Oh…Sir!! The Insult Simulator and Oh…Sir! The Hollywood Roast

I found the existence of the Oh…Sir! franchise to be potentially refreshing. It harkens back to a simpler time when Yo Mama jokes were practically a national pastime. My father pointed out that In Living Color had a recurring sketch called The Dirty Dozens that turned Mama jokes into a gameshow. It’s actually still pretty fun to watch.

The Oh…Sir series is sort of trying to be like that, only they’re framed as fighting games where damage is done by hurling insults at your opponent. To create the insults, the fighters are given a seemingly random selection of parts of speech that you take turns selecting to form sentences out of. It seems like it would be deliciously crass and with the right algorithm it could be really great, right?

Actually, without hyperbole, these are the very worst indie games I’ve ever played. The absolute worst of the worst.

The concept is fine, and if the parts of speech were generated in a way where you could always form something resembling a coherent sentence, they’d be great. But that’s not the case at all. There seems to be no rigging done of the options, and since you and your opponent alternate selections, I found that you were more likely to produce something that sounds like gibberish than an actual sentence that sounds insulting.

So let me show you an example. Here’s the first set of speech options I was given for this match.

Alternating turns, we have to assemble those into “insults”. The two options in the bottom left-hand corner are only usable by me, and I can change them into two different, random options once each word-bank. If there’s a (…) that means you can carry the sentence you’re assembling over to the next word-bank, at a cost of not doing any damage that turn. That wasn’t an option here, so myself and the AI had to assemble an insult using just these meager options. Here’s what the AI came up with.

What.. the.. fuck was that? And that did six points of damage to me! Why? That is not an insult. That’s a person having a stroke. And they’re both British it seems like, so, like, your country smells like my face too, idiot! And why six points? The scoring system seems arbitrary and disassociated from the happenings.

Here was my retort. This was the best I could come up with given the limited options.

Now I’ll be honest: I had no clue what “ruttish” means. I’m an American, so I don’t speak the Queen’s English. But apparently it means “lustful.” Okay. So this was the best I could do, and it worked to the tune of causing ten points of damage, putting me four points up on the AI opponent. But again, I have to ask, why? Maybe this is a cultural thing and this would kill on the other side of the pond, but I don’t get how this is insulting. I’m didn’t say or even imply that the wife was doing anything inappropriate with the fishmonger. And a fishmonger (which is person who sells raw, typically freshly-caught fish) is a perfectly respectable job. Since the female version of “fishmonger” is “fishwife” which is a common insult, maybe the implication is that by working with the fishmonger, the gentleman’s wife is actually a fishwife? But that can’t be, because it completely ignores the “ruttish” part of the sentence. A few people told me that it’s supposed to be like Monty Python and make no sense and that’s what makes it work. Um, I’ve watched Monty Python. The stuff they say mostly makes sense to me and doesn’t come across like someone trying to assemble a script using what they found while emptying a paper-shredder.

And I’m guessing the above paragraph put more thought into the logic of the game’s insults than the developers did during the entire developmental cycle.

That example is not some kind of outlier from an otherwise perfectly logical system. It’s the norm. After spending a few hours with each game, I found that maybe one-in-twenty word banks would allow me to form a coherent, non-gibberish insult that sounds like something an angry person would say to someone else. For the most part, even your best efforts will produce a garbled word-salad that not even the most thin-skinned douchebag on the planet could take offense to. I know this, because I tested it on my own friends, who are all thin-skinned douchebags, the whole lot of ’em. I selected twenty at random and sent them the following verbatim insults that was generated by me or my AI opponent during my play-sessions, all of which scored damage:

Your mother and your hat change into this conversation!

Your Hat changes into Your Sister!

Your Son and Your Husband are not Part of Europe!

A Hamster is this Conversation and wanted to be your husband, Tovarishch!

Your Son wanted to be a Lumberjack and is Getting Fat and is Some Dog!

Your Cousin’s Car Admires Pictures of this Place and was Born in Your Seat and is an Old Bugger!

By the way, the game that produced the above insults? It has 2,000 plus positive ratings on Steam. Yea.

My friends took my attempts at ending our friendship rather well. 4 out of the 20 asked if I had relapsed. 3 asked if had just had a seizure or was recovering from one. The other 13 were just confused. When I explained to all 20 of them that these were insults and asked them to rate how hurt their feelings were on a scale of 1 to 10, seven of them said “1”, five said “0”, two were still too confused to even comment on what they had just read, and the four people who asked if I had relapsed again asked if I had relapsed, and two other people joined them in asking if I was on something. None of the twenty unfriended me, though six were kind enough to take pity on me. That sure was nice of them.

It was ALMOST clever to cross Harry Potter with Dirty Harry. Almost.

The lobotomized dialog is hardly the only problem. If you perform a “combo” by using the same subject-matter in two or more straight insults, you deal extra damage. But because of the random nature of the speech options, you can’t remotely plan a strategy for this. If you choose the person’s hat as the target of your venom, you can’t get a combo if the game doesn’t include “hat” the next go around, or if your opponent chooses it first. I’m notoriously unlucky when it comes to random chance in games, and that was hugely noticeable during my play sessions with Oh…Sir and Oh…Sir Hollywood, where my AI opponents had an uncanny knack of going first and stealing my combos with their first selection on the off-chance they were put on the board. It further removes strategy from the games and reduces winning and losing to luck. And that’s especially true when you play with an actual human who knows what they’re doing as opposed to the often brain-dead AI that would come close to winning only to mess up and fail to enter a proper sentence at all, causing a loss of turn. This happened a lot. It’s how I finished the game on Xbox.

But the way the game reads the parts of speech has just as much potential to fuck  you over. Especially when trying to use the word “and”. The game seems to only let you use “and” to start an entirely new insult and not to compound an existing one by lumping two subject matters together with it. The majority of times the game gave me a score of zero, it was because I misused “and” even though my intent for its use couldn’t have been more clear. Take this example:

And the game even further fails at strategy with character-specific weaknesses that cause extra damage. Like, maybe one is especially insulted by age jokes. A perfectly good idea for a series that aspires to be a fighting game where you trade insults instead of fisticuffs. But again, you’re completely at the mercy of the random word bank, which doesn’t seem to spit out the extra-damage words enough. But it’s logically even worse, because you also have your own extra-damage weakness that you have to defend against. So if you’re playing as a character that hates having his manhood insulted and a word that targets machismo is on the board, you pretty much have to take it or face receiving a disproportionate amount of damage. So both you and your opponent will score lower, in a game where matches tend to be slogs already.

The only fast-paced aspect of Oh…Sir is yet another strike against it: you only get fifteen seconds to read, process, and assemble-in-your-head the parts of speech before making a selection. That sounds like enough time until you remember what an incomprehensible word-vomit you have to work with. If you’re anything like me, you’ll eventually give up on trying to make sentences sound like English and just focus on scoring damage, something you have to rely entirely on random chance to excel at.

I needed a full week of processing and replaying Oh…Sir and Oh…Sir: The Hollywood Roast (which technically I bought first for XB1) trying to find something redeeming to say about the games. Besides the fact that whoever they got to do the Arnold Schwarzenegger impression for the Hollywood Roast is quite convincing, to the point that I wondered if they got the real guy (hey, have you seen how his recent movies have done in the box office? Dude needs a job!), I came up short. Playing the Oh…Sir games is like combing through the rubble of a recently blown-up dictionary factory without the fun of seeing the actual explosion.

Oh…Sir!! The Insult Simulator and Oh…Sir!! The Hollywood Roast were developed by Vile Monarch
Point of Sale for Oh…Sir: Steam, Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Point of Sale for The Hollywood Roast: Steam, Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

$0.79 (Oh…Sir!!, normally $1.99) and $4.99 asked if the “prepubescent teenage boy” line was really necessary in the making of this review.

Abduction Action! Plus (XBLIG) and Hypership Still Out of Control (iOS)

Full disclosure: Kris Steele, developer of today’s two games, is my friend.  Our relationship got off to a rocky start.  When I was brand new to the scene, barely two weeks after I launched Indie Gamer Chick, I interviewed Kris.  By this point, I hadn’t won the respect of the community, but they were happy to have ANYONE covering XBLIGs besides the two or three sites that already did.  I was someone new to talk to.  Or, more accurately, someone to gossip to.  At the time, I was interviewing developers for the second XBLIG Uprising event, and one of the candidates for it was Volchaos, a game by Kris.  The only problem was Kris was also organizing the event, and there was skepticism on how good Volchaos was.  (Side note: Volchaos did not make the Uprising.  It wasn’t finished in time.  The next year, the developer of Sententia organized the third event, and his game most certainly DID make it in, and it basically soured the whole thing).  At the time, I was still kind of finding my identity, so when the time came for the interview, I was still in “pretend to be a serious writer asking tough-questions” mode.  By the time it was over, I’m pretty sure he didn’t like.  Nor should he have.  I was a douche.  Straight up.

But, he was never unkind to me.  By the time I figured out that I should drop any pretense of professionalism and just be myself, he was still there and willing to help me.  Even after I didn’t enjoy Volchaos, he was encouraging of me, and endorsed me to the community.  Fast forward to today.  Kris is my friend.  A really, really good friend.  I’m proud to be his friend.  All bullshit aside, he’s a good man, and I consider our relationship a privilege.  He’s always there for me to answer questions about game development, indie politics, or if I need his fingerprints on a bloody crowbar.  It’s really a sign of his character that he became friends with me.

And now I'm going to put that character to the test by calling one of his latest games digital dog feces.

And now I’m going to put that character to the test by calling one of his latest games digital dog feces.

One thing I never imagined when I started Indie Gamer Chick is that I would form a close relationship with any developer.  Today, I have just that with a few dozen.  For many of them, I’ve reviewed at least one of their games.  If that’s the case, there’s roughly a 55% chance I didn’t like their effort.  At first, I was worried that people might accuse me of going soft on those that are my friends.  Even if it’s not true (and if you ask Kris Steele or Dave Voyles, they’ll tell you it’s not.  And probably cry), that perception is there.  I take great pride in the fairness of my reviews.  People might think that someone might expect their critic friend to show mercy on them.  To those that believe that, nothing I can say or do would convince them it’s not otherwise.  Anyone with real friends knows that real friends would never ask that of their critic friend.

So, what did my friend release recently?  First up, I looked at Abduction Action! Plus on XBLIG and Ouya.  I had heard of this game days earlier, when a child psychologist recommended that the average punishment for a disobedient child be changed from grounding to playing Abduction Action.  Less timing consuming, faster results.  No child will fuck with mommy and daddy again.  Okay, I’m kidding, but it is a pretty awful game.  The idea is you’re a UFO that must torment Earthlings for shits and giggles.  Using a tractor beam, you’ll abduct humans, or crush them with various objects, or drop them from lethal heights.  In theory, this is the game you give evil little children to break them of their habit of torturing ants for the lulz.

In Iowa, they call this "Tuesday."

In Iowa, they call this “Tuesday.”

Unfortunately, Abduction Action! Plus is let down by poor controls.  Many of the challenges in the game, such flying into birds, requires precision movement, and that’s not really an option.  It gets bad when you’re forced to accelerate into objects using the turbo boost.  For those watching me, it was probably comical.  I tried to splatter a birdie on the UFO, and instead overshot it no less than a dozen times, until it finally flew off the screen.  It was maddening.  And that’s ultimately why I couldn’t enjoy AA+.  It’s a game about lining up to do stuff.  Line up to grab a rock and drop it on a jock’s head.  Line up to pull someone up in your tractor beam.  Line up bullets to turbo-boost through them.  That shit is hard to do when the UFO only has two speeds: too fast and suicidally fast.

Abduction Action! Plus was developed by Fun Infused Games ($2.99 would rather get an anal probe than play this shit ever again)

Abduction Action! Plus was developed by Fun Infused Games ($2.99 would rather get an anal probe than play this shit ever again)

Then there’s the problem of having to remain stationary while you suck up the people and objects.  If a projectile hits your UFO, the beam is deactivated and you drop whatever you’re carrying.  This is kind of tough when you have people shooting you pretty much non-stop anytime you’re low enough to grab anyone.  I’m not sure why a standard gun or even a shotgun would cause a UFO to do anything but laugh.  You mean to tell me these things are designed to travel through space and torment any living creature they happen across, but a single bullet fucks their mojo up?  I tried to find something positive to say about Abduction Action Plus’s gameplay, and I couldn’t come up with anything.  That is unfortunate, because the writing is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and the concept is solid.  But gameplay is king, and AA+ controls like a game in dire need of an AA meeting.

What’s shocking about Abduction’s badness is Kris released another game recently, this one on iPhone, and it is fucking awesome.  It’s called Hypership Still Out of Control.  It’s a sort-of-sequel, but not really, of a couple earlier games.  I reviewed both Hypership Out of Control for iPhone and Hypership Still Out of Control on Xbox Live Indie Games last year.  Like Abduction Action, the XBLIG version of Hypership was overly-sensitive to control.  On iPhone, the control was near flawless.  Still Out on Control offers more of the same, only the levels are different.  Same graphics, same control scheme, and the levels themselves progress seemingly the same way.  The meteors are in the first stage.  The eyeball wall things are the second stage, etc, etc.  So, despite Kris’ objections, I’m basically calling this more of a DLC pack.  A very good one, mind you.  I highly recommend it.

Damn game won't take the sky from me.

Damn game won’t take the sky from me.

But, the honeymoon with Hypership is over, and now a lot of the glaring flaws are starting to be noticed.  Stuff like how sometimes setting off a bomb is too hard.  You have to double-tap the screen to do it.  I don’t know if it prefers you to tap in the same spot or not.  It’s sometimes a difficult thing to pull off, and setting off a bomb when you most need to is very challenging because the screen is usually too full to safely stay still long enough to detonate it.   Also, when you’ve built up a stockpile of 3 bombs, which is the max, why doesn’t picking up a 4th bomb automatically detonate it?  It wouldn’t make the game too easy, but it’s too hard to see the new bomb on-screen and react fast enough to detonate a bomb you’re holding before picking it up.  Since you can’t use a finger on your spare hand (for those that have such a thing, and to those who don’t, you shouldn’t have played around with firecrackers like that) to set off a bomb, the system is just too busted.  This is a game based around speed, lots of it.  You probably won’t have enough time to safely take your finger off the screen for the less-than-a-second it takes to use it.  I would kill to be able to play Hypership with a mouse or a trackball.  The joystick controls of the XBLIG were too damn loose, while the phone version lacks buttons that would make the game so much better.  A marriage between the two might make one of the best space-shooters of the modern era.

Don’t let any of those complaints turn you off.  They’re here because I’m hoping like hell Kris gets the message and makes some fixes to his already excellent game.  Hypership, no matter which version you get on your iThing, is a truly special game.  One of my favorite iPhone games, indie or otherwise.  One of the few space-shooters I’ve ever enjoyed.  One of the few games on any platform I play on a regular basis.  And my enjoyment of it isn’t based on my friendship with Kris.  If friendship somehow softened my thoughts on his Abduction Action! Plus, then you should be scared because it might be so bad that it causes cancer.  No, I like Hypership purely because it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played.  You know, I’ve had a bad break lately with health issues.  I don’t know what my future holds.  I don’t find out until February 27.  I am lucky that I have friends who will be there for me.  And here’s where the friendship thing matters to me: how fucking cool is it that one of my friends, who will be there for me through the worst of whatever I face, also is someone who made one of the best games I’ve ever played?  It proves once again something I’ve known for a long time: I’m the luckiest person I know.

Hypership loloHypership Still Out of Control was developed by Fun Infused Games

This is for Hypership. For Abduction Action! Plus, picture Sweetie with pock marks on her face, blood dripping out of her nose, the stench of death on her, with skulls and crossbones all around the edges saying "not approved for any use besides enhanced interrogation."

This is for Hypership. For Abduction Action! Plus, picture Sweetie with pock marks on her face, blood dripping out of her nose, the stench of death on her, with skulls and crossbones all around the edges saying “not approved for any use besides enhanced interrogation.”

$1.99 said Kris could remake the same game, only set it on I-80 in California and claim it’s based on a true story in the making of this review.

Hypership Still Out of Control is Chick-Approved and Ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Arcadecraft (Second Chance with the Chick)

Arcadecraft has been updated three times since I last played it back in February.  Not only have a few bugs been squashed, but a lot of content has been added.  The length of the game has been extended by a full in-game year, with new machines being released during the course of it.  To give the game a more authentic arcade feel, different machine types have been added, including 2-player upright games, pinball machines, more cocktail tables, and more options to dress up your arcade.  Gameplay mechanics have been cleaned up as well, including the problematic hooligan, who is now easier to deal with.  The power doesn’t go out as much, and coin doors don’t jam as much.  Because the busy-work has been significantly toned down, Arcadecraft feels less like one of those plate-spinning things carnies do and more like an actual, professional sim game.

My arcade was never this organized. Nowhere near as bad as my Sim Cities were, but still..

My arcade was never this organized. Nowhere near as bad as my Sim Cities were, but still..

Which is not to say the game’s shelf-life is that much longer.  When Arcadecraft is done, it’s done. There isn’t a whole lot more you can do once you’ve run out the clock.  Replay value is lacking sorely.  Unless the developers could come up with scenario-style missions and side-quests, Arcadecraft probably won’t be the type of game you go back to again and again.  It also still gets off to too slow a start, though this can be negated if you have Firebase’s other game, Orbitron, or Bad Caterpillar by Kris Steele.  If you do, you can unlock cabinets for those games in Arcadecraft.  Games that you can bump up to 50 cents and push the difficulty to hard without them taking a hit.  Arcadecraft was a bit too easy to begin with.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, given that the Bad Caterpillar cabinet has what I think is a shout-out to me in it (or possibly Donna Bailey, but the narcissist in me thinks it’s me), but avoid those two cabinets if you’re looking for a challenge.

A game set in the 1980s has characters using the word "retro". That somehow seems wrong.

A game set in the 1980s has characters using the word “retro”. That somehow seems wrong.

Despite the lack of difficulty, I love Arcadecraft.  Love it.  It no longer feels like it’s in the Beta stage of development.  Arcadecraft is now a fully realized, glorious game.  It’s one of the ten best Xbox Live Indie Games ever made.  By all rights, this should be the next big simulation mega-franchise.  Unfortunately, Firebase has no plans to put Arcadecraft on PC.  Well, I simply cannot accept that.  So I propose that fans of this game line up in single file to set themselves on fire in protest of that.  Their charred remains are on your head, Firebase.  We’ll go in alphabetical order by surname.  I’ve never been happier that my real name is Cathy Zykozawitz.

xboxboxartArcadecraft was developed by Firebase Industries

IGC_Approved$1 (originally $3) have no idea how you would pronounce that in the making of this review.

Arcadecraft is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Quiet Christmas

It’s been about a year since I reviewed Quiet, Please!, a pleasant little mix of puzzles and point-and-click adventures.  I enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t exactly the deepest game.  It was also a shorty at around thirty minutes.  To this day, I still get people complaining that I didn’t give a thumbs up to City Tuesday, yet a game like Quiet, Please! got my recommendation, even though they were similar in length and style.  The difference between the two is Quiet felt finished and fully realized, while City Tuesday felt like it was just starting at the moment it ended, making the overall impact of the game unsatisfactory.  It would be like going to a bakery and asking for a dozen cookies, six of them the Quiet cookies and six of them the Tuesday cookies.  First you’re handed the Quiet cookies, and they’re decent, if not memorable.  Then you anxiously await for the Tuesday cookies, only to have the baker throw the uncooked dough at your face.  And then call you a cunt for not being happy with the dough.  Even if the dough was delicious (it was), you can only imagine how good the finished cookie would have been.

Extending that analogy further, Quiet Christmas is an overcooked cookie. If it had been bundled with the original as a freebie, I could have appreciated it more and probably bumped up Quiet’s standing on the leaderboard.  But it’s not, and I can’t.  The real problem with Quiet Christmas is it’s very much the same game, only with a small handful of new puzzles.  It takes place in the same house as the original, features the same cast, and the logic of the puzzles is largely the same as before.  It would be like buying a DVD for $20 and being told that you can get the alternate ending for an additional $20.  No, that should have been on the DVD in the first place.

Once again, my warped brain conceived horrible things to do to my family.  I figured I would grease the floor with butter to cause my hyperactive brother to slip and knock himself unconscious. Not making that up. I watch too much YouTube.

Once again, my warped brain conceived horrible things to do to my family. I figured I would grease the floor with butter to cause my hyperactive brother to slip and knock himself unconscious. Not making that up. I watch too much YouTube.

If you played the first Quiet game, you’ll breeze through this expansion.  I used a stopwatch.  Ten minutes, thirty-seven seconds was my time.  And, because it’s the same location, there’s no surprises here for players.  I think this could possibly become a series of games, but not like this.  Keep the family around (I suspect the parents are both drunks and the brother is hyperactive) but send them to new, exotic locations.  That works!  Look at Home Alone 2.  Same movie.  Same plot.  Same characters.  Different location.  $360,000,000 at the box office.  By the way, I didn’t actually know how much that flick made until just now.  Wow.  I think I’m going to start cutting myself.

xboxboxartQuiet Christmas was developed by Nostatic Software

80 Microsoft Points got a lump of coal in their stocking in the making of this review.

Laser Fry

Laser Fry has the feel of a twitchy 80s arcade game.  I can and have gotten into those.  Most of them are based on existing games.  We Are Cubes is like a mixture of Tempest and Buster Bros.  DecimationX3 was a souped-up version of Space Invaders.  There’s been new takes on Defender, Contra, Frogger, Qix, Pac-Man.. pretty much every vintage coin-op under the sun.  Laser Fry is apparently an original idea.  You’re a dude, and there are lasers and balls.  Avoid the balls, or destroy the balls with the lasers.  Just don’t be standing in the path of the laser when you activate it.  Basic stuff they teach you at Testicle Removal School*.

I figured when I started Indie Gamer Chick, I would be neck-deep in original game concepts.  That’s not the case, of course.  Entirely original concepts are as rare as a Yeti.  Developers, even gutsy ones, tend to stick to what they know works, only making minor tweaks on established formulas.  Still, the occasional game centered around a new idea does pop up from time to time.  Such is the case here.  I asked around, and nobody had played anything like it (there were some games on the Commodore 64 that looked similar but turned out to be much different).  Great!  So how does this original idea fare?

No, you can't make sense of this. I think you have a better chance of deciphering the Voynich manuscript.

No, you can’t make sense of this. I think you have a better chance of deciphering the Voynich manuscript.

Not so good.  The main gameplay problem is the background is simply too noisy.  On easy mode, you only have to keep track of the yellow balls and yellow lasers.  This by itself is a decent challenge, especially once the action speeds up.  On higher difficulties, you have three different colors of lasers, three colors of balls, and lots of background shit for those to bleed into.  If you can actually follow the action, your super vision could probably be put to better use in the fields of espionage or Lex Luthor foiling.  Despite decent enough play control, the action in this game is incomprehensible.

But, even if it wasn’t, I don’t think the concept lends itself well to a good game.  That’s the biggest sin Laser Fry commits: it simply is not fun, and probably doesn’t have the potential to ever be fun.  So, like most original ideas that flop, I’ll chalk Laser Fry up to being a worthy experiment that produced an undesirable product.  Sometimes you simply can’t know what will and won’t work until you try it.  It takes a brave person to begin with, who sees a void in innovation and says “I’m going to give this a shot!”  Like an egghead with a chemistry set.  Sometimes you accidentally cure cancer, and sometimes you blow yourself up.

xboxboxartLaser Fry was developed by GGGames

80 Microsoft Points thought the game would involve one of these and a random dude’s hair in the making of this review.

*More commonly called UCLA

Wright Brothers’ Mysteries

Oh my God.




I can’t believe I live in a world where Wright Brothers’ Mysteries exists.  It’s bad.  Bad bad.  Endearingly bad, yes, but endearingly bad is still bad.  Devoid of anything positive to say about any aspect of it’s design.  Hell, there’s really not a whole lot of game here.  Watch cut scenes that were apparently made using The Movies (the opening credits show the intro to The Movies), maybe answer a question about that scene, do the occasional amateurish quick-time-event, and that’s it.  Fifteen minutes tops.  Fifteen unintentionally hilarious, flat-out fucking weird minutes.  Surreal in ways I’ve only heard in descriptions of drug intoxication.

The sad part is, if I squint just a little bit, the dude on the right looks kind of like my boyfriend.

The sad part is, if I squint just a little bit, the dude on the right looks kind of like my boyfriend.

The story?  Incomprehensible.  The dialog?  So disjointed and unnatural that it’s practically alien.  The voice acting?  Awful accents, unemotional tones, and delivery so bad that it sounds like it was pieced together with a sound board.  The game?  There is no game.  Two quick-time events, one of which involves picking a lock and the other which necessitates restarting a heart.  That’s really the extend of any “game” function.  Otherwise, you get to watch horrible cut scenes play out.  I spent the first couple minutes rolling my eyes.

And then the Ninja showed up, and I started laughing.

I didn’t stop laughing for ten minutes.  Every single word spoken, every terribly choreographed fight scene where continuity changes from camera angle to camera angle, and just the overall awfulness of the whole mess.  Wright Brothers’ Mysteries made me fall to the floor in a rolling laughter that made my sides hurt and tears run down my cheeks.  I’ve never laughed harder at any game.  Not in a good way, mind you.  Wright Brothers’ Mysteries is the brand new Worst Game I’ve ever played in my entire life.  It’s awful.  But hypnotically so.  I can’t really say you should buy it.  There’s already videos on YouTube that show you the full game, like this one.  It’s just awful.  I don’t know how far unintentional comedy goes towards redeeming something this bad.  I guess that’s in the eye of the beholder.  For me, Wright Brothers’ Mysteries made me laugh until I was clutching my sides and my stomach in agony, not to mention the headache.  I could have probably been trampled by a marching band made entirely of tuba players and walked away in better shape.

xboxboxartWright Brothers’ Mysteries was developed by Archor Games

80 Microsoft Points honestly aren’t sure if this game wasn’t some gigantic gag against the entire XBLIG scene in the making of this review.


I suck at space shooters.  I’ve spent the last two years establishing this fact on this very blog.  While I try to claim neutrality towards all genres, that’s obviously a bit of a stretch.  Some I like more than others, with shmups typically being “the others.”  I’ve just never been able to get into them.  Which kind of sucks for the hard-working XBLIG community, because even ones that earn near universal praise (like Aeternum) don’t do anything for me.  It seems like the best they can hope for out of me is “I wouldn’t rather be dead than play this.”

Am I the only one who thinks that bullet hell screens always look like those abstract painting made by just splattering a blank canvas with paint?

Am I the only one who thinks that bullet hell screens always look like those abstract painting made by just splattering a blank canvas with paint?

On that note, I wouldn’t rather be dead than play Pester.  Congratulations to the team at Flump Studios for doing as good as you could do with this genre in relationship to me.  I was able to get through the full hour Brian forces me to play these games (“out of fairness” he says, the goody two-shoes prick) without wondering if I’ll be locked up in the nuthouse for choosing to hurl myself through a plate-glass window to get out of it.  And, while I wasn’t like wowed by the experience or anything, I wasn’t bored.  It’s nothing new though.  You’re a ship.  There are enemies.  Enemies fire a whole lot of bullets at you, and you fire a whole lot of bullets back.  I’ve always kind of wondered about the economics of bullet hells.  Presumably if enemies are firing plasma rounds at you with projectiles the size of small ships, that stuff has got to cost money.  You would think they would fire a little more accurately.  Conserve ammo, instead of seeing you, going crazy, and firing bullets in every direction including behind them.  Or hell, since we’re dealing futuristic space warfare, you would think an enemy force that can employ thousands of ships to take out one single rinky-dinky little adversary could figure out how to do weapons that instantaneously destroy whatever they’re targeting the moment the fire button is pressed without giving them a chance to dodge out-of-the-way.  What kind of morons do they have running these evil empires?

Anyway, it’s basic space shooter shit with some neat graphic filters added, and not a whole lot more.  I played for a while and realized quickly that I was every bit as shitty at playing Pester as I am at every other game of this godforsaken genre.  But the screen wasn’t so spammed with bullets that it was demoralizing or anything.  Then something funny happened.  At one point, I turned to Brian and said “honestly, I’m not having a blast or anything, but there’s nothing really wrong with this one.”  Within ten seconds of me saying this, the game decided to give me stuff to complain about.   I’m not saying this for comic effect.  This really happened.  First, I was fighting a boss that throws giant swords at you and died.  That’s not the bad part.  The bad part is when I blinked back into existence, the game spawned one of the sword bullets into the same space I respawned into and insta-killed me.  The sword wasn’t there at that moment. It just appeared.  A bizarre glitch I’m guessing, but it’s so weird that it happened right after I told my boyfriend I had nothing to complain about.  As if the game heard me and said “nothing to complain about?  Bitch, I’ll give you something to complain about.”

And Pester kept being a shithead to me after that.  I played three straight rounds where the game never once spawned an upgrade for my ship’s guns.  It spawned plenty of speed-ups and bombs, but no gun upgrades.  It was fucking strange, because they had been plentiful before.  Not that it really mattered.  Gun upgrades or not, I still made it about the same length as I always did, which was between wave 7 and wave 10.  Yea, I really suck at this shit.  So I booted up Tempus mode, where lives are replaced by time.  When you shoot enemies, instead of them dropping coins, they drop clocks that add one second to a timer.  When you die, you lose ten seconds.  The game goes until you run out of time.  Okay, fine.  Question: where the fuck is the timer?  I couldn’t see it.  Otherwise, it’s the same game with the same enemy layouts.  You can also adjust the difficulty, and add extra challenges if you’re a masochist, like controlling two ships at once.  I didn’t try it myself.  I barely have the coordination to tie my shoelaces without breaking my neck in the process.  I don’t need a game to tell me I’m an embarrassment to humanity.  I already know it.

A spaceship that fires globs of space jizz on you. Sure. Why not?

A spaceship that fires globs of space jizz on you. Sure. Why not?

Really, Pester isn’t bad or anything.  And the sword bit I mentioned above was a one-off thing.  I guess I kind of, sort of recommend it.  A little bit.  I’m not sure if that’s because I genuinely enjoyed it based on merit, or if I genuinely enjoyed it because Brian got such amusement out of my pitiful lack of shmup talent.  Either way, I had something vaguely resembling a good time playing it, and had the sense to turn it off before I got bored.  Having said that, it’s not an ambitious title.  This shit has been done before and Pester offers nothing new.  Nothing.  At best, it shows competence in making a functioning, mildly entertaining game that closely resembles about a thousand other games.  I’m not against playing them, but I want to see a different angle on them.  There’s got to be a wealth of unexplored twists for bullet hells.  I mean come on, you guys are indie developers.  You’re supposed to buck the norm.  Be weird for the sake of being weird.  Dance to the beat of a different drummer.  When games like this fill out the cliché checklist with such determination, it’s kind of sad.  Not as sad as watching me play games like this must be, but still pretty sad.

xboxboxartIGC_ApprovedPester was developed by Flump Studios

80 Microsoft Points made a fortune selling ammunition to an evil galactic empire in the making of this review. 

Pester is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  Barely.  

Ascent of Kings

Ascent of the Kings comes from the developer of Quiet, Please!, the 2D platforming/point-and-click mash-up I played last April.  The fingerprints of the developer are all over this one too.  Same art style, same silliness, and same bite-sized game length.  It took me just over thirty-minutes to beat Quiet, Please!  For Ascent of Kings, which is a Metroidvania type of platformer, it took me about twenty minutes to become king and another twenty-five minutes to find all 12 hidden shrines.  So, forty-five minutes total of gameplay.  At this pace, Nostatic Software’s next game might stretch to a full hour.  Not that it needs to.  I’ve enjoyed games that lasted as little as ten minutes.  It’s crazy how spending 600 days immersed in the indie gaming scene alters your perception on how long a game should be.  I’m fairly certain I’m now in a state of mind where I could approve a game that lasts one minute, as long as it’s the best damn one minute I’ve had since I lost my virginity.

A Boy and his Blob?

A Boy and his Blob?

So the idea is, the king has died, and in order to determine the new king, all possible suitors (which seems to consist of four brothers that live in a small cottage, still better than what England faces sometime in the next twenty years) have to hop around on platforms and reach a small shrine that bestows upon that person the power to rule.  The father of these kids, apparently a bit of a dick, only gives each of the older brothers one special tool that can help them reach the summit and become king.  But their hearts don’t seem quite into it.  They pull such bullshit excuses as “ouch, sprained my wrist” or “twisted my ankle” like they’re trying to get out of jury duty.  The youngest brother, aka you, collects their tools, allowing him to double jump, climb vines, and fire slingshots.  You know, the kind of tools found in a real world monarchy litmus test.  Psssssh, diplomacy?  Economics?  Fuck that shit.  That’s for democracies.

As a game, what can I say?  It’s alright.  The movement physics are a bit loose and the double-jump sometimes didn’t seem to work.  Level design is very basic, no frills, no surprises.  There’s one section that features a timed jumping puzzle, and I hate that if I get to the top and screw up, I have to wait any amount of time before hitting the button to start over.  But, the game is so brief that you can’t really get bored with it, and it ends long before any amount of frustration over the various control foibles can settle in.  I guess what I’m trying to say is I had a decent enough time playing Ascent of Kings to say it’s worth a buck.  It’s not the most enthusiastic recommendation, but hey, it’s not the most ambitious game!  One hand washes the other!

xboxboxartIGC_ApprovedAscent of Kings was developed by Nostatic Software

80 Microsoft Points were joking about the one minute thing.  Brian has way more stamina than that in the making of this review.

Ascent of Kings is Chick Approved and has ascended the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.


Update: Arcadecraft received a Second Chance with the Chick, where many problems talked about in this review were addressed, and new gameplay features discussed. The price is also now only $1 instead of $3. Continue reading this review and then click here for my updated thoughts.

Arcadecraft is brought to you by the guys who did the incredibly awesome Orbitron: Revolution.  What was Orbitron: Revolution?  Why, it was an insanely fast-paced modern take on the classic Defender formula that featured arguably the best graphics in the history of Xbox Live Indie Games.  It will undoubtedly go down as one of the most professional-quality, vastly entertaining games ever on the platform.

Total bust.  Sold fewer copies than an 8-track of Gary Busey belching into a microphone.

What went wrong?  Well, I think the name was way too generic.  Orbitron sounds like an off-brand anime that would air at 4AM on Cartoon Network.  The graphics might have also been too good.  Hear me out on this one.  I’m of the belief that XBLIG consumers are conditioned to associate good graphics with bad gameplay.  Unless those good graphics are of the 8-bit or 16-bit variety, “modern” graphic decency in an Xbox Indie means shitty play control, glitches, and typically rushed game design.  Trust me, I’ve reviewed over 300 of these.  The better the graphics, the shittier the game.  Orbitron is one of the rare exceptions to that.

There are other possible explanations that are beyond my scope of understanding.  Perhaps the demo doesn’t hook players in.  Or maybe the general gaming populace is indifferent to Defender.  Hell, I would actually believe some kind of Gypsy Curse is in play.  Either way, the guys at Firebase took no chances with their follow-up game.  It’s called Arcadecraft.  The presence of the word “craft” in the title alone is probably good for at least 2,500 units sold on XBLIG.  Kraft could put out a game where you build stuff out of macaroni called Kraftcraft and it would probably sell a gillion copies.  But Arcadecraft isn’t a “build stuff out of stuff” game at all.  A more accurate title would have probably been “Sim Arcade” or “Arcade Tycoon.”  But Sim Tycoon isn’t trendy on XBLIG right now and Craft is, and Firebase are capitalists first and foremost.

Face it guys, you're never going to hear people keep asking about if they can play the games.  Better get cracking on making it happen.

Face it guys, you’re going to hear people keep asking if they can play the games. Better get cracking on making it happen.

Sadly for me, lots of the things I planned on complaining about Arcadecraft are already being fixed.  Although the patch isn’t live yet, it covers nearly every problem I had.  So I’ll just focus on the gameplay.  Honestly, the shocking thing about Arcadecraft is that nobody has thought to make this game before.  Build your own arcade during the Golden Age of CoinOps?  How is this not already something that exists?  You have to buy games, set the prices, set the difficulty, place them, empty the coin boxes, buy more games, pay off your loan, kick out hooligans, buy more games, sell old games, upgrade the power supply of your building, allow world champion players to attempt to break records on your machines, unjam coin doors, buy more games, survive the gaming crash of ’84, stock soda machines, and buy more games.

So yea, it’s a time sink.

A lot of stuff I disliked about Arcadecraft is being patched out.  The hooligan won’t appear while you’re in menus anymore, and a more satisfying animation will appear when you boot him.  Not too satisfying.  If I owned an arcade and someone started kicking my machines, nothing short of Joe Pesci taking a nail gun to his temple would please me, and it would serve the little fucker right.  It would be totally justified too.  The kid starts kicking machines, somehow teleporting from machine to machine, disabling them before I can clearly identify him and eject him.  A better indicator of where he is would be nice, given the fact that he’s powered by the mystical forces of Satan and all.

And the power goes out a lot.  Like, at least every three game months, or about six minutes .  Where the fuck is my arcade at that the power keeps failing every three months?  There’s no “turn on every game” master switch.  You have to pick up and slam every machine against the ground.  Individually.  When you have 30 machines, this becomes a pain in the ass, especially when you’ll inevitably have the hooligan show up to start shit while this is going on.  I did find it mildly amusing that jammed coined slots are unjammed in the time-tested tradition of banging the machine repeatedly until it works again.  See, who says Armageddon wasn’t factually accurate?

I swear to Christ, every time the dude came by with the premium machines, my arcade was full. The game totally needs to give you the option to make him wait while you hock a machine to make room.

I swear to Christ, every time the dude came by with the premium machines, my arcade was full. The game totally needs to give you the option to make him wait while you hock a machine to make room.

My biggest gripe with Arcadecraft is how fucking slow a start it gets off to.  A lot of time sinks are lethargic in the beginning.  Arcadecraft is practically in a fucking coma, sort of like I’ve been over the last four days.  A common theme among players is one itty-bitty mistake forces them to start over.  I never had to myself.  I guess I had as perfect a run as anyone could have, but I still only finished 99th on the Leaderboard (now like 118th or some such shit).  I could see why others would die though.  You’re given too little of seed money and new games cost too much money early on.  In theory, you can set a machine to 50 cents a play, but that causes its popularity to plummet.  Here’s a hint: sink a soda machine pretty much anywhere and set the price to $1 per can.  Occasionally a “hot spot” will appear in the arcade that increases a machine’s popularity, but they’re typically in the least convenient spot.  Like in front of the bathroom door, where you then trap a helpless little shit inside, not to mention the kid that made it.

With all the planned changes, plus future expansions, Arcadecraft feels more like a really good beta than a finished game.  That’s okay, because it’s a really good beta, sort of like Lexiv was.  You can see the potential.  If Firebase plays its cards right, they could probably make this a hit iOS game with microtransactions up the ass for years to come.  Think of all the stuff they didn’t include this time around.  There’s no novelty games, no redemption games, no pinball machines, no skeeball, no air hockey, no cigarette machine in the corner (you know, for the adults, wink), and only a limited supply of larger cockpit games.  Arcadecraft has a chance to be a full-blown franchise, and we’re getting in at the ground floor.

You also don't get enough info on each game. Again, there's lot of patchwork needed here.

You also don’t get enough info on each game. Again, there’s lot of patchwork needed here.

And by the way, in case you’re wondering, it’s fucking awesome as hell.  For all the problems, of which there are numerous, Arcadecraft is one of the best sims on XBLIG.  But, let’s face it, it doesn’t belong on XBLIG.  This should be on PCs, with the convenience of a mouse and keyboard.  This would also allow the expansion packs I mentioned above.  Plus, let’s face it, we all want to play the actual games.  Dead serious when I say that I would pay the full disc-based retail price of $60 for a version of Arcadecraft where you could play the games.  Assuming they didn’t suck.  Which I’m guessing they wouldn’t.  I mean, Firebase did make the coolest modern version of Defender on the market.  This would give them a chance to make the coolest versions of EVERY vintage game.  Which they should be doing right now.  They’re capitalists after all.  Don’t believe me?  Their next game involves making stuff out of feces.  It’s called CrapCraft.  And it will be fucking awesome.

xboxboxartArcadecraft was developed by Firebase Industries

IGC_Approved240 Microsoft Points want the machine kicking kid to be attacked by the game machines, Emilio Estevez  style in the making of this review.

Arcadecraft is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  And trust me, there’s room for upward mobility. 

Squadron Scramble

I hate reviewing local-only multiplayer games.  First, you have to round-up players.  Then you have to tell them what we’re playing.  Then they leave, because they thought they were coming over to play something they’ve heard of, and you have to round-up more players.  Writing these reviews makes me sound like a broken record, because there’s only so many ways to say “it’s tough to sell non-indie fanatics on playing these games.”  Even when they turn out to be exceptional, like Hidden in Plain Sight, the real challenge is finding interested parties to play.  I think I would have an easier time finding people who want to watch a video of me having my appendix removed.

Squadron Scramble ups the ante by offering eight player local support.  Uh huh.  Excuse me for one second.

(Ahahahahahaha!  Eight players?  Wahahahahaha yea right!)


Seriously, I even don’t know eight people by name.  There’s Brian, Mommy, Daddy, and everyone else is Whatshisface.  And this is one of those games where you get eight players by sharing controllers, with one person using the left stick and trigger and the other person using the right one.  It’s the gaming version of a three-legged race.  Finding three other competent players would be tough enough, but seven more?  Tee-hee, right.  Plus, I’m quitting smoking right now and nobody wants to be within assault-and-battery distance from me, let alone sitting right next to me, getting their hand-sweat all over MY controller.

Thus, I only found three other suckers to play Squadron Scramble with, and surprise, we had a damn good time playing it.  Actually, it’s not that surprising.  As long as the game is fast-paced, user-friendly, and not broken, any four player experience is bound to be jolly-good entertainment.  Such as the case here, where you have 2D dog fights with all actions reduced to one stick and one button.  Anyone can pick it up and play it.  Whether they play it well is really irrelevant to the amount of fun you can have.  That’s the mark of a good multiplayer game.  At first, Squadron Scramble does that.  It just doesn’t last.

The first thing you have to do in Squadron Scramble is move a little dude into a hanger.  Once you enter the hanger, you take off in a fighter jet.  Each player gets a team of four dudes.  You get a point for every plane you shoot down.  If you’re in the sky and get shot, your dude parachutes down.  You have two options from this point: you can return the dude to the hanger, or you can switch him out for another dude.  Since points are tied to dudes that are alive, switching out is meant to add an element of strategy to the game.  Switching out dudes “banks” whatever points are made and protects them, since you lose all points scored with a dude if he dies.  Sounds like a good idea, but actually this was a game crippler for my session.

The game goes by rounds, with the person who has the most points winning each round.  You need three rounds to win.  Here’s the problem: points carry over between rounds.  So if one player builds an insurmountable lead, they can spend the next couple rounds stalling, with their highest-scoring guys grounded, and never worry about losing.  It’s an utterly brain-dead decision and it ruined more than one session of Squadron Scramble, because it was too easy to protect a lead.


This is one of those times where the developers lost track of the fact that not everyone who plays their game will be as highly knowledgeable or skilled as they are.  They forget that they, you know, made the fucking thing and thus know how to play it best.  It’s not exactly the same as making a punisher too hard and losing track of that, but it’s a common theme in multiplayer games.  I’ve had five developers who make such games send me detailed instructions on how to best play their games to ensure maximum entertainment.  The developers of Squadron Scramble did this too.  Nice guys, mind you.  And very patient, considering that I’ve delayed and delayed this review.  I like their game.  I’m putting it on the Leaderboard.  But it’s time for a reality check, fellas: unless you’re going to personally contact every person who purchases your game and give them the same instructions, which obviously you can’t do, you should recognize that maybe your game has a problem.  If you need to explain to people the best ways to make your game fun, you’ve screwed up somewhere along the line.  The best multiplayer games are self-explanatory.  Choppy Chomp-Chomp, the only multiplayer game to reach the top 10 on this site, requires no hand-holding.  Squadron Scramble shouldn’t need to, but the developers wanted to hold my hand anyway.  Personal space, guys.  Don’t make me break out the pepper spray.

It’s still fun though.  Very fun, in fact.  It’s hugely satisfying to shoot down a guy on a scoring-streak, watch them parachute to the ground, and then Kamikaze your plane into them before they can duck into the hanger.  The controls have only a slight learning curve.  The action is incredibly fast-paced.  I wouldn’t at all recommend trying eight players though.  We played with four players and four AI planes, and the game became an unmanageable clusterfuck that nobody could follow.  Also, there’s not a ton of depth here.  While games like Hidden in Plain Sight might be dusted off from time to time, you’ll get one, maybe two, sessions out of Squadron Scramble and then mothball it for good.  Not because it’s bad, but because it wears thin after an hour or two.  Once a player emerges from the group as the unquestioned God of the session, the rules skew too much in their favor.  This either leads to everyone ganging up on them, or the leader stalling, none of which produce exciting gameplay for anyone involved.  Squadron Scramble’s first hour will be the best, and then it will all fall apart after that.  That’s fine.  That’s how every Will Smith movie plays out, and people still watch them.

xboxboxartSquadron Scramble was developed by DepthCharge Software

80 Microsoft Points stabbed their boyfriend in the ribs for humming Ride of the Valkyries in the making of this review.

IGC_ApprovedSquadron Scramble is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  With online play, it might have been a top-10 contender.

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