Ninja Crash

Note: this review originally said that Ninja Crash was 80MSP.  The actual price is 240MSP. Sorry for the mistake.

Being lazy, I prefer to sum up the Xbox Live Indie Game market by saying a game is just XBLIG’s version of an existing game.  It saves a lot of time.  So I can say Gateways is XBLIG’s version of Portal.  Doom & Destiny is XBLIG’s version of Final Fantasy.  Sushi Castle is XBLIG’s version of Binding of Isaac.  It’s easy!  Frees up my time to watch reruns of House with my boyfriend.

Today’s game is Ninja Crash, which I’ll call XBLIG’s version of Balloon Fight.  Which was Nintendo’s version of Joust.  Which was Williams’ version of mixing tequila and LSD and translating it to a video game.  To be perfectly honest, I never played Joust.  I’ve played Balloon Fight, because I got it for my birthday on Animal Crossing.  Played it for about fifteen minutes, thought it was okay, wish my gift had been bamboo flooring for my house instead.  Haven’t really thought much of it since.  Well, now it’s back as an XBLIG, only with more features, modern graphics, and somewhat shoddier gameplay.

I’ve shown this game to five people and they all said “wow, looks like Smash Bros.!” And then they see it in motion and are like “oh, it’s Balloon Fight.” And then they make a sad face.

One of the reasons why I never got into Balloon Fight was the slow, plodding controls combined with the unforgiving inertia that seemed designed to inspire new curse words being invented.  Sadly for me, those controls are faithfully recreated here.  It’s not that the game controls like shit.  It controls just like the 1984 Nintendo game it was inspired by.  My problem is, gaming has come far in the last 28 years.  All that progress is ignored in Ninja Crash.  Maybe that’s what fans of the original want.  When I tweeted that I was playing a Balloon Fight clone, I had several people do the Dance of Joy and demand that I release the name of the game I was playing to them.  Guess what?  I’m sure they’ll love it.

I didn’t though.  I might have, if their attempts at improving the formula didn’t fail.  But they did.  Here’s a common problem they tried to fix: enemies hanging out near the ceiling.  Happened in Balloon Fight.  As I just learned, happened in Joust too.  Unlike a lot of attempts at improving games, this is a real thing that did require improvement, so I applaud them for giving it a try.  It just didn’t work.  When you or enemies hover too close to the ceiling, a finger comes down from the sky and pushes you back towards the ground.  And I’ll be damned if it’s not the most annoying thing in gaming since Baby Mario’s cry in Yoshi’s Island.  It also pushes the enemies down, often right into you.  I appreciate the effort, but wouldn’t a better idea have been to line the ceiling with barbed wire or something?  Hell, they actually did do that in later levels, and it worked.  The finger thing is like trying to stop people from speeding by putting a brick wall up every five feet.

The other big problem is popping guys doesn’t result in their death.  It didn’t in Balloon Fight either, but at least if they landed on the ground, you had a few seconds to kick them off the edge before they inflated another balloon and took off.  You don’t even have a full second in Ninja Crash.  Once a dude lands, they immediately begin inflating a new balloon and take to the skies before you can even collect yourself.  And unlike Balloon Fight, simply touching them while they’re grounded does not defeat them.  You have to land on them again.  Because you don’t so much control your character as you do aim him and hope for the best, this feature serves to multiply the frustration factor.  Granted, they did make it so if you pop a dude and he falls too great a distance before hitting the floor, he dies (or crashes, if you will), but I almost never did kill a dude that way.  I either had to pop them above the water or hope like hell I could pop them close enough to land that I could double-tap them.  What was so wrong with the way it was done in Balloon Fight?

The screenshots don’t do the game justice. It does look really good in motion.  Oh, and see those spears in the corner?  They kill you.

Team Devil Games had their heart in the right place with Ninja Crash, and some additions to the formula (environmental hazards, weapons) are a welcome change of pace.  But every step forward is followedby a bigger step backwards.  Ninja Crash has an audience out there that will enjoy its take on the classic Joust formula, but I didn’t like it at all and I can’t recommend it.  I also didn’t get a chance to give this a try in competitive four-player mode.  Sorry Team Devil Games, but you did sort of release right in the middle of the holiday gaming season.  Trying to tear my friends away from Borderlands 2, Halo 4, or Black Ops 2 is an act of futility not seen since the time I watched Brian attempt to break the world record for most live bees fit into a mouth.

Ninja Crash was developed by Team Devil Games

240 Microsoft Points said this game is further proof the judges of Dream-Build-Play don’t actually play video games in the making of this review.

Slick (Second Chance with the Chick)

It’s been a while since I did one of these.  I really wish developers would take me up on the Second Chance with the Chick offer more often.  I know a lot of games I bust on here get patched up later, but developers are gun-shy about having me “go after” their games again.  Even if Second Chances are typically lighter and focus on the changes to the game, with less emphasis on smacking games down.  Or sometimes they patch the game and expect me to just Second Chance it on my own.  I don’t keep track of what games have been patched (XboxIndies.com has a sidebar that lets you know what games have been updated).  It’s up to developers to let me know.  And then just wait while I drag my feet to write the review.  Speaking of which, hi there Halcyon Softworks!  I didn’t forget you!

We’re in Hell already?

I reviewed Slick, a punisher with Game Boy-like visuals back in July and I hated it because I felt it was too brutal.  People say I have a bias against punishers, and I say “guilty as charged.”  I don’t understand the appeal in them.  I don’t understand why they keep getting made, especially when they consistently sell like shit on XBLIG (only 2 out of the top 100 best-selling XBLIGs are punishers).  The market as a whole doesn’t want them.  They’ll earn you fans among a very small niche of “retro” gamers, and they might even earn you fans among the development community if they are well designed and bear and uncanny resemblance to vintage games of yesteryear.  But if you are capable of doing a very well made, yet overly difficult platformer, you should be capable of making a game that everyone can enjoy.  Who knows?  It might even sell in greater numbers.

I think everyone agrees that the Apple Jack games are the pinnacle of design among punishers on XBLIG.  I don’t even like them, but I tip my hat to them for audio-visual design, play control, and charm.  Especially the sequel.  Among the closed-off XBLIG community, they’re highly regarded.  But when you get down to the cold, hard facts, the original Apple Jack isn’t one of the top 300 selling games.  Apple Jack 2 isn’t even in the top 900.  Mind you, Apple Jack 2 made the rounds on mainstream gaming sites, including full reviews at IGN and Kotaku.  And it’s already been passed on the top seller list by such recent fare as Lucky.  Fans of the game don’t understand it.  Hell, I don’t even totally understand it, but I’ll make a guess: punishers don’t lend themselves to word-of-mouth sales.  I’m guessing not many people say “this game is damn near impossible to play and makes me feel like an inadequate twat.  GO BUY IT!”

Where was I?

Slick.  So in my original review, I did a step-by-step diagram of why one of the stages didn’t work so well.  The game asked for perfect precision from players, while dealing with shaky controls and insanely unfair collision detection.  The guys behind it have tightened these issues up.  Collision detection more closely resembles the outlines of the enemies, and controls seem to be tightened, but that might be a perception thing.  I still don’t like the level design, or the art style.  Then again, I never owned an original Game Boy, so this does nothing to tickle my nostalgia rib.  I do actively question why anyone would do a Game Boyish game these days.  With the possible exception of Donkey Kong (aka Donkey Kong ’94), most of the games on that platform have aged with the grace and dignity of an unembalmed corpse.

Slick is either pretty or Joan Rivers-esq grotesque, depending on how old you are.

Slick really is no better or worse than your average hateful platform.  With the corrections made to it, Slick can now stand on its own and be reviewed on the merit of level design.  In that regard, it’s a total bastard that hates you and all things sunny and innocent.  If this is what you’re looking for in a game, you’ll enjoy it.  It’s not what I’m looking for, so I didn’t.  Hopefully the skilled dudes at Halcyon Softworks can apply their talent towards something with more mass-market appeal next time.  You guys proved you can blow up a bullfrog with a firecracker.  Now show me you can take that frog and make delicious frog legs with it.

Slick was developed by Halcyon Softworks

80 Microsoft points actually hate frog legs in the making of this review.

Retro City Rampage

Warning: there will be some spoilers.  The gist of this review is that Retro City Rampage is fun in spurts but the Grand Theft Auto stuff is the only parts that are good.  Every classic gaming section is boring or worse, and most of the jokes are not funny.  I don’t recommend it.

Retro City Rampage is a good game destroyed by a lack of restraint.  It’s popular among older players because it hits all the right buttons that get their juices flowing.  In other words, it references a lot of 80s gaming and pop culture, and that’s all you need to do to get most retro gamers happy.  Sean Penn is statistically proven to be the most boring man in the world, but if he ever just blurted out “our princess is in another castle” you would have the entire gaming population over the age of 30 lining up to give him head.  That’s the basis for all the humor in Retro City Rampage.  If it’s 80s and pop culture, it’s here.  Do you remember Metal Gear?  Back to the Future?  Battletoads?  Bill & Ted?  The dog from Duck Hunt?  Married with Children?  Saved by the Bell?  Pitfall?  Mega Man?  Smash TV?  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  The guy who made this certainly did.

So what’s the punchline?  “Hey, it’s that thing I remember from my childhood!”  Well that’s not funny.  There has to be some kind of gag to go with it.  When Retro City Rampage has an actual joke, with a beginning, middle, and end, it’s typically funny.  Otherwise, it’s just painful.  I never got how humor like this is supposed to work.  You know how every Adam Sandler movie has a Col. Sanders look-alike in it?  What exactly is funny about that?  Someone please explain it to me.  I’m hoping some context will make it funny in time for his next shitty flick.

This section looks like Contra. I think we’ll all agree that Contra is a pretty good game. The problem here is the game only looks like Contra. It doesn’t play like it, or more importantly, feel like it. It plays and feels like a bad ripoff of Contra that was lifted straight out of the 80s. I’m guessing that isn’t what the developer was aiming for.

When Retro City Rampage is good, it’s really good.  That might sound like high praise, but the flip side of it is when Retro City Rampage is bad, it’s really, really bad.  The sad thing is, the game does the old-school Grand Theft Auto better than the last two official 2D GTAs did.  It controls reasonably well, there’s a fun variety of weapons, and the game keeps track of all the damage you’ve rang up.  If the game had stuck to this stuff, it would have been sublime.  But it doesn’t.  Because it’s so married to the whole classic-gaming thing, it keeps doing “homages” to that era.   And the material chosen here is head scratching.  The dam stages from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES.  I’ve never played it, but I know of its reputation and it’s not a good one.  The same goes for the hoverbike sequence from Battletoads.  I don’t know if it improves the mechanics (since I didn’t choose suicide over finishing the stage, I’m guessing it must have), but why include them in the first place?

The shitty thing is the guy who made this obviously knew sections of the game were not fun, because the game outright tells you such.  When you have a mission where you have to tail a car without being spotted and also refilling on coffee every ten feet, the game outright tells you that it’s “one of those boring missions.”  Which would be funny if it somehow took the piss out of the genre, but it doesn’t.  When it turns out the mission really is boring, it crosses a line from being cute to being to being obnoxious.  When you do the Ninja Turtles dam sequence, it moans “oh no, not another water stage!”  And then it proceeds to be slow, boring, and not fun at all.  I acknowledge that I’m probably not Retro City Rampage’s target audience, but with all the great stuff in gaming history, why pay tribute to the crappy stuff?  Even worse, why keep it crappy?  If you know what’s wrong with something, why not fix it?  If I have a leaky sink, I don’t build a fucking shrine to it.  I fix the damn thing.  Retro City Rampage decided to go with the shrine, and as a result this tribute to bad games itself becomes a bad game.

The Paperboy section, which feels like a bad clone of the real thing.

Whenever it deviates from the Grand Theft Auto stuff, the game sucks.  Sadly, the game keeps forcing you to do these “classic gaming” sections like you’re being dragged by a choke chain.  With no exceptions, I found those fell into two categories: boring, or long and boring.  A section based on Paperboy?  Boring.  And bad, because the engine isn’t suited for Paperboy.  A section based on Contra?  Boring.  An extended section based on ‘Splosion Man?  Long and boring.  And again, the engine isn’t suited for it.  Nor is it suited for a boring Smash TV section, or especially a long and boring Smash TV section.  Yep, there’s two.  Or a portion of the game based on Tapper.  There’s an extended boss fight with Dr. Robotnik (or Buttnik as the game calls him) that is long, boring, and has no check points.  For a game that I was so overjoyed when I started it, and even after several hours, I couldn’t believe how horrible it had become by about eight hours in.  I had just beaten the Robotnik boss, and suddenly the game decided to pay tribute to some 3D motorcycle racing thing.  The good news is they actually used a different engine for this part.  The bad news is this is where I finally said “you know what?  All the fun I’ve had in this game has long since been drowned out by shit like this.”  Exact quote.  I made Brian write it down.  This was somewhere near the end of the game.  After three stages with a motorcycle, you end up in a time-traveling DeLorean, fighting a boss.  I spent an hour with this thing, fighting spotty collision detection, unfair enemy placement, and tedium on a level I didn’t think was possible in something I had previous had a lot of fun with.  Finally, after getting close to the end of its lifebar, something happened and I went from having all three of my hit-points left to having none.  I’m not sure what happened.  I think I should have taken one point of damage from getting hit, but my health was instantly all gone and it was time to restart for the 35th time.  Fuck.  That.

If Retro City Rampage had stuck to gameplay like this, I wouldn’t be calling it Retro Shitty Rampage to Brian right now.

For those of you who will love this game no matter how flawed it is, go ahead and tell yourselves that I only disliked it because I grew up with a PlayStation instead of an NES.  Yea, I probably didn’t get all the references (or “jokes” as they are being passed off as), but if that’s all you really want in a game, you need to get your head examined.  Why punish yourself with a game that sometimes brags about being boring (and it’s not a joke, it really is boring in those sections) just so you can see a reference to Mr. Belding or the raccoon suit from Super Mario 3?  Retro City Rampage can be fun, but it’s so bad in so many sections that you’ll never really reach that apex of satisfaction.  I was practically floating two hours into it, before the game lost me forever by rubbing in the fact that a section designed to be boring had been placed in the game.  That really soured the mood, and it never recovered.   There were still fleeting moments of greatness, but the threat that the game might decide to intentionally be bad again tainted it all.  It also brought to light some stuff I might have missed if I had remained in a blissful state.  Stuff like close-quarters combat being shitty, club-based weapons being useless, and having too much recoil from getting hit.  And then the game would have more sections of intentional badness.  Sigh.  Who could possibly think being bad is a good thing?  Nobody likes things that suck on purpose, unless it involves a mouth and genitals.

Retro City Rampage was developed by Vblank Entertainment

$14.99 killed more dogs than hip dysplasia in the making of this review.

Cathy was assisted in gameplay while playing Retro City Rampage to help her avoid having a seizure due to epilepsy.  The bulk of the game was played by her.  All opinions in this review are her’s alone. 

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

Hell Yeah! comes to us from Arkedo, the guys who did the Arkedo Series of XBLIGs. As a quick recap of what I thought of those, they’re pretty games that were boring as hell, and vastly overrated by the community at large. All style, no substance. So let it be said to all aspiring developers: style must be all you need. That’s because Arkedo’s latest game just landed on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade and is being published by none other than Sega. So what does this mean? Well, obviously with a company that puts such a high premium of quality as Sega does, we can expect plenty of substance to go with the style here. Heh. Hehehe. Right. Oh, and being on PSN and XBLA bumps the sticker up on it to $15.  Joy.

Don’t worry. Walking on this fire won’t burn you. Some fires in this game will, but this one won’t. Good luck keeping track of that!

You’re a rabbit that is the brutal ruler of Hell. And then he gets caught corn-holing a rubber ducky in his bathtub, photos of it circulate, and it ruins his reputation, thus forcing him to extract revenge. No, really. That’s the plot. Did I mention this game is Japanese? No? Well, it’s not. It’s French. That somehow makes it worse. You know how everyone has someone in their life that will do an obnoxiously racist impression of a Japanese person? Imagine if that person were French. Go ahead and do it. I’ll wait.

Cringe worthy, huh?

The bizarre story is complemented by some of the most painfully unfunny dialog and gags I’ve encountered in a game. Lots of cussing, lots of call backs to other games, and lots of random weirdness. All of which can be funny if it has a punchline, or some semblance of context. There is none of that in Hell Yeah.

At first glance, Hell Yeah looks like a typical platformer, only with some run-and-spray shooting mechanics thrown in. But there is a hook, and it could have been a neat one. There are several “large” enemies throughout the game that you have to track down and kill. This is done by draining their health bar, which then activates a Wario Ware-like quick-time event. If you complete the event successfully, the enemy is defeated in a spectacularly over-the-top pseudo cut scene. It sounds great, and at first it kept me slogging through the game, even though the amount of fun I was having would have to be measured in nano-fractions. For a while, every character died uniquely. After about three hours (or 30 odd creatures) in, that stopped. In a fire stage, I beat one enemy and a dude shaped like a piece of toast shouted “ROASTIE!” Ohhhhh, I get it. Like that guy in Mortal Kombat. The thing is, that joke is so over-played that it hasn’t been funny since long before I was even playing games. I felt bad for Arkedo, but then the very next guy I killed, the Roastie guy popped up again to do the same exact joke. Suddenly, I didn’t feel bad for them anymore. This is the equivalent of a drunk at a party telling a lame joke and then saying “get it?” You want to tell them with all sincerity and concern, “no really, you should stop.” But they’re still laughing at themselves, nodding their head and saying “no, GET IT?” Sigh. Yes, I get it. It just isn’t funny. And Hell Yeah is not funny at all. Not once. Not even on accident.

Boss fights are multi-staged events that take too long and have no check points. Are we having fun yet?

Meanwhile, the gameplay seems like it should be better than it is. The controls are mostly adequate. Your dude walks around, picking up an absurd amount of weapons, shooting things, wall jumping, double jumping, and cutting through enemies using a saw-blade/jetpack thing that you pick up right off the bat. With all this firepower, you would think it would be really fun to just run around and kill things. But it never is. And sometimes those adequate controls go off their meds and become unreasonable. Aiming is done with the right stick, but all movement is handled by the left stick, with no option for the directional pad. It makes it really awkward when an enemy’s only weak spot can be hit by jumping, aiming downwards and firing. I couldn’t help but take damage every time this was required. A dash attack later on gets mapped to the left trigger, at which point the controls officially cross the line from decent to cumbersome. Plus, you have too many weapons to juggle (and you get more as you go along), so sections of the game where everything is taken from you actually come as a startling relief. Oddly enough, those are the only parts of the game that I almost had a little bit of fun. Almost.

Hell Yeah is just a bad game. A directionless hodgepodge of half-baked ideas that often don’t work the way they should. The QTEs required to beat enemies don’t always offer enough time to set yourself and figure out what you’re supposed to do. If you fail one, you take damage and the enemy gets some of its life back. I would be shocked if a person was capable of doing most of these on their first try. It turns Hell Yeah into a serious of “gotcha” moments. Even worse is the checkpoint system. There’s quite a few checkpoints, but they’re not marked clearly enough. But the real crappy part is if you die and respawn, you come back with the same amount of life you had when you hit the check point. Imagine going into a difficult, bullet-hellish section with only a tiny fraction of health left. It forces you to backtrack to the last health refill station, which you can bet your ass is on the other side of the level, without taking damage. It also doesn’t help that the levels are sprawling and BORING. Even having beautiful graphics isn’t all that helpful. If you got lost wandering the Louvre for hours on end, you’re not going to finally walk out of the place saying “well, at least it was a good sight-seeing tour.”

The “each guy gets a gruesome death” stuff was good, until they started repeating themselves.

Arkedo continues to have the style-over-substance problem. This is the fourth game I’ve played of theirs and the fourth one that I decided to quit before the game was finished. I know people say that’s not very professional conduct. Thankfully, I’ve never claimed to be a professional, so I can stick out my tongue and blow a raspberry at them. I put about five hours into Hell Yeah! and was bored stiff by horrible level design, droning boss fights, and controls that started okay but got progressive worse as the game kept changing directions. It sure is pretty to look at, but that doesn’t take the edge off the tedium. I wouldn’t have liked Hell Yeah if it had been a $1 XBLIG. At $15, I’m pretty sure I’m now going to hell for murdering money. Ironically, once there I’ll probably be stuck playing Hell Yeah.

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit was developed by Arkedo

$14.99 heard that Judas chose being chewed on by Satan over playing Sententia in the making of this review. 

Worms Revolution

Do you know what annoys me? When I go to read a review of a new version of a cherished series and it doesn’t answer the questions I want to know. So I’ll cut the bullshit and get to the questions that I would want to know as a Worms fan. Stuff like..

How does the class system actually work in practice? 

The short one, the fat one, the smart one, and the normal one. It’s not a sitcom character sheet, but the new class based system. So how does it work? Well, the normal ones are the Worms you’re used to, so I’ll ignore them. The fat ones are absolutely worthless. Yes, they hit harder, take more damage, can barely be pushed around by the “water”, and many other benefits. But they’re all negated by the slow movement, inability to jump, and most importantly, limited opportunities to escape. Plus, they look like Jabba the Hutt, and any creature that looks like something taken down by a girl in a fetish costume should not be entered into armed combat. Sorry, they just shouldn’t be.

The little ones are not as bad, because they’re zippy and are great for “fire and run away” tactics. But their firepower is weak, and they can be pushed around by enemy attacks easily. That is, when they’re not getting insta-killed by stuff that most other worms would survive. If you play with a competent opponent and use them, even if you use them well, they’re weak enough that it’s like flogging yourself on a cruise ship, donning a suit made of chum, and then keelhauling yourself in shark-infested waters. Which, by the way, I think Carnival actually offers for an extra fee.

I think I prefer the old graphics style to this “3D” stuff that looks like it was lifted straight from the Sega Saturn.

And then there’s the scientists. I’m not exactly sure that a ton of thought was given to balancing them. Their firepower is a tick smaller than a normal worm, but the bonuses they give you more than make up for it. They produce better equipment, so stuff like Sentry Guns made using them fire more rounds, seem to have a longer range, and are also more durable. Even better is that when you start a turn using one, every worm you have gets five extra health. I decided to exploit this by making a team that had four scientists. Thus, I was getting twenty extra life for each worm every time I ran through the full circuit of them. Over-powered? Yea. To put this in perspective, I won a game of forts against Brian where I had taken a metric fuck-ton of damage on each of my characters and still finished with over 100 health for each of them. Brian dealt out 500 points of damage more than I did, but I still won, because it was too easy to park worms and let them build up health. And while I didn’t win every game where I played with four brains, every game I did win I did so because of them.

Ultimately, the new class-based system does offer a nice twist on the established formula. But it’s easy to abuse and there are serious questions about balance. With some more tweaking, this might work better, but for now, this is not a positive new direction.

What about the water?

Okay, first off, it’s not water. It’s “water.” I’ll remove the sarcastic quotes when the fucking stuff actually behaves like water. This stuff is more like jelly. It’s slow-moving. It often doesn’t have any force behind it. It acts as a shock absorber more than something to be frightened of. And the act of drowning inside of it doesn’t seem very consistent. It’s too easy to have one little microscopic fraction of a worm poking out and not have it register as being submerged, even if everything it could conceivably be breathing from is covered up.

I really didn’t like the “water” stuff.  I felt the physics of it were all wrong. I felt it was too unpredictable. Water should be very easy to predict how it will behave. But sometimes it would just stack on a flat piece of slope. Yes, stack. “Water” in Worms Revolution stacks. Water doesn’t stack!! Well, unless it’s frozen. Maybe the “water” is some kind of unique hybrid of water and Velcro, because it would slowly trickle down a steep slope like it was clinging to it. Ugh. As for the water based weapons, I felt the water balloons might take the cake for the most useless item in Worms history. The water gun is more effective, especially if you’re trying to push two or more guys off a cliff. However, I found more inconsistencies when it came to using it to push around environmental objects, or stuff like landmines. Sometimes the water gun would push the mine very easily. Sometimes it would cling to the floor like it was cemented into the ground. What changed? Nothing, besides the mood the game was in. This was another good idea that almost completely fails in execution. Although my boyfriend would like to note that he didn’t mind it as much.  But he has red hair and thus can’t be trusted. You know how they are.

How do the “environmental objects” factor in? 

Very well, actually. This was my favorite change to the formula. I always thought it was weird how the battlefield in Worms had scattered about it various cars, football helmets, candy canes, and other fun objects that didn’t do anything different from the normal terrain if they were shot. That’s not the case here. Objects will drown you, poison you, or explode you. They also are allegedly capable of crushing you, but it seems fickle how that works and can’t be relied on. The biggest problem is not being able to see how much “life” an object has, and there’s no consistency to it. Sometimes items blow up instantaneously from such things as a single shotty blast, while others can take multiple bazooka rounds without budging. Without a lifebar or any reliable visual cues, the strategic aspects of using these is lacking. Still, this is the only major change that worked the way it was expected to, more or less.

What about all the old standbys of Worms?

I found the physics of the bazookas and grenades have remained pretty much the same. That is, when they’re not crapping out on you due to glitches. Grenades often defied the laws of physics by spinning around like a top instead of bouncing when you throw them. I’ve seen grenades cling to enemies, walls, and floors like they were coated in glue. Or perhaps the “water.”

For you fans of Ninja Ropes, forget everything you know about them. They work completely differently from past installments of the series. There will be no amazing acts of wackiness. The ropes at most can swing back and forth. Using them to defy gravity and fold yourself up and over the top of a cliff is officially impossible now. I guess this was done to make the game more realistic. Right, because I know I kept saying to myself “this game featuring worms blowing each-other up with bazookas needs to be way more realistic.” And the weird part is, every other thing, like the “water”, behaves in a way that is so divorced from realism that it could be the setting for a new season of Jersey Shore.

And there’s a lot of little niggling things too. You can’t scoot across the ground with the jetpack. You have to be moving upwards to be able to move left and right. The Concrete Donkey now bounces around the map when you activate it, as if it bred with Armageddon to create an unholy offspring. I used it twice over the course of two games and the grand total of damage it did: killed two of Brian’s worms, killed five of mine. Even though mine were nowhere near his. It’s as if someone at Team 17 said “you know how this weapon worked fine the way we had it? Well, and this might be crazy, but what if it didn’t work fine?” And then they high-fived each-other and went back to making the “water” even crappier.

So Worms Revolution sucks then?

No, actually. Even after all the bitching and complaining I did above, my friends and I had an absolute blast playing it. For everything that it does wrong (and it does a LOT wrong), it’s still Worms. If you get four people together with it, you’re practically guaranteed huge smiles, belly-laughs, hooting, hollering, high-fives, and an overall damn good time. Worms remains the most unsung party series in gaming. I wish it had been way better, but what’s here is still potently fun. They even improved my personal favorite game mode: Forts. Instead of being static pictures of castles or jungles or pirate ships, they’re actual forts! As in, they have hallways, basements, openings to fire out of, and logic in design. I enjoyed this mode so much it almost negated all the shit I dug up above.

Ah, now THESE are forts.

Worms Revolution has a long ways to go. A lot of patchwork, a lot of fine tuning, and more content. The single-player stuff is somewhat dull, thanks in part to AI that is way overpowered, like they went to the Far Cry school of AI design. But setting up online games is a breeze and customizing multiplayer options is a snap. So why am I so disappointed? I think it’s because I wanted to love Worms Revolution, and instead I merely enjoyed it. Change is good, but only if that change has a net positive effect. Most of the new stuff in Worms Revolution makes the formula worse. For me at least, the new Worms has turned the series from “holy shit, this is fucking awesome!” to “this is good. I guess.”

Worms Revolution was developed by Team 17

1200 Microsoft Points have a boyfriend obsessed with banana bombs in the making of this review. I never really understood the logic behind a banana bomb myself. Why would it bounce the way it does? Bananas don’t bounce!

Worms Revolution is Chick Approved, but only Xbox Live Indie Games are ranked on the Leaderboard. 

Review copies were provided by Team 17 to IndieGamerChick.com. Indie Gamer Chick’s policy is to pay for its own games. Because the game wasn’t released at the time of this review, full copies were purchased on October 9 (on PlayStation 3.  Not the same platform, but money was spent).

Slick

Slick received a Second Chance with the Chick. Both reviews should be taken together.  Read my updated thoughts here.

Slick has graphics and sound that try to mimic the look and feel of the original Game Boy.  This is sort of weird to me, because I truly don’t get how anyone could want their game to look like that.  This isn’t the Atari or the NES we’re talking about here, where the delusional say “gaming was never better than back in those days” and we all have a laugh.  I thought everyone was in agreement that gaming has done better than the Game Boy.  So I find it strange, in the same way that I do when I hear that senior citizens in Russia pine for the old days when Stalin was in charge.

For what it’s worth, Slick does a pretty dang good job of looking like a Game Boy game.  It even has a mono midi soundtrack.  I guess if you’re going to do something, it’s worth doing right, even if it’s recreating garbage.  But gameplay is all that matters to me, and Slick is one of the biggest offenders of being a gleefully evil fuck that I’ve come across on Indie Gamer Chick.  It’s a punisher, which isn’t exactly my favorite genre, but this one at least had some promise to it.  I made it past the first sixteen levels and was pretty impressed by the clever level design.

And then, I got to stage 1-17.  And that’s where I quit.  I’ve never done this, but I want to do a step-by-step breakdown of where this game failed.

1. You have to start the stage by bonking your head on the ceiling in the spot where there is no spike., and then land on the floor to the right.  Then you have to hop up to platform.  Trust me, this is all a lot harder than it sounds.

2. You have to jump up, turn mid-air, and land on this block.  Slick controls fairly decent, but the one thing it doesn’t do well is handle mid-air turns, so this seemingly easy bit is a lot harder than it should be.  But this isn’t even the worst offender of this problem on this stage, or even the second worst.

3. These spiked turtle things had popped up in previous levels, but I never noticed how off the collision detection on them was until here.  It is WAY the fuck off.  See the blue box I drew around the turtle to the left?  That’s a rough approximation of the enemy’s collision detection box.  If your dude enters anywhere into that field, you die.  You’ll also notice there are blocks above them, which prevent you from getting adequate clearance when you attempt to jump them.  This causes the difficulty of this section alone to spike to unnecessarily brutal levels, never mind the frustration a player experiences when they are killed by a creature that they didn’t come remotely close to touching.  Perhaps that’s not just a spike on its back.  Perhaps it’s a mound of polonium and you’re actually dying from acute radiation poisoning.  That’s hardly fighting fair at all.

4. Once you hop across those blocks, you have to fall down this chute, swerving right-to-left to avoid fireballs.  As I previously stated, the controls do everything BUT mid-air movement to varying degrees of decency.  So naturally the main challenge of this stage tests just that.  Well, there’s an added bonus to the assholery of this section: you actually accelerate while you fall.  So the game wants you to do something it is barely capable of doing in the first place, and it wants you to do so at a multiple of the normal speed you jump.  Oh, and there’s an enemy at the bottom of the jump, but don’t worry about it.  Like Butch Cassidy said to the Sundance Kid, the fall will probably kill you.  Or, more accurately, the third fireball.

5. Was #4 fun for you?  Well now, you get to do it again, only in reverse!  Oh, and you start off with the fast acceleration here.  Oh, and there’s a twist to this part..

6. You can’t see it, but there’s an indestructible turtle enemy thingie that is walking along the spikes, and after you successfully (HA! As if!) reach the top of this chute, you have to land on it and bounce across the top of it to the goal.  I can’t really tell you if the fireball at the top of the screen is a problem because I never made it this far.  In fact, I tried over 100 times to beat this level, and made it past section #4 a whopping three times.

There are those that saw the picture above and will say to themselves “sign me up!”  But to those of you that haven’t gone off your meds today, Slick is not worth the effort.  What it offers isn’t really any more of a challenge than trying to thread a needle on the other side of the room.  You could do it, in theory, but aren’t there better uses of your time?  If you absolutely need something that plays like a punisher to justify your existence, you’re better off picking a game that gives you the proper tools needed to complete it.  It’s such a shame, because I actually liked Slick up until that point.  It was still challenging, but the level design was fun and had a lot of neat twists in it.  And then the game just went all emo and wanted you to know no joy ever again.   That’s only 17 of 100 levels in, mind you.  I’m almost afraid of how depressingly impossible this game might get.  Abraham Lincoln was famously afraid to carry a knife on him, for fear he might turn it on himself.  I used to wonder how a person gets like that, but after playing Slick, I think I know.  Which is why I just carved “bullet goes here” in the back of my head with an X-Acto Knife.

Slick was developed by Halcyon Softworks

80 Microsoft Points tried to search for videos on Slick and found Rainslick instead in the making of this review.  Cue the sirens. 

Thank you @Hamcha

Gameplay courtesy of Aaron The Splazer.

Spelunky

Every once in a while, I need a break from XBLIG.  I love you guys, but a girl can only take so many punishers before she needs a vacation from that.  So, I’m going to review Spelunky, a recent punisher on Xbox Live Arcamuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Damnit.

Spelunky is a game made by assholes, for assholes.  Having put somewhere around ten hours into it since this last weekend, I’m wearing a jumbo-sized asshole badge on this one too.  I couldn’t help myself.  I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t even having fun, but at the same time I was practically hypnotized by what was transpiring on-screen.  A series of colossal dick moves, one after another, so random and so spiteful that I’m pretty sure this is a game designed to specifically take players down a peg.  I’m know people will say that I just sucked at Spelunky and thus I suck at games and life in general.  You know what?  Fine, guilty as charged.  But Spelunky is a bastard.

The idea is you’re a little explorer dude who has to go through a series of randomly-generated levels, looking for treasure, items, and exits.  The game plays out like a platformer, but the first sign that Spelunky shoots baby giraffes with bullets made from the ground-up hoofs of their own mother is the fact that it’s also a Roguelike.  When you die, you go back to start, and any progress you’ve made will be lost.  And you will die.  You’ll die from falling too far.  You’ll die from getting squashed by giant boulders.  You’ll die from being shot by arrows.  Annoyingly, you’ll die from dodging arrows, only for them to bounce off a wall and land on you.  You’ll die from bats.  You’ll die from trying to avoid bats.  You’ll die from trying to throw a rock at a bat, missing, and having the rock land on you.  Everything seems to want you dead in this game.  If Gandhi was in it he would probably spray you with bullets.

Oh yea, he’s fucked.

I didn’t make it very far into Spelunky.  Most of that is on me and a little thing called greed.  I’m incapable of doing a bare minimum to survive.  The game is filled with tons of treasure just lying around, and I wanted all of it.  But the game sends a bit of a mixed message, because Spelunky seems to actively discourage exploration.  You only have a couple of minutes to “enjoy” each stage before a giant ghost monster thingie comes to kill you.  Thus, you’re forced to rush through each stage, which has far more things to explore than you can reasonably hope to grab.  However, rushing means you don’t have time to check to make sure there isn’t something just out of sight that will immediately result in your death.  In a way, I like how you have to calculate the risk versus reward.  On the other hand, filling the game up with so much shit and forbidding a person from trying to collect it all makes me want to slowly insert a lit cherry bomb up the developer’s piss pipe.  Well, not too slowly.  I’m not trying to blow my own fingers off here.  In fact, maybe I should wait to light it until it’s inserted fully.

Honestly, Spelunky isn’t really that good of a game, mechanically at least.  The controls are kind of weird.  Jumping and movement are mostly fine, but I was constantly and unintentionally clinging to walls and leaving myself wide open for attack.  Aiming your throws is a bit clunky too, and not without risk.  If you try to throw a rock in the air, you’re just as likely to kill yourself doing it when it ricochets off a wall and hits you upside your noggin.  Items that are allegedly there to help you aren’t safe either.  I got a glove that allowed me to throw stuff better.  And by better, I mean the shit you throw just keeps going until it hits something.  This one time I threw a rock, and then about two seconds later the sound of the shopkeeper declaring his intent to murder me rang throughout the stage.  Well fuck.  Another time I bought a green glove, which allows you to climb.  Sounded great, but remember that “stuck to the wall” bit I was talking about earlier?  Multiply that by every fucking jump you make to get an idea of how useful it ultimately is.

Don’t let the cute graphics fool you. This game is evil.

I think the biggest problem is Spelunky relies too much on just plain old stupid luck.  This is mostly due to the random level design.  Fans of the game disagree with me, while others have said that Spelunky is only 25% luck.  I would suggest 1% is too much for certain games, but fine, it’s only 25%.  What does that mean?  Well, most of the “damsels” that you need to fill up your health will be right out in the open.  But sometimes she (or he, or a dog) will be stuck behind a wall that requires a minimum of three bombs to get through, and  those are usually in short supply.  Or sometimes the game will just randomly make a level dark and practically impossible to navigate.  For a while I tried to work my way through those, but after hours of failure after failure, I said “fuck it” and started to commit suicide as soon as those godforsaken things popped up.  I figured fate dealt me a shitty hand, and so fuck fate.  I won’t give it the satisfaction of watching me fall on a spike.

And then there are the fun random deaths.  I’m willing to concede that 19 out of 20 deaths were entirely my fault.  Having said that, in a game this brutally difficult, having just 1 of those 20 be something I had nothing to do with is just vile.  And probably hilarious if you’re a spectator.  This one time I got to level 1-4 and I was having my best run yet.  I had taken no damage, gotten my health up to seven points, built up over twenty bombs, ten ropes, and had enough items that I was better equipped to invade a small country.  I start the level, walk a little bit to the right, and then an explosion happens somewhere off-screen.  And then something that sent a shockwave down my spine occurred: the “TERRORIST!” splash that pops up when you “attack” one of the shopkeeper dudes popped up.  When that happens, they pull out a shotgun and open fire on you, and it’s nearly impossible to fight back.  Sure enough, we ran into each-other not long after and I was killed.  Fuck you, Spelunky.

Do you know what Spelunky really needed?  A video sharing function.  Without a doubt the most fun I’ve had from the game is swapping tales of my biggest failures with my fellow masochists.  They’re all over Twitter.  Spelunky is the new “Big Fish Story” game of choice.  Everyone that spends at least an hour with it walks away with stories of comical ineptness.  Being able to send your friends videos of your most spectacular deaths would have been a huge selling point for the game.  But alas, it’s not to be.  In fact, other than some lame leaderboards, Spelunky doesn’t take advantage of Xbox Live at all.  There’s a way useless death match feature that’s local-only.  It’s so badly done that I’m not sure why they bothered.  Matches last just a few seconds, and finding three other people capable of lasting longer will be tough even for those of you with an actual social life.  There’s also co-op, but don’t even bother trying it.  Save some time and stab your nearest friend in the knee with a screwdriver.  Trust me, this way is faster.  You’ll just end up wanting to do it anyway.

One of the most pointless modes I’ve seen added to a game in a long while.

Here’s a thought: combine the death-match with the co-op, remove any bullshit about working together, and put the fucking thing on Xbox Live where it belongs.  Make it a race/death-match where the four players are not anchored together on a single screen.  A race to the exit, or the last man left alive.  That would have been awesome.  Hell, it might have even justified the 1200MSP price tag.  Seriously, $15 for this?  Out-fucking-rageous.  This isn’t an XBLIG we’re talking about here.  This is an Arcade game, yet it lacks some of the fundamental bells and whistles of the service.

I can’t recommend Spelunky, because I feel doing so would make me a horrible person.  Any fun you have playing it slowly vanishes, yet you can’t stop playing.  It owns you.  God help me, I’m going to go play it some more as soon as I finish this review.  And then when I’m actually playing it, I have trouble tearing myself away from it.  One time I only quit because my battery charge went out.  This isn’t a game.  It’s a drug.  And not one of those fun drugs that rock stars overdose on in the grand suite at a five-star hotel.  Oh no.  This is one of those drugs that hillbillies cook up in their bathtub in Bumfuck, Wyoming.  One that’s sold to you by a ragged-looking teenager that’s missing half his teeth.  One that you should know better than to try, because just one taste will hook you for life.

Oh fuck it, just buy the damn thing.  Just make sure you cancel any plans you have pending in the coming weeks.  And absolutely no faking German Measles to get out of work.  I already did that one.  By the way, chances are you won’t have any more fun than I am having.  I’m just telling you to buy it in hopes that Spelunky is secretly running some kind of bizarre version of a video game Ponzi Scheme and if I convince enough people to buy it, the game will suddenly become magically easier for me.

Spelunky was developed by Mossmouth

Plug & Play is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

1200 Microsoft Points have never laughed harder than the time they spent a fortune on one of the helpers in Spelunky only to watch him jump up and impale himself on spikes only five seconds later for no reason at all in the making of this review. 

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode I

My intent here had originally been to review both parts of Sonic 4. However, after slogging through Episode I and encountering the single most boring final boss in the history of video games, I don’t think I have the strength in me to even try it. It doesn’t help that most people are telling me that some of the stuff I will be complaining about below got fixed, yet the game is still worse. How is that even possible? It’s like unclogging a toilet by blowing up the building and calling it a job well done.

Long time readers probably expected me to hate Sonic 4 before I even started it. Whether it was my hate-article against Sega, my review of Sonic CD, or the fact that my Twitter picture was typically me figuring out different ways to torture and kill a stuffed Sonic The Hedgehog doll, I think the message is clear: fuck Sonic. By the way, I would have kept up with the Sonic killings, but wood-chippers are shockingly expensive and there’s a bullshit 7-day waiting period on flame-throwers. To me, the franchise represents everything wrong with gaming: generic character with committee-designed personality that’s best viewed through nostalgia goggles. Sonic is the gaming equivalent of Poochie. Every attempt at modernizing Sonic has failed, with fans rightfully bitching that they suck and they just want an old-fashioned 2D Sonic game. The only problem is, those old-fashioned 2D Sonic games weren’t really all that good to begin with. As a child, they were neat for you because they pushed new technology and did stuff games hadn’t done to that point. Today? They don’t hold up, and neither do attempts at recreating the magic. Stuff like Sonic Colors and Sonic 4 continue to get lambasted. And whenever something with Sonic that is borderline not shitty comes along, like Sonic Generations, fanboys treat it like Jesus just emerged from his tomb. You guys are easier to please than my dog, and all I have to do to make her happy is throw her a teeny piece of pizza crust.

I honestly don’t even think the graphics look that good.

I had only played the demo of Sonic 4 Episode 1 (which ought to have been subtitled The Phantom Appeal) when it came out back in 2010 and I honestly thought it was just a remake of one of the earlier Genesis games. Can you blame me? Same stupid opening level, same enemies, same rings, same abilities, same loops, and same power-ups. I imagine anyone with just a passing interest in Sonic would think this was just a graphical upgrade of an existing title. The full game’s other worlds include a casino, an underwater temple, and an industrial zone. I mean come on, Sega! This is like trying to rob your own home.

Everything bad about Sonic games is also here. Same cheap ass enemy placement, same “gotcha!” level design, and every single thing people never liked in Sonic games to begin with. I have never once met a person who said they enjoyed the water stages in Sonic The Hedgehog. I’m sure there might be one or two stragglers out there who insist they’re brilliant, just like I’m sure that there’s one or two people out there who genuinely enjoy squirting wasabi up their nostrils, but it doesn’t mean anyone else would want to do it. The water levels here are particularly painful because of how bad the controls are. Sonic runs like he’s wearing concrete shoes, so building up speed becomes an issue. Once you actually get some momentum going, good luck stopping when you need to. I tried holding back on one of those accelerators just to see how long it would take me to stop and go back to it. I had to press the left directional button nearly 100 times to get there. Granted, nobody is going to play the game like that, but when you design a game around something that is moving fast and then punish people playing it the way it is intended, you’re a colossal asshole.

Of course, things are totally the opposite in the water stages. They give you a game where you’re supposed to run fast, then submerge the character in maple syrup. It becomes so slow and clunky that I honestly wonder if they keep putting these fucking stages in these games hoping that fans will start taking their own lives in protest. I’m telling you, I think I’m on to something here. There are parts in the industrial stages where you have to outrun a giant, um, not sure what it is besides a hunk of metal, and if you die you go back to a check point. From there, you have about two seconds to run up a series of slopes or risk dying. The problem is, you’re not given the ability to build up the required speed to get up them. I had to spin-dash up one, hope to stop, do it again, hope to stop again, and then do it one more time. Once you get past that, you basically just have to hold forward and wait for the game to start playing itself for you like every Sonic game seems to do. Once again, I took a running count. Not sure how accurate it is because I think I might have accidentally counted a couple of sections twice after dying, but regardless, I counted 77 times where I could advance forward in a level without pushing anything. That’s over the course of only twelve stages. Whether it’s bouncing off springs, rolling through tubes, or running past accelerators, Sonic games sure have a hard-on for not letting you play them. As I pointed out in my last review, Sonic was originally designed by Sega to be Mario for idiots, but game design like this strikes me as Sega having outright contempt for its own fan base. Are you getting the message Sega is sending you, Sonic fans? THEY HATE YOU!  What do you think they were trying to tell you with all those 3D Sonics? They weren’t fucking Valentines!

Come on! They didn’t even change the first boss from the first Sonic game! Short of knocking you out with chloroform and shitting in your mouth, what else can they do to show you they don’t like you anymore?

I pressed forward and eventually got to the last boss. Well actually, before you fight it, the game ends with a boss rush. I guess Robotnik felt that all those previous attempts at murdering Sonic with various contraptions that often failed within twenty seconds were worth a second look. Once you dispatch them, you’re placed against one final, giant robot. At first, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. It was slow. It was easy to attack. So I started to bonk it. And then I kept bonking it. It would fly up in the air, crash down, and I would keep bonking it.  After EIGHTEEN coma-inducing bonks, the boss finally entered its second phase. It takes eighteen hits to get there!  Mind you, this thing doesn’t put up anything resembling a real fight. It just sort of lumbers around, waiting for you to smack it. In the second phase, you can’t attack its body directly, so you have to wait for it to fire one of its arms at you. Once you avoid it, it floats downwards, and you have to bonk it back to the robot to stun-lock it. Of course, the game is kind of fickle about when something constitutes “hitting it” versus “getting hit by it.” The arms have spikes on the bottom, so I would wait until I could attack it at a downward angle, hitting the top of the arm and thus avoiding becoming a Sonic Skewer. This worked, oh, about half the time. The other half the time, I would do a lock-on attack directly to the top of the glove and still die. Grrrrrrrrrr.

Once you die, you get to go back to the 18 bonks before reaching the second phase and hoping like hell your lock-on attack doesn’t crap out on you, forcing another restart. Well, on one such attempt, luck was on my side, because I had kept all three rings I got at the checkpoint, I had gotten to phase two, and I was able to successfully attack the boss another dozen or so times. I’m not sure how many shots are actually required to kill it. Possibly it’s some hypothetical number, like a quajillion, but I won’t know because the game had one final dick move supreme to pull off on me. You have exactly ten minutes to beat every stage, including in boss battles. I had eaten up about four minutes getting to the last encounter, and another three minutes getting to phase two of the final boss. Well, as it turns out, the last boss has random attack patterns, only one of which opens itself up to attack. After getting a bunch of hits on it, with about two minutes and change left until time expired, the game flipped me the bird and never again did that one attack I needed it to do. You have got to be fucking kidding me. Time expired, life lost, back to the start of the fight, cuss words screamed, controller thrown, power off, and Sonic 4 and go fuck itself.

“Dear Sega, less water stages in Sonic games please.” “Did you say more water stages?” “No, less. Preferably none. Nobody likes them.” “More water stages it is!”

And that is when it hit me: the guys Sega stuck this project with hated making it as much as I hated playing it. They just didn’t care. That’s the only explanation I can think of for sticking such a tediously boring boss at the end yet another redundant Sonic game. Maybe this was their attempt at killing the franchise once and for all. Maybe this was their attempt at trying to avoid drawing the Sonic assignments any further. Maybe they were outright trying to get fired. Whatever the explanation is, Sonic 4 Episode 1 is one of the worst pieces of shit I have ever played. But the games sell, so they’ll keep making them. I bought this one and I just bought Episode II, so I’m part of the problem. Excuse me, I need to go flog myself now.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Part I was developed by Sega

I honestly don’t remember how much I paid for this. I think it was like $1 at Christmas on PlayStation Network or something like that. Quite frankly, I can’t justify spending any amount on this game.  

Sonic CD

It’s been about a month since I blatantly trolled Sega fanboys and classic gaming enthusiasts by announcing my dislike for most things Sega.  While I admit that this was as about as transparent as attention whoring gets, I want it to be clear that I stand by and truly believe all that bullshit I said.  Every last line of it.  Classic games are not as good as you remember and Sega games suck balls in general.

But what really pissed people off was going after Sonic The Hedgehog.  By the way people reacted to me asserting that it was never a good series to begin with, you would have thought I had Mother Teresa’s corpse exhumed just so I could defecate on it.  I just can’t comprehend why this series is so treasured.  It kind of sucks.  I can’t even believe this would qualify as being good “back in the day.”  Put this up against stuff like Super Mario Bros. 3 or even the Alex Kidd games from Sega and it seems like such a step backwards.

Which is actually what they had in mind when they designed it.  It was supposed to be Mario For Dummies, where the directional pad and only one button were needed and you wouldn’t be able to die if you had at least one ring.  It kind of shows that Sega held its own customers in contempt.  So basically, Sonic only exists because Sega wanted a Mario like character but thought its own users were too stupid to play a Mario game, and that just makes the crusader-like attitude of its fanboys all the more hilarious.

So the fanboys didn’t like my hate piece too much.  Most of the comments were completely asinine statements like “name one game from that era that was better than Sonic The Hedgehog.”  I could have been a total wise ass and said “anything!” but once you’ve got the monkeys throwing out “best game ever” statements, you’ve pretty much already won the battle.  Like I said in my VolChaos review, I find the entire situation to be sad.  Here are guys who are now in their thirties and they’re declaring the best game they have ever played and will ever play is one that Santa Claus gave them when they were ten years old.  I’m only 22, and I sure as hell hope I haven’t already played the best game I will ever play.  That would be tragic.

Pictured: something not worth the hype.

Granted, my only experience with the Genesis era Sonic games comes from when I got Sonic Mega Collection as a Christmas gift.  I might have even been the same age as those fanboys when I first played those titles.  Of course, by this point it’s 2002 and I’ve already played much better games, including some really spectacular 2D Mario games that Nintendo had ported to the Game Boy Advance.  Hell, I played Sonic Advance, an original 2D Sonic game on the Game Boy Advance that I had a better time with than anything on Mega Collection.

“Oh, but there’s another Sonic 16-bit era game.  One that destroys all those that came before it” cried the fanboys.  Indeed.  It’s called Sonic CD, and it’s the best of all the Sonics.  It’s so good that Sega seemed to go out of its way to not include it anywhere.  I mean, listen to how a guy I respect, Xbox Live Indie Game guru and Armless Octopus founder Dave Voyles described it.

Sonic CD is another fine example. It took a lot of the elements which made Sonic 1 so good, and vastly grew them. The future / past scenario for example, still hasn’t been done in other games to my knowledge. Sure, the 3D parts sucked and controlled like garbage, but the rest of the game provided a lot of innovation for the industry.

Well, what do you know, Sonic CD came out on Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network this last week.  Since it was only $5, I figured what the hoo haw and gave it a whirl.  It makes me wonder what exactly Dave was even talking about.  What exactly was innovative about it?  It had an anime cut scene at the start?  Nah, that can’t be it.  What about the time travel gimmick?  Nah, games were already doing that too.

I got it!  It’s insanely easy.  Yes, I get it now.  Sonic CD was innovative because it introduced us to the era of the half-assed sequel.  Before Sonic CD came around, developers actually gave a shit when developing follow-ups to games.  And then this arrived, with its totally phoned in level design, boss fights that would embarrass the viewing audience of Yo Gabba Gabba, and levels where over half the game play is done automatically.  Developers took notice and said “wow, look at how amazingly shallow and empty this sequel is.  We didn’t know you could do that!”

If Sonic games were created for people too stupid to play Mario, Sonic CD must have been created for the recently lobotomized.  Everything in it feels stripped down.  There’s fewer enemies, shorter levels, easier bosses, and almost no way to game over.  It took me all of one hour to finish it.  At which point, it gave me TWO achievements instead of one.  How sweet of it.  I guess the innovation is supposed to be how there are multiple versions of each level, because you can hit a sign post that says “past” or “future” and if you build up enough speed, you time travel to an altered version of the same stage.  I don’t know if this has any other effect on gameplay, and the game doesn’t tell you.  It was beneficial to me because I nearly had to quit in the middle of one stage due to the strobey effects.  I swear, as I was putting down the control, I bumped into one of those time travel sign posts, hit a bumper, and suddenly I was in the past, sans flashy lights.

Here’s the thing about that though: the fucking game did all that by itself.  I had already put the controller down.  That’s one of my biggest gripes with the Sonic games, that they do all the hard work for you.  The first Sonic game I ever played was in fact Sonic Adventure on the Sega Dreamcast.  Everyone who played it remembers the iconic scene in the first level of that game where you’re on a dock running from a killer whale.  When I was ten years old, that was, up to that point, the single coolest moment I had seen in a video game.  And it was cool, until you realized that the game had all kinds of moments where it takes the controller away from you and does all the fancy stuff automatically.

But isn’t that how Sonic games always have been?  In Sonic CD, you spend most of the levels doing nothing while the game has all the fun for you.  Half the time in the game is spent watching Sonic automatically coast off bumpers and through tubes at warp speed.  Granted, that’s enough to give the Sonic fanboys their jollies, but I thought this was supposed to be the Crème de la Crème of series.  Instead, it’s probably the worst.  Unless you count the Game Gear titles, which were pretty bad.

Here’s my theory: most people who had this fascination with Sonic CD never actually played it.  Probably because you needed a Sega CD to play it and their parents weren’t willing to spring the extra $300 for the attachment.  So Sonic CD became the unobtainable entry in the series.  The one that was so good it had to be put on the most expensive system on the market at the time.  It got some good press coverage, but the Sega CD was pretty much dead on arrival and by time you could afford it, the next wave of consoles were coming and all the copies of Sonic CD had already been long snatched up as soon as they hit the clearance rack.  It’s status as the lost Sonic game made it the stuff of legends.

Well, legends do tend to disappoint.  Sonic CD is bad even by the low standards of the series.  It’s everything that every other 2D Sonic has been: horrible play control, no actual platforming skills required, cheap deaths, and lots of watching the game do all the work for you.  Only this time, it’s insanely easy, to the point that it’s a little insulting.  Thankfully, it would seem even the Sonic fanboys are somewhat on my side with this one.  Within 24 hours of Sonic CD hitting the PS3 and Xbox 360 marketplaces, I saw plenty of Sonic aficionados sulkily tweet “not as good as I remember it” or “that was disappointing.”  Others are pissing and moaning because some stupid song got cut out of the game.  Which is funny to me because I always thought gaming was supposed to be about the gameplay, not the title song during the opening cut scene that most people were likely anxious to skip anyway.

It goes to show you that the older you get, the less kind reality is to your childhood memories.  Guys, Sonic CD didn’t get bad.  It was always bad.  They all were.  You’ve just played better games since it came out.  Every time I go back and play something I liked as a kid, the memories just don’t hold up.  It happened to me with Sonic Adventure, Tony Hawk, and Crash Bandicoot.  That’s why it’s best to live in the now.  Don’t go back looking for moldy oldies.  The best game you will ever play hopefully hasn’t come out yet, but you won’t know that unless you look to the future for it, and not the past.

Oh, and as a spoiler, it’s not Knuckles Chaotix either.  I realize now that Sonic CD finally has a wide release, everyone is going to say “okay, it sucked, but I totally remember Knuckles Chaotix on the 32X being the most awesome Sonic game ever!”  Wrong!  If Sega had any faith in that game they would have re-released it by now.  They haven’t for the same reason they dragged their feet with Sonic CD: it sucks, and they know it.  Deep down, you know it too.  I haven’t even played it and I know it.  Helen Keller knows it.  She might be blind and deaf, but when shit gets piled this thick for so long you can smell it coming a mile away.

Sonic CD was developed by Sega

400 Microsoft Points said “honestly, if Sega had released Bubsy the Bobcat and Sonic had been the generic lifeless mascot of some nameless game company, would you even have known the difference?” in the making of this review.

My friends at GameMarx are giving away over FIFTY Xbox Live Indie Games as part of a huge contest.  Click here for the Youtube announcement video, and then click here to enter.

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