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?

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escapeVektor

Alright, so this is awkward, but I didn’t like escapeVektor on the Vita.  Apparently I’m the only person in the entire world who didn’t, so I guess I should explain myself.  Often, when I dislike a popular game, I’m asked “what did you expect?”  As if I hold every game to such unreasonably high standards that nothing can possibly please me.  My honest answer is “all I expect is to have fun.”  If I don’t get that, I don’t give a game a pass because it looks good, plays well, and has a nifty concept.  If a game bores me, I say so.  And escapeVektor bored me to fucking tears.

This is one of those rare times I wish I had bought the 3DS version of a game.  I bet it would have looked pretty cool in 3D.

This is one of those rare times I wish I had bought the 3DS version of a game. I bet it would have looked pretty cool in 3D.

Going off screenshots, I figured it would be similar to Qix.  Watching it in motion, I figured it would be a little like Pac-Man.  Once I started playing, I wished it had been closer to those games.  At least they were fun.  Here the idea is you have to guide an exceptionally slow-moving ship around a grid, filling in all the lines, opening up either an exit or more lines, which open up different exits.  Along the way, a variety of enemies tries to kill you.  There’s a storyline involved, but with any game like this, I wonder why they bother.  Even with the admittedly pretty visuals, this is an old school maze game, straight out of the Pac-Man craze of the early 80s.  It needed a story about as much as quail need bulls-eyes on their wings.

Oh, but it does have a storyline.  One that pops up between levels and utterly refuses to shut up.  You’ll get past a difficult stage, all full of enthusiasm for a job well done, anxious to kick the ass of the next stage, and then the story rears its ugly head.  Some tripe about a guy stuck in a CPU.  It’s not intriguing in the slightest, and its presence was about as well received by myself as a bout of standing-quadriplegia that hits the moment you answer the door to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Seriously, please stop talking. I'm trying to play a game here.

Seriously, please stop talking. I’m trying to play a game here.

After a while, the game does get faster.  You get boosters that allow you to zip around stages and avoid enemies.  And the game throws a few more twists at you, like tailgating enemies, electrified gateways, and more power-ups to fight back.  But, for me at least, it never stopped being boring.  Part of that is due to a moderately large design flaw.  You know how pretty much every maze game ever made does this thing where if you die, you don’t have to start the level over from scratch?  Like in Pac-Man, if you die with only two dots left in the stage, you get to replay the stage, with the board exactly how you left it?  Probably so as to avoid tedium?  Yeah, well escapeVektor doesn’t do that.  Imagine going through a sprawling level, heel-toeing your way through a gauntlet of enemies, only to run out of bombs with five feet to go from the exit and getting caught by a random enemy, or a bullet from a turret.  Guess what?  You get to replay the whole level over again.  I didn’t find Vektor’s breed of gameplay all that exciting to begin with.  In some later levels, turning the game off entirely seemed like a better option towards rehabilitating my dull day.

There probably should be more reasons why I disliked escapeVektor, but I honestly can’t think of anything.  I have to admit, as a critic, it’s kind of tough to say “I didn’t like a game and I’m not totally sure why.”  I mean, I like these type of games.  I liked the art style.  I thought it controlled pretty smoothly.  I guess I should like it.  Everybody else does.  It’s being thrown 8s out of 10s, 9s out of 10s, or 4s out of 5s by pretty much every other rinky dinky critic alive.  I told a friend “I seem to be the only person who doesn’t like it.”  He said “that doesn’t surprise me.”  Typically, when I’m the one voice that says “meh” in a crowd of cheers, I get accused of trolling.  I try to avoid trolling indies.  It’s bad for the soul.  In the case of escapeVektor, I genuinely thought it was boring.  You might.. hell, likely will, disagree with me on that.  But I assure you, my “meh” here is my authentic opinion.  When I troll, I go after the easiest targets, like any self-respecting troll does.  Like ancient Sega properties that actually do suck but their fans don’t realize it.  Speaking of which, NiGHTS was $2.50 on PSN this week.  Yep, that’ll do.  That’s what I love about Sega.  It’s like having the barreled fish hand you the gun.

escapeVektorescapeVektor was developed by Nnooo.  Which is ironic, because that’s the sound I made every time the story crept up again.

$7.99 (normal price $9.99) wants neo-retro developers to seriously ponder whether or not Golden-Age coin-ops would be considered classics if players were interrupted between each stage by unskippable text or cut scenes in the making of this review. 

Frobisher Says!

Yeesh.  You pick on one free-yet-crappy PlayStation Vita game and suddenly people talk to you like you like you just put a seal puppy inside a microwave.  I kind of see their point.  I’ve always vehemently disagreed with the assertion that games should get a break because they only cost $1.  Frobisher Says! is free, so for the first time ever, I have to admit that I really shouldn’t be able to complain too much about it.  But this review isn’t really about the value of a game.  It’s more like a “I called WarioWare the best game ever and now I have to explain why WarioWare-like games suck” type of deal.  Probably not exciting for the rest of you.

Frobisher Says! is a free PSN title for Vita that plays like that platform’s version of WarioWare: Touched!  Remember how that one made use exclusively of the touch screen and microphone for its games?  Yea, well Frobisher Says is mostly about showing off the random bells and whistles of the Vita.  Sure, unlike Touched! it uses the face and shoulder buttons as well, but it can’t shake the feeling of being a glorified tech-demo.  Those have a place in gaming, but the Vita already has a pretty decent one (Little Deviants, which has experienced multiple price-drops since it launched).  So while my description of it as “putridly awful” wasn’t fully accurate, its not very good.  Or good at all.

I do admire the artwork, which reminded me of Sesame Street. But the gameplay is devoid of sunny days.

One of the biggest reasons for that is the game is driven by scoring, yet it seems to be based too much on luck.  In one stage, you’re a dude who has to swim to an island with a beach, using the triggers.  Sounds like a perfectly acceptable minigame, and it would be if it wasn’t just totally random.  But sometimes the island will be right by the starting position, and sometimes it will be somewhere off-screen.  Maybe up, maybe down.  You score based on how fast you complete a game, yet you have 15 seconds to finish the game whether the island is right next to you or whether it’s on the other side of the world.  It’s totally up to the whims of fate whether or not you can get a high score, and that’s the one thing a game based on high scores should never do.

Or how about games that use the camera?  There’s a few, and they range from harmless to horrid.  The best one is a game where you have to follow a bird around your room with the camera, like a dumbed-down version of UFO on Tape for iPhone.  At least that one works.  Not so workable is one that asks you to find an object of a specific color.  “Find something green!”  Oh well that’s easy, my table-cloth is green.  I said my table-cloth is green.  HELLO FUCKING CAMERA!!  IS THIS NOT GREEN?  Fine.  I have an empty lime-flavored energy drink bottle that is bright green.  Here you go.  Yo!  Vita camera?  You awake?  I know you’re a cheap piece of shit and it’s shocking Sony would have included something so outdated in their new technology-pushing handheld, but you should be able to tell this is green!  You can’t?  Seriously?  Fine.  Here’s an Xbox 360 case.  Oh, that got it, huh?  But time is up and I score no points.  Why you prick.

Come to think of it, it’s actually kind of funny that a game like this, designed to showcase the bells and whistles of the Vita. actually proves that’s its kind of a piece of shit in many ways.  Back down, Sony fanboys.  I still love my Vita, but that doesn’t mean I give it a treat when it pisses on the carpet.  I do what a loving owner does and rub its nose in it.  The rear-touch panel seemed like a good idea, but I’ve been cross with it since it ruined Touch My Katamari on launch day and we haven’t been on speaking terms since.  I’m actually curious who at Sony thought this would work.  When I play a handheld (especially a bulky one with a ginormous screen like the Vita), I rest my fingers on the back of the unit.  I honestly don’t know who wouldn’t, except maybe people missing the top knuckles on their fingers, the poor bastards.  It’s caused me annoyance in a few games, and I don’t seem to have the dexterity to use it properly when a game wants me to do something on both the front and rear touch panels.  In Frobisher Says! it wants you to squash people wearing hats by pinching them on the Vita.  I had trouble lining them up right.  But that one might just be on me, so instead I’ll complain about how the back scratching minigame felt really fickle and unresponsive.

This game uses the rear-touch panel for no reason, and the whole “sneak stealthily past the alligator-man bit” didn’t work all that well because it seemed to look back at you in random intervals.

Again, I kind of feel like the school bully, picking on the cross-eyed freckled kid with the coke-bottle glasses and the bad lisp here.  Frobisher Says! is free, and according to most gamers, that entitles it to a free pass.  Never mind that they actually do try to sell you on an expansion pack for the game.  It’s art and it’s free, so it should be given a break.  No.  If someone knocks on my door and offers me a free cup of malaria-laced cola, I’m not going to drink it.  Frobisher Says! is a bad game.  Yea, it’s quirky and has a neat graphics style, but that’s not what made WarioWare work.  The games were playable and logical.  The stuff in Frobisher either suffer from handling problems, mechanic problems, or just aren’t any fun.  There’s not one piece of this game that is worth playing.  It’s free for a reason: because it sucks and they knew it.  There could have been a good game in here if some of the games were fair, but even if you get past all the technical issues, the scoring style and randomness kill it dead.  Cathy Says: this game is junk.

Frobisher Says was developed by Honeyslug

No Money was spent in the making of this review.  This is why I don’t play too many free games.  Because otherwise I would be able to use this line to talk about the minigame that required you to say the character’s name, only it doesn’t matter if you actually say its name or not.  Any words or noise will do.  That why I called Frobisher “Ace Yumberfuck.”  When it asked me to say his name in Spanish, it was “El-Ace Yumberfuck.”  Classy!

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