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?

OMG HD Zombies

When the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard went multi-platform a couple of months back, OMG Zombies for PlayStation Mobile was the biggest surprise for me, and for most of my readers.  It landed #12 on the board.  It’s especially surprising considering that my previous review of it was a grand total of two paragraphs done as part of a shitty PlayStation Mobile round-up.  When the time came to start ranking every single game I had reviewed that qualified as an Indie, nobody was as surprised as me when I got to OMG Zombies.  I rank the games by comparing each game to the bottom game on the list. If I like it more than that game, I move up to the next game, and so forth, and so forth.  As it turned out, I would rather play OMG Zombies more than all but eleven other indie games.  That’s pretty significant.

This is either a picture of OMG HD Zombies or a picture of Wal Mart an hour after Black Friday begins.

One thing I’ve always wondered about zombie apocalypses: who cleans up the mess after all the zombies are gone? Seriously.  There are seven billion people on the planet, and all but a rag-tag group of ethnically-diverse outcasts with hearts of gold manage to survive.  What then?  Can you imagine the stench of seven billion corpses? I imagine it would be like E3, times seven billion. I would fucking kill myself just to avoid that. “Cathy, your turn for clean-up duty. Put on some rubber gloves and head to Topeka and get rid of..” BANG!!  “Oh.  Um.  Hey, Larry, another one shot themselves! Guess you’re working overtime again!”

OMG HD Zombies just hit Vita, for the modest price of $4.99.  It’s been out in Europe for months now.  The delay is probably some kind of payback for dragging our feet on the whole Hitler thing.  Hey, our President at the time was a cripple.  We couldn’t do anything but drag our feet.  Meanwhile, I’m curious why they delayed it.  I mean, yea, a zombie game releasing a couple of days before Halloween I guess means something.  Or it would, if there wasn’t a new zombie game every fucking day of the year and twice on Christmas.  Also, despite the “HD” tag, it doesn’t really look all that much better from the PlayStation Mobile version.  Maybe a little cleaner, but not so much so that I would call it a significant upgrade.

And with this new port comes some added technical issues.  Nothing directly tied to the gameplay, but navigating the menus was bothersome because the area of the touch screen that actually registers your touches seems too small.  I would poke and jab at the X in the corner of the dialog box trying to close the fucking thing and had to keep stabbing at it until the game was satisfied that yes, indeed, I wanted to close the dialog box.  This also happened sometimes with the larger “restart stage” box and the “back to the map” box.  Why make such a big fucking buttons if only small parts activate them?  Finally, I crashed the game a few times.  I’m used to this phenomenon, but OMG Zombies threw in the added twist of crashing so badly that the whole Vita had to be given a hard reset.  I think this happened while the game was saving, because when I rebooted it, the game had an error appear between every level, which caused a minute-long pause.  My attempts to run through the game a second time were officially dead, so I had to delete the save file and start over from scratch.  This certainly makes me wonder if the HD port is the one to go with right now.  The other two versions have less features, but they’re stable.  OMG HD is not.

In case you don’t know, the concept is you fire upon a crowd of zombies, who then explode like giant anamorphic piñatas.  Any zombies caught in the splash damage also explode, setting off a chain reaction.  Thus, you can clear an entire screen of zombies in a couple of shots.  OMG Zombies isn’t the first game to do this, but it’s the first one I played that I got completely hooked on.  When I played the PSM original, it became the first game I was so locked on that I ran the battery completely out trying to finish.  OMG HD Zombies became the second game I’ve done that with.  So potently addictive is this that, even with multiple crash issues, I kept coming back to it.

This is either a picture of OMG HD Zombies or Wal Mart an after hour Black Friday sales begin.

This is either a picture of OMG HD Zombies or Wal Mart an after hour Black Friday sales begin.

What’s really bizarre about the time sinkyness of OMG Zombies is that this isn’t exactly a game that puts your skills to the test.  Most of my best rounds of OMG came down to just plain stupid luck.  The placement of the zombies, the exploding barrels, which direction the last remaining stragglers walked, or which direction they fired off their splash damage. While talking with Cyril Lachel of Defunct Games, we genuinely questioned the amount of skill the game required.  Cyril went a little nuts with the concept, laying out exactly how well he was able to do on specific levels, blind versus aimed.  It’s actually a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.  I didn’t take quite as many notes as him, but I did make a few observations on this.  If I had my zombies leveled up enough, so that the screen was filled with them, I might do as good closing my eyes and randomly poking a spot on the screen as I would taking my time and aiming.  Maybe.  But, at best I could do equally as good.  Never better, no matter what level.  And if the level contained exploding barrels?  Forget about it.  I always did better aiming.  So, you can’t really play OMG Zombies better blindfolded.

That doesn’t mean luck isn’t the prime factor in success with OMG Zombies.  Unless you possess super-hero like perception, there is no way you can keep track of the placement and aiming of every zombie on-screen.  Once you fire that initial volley, you’re kind of at the mercy of the chaos that ensues.  On top of that, many of the ways the zombies detonate each-other is based entirely on chance.  When the solider zombies die, they squeeze off a round of gunfire that sprays in a random direction.  When the head-popping zombies die, their head lands randomly somewhere on the screen.  When the electric zombies die, they shoot electricity off in a random direction.  When the acid-melty zombies turn into a puddle, you have to hope against hope that none of the zombies walking that way change direction and miss it entirely.  It’s never boring, but damned if there wasn’t multiple times I was left screaming “TURN AROUND AND FACE THE OTHER GUY YOU FUCKING SKIDMARK!” while waiting for a zombie shamble around in the right direction.  Above all else, OMG Zombies really needs a fast-forward option.  Waiting for the slow-pokes to move into position is the only time the game becomes tedious.

Yea, the addition of new zombies was cool, but it doesn’t do enough to freshen up the experience.  Is OMG HD Zombies a good game?  Absolutely.  One of the most satisfying games I’ve come across since starting Indie Gamer Chick.  The problem is, OMG Zombies was already a good game.  I guess it’s like comparing Street Fighter II to Street Fighter II Championship Edition.  Is the latter version good?  Sure, but you’re just fine if you only have access to the previous version.  And really, Laughing Jackal, you need to clean up those crashes.  Everyone is having them, and in all kinds of spots.  Cyril crashed twice from the stage select screen.  I crashed three times trying to skip the tally and either replay a stage or return to the stage select screen.  This never came up in the four and a half years (at least it felt that way) it took to get this from the UK to the US?  And why did you make this in the first place?  Shouldn’t you be working on Cubixx 2: Cube Harder?

OMG HD Zombies was developed by Laughing Jackal

OMGIGC_Approved$4.99 think this game is begging to be remade as an ad-supported title sponsored by the team of Coca-Cola and Pop Rocks in the making of this review.

OMG HD Zombies is Chick-Approved, but I’m lumping it in with the original review of OMG Zombies on PlayStation Mobile and keeping it where it was on the Leaderboard.  Because laziness is the American Way.

Spelunky (Vita)

I had a love-hate relationship with Spelunky.  I loved it.  It hated me.  It screwed my attempts at progress every step of the way.  Like the time I had built up ten hearts and much of the best equipment of the game, only to have a spider set off a dart trap which blew up a crate which caused a shopkeeper to declare me a terrorist, leading to me getting spotted and murdered by someone in his union on the next stage.  Spelunky is full of stories like that.  Speak to anyone who has put more than an hour into it and I’m sure you’ll hear tales of how the game fucked them over in ways both infuriating and hilarious.

Despite being pitiful at Spelunky, I still enjoy it.  It’s one of those very rare punishers that gets it right.  Yet, it’s been a while since I’ve played it.  The reason being that its novelty wore thin after about a week.  When I found myself with time to kill, something always seemed like a better option than Spelunky.  Thus, it went on to collect virtual dust inside my Xbox’s memory.  And then came Spelunky on Vita.

And yes, the damsels are back. Apparently this has been the source of controversy, the theory being that having girls in need of rescuing somehow reinforces negative stereotypes. That's a thing right now because the game collective hive mind mentality tells us that, while games most certainly DO NOT cause violent behavor under any circumstance and anyone who says otherwise is an out of touch old person like a politican or a lawyer or something, games most certainly can and do lead to sexism. And also lucrative Kickstarter campaigns.

And yes, the damsels are back. Apparently this has been the source of controversy, the theory being that having girls in need of rescuing somehow reinforces negative stereotypes. That’s a thing right now because the game collective hive mind mentality tells us that, while games most certainly DO NOT cause violent behavior under any circumstance and anyone who says otherwise is an out of touch old person like a politician or a lawyer or something, games most certainly can and do lead to sexism. And also lucrative Kickstarter campaigns. Anyway, that’s me rescuing the damsel after having just rescued the Mexican from a trapped coffin, because that’s what heroes do.  And no, I did not kill the shopkeeper.  He killed himself after I accidentally destroyed his shop with a giant boulder.  I also accidentally destroyed the alter that I was going to sacrifice both the damsel and the Mexican on. Which I admit, is slightly less heroic. Unless you’re a Pagan.

First off, you should know that I almost never pay for a game more than once.  There are Nintendo fanboys who could recreate one of those jetpack things they use over water using just their erect penises and the semen they generate from the prospect of Wind Waker HD.  I don’t get it.  I (or more accurately my parents since I was 13 when it originally came out) already paid $50 for it once upon a time, and I sure as fuck ain’t paying another $50 for the same game I already played ten years ago.  Typically, any time I replay the same game a year or more after the fact, I don’t like it as much.  I got Shadow of the Colossus HD for Christmas in 2011 (with overrated Ico stuck to it like a fucking tumor), and cringed.  A well-intentioned Christmas present for sure, but I knew something that my boyfriend and father did not: you see things replaying a game that you didn’t notice in your joy-filled delirium the first time around.  Consequently, I had trouble understanding what it was I saw in Shadow the first time around, and that’s a game I truly loved.  So for a game like Spelunky, putting up extra $11.99 (God bless PlayStation Plus) for something that I mostly just tolerated seemed like madness.

Spelunky on Vita is pretty much identical to its console big brothers.  Same graphics.  Same controls.  And every rage-filled gripe I had about it before is still there and still has the potential to make my blood boil.  Stuff like:

-Why the FUCK is the randomly generated layout so God Damned unfair sometimes?  They’ll put the golden idol right next to a store, guaranteeing that you will piss off the shopkeeper if you attempt to steal it.  Which of course means every future shopkeeper will try to murder you.

-While we’re on the subject, why is the shopkeeper so easy to set off?  I’ve played Spelunky enough that at least three times I’ve been going about my business only to have “TERRORIST!” pop up on-screen, usually when I’m not even fucking aware that there was a shop nearby.  This is also why the game desperately needs a replay/video sharing function.  I want to know what random, whacky series of events got me framed for descration of the store.

-Why do dark rooms exist?  As if Spelunky wasn’t difficult enough to work with, the game has to randomly turn off the lights?  Does anyone else get the impression that if Spelunky existed as a corporeal child, it would pull the wings off flies and blow up frogs with firecrackers?

-Why isn’t there an extreme pussy mode for people like me that tosses the whole roguelike bullshit aside in favor of getting to retain items?

-Why the fuck do ice levels still exist in games?  I thought we all collectively agreed that they should be abolished back in 1998?

Spelunky has ice stages with bad control. OF COURSE IT DOES!

Spelunky has ice stages with bad control. OF COURSE IT DOES!

-Why the hell doesn’t House immediately talk to Wilson whenever someone coughing up a liver gets wheeled into Princeton-Plainsboro?  They could talk about the weather or Cuddy’s breasts, or whatever until he has his epiphany. It should only take twenty minutes at most and would save a lot of lives and money.  Sorry, I was just seeing if you were paying attention.

-Why isn’t there more uniformity in the game?  Randomly generated maps.  FINE!  But shouldn’t certain stages always have stuff in them?  The alter, or the idol, or a secret door to the Black Market seem like they should always be hidden in a specific level, not possibly in the next one.  The same goes for special events like the one that opens up the alien ship, which I actually stumbled upon on accident.  Sure, it makes events like this special.  On the other hand, it makes actually trying to get them tedious.

So I wasn’t planning on buying Spelunky on my Vita.  Then I was talked into it by my readers, and thank God for that.  Spelunky, our little hateful bundle of joy, has found its home.  It’s tailor-made for a portable console, where you can pick up and play it with no pressure to perform well.  Spelunky is the perfect portable platformer.  Pick it up when you have five to ten minutes to spare.  Die a couple of times.  When you need to do something, you can easily put it down (especially if you already binge-played it last year and are somewhat burned out on it).  But when you have plenty of time on hand, you can put in extended sessions and maybe make a little progress.  You know, before the fates of the game conspire to fuck you over.

I knew I liked Spelunky.  I just didn’t know how much I liked it until the time came to rank it on the IGC Leaderboard.  Well, I can say without hesitation, I like Spelunky on Vita more.  In fact, I would be shocked if I ever touch it on XBLA again.  Hell, I didn’t even bother downloading the PS3 version that came with this.  Fuck that, why would I?  The Vita version is everything you should want in a portable game.  It doesn’t require a huge time investment, but is addictive enough that you can play it until the battery is drained.  Beautiful graphics.  Tight control (and actually, I found some of the annoying items that screw up the controls, like the climbing glove, to be slightly less annoying on Vita), and plenty of replay value.  I’ll probably never be good at Spelunky, but that’s fine.  It’s nice to know that it’s right there in my purse, ready to kick my ass during every smoke break and trip to the bathroom.  If you haven’t already got it, and you’re one of the six people beside me that bought a Vita, it’s a must own.

imageSpelunky was developed by Mossmouth

IGC_Approved$14.99 (I paid $11.99 with PS+) never once looked at a game and said “you have to rescue a girl in this game.  It’s so right. Me and my vagina are useless” in the making of this review. 

Spelunky is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick LeaderBoardConsider the PS3/XBLA versions also Chick Approved, and drop their rank about 30 to 40 spots below the Vita version. 

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. 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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