Space Cat!

Space Cat! is a tribute to Star Fox 64, and that’s fine. I love gaming tributes. But I’d be lying if I said the name didn’t crack me up on impact. Space Cat! If they sold cheap, off-brand games at dollar stores, you’d expect a knock-off of Star Fox 64 to be named Space Cat! sitting alongside such classic gaming luminaries as Legend of Zeltor, Pocketmen, Ronald the Hedgehog, or Mega Italian Bros.

Star Faux 64

Anyway, discount off-brand Star Fox 64 is free. Because of course it is. For some reason, a lot of the most eye-catching early XBLIG IIs are free. I can sort of understand the mindset behind this. XBLIG wasn’t exactly the most well received gaming platform ever. It’s funeral is set for this month and most gamers aren’t exactly weeping in their mourning suits over it. So what would you do if you were a launch game for a spiritual successor to a platform with a lower reputation than Itchy: the Poxxy Hooker? Well, you give away your stuff for free and hope that people remember you when you’re ready to actually make money, right?

Well, yea, about that..

Very few gamers pay that close of attention to who developed what. To get that consideration, you have to create something so universally acclaimed and successful that people will check in daily to see what you’re cooking up next. And, no offense to the people behind Space Cat!, but this is not going to be one of those games. It’s not great. It’s not even good. It’s okay. Okay is fine! Okay still means you’ll have a jolly good time while you’re playing it, warts and all, maybe even chuckle at the absurd lack of balance because, hey, at least you didn’t pay for it. Like, on one stage I upgraded a gun to its maximum strength, at which point I was clearing out entire waves of baddies with literally no effort. So overpowered was this gun that I completely missed seeing a boss spawn and fighting it. The gun beat it before I even realized there was a boss to fight. The stage just ended. If I hadn’t found out later that there was a boss on the fire stage, I never would have known I beat it. 19 years of playing video games and I can’t ever recall beating a boss before it spawned, so that’s sort of an achievement, right?

This is the over-powered gun I was talking about, which I nicknamed “Señor Gran Polla” because use of it will make up for ANY inadequacy.

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun in a “using a Game Shark to utterly FUBAR a game” type of way, only without the Game Shark. But when all was said and done, Space Cat, a game that can be completed in about fifteen minutes, left no lasting impression on me. It was too easy, too quick, and so unbalanced that I couldn’t even take a moment to appreciate how close this came to Star Fox mimicry. I mean, look at it. It’s Voxel fucking Star Fox! Cool! And yea, maybe the fast pace and lack of balance obscured other flaws, like the controls being floaty garbage. But still, it’s Voxel fucking Star Fox!

VOXEL. MOTHER FUCKING. STAR. FOX!

That might be the most awesome sentence I’ve typed in Indie Gamer Chick history. And it’s free! Do you have Windows 10 or an Xbox One? You can play it right now! Click here!

The truth is, despite being a fairly thoughtful, convincing Star Fox knock-off, there’s so many rough spots that I’m convinced the developers spent almost no-time refining it and dumped it onto XBLIG II once they had a playable build up. It feels unfinished.

So why the fuck is this free? Throw a buck on it. Because nobody is going to follow the career of the studio that created this. You’re not going to get attention or exposure from something like this. And while Space Cat! barely wins the Indie Gamer Chick Seal of Approval, it’s still a borderline-quality game that inadvertently devalues other Creators Collection launch titles. It’s going to be hard for other devs to convince gamers to spend money on a borderline-quality game when other borderline-quality titles are free. If you think that’s bullshit, just ask iOS developers. During #GamesMatter events, my team and I can literally not hand out free copies of high-quality, highly desirable paid-iOS games. For the majority of iOS gamers, it’s not even worth the time it takes to punch in the code. We don’t want XBLIG II to become that. The original XBLIG had enough problems, but even as the service was about to shut down, I still had a lot of anxious gamers lining up to grab copies of XBLIGs during the #GamesMatter XBLIG send-off. XBLIG II has far too many games that are free. And to the guys at Gersh Games LLC, don’t you think your time is worth money? Throw a buck on Space Cat! at least. It’s worth at least a buck. It’s what Itchy charges. Um, I’m guessing.

Space Cat! was developed by Gersh Games LLC
Free to play on Xbox One and Windows 10

Space Cat! is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Advertisements

Whispers in the Dark

It took about thirty seconds of playing Whispers in the Dark to realize this wasn’t going to be my happiest gaming experience. A first-person puzzler where you play as a camera hovering five feet off the ground in a world where the concept of diagonality (a word I invented about three seconds ago) doesn’t exist. I’m not sure why I chose this as my first XBLIG II to review. First-person games on XBLIG tended to be about as fun as when my parents forced me to have a funeral for my Chia Pet (who knew you had to water them?). However, I like both whispering and darkness. The thought never occurred to me to combine the two. That’s why you guys are the game makers and I’m the whatever the fuck you call this shit.

So the idea is that in 1974 two kids are found wearing glowing runes. Then in 1996, the sister dies but her body goes all Obi-Wan on everyone and just disappears. Then in 1997, the brother apparently speaks his last words at his own funeral before his body also blinked out of existence.

“Hey, did you hear something?” “Probably just air escaping from the body.” “It sounded like last words to me!” “Was it a Soliloquy?” “I don’t think so. The second sentence had only six syllables.” “I think you’re thinking of a haiku.”

Wait, was he dead before the funeral? Or was it his sister’s funeral? Why would they have it a year after she died? Did she die on December 31, 1996 and get buried a couple of days later? Wait, if she disappeared, why would there be a funeral? So it must be his funeral. Where he apparently spoke his last words at. Was he being executed? Was he euthanizing himself? Is this a metaphorical funeral? Like that time when I attempted to beer-batter Lucky Charms and Brian told me “Whatever. It’s your funeral, Cathy.” You see, people don’t typically speak at their own funeral. That’s the beauty of funerals. The corpse has to actually yield the conversation to other people, and in exchange for that people pretend like they didn’t hate them.

Anyway, he disappears too (I hope the attending priest was quick-witted enough to yell TA DAH!) and wakes up in what I, based on the gameplay, can only imagine is Hell. Whispers in the Dark is *terrible* to actually play. It’s the movement. It’s so laggy and sluggish that I can only imagine the game is being streamed to my Xbox via telegraph. I don’t understand how this happened, considering that the graphics are so ugly that star-nosed moles would be able to talk shit on them if they would get with the times and upgrade their relic Xbox 360s.

“Hey fuck you Indie Gamer Chick! You’re just jealous that we’ve only bricked one of our 360s so far!”

It’s a real shame too. As a proof of concept, Whispers in the Dark isn’t bad. The idea is you solve puzzles by collecting runes and combining two of them to cast spells. Hey Doodle God, see, this is a video game. I mean, wait, don’t see. I’ll find a better example. But seriously, there’s an idea in here that seems fun and refreshing. There’s no combat, though stationary robots that apparently lack peripheral vision occasionally show up to audition for the role of “most useless security robots this side of Volume.” And there’s a large number of combinations you can use to cast spells to solve puzzles with them. But, not all combinations actually cast something, which only serves to contribute to the “unfinished proof of concept” issue. But hey, unfinished, under-polished digital-trainwrecks. Oh XBLIG, it’s like you never left.

“Holy fuck, she wasn’t kidding.”

I never did get resolution for the story. The further I played into Whispers in the Darkness, the worst the lag became, to the point that the game was nearly unplayable and I quit about an hour in. So yea, it’s pretty awful. But, it’s actually free. In fact, a lot of XBLIG II launch games are. As bad as this is, I’m going to stress once again to those behind this game and any free games out there: your time is worth money. Throw a buck on your games and use the revenue for better developer tools or game programming lessons, or just have fun with it. But put something on it. Hell, if people like me are going to be saying your game sucks either way, you might as well be getting paid for it.

Whispers in the Darkness was developed by Voszcura
Free to play off Xbox One & Windows 10 Marketplace. Not sure why Xbox.com doesn’t have XBLIG II games yet.

Calling on Xbox Live Indie Game Developers: Preserve Our Community’s Legacy

We are less than two months away from the Xbox Live Indie Game marketplace on Xbox 360 closing forever. If you’re a fan of indie gaming, you can still purchase many of the best indies you’ve never heard of for as little as $1 off the Xbox Live Marketplace on your Xbox 360 Dashboard or by going here. My understanding is that once you purchase a game, you’ll always have access to it and the ability to download it whenever you want, long after the market is gone. And even if that wasn’t true, come on. Do you really expect $1 to $5 to be a permanent investment every time? Do you still have every delicious Mega Fruit Gum you spent $1 for at the vending machine? (Well, okay fine, I do. I’m planning on turning them into the world’s first functional real-life Katamari ball. Watch for me on a future episode of Fail Army)

Having said all that, there are many Xbox Live Indie Games that will disappear forever in just a few weeks. They have no PC port, no other console ports, and I’m fairly sure nobody has ever actually owned an Ouya.

IndieGamerChick.com was founded as an Xbox Live Indie Games review site. My mascot, Sweetie, was originally just XBLIG’s generic ghost/octosquid-thingy mascot with a bow added to it (I figured “hey, nobody would ever think to take an established yellow gaming mascot, add a bow to it and call it something new and hope nobody notices”) that eventually evolved into my Seal of Approval.

When I hit the scene on July 1, 2011, I never expected that I would not only still be doing this six years later, but that I would have become such a central part of the Xbox Live Indie Game community. Even today, I’m still known as “that girl who reviews XBLIGs”, even though I’ve reviewed exactly one over the last three years. But, like many people associated with indie gaming today, I got my start with XBLIG, and I’ll never forget that. And I’ll especially never forget the developers and leaders who welcomed me and embraced what I was trying to do with my reviews of their games, which weren’t always so nice. I will always treasure what they did for me. And I will always be an XBLIG Chick.

I always have said I’m not a cheerleader. That a game critic is not a salesperson. Our job is to evaluate, not convince. But that’s bullshit of course. There was no person on this planet who wanted XBLIG to succeed more. Who wanted its developers to thrive more. Nobody screamed louder for your victories or cried harder for those hidden gems that went criminally unnoticed. When the opportunity presented itself, I teamed with Desura and Indie Royale to curate a bundle that consisted entirely of ports of some of the best games XBLIG had to offer. I did everything I could to include as many developers as I could. Ultimately, the Indie Gamer Chick Bundle had eight primary games and two bonus games from ten different developers, making it the most diverse bundle Indie Royal ever did in its existence. One of the greatest joys of my life is that the sales for that bundle exceeded expectations and gave a second wind to a platform that always struggled to find its audience.

Xbox Live Indie Games will always be special to me. And the thought that any of the games of it, good or bad, disappearing forever has me completely heartbroken. So, I put out this call, to all Xbox Live Indie Game developers: this is our legacy. We need to preserve it. So please, I beg you, put a PC port of your game(s) somewhere, anywhere, where gamers can access it. Put it up for free on Itch.io for free or pay-what-you-want. Tinker with it. Enhance it. Go all George Lucas on it. Just don’t let it disappear. To show where you were as a developer, to show how far you’ve come along, to remind you that you’re always getting better and how bright your futures can be. Please, help preserve our legacy. I can help you find people to help you with the porting process. Just don’t let our history fade into the Aether. We were here. We changed gaming forever. We were, and always will be, XBLIG.

Effective October 1, 2017, all Xbox Live Indie Games on the IndieGamerChick.com Leaderboard that do not have availability outside of XBLIG will be removed from ranking on the board and instead placed in a special “Gone But Not Forgotten” list under the board. If you want to know where to start with the best Xbox Live Indie Games before the market closes, check out the Leaderboard. Remember, to the best of my knowledge you will retain access to all XBLIGs you purchase on your Xbox 360 after the market shuts down in September.

Indie Gamer Chick Statement on the end of Xbox Live Indie Games

Today, developers of Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIGs) were informed that Microsoft is in the process of winding down the service. The ability to publish new XBLIGs will end a year from today, September 9, 2016. Roughly a year after that, in September 2017, the XBLIG marketplace will shut-down. We all knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

I started Indie Gamer Chick in July, 2011 as an XBLIG review site. It wasn’t long after that the XBLIG developer community discovered me and embraced my reviews. It’s because of them that Indie Gamer Chick is around today, and for that I owe them a gratitude that words never seem strong enough to convey. Although I’m sure some developers weren’t happy to have their game run through my wringer, I hope they all know that negative reviews never came with malice or the intent of hurt feelings. Judging by the response you as a community had to IGC, I think most of you understand that. Some of you went on to become my friends, but know this: I do love you all. Thank you so much for making this whole experience rewarding for me. I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me.

For those of you who have an Xbox 360 but have never dipped your toes into the XBLIG scene, you have two years to enjoy what XBLIG has to offer. It has many wonderful games that cost as little as a dollar. Check my review index. It’s mostly made up of XBLIGs. And for those devs who has developed exclusively for XBLIG, please begin porting your work to other platforms. Even if you’re not proud of your work or satisfied with it. Those games represent our collective legacy as a community. Many of you are moving onto to great things. Future generations should get to see where you came from. That’s the lasting legacy of XBLIG: amateur developers who aspired to do great things. Although not everyone who made games for XBLIG got to taste success, I firmly believe that a community as close as ours shares in each-others success. Because of what began on XBLIG, indie gaming today shines a little brighter. And, because of what began on XBLIG, our future as gamers has never been brighter.

XBLIG developers and fans: please share your memories or gratitude for XBLIG in the comments.

Three Dead Zed (Second Chance with the Chick)

It’s been over two years since I reviewed Three Dead Zed, by former Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard sponsors Gentlemen Squid. Last time, I interviewed them alongside the review. And I didn’t like the game. The only way that whole situation could have been more awkward is if I had just run over their dog beforehand. I considered bringing them back for this Second Chance with the Chick, but I’m not doing that for the same reason I decided not to pursue a career as an obstetrician: because I didn’t want to ever have to tell an anxious parent that their child was stillborn.

To their credit, Gentlemen Squid fixed the worst issues from my first play through. I never once reached for a switch that didn’t activate on my first attempt. Just having that work by itself makes Three Dead Zed playable. But I still really didn’t like it. It’s not for a lack of personality, either. The hilarious story of a shape-shifting zombie getting loose and trying to find cats with tinfoil hats is raving lunacy. And I mean that in the best possible way. I sort of wish the best bits unfolded when you started and completed levels, instead of having to find hidden rooms. In the event I missed one, I shook my hand at the sky, as if God himself was responsible for me somehow missing it. I never once wanted to replay a stage to find those secrets. I just wanted the fucking game to be over with, which is never a good sign. Having said that, the writing is extraordinarily sharp. If you can put up with everything else I’m about to say, Three Dead Zed might be worth it for you.

You know a game is in trouble when its best comedy bits are often hidden in the background. Like the warning about the company BBQ. Why would a company need to caution against a barbeque you ask? Maybe my father is there serving his infamous chili. Though if that were the case, the only place they would draw the fire is around the buttocks.

You know a game is in trouble when its best comedy bits are often hidden in the background. Like the warning about the company BBQ. Why would a company need to caution against a barbeque you ask? Maybe my father is there serving his infamous chili. Though if that were the case, the only place they would need to draw the fire is around the buttocks.

It wasn’t for me. Movement is just all over the place. Which, um.. you know, come to think of it, movement by definition should be all over the place. What I’m trying to say is the controls are crap. Honestly, with the game’s engine and the way the characters were built, there wasn’t much they could do to fix this part of Three Dead Zed from the first time out. So I was sort of bracing myself for the worst when I restarted it. And I was right. There’s just a lack of parameters for certain actions. Like it’s easy to have a tiny sliver of your body standing on the edge of a moving platform and getting crushed from passing by a ceiling. Or you’ll struggle to make jumps with the moves-too fast while jumping-too-loose frog-athlete-zombie thing. You have to use this zombie all the time too, because it’s the only one that can make long jumps, or do wall jumping. But judging how close you can get to something before you die never quite clicked for me.

It’s really hard to put a finger on the difference between a good platformer and a bad one when it comes to just the act of movement. It almost defies explanation, but I’ll try. In a good platformer, you form an equilibrium with the layout of stages. You can instinctively judge distances in jumps, or how close you can get to that buzz saw trap before you’re going to die. I never got that from Three Dead Zed. A long time ago, I might have thought that would be on me, but considering that I’m able to easily find that balance in almost any other platformer, I think I sort of have to blame the game. I also don’t think it has to do with switching between three characters. I had to do that in Trine as well, but never had that issue. Three Dead Zed lacks a certain elegance of movement and jumping. I don’t think with the engine they used, it could have ever been precise.

I did appreciate the effort. The stages are pretty well constructed, even lending themselves well to non-linear exploration. I would have probably taken more advantage of this, if not for the bad controls, or if Gentlemen Squid haven’t been so obsessed with dick-move enemy placement. They really had a fetish for putting soldiers on the exact spots where they best stood to unfairly tag you with bullets in a way that you never had a reasonable chance to know they existed, and even less chance of avoiding their attacks. I hate it when games do this. When I mention it to developers, sometimes they giggle and say “I know right?” as if they expect a high-five. Sorry to leave you guys hanging, but I need to level with you: any idiot can make an unfair game. It takes no talent. It takes no creativity. It takes no artistry. When Mario Maker hits the Wii U, you’ll probably see hundreds, if not thousands, of user levels that center around “last pixel jumping” or dick move enemy placement. I assure you, nobody will complement the twelve-year-olds making those stages on their mastery of level design. When you have absolutely no hope of dodging attacks, or even knowing the enemies exist, that takes no skill to create. This also shouldn’t be mistaken for adding “difficulty” to your game. Difficulty should be something where a player has a reasonable chance to overcome it, thus displaying their skills. When they have no hope, that’s difficult in the same way you would use the word to describe someone who chains themselves to a McDonalds and claims they’re going on hunger strike until they stop serving beef. “How’s it going with that nut who chained himself to McDonalds?” “Well, sir, he’s being.. difficult.”

Three Dead Zed 2

Hooray for busywork!

Did Three Dead Zed ever have a chance, even with patchwork? Probably not. The devs were frank with me in admitting that they could only do so much with the engine they used. That’s fine. You know what? They showed me that they have a lot of talent to work with in the future. The writing was very sharp, even inspired, and the level layouts (sans bastard enemy placement) were well done. With a better platforming engine with more precision movement, Three Dead Zed probably could have been something special. Chalk this one up to life on the learning curve. I’m certain Gentlemen Squid will blow me away next time. They seem determined to. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have bothered fixing the stuff that made Three Dead Zed unplayable the first time around. I’m excited for their future. I think they are too, since they just squirted ink all over me. Well, at least I hope that’s ink.

Three Dead Zed logoThree Dead Zed was developed by Gentlemen Squid
Point of Sale: Steam, Xbox Live Indie Games

$4.99’s father’s chili is banned by the Ginevra Convention in the making of this review.

 

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure (Second Chance with the Chick)

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure was a rarity for me on the XBLIG scene. It was one of a very small group of games that I continued to play after I finished reviewing it. Not a lot of time. Maybe a few extra hours, but I couldn’t focus on any other games until I had satisfied my run with Wagon. It happens to me sometimes. I have a term for this: “getting it out of my system.” It’s a term friends, family, and co-workers have come to dread from me. It means my productivity is ground to a screeching halt. Terraria is currently the standard-bearer for this. I reviewed it, hated it, but still felt the need to get it out of my system. Then I realized that I was addicted to it and I had to do a complete 180 and concede that it was something special. I put about ten hours into it before the review went up. Between the time I posted my original review and the time I had to suck it up and admit I was wrong, I put an extra thirty hours into it. And after the second review, I added another fifty or so.

Currently, I’m migrating all my XBLIGs over to PC, and many of them will get a Second Chance with the Chick. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure has the word “Turbo” added to it on the PC build, so I figured I would start with it. I had a few nits to pick in my previous review of it, and I wanted to see if they were addressed.

Nope.

Under the sea! Under the sea! You'll some how not drown, when the wagon digs down, under the sea!

Under the sea! Under the sea! You’ll some how not drown, when the wagon digs down, under the sea!

Of all the games I’ve enjoyed at Indie Gamer Chick, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is the least fair, and it doesn’t give a shit about it. As you make your way through the game, all the events unfold randomly, and many of them revolve around you just plain losing health. Sometimes the game immediately starts with one of your three characters coming down with some hilarious illness and having three of their four hit points get drained. You get them back if you survive a couple of waves, but there’s a chance that if a single enemy makes it past your defense, that character will die. Right off the bat, with almost no chance of survival. What a dick of a game.

If you think that’s bad, try making it all the way to the end of the game with full health (a rarity) only to be forced to sacrifice one team member or starve to death. This can be avoided if you collect 40 animal hides when this scenario comes up. I talked with a lot of players of the game and all of them determined that anything short of perfect shooting with the correct weapon will fail. Many of the weapons in the game completely annihilate the animals you can hunt, leaving no carcass behind for you to chow down on. That happened to me several times. I got so pissed off that I chose to starve once. I figured I would be left with only one heart per person. No, actually, they all died.

You know, Sparsevector, there’s a fine line between making your game challenging and making players want to burn your house down.

As fun as Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is (and make no mistake, it’s really fun), you never feel any sense of accomplishment when you play it. When literally everything comes down to the whims of fate, how can you feel good about it? If you display any skill, the game will bend you over its knee and introduce you to the paddle of “shit happens.”

Wagon 2

Brian FINALLY presents me a flower, which is what initiates a life-restoring ritual known as “fucking each-other’s brains out.” Oddly enough, my original lineup was myself, Brian, and our friend Bryce. Wagon Bryce and Wagon Brian couldn’t stop fucking each-other, much to the real Brian and Bryce’s chagrin, though we all admitted that Nintendo could learn something from their Super Amazing Wagon Adventure’s Brokeback Mountain moments.

Low on life and counting on the fur trader to sell you some health? Fuck you, all he has for sale is the ability to move your wagon faster. Which you will never ever EVER want. All that does is assure you will take more damage, because you have a big moving target and moving faster means moving more recklessly. Having the best run you’ve made in several attempts? Why, here’s syphilis for your characters and also a pack of wolves chasing them. The wolves are the most appallingly overpowered enemies because they move too fast and if you dodge them, they turn around and bite you in the ass. Have the right default weapon to handle them? It might get jammed, or drunk if you’re using the falcon. Shit like this makes me question if I would be brought up on assault charges if the developer was within chair throwing distance of me. It’s the most infuriating good game I’ve played at Indie Gamer Chick.

And it is fucking awesome.

8+ hours into the PC port (with probably around the same amount of time put into the XBLIG version), and I was still discovering new scenarios I had never encountered before. Train robberies. Caves. Aliens.  I had more wagons and even modes to unlock. And the weird thing is, I actually want to press on. I feel like the love-struck school girl trying to catch the attention of the local bully. So, is it a nice game? No. It blows up bullfrogs with firecrackers and pulls the wings off flies. But I’m downright smitten. I also think the guys at Sparsevector are responsible for a 20% hike in my blood pressure. MY PARTY GOT ANOTHER VD? CAN’T YOU GUYS STOP FUCKING FOR TEN SECONDS?

Wagon logoSuper Amazing Wagon Adventure was developed by Sparsevector
Point of Sale: SteamDesuraXbox Live Indie Games
Ports played for this review: Steam and Xbox Live Indie Games.

IGC_Approved$2.99 preferred the wagon that lets you use the falcon in the making of this review. Even though the falcon had a big drinking problem.

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

 

 

Shutshimi

With my last two reviews landing in the top ten on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard, I’m now worried that my readers will think I’m going soft. Or possibly that I’ve been replaced by my nicer, goatee wearing Mirror Universe counterpart. Neither is true. As far as you know. But really, I have a reputation to maintain here. So what I need is a game from a genre that is my least favorite. Something that looks like it’s been done a zillion times before. Something I can rake over coals and murder with my malicious words. I need a shmup.

So I picked Shutshimi, and it’s one of the ten best indie games I’ve ever played. Well, fuck me.

I should have known better. As many of you are aware, the original Wario Ware on Game Boy Advance is my personal choice for the best game ever made. Probably a sign that I have ADHD or something. But other games based around time crunches have also owned me, such as Pac-Man Championship Edition, Bejeweled Blitz, NES Remix, or XBLIGs Orbitron and Minigame Marathon. I’m wired for shit like this. And Shutshimi is essentially the Wario Ware of shoot-em-ups. Stages last ten seconds. Sometimes less, but never more. Between stages, you enter a store where you have a choice of three different items. The items have overly-long, elaborate descriptions (that are often not very helpful) and you have exactly ten seconds to make your selection. You fight a boss every few rounds, but only ten seconds at a time. And that’s pretty much the entirety of the game. And I call it a game only because it might be slanderous to call it what it really is: a drug.

Hell, it even looks like how you picture being on drugs.

Actually, going off this picture, maybe I’m on to something with the whole drug thing.

And an addictive drug at that. I have no love for this genre. I find the majority of shmups to be boring, samey, typically unambitious, and designed strictly to target those that are nostalgic for shooters. I’m certainly not nostalgic for them, and thus I’m not these games target audience. More over, shmups are the most high-risk genre for my epilepsy triggers, something I honestly haven’t minded up to this point. I don’t want to sound like I’m milking my condition.. even though that’s exactly what I’m doing.. but it’s a genre I do go out of my way to avoid. I skipped this one for weeks. I only gave it consideration to begin with because it came via Anthony Swinnich, a long-time Indie Gamer Chick fan, and because he put “The Switch” in it. In other words, they included an option that made this game more epilepsy friendly.

Ten hours. That’s how long I played Shutshimi the first time I booted it up. Shock doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played. And it did it the same way Wario Ware did: simplifying the play mechanics, and then weaponizing them by throwing them at you in fast-paced, bite-sized chunks. Because the game is randomized, you really can’t count on anything. An item that does one thing will do a different thing the next time you see it. No two play-throughs are the same. The lightning-fast approach is only detrimental because the writing is so damn funny, you’ll want to read it all and simply can’t.

Oh, that’s not the only fault here. Shutshumi is one of those games that is so good, the mistakes it makes frustrates me to a greater degree, because they’re so fundamental they shouldn’t exist. The top of the list for me is the lack of variety of enemies. The opening enemies, the sharks and squids, are too easy to dispose of. It takes too long for newer, more challenging baddies to appear. It’s also too easy to get a feel for enemy patterns. I wish the ordering of enemies had been every bit as random as the items. If Shutshumi had gone for full-on random wackiness like Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, I think it would have made the game stronger. Despite the awesome randomness of the items (which often determine the effects of the next stage instead of giving you a power-up), because the levels unfold more or less in a linear way, Shutshimi almost becomes too easy.

Not that I know how good I am. There’s no online leaderboards as of yet. When the game gets Greenlit on Steam, they’ll come, but that’s no help as of yet. My top score is in the 9,000 point range. I’m not especially skilled at this, but I don’t have to be good at stuff to enjoy it. If that were the case, I wouldn’t still be golfing. But without those leaderboards, the ceiling of addictiveness for Shutshimi is significantly smaller. I’m also annoyed that only the PC version contains the epilepsy switch, meaning I couldn’t play the XBLIG version. Me, Indie Gamer Chick! If you look up XBLIG in the dictionary, there’s a picture of me urinating on Sententia. I mean, I appreciate the switch’s presence, but why did only one platform get it? Epileptics play consoles too, you know.

The lack of variety in enemies (along with the lack of online leaderboards) is the only thing that finally got me to put the controller down. As Brian pointed out, maybe that's a good thing.

The lack of variety in enemies (along with the lack of online leaderboards) is the only thing that finally got me to put the controller down. As Brian pointed out, maybe that’s a good thing.

My other concerns are nit-picky. There’s no variety in the backdrops, except stuff caused by random item pick-ups that result in party effects or for the game to be shrouded in darkness (I’m guessing with epilepsy mode turned off, there’s lightning flashes for that section). And some of the items are just stupid. One of them eliminates enemies altogether for a single stage. Technically that helps you advance an extra wave for free, but it also means you score no points. Just a really bad idea. I also think the shotgun weapon is now my choice for least favorite item in a good game. Fucking thing is worthless.

I’m sure shmup fans will be appalled that this game, which is admittedly overly simplistic, is the only game of its breed to capture my imagination. But it did. For all of its flaws (most of which, oddly enough, seem to be due to lack of ambition), it’s the first game in a long while that I had trouble putting down. It took me an extra couple days to get this review up because I would go back to check something about it and end up putting in an extra hour or two of playtime. Shutshumi is such a breath of fresh air. A great idea, something that will hopefully kickstart a new era of creativity for a genre that often lacks it. It also proves that the best ideas are often the simplest. Shutshumi has not a single mechanic that hasn’t been done before. Every part of it is tired. But it’s how it used its mechanics that makes it special. They should show it off in game design classes. I commend the developers at Neon Deity Games. And I only call them developers because I think it might be slanderous to call them what they really are: a drug cartel.

Yep, I ran that joke into the ground.

xboxboxartShutshimi was developed by Neon Deity Games
Point of Sale: Xbox Live Indie GamesIndie Game StandHumble Store

IGC_Approved$1 noted that “the wacky smoking animal” stuff is getting tired. First the pipe smoking cat from Aqua Kitty and now a cigar-smoking goldfish? Give it a fucking rest, guys in the making of this review.

Shutshimi is Chick-Approved and Ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: