum load of bombs, any extra-bombs you pick-up automatically detonate. It’s a small fix, but one that made me quite happy. It’s something I brought up in the previous review and Kris fixed it. Goody for him. It’s always nice when a developer, friend or otherwise, takes your advice to heart. Though it’s probably a good thing Kris didn’t listen to all my advice. If he had done with Volchaos what I told him to do, he’d probably be walking funny right now.
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hsocVolchaos and Hypership Out of Control were developed by Fun Infused Games
Volchaos point of sale: Steam
Hypership Out of Control point of sale: Steam, iOS.

igc_approved$2.99 (Volchaos) said “it still doesn’t look like Chuck Norris” in the making of this review.

$1.99 (Hypership) said “hell, the fucking spaceship looks more like Chuck Norris” in the making of this review.

Hypership Out of Control is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. Volchaos can go fuck itself.

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Cosmic Predator

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

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

Killing creatures as a creature while in another creature.

Killing creatures as a creature while in another creature.

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

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

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

The game is funny if you look for it.

The game is funny if you look for it.

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

Spoiler alert?

Spoiler alert?

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

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

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Cosmic Predator was developed by Steel River Games.

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

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