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!


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.


Hello, old friend. It’s been a while. You look.. um.. great? You really wear dying a miserable death, barely mourned and unloved well.

Playing an XBLIG in early 2016 is like visiting a dying relative in hospice care. You know any visit could be the last you’ll have, but you go anyway in secret hopes that they’ll leave you something nice to remember them. For those confused by the situation, yes, Xbox Live Indie Games are still alive. The last rites have been administered and happy families have been notified that a donor for Daddy’s faulty platforming engine has been located, but it’s technically still alive in the same way Ben Carson’s campaign is still technically ongoing. For now. No new games will be uploaded after September, 2016 and the marketplace will shut down entirely after September, 2017. Will you be able to access the games you already bought after that? The fuck if I know.

I do know that here it is, nearly two years after my last XBLIG review and I’m still basically known as “that girl who reviews XBLIGs.” And you know what? I’m proud of that. Plus, a few last second hidden gems that savvy indie fans have come to associate with the XBLIG market are still showing up. Take today’s game, Multitasking. It caught my attention because it twists the formula of WarioWare (my favorite game ever) by making you play multiple microgames at the same time. My family had a terrific chuckle at the thought of me playing such a game. Some people have coordination that makes them capable of rubbing their bellies while patting their heads at the same time. Meanwhile, I have such good coordination that I once broke my ankle falling three-inches off a Dance Dance Revolution platform at a bowling alley. I wish I could say I was joking, but I’m not. Given that and the fact that I can’t chew gum and talk at the same time without either biting my cheek or gagging on the gum, they said maybe I should rethink my choice in games to play. But fuck them and their lack of faith in my ability to step up my abilities. I was determined to prove them wrong.

Four games at once? Ha, yea right. I couldn't even do three games at the same time.

Four games at once? Ha, yea right. I couldn’t even do three games at the same time.

I failed. Not even with honor either. I was just awful at Multitasking. Except on Easy Mode, but this is one of those games where success there carries an undeniable shame with it. Again, the idea is “WarioWare, only playing multiple games simultaneously.” Your TV is divided into four screens. The top screen is controlled by the bumpers, the left screen with the left analog stick, the center screen with the face buttons, and the right screen by the right analog stick. The games are very basic, many of them lifted directly from WarioWare. The difference here is, instead of the speed increasing, the amount of games thrown at you increases. The games play fine and control solid, with one exception involving moving the analog sticks at bullseyes, which feels a bit too loose. It’s kind of annoying because I can’t blame being awful on the controls. It’s all on me.

For what it’s worth, Multitasking is fun. But, unlike games where my comical badness didn’t affect my overall enjoyment (Spelunky for example), I have to admit that my ceiling of fun was lowered here. I was damn near ecstatic about it at first, but the further I played it, the more I realized I just could not get better at it. God knows I tried, but no strategy seemed to work. The games are spit out at random, and my best runs by far were the ones where one of the games being displayed required simple button mashing with no finesse. If both games required my attention, I was screwed. On the rare instances where I made it far enough to have three games on-screen, I never survived the first wave of it. I’m just not wired for games like this. Multitasking is fine, albeit basic and kind of boring in how it’s presented, but fine. The online scoreboards suck to use (presumably to be corrected in the upcoming PC port), but fine. I probably would have ranked it higher if I could get better, but it’s hard for me to get worked up over a game that’s as impossible for me to play well. Yea, I love WarioWare, but I wouldn’t want to play two of them at once. I already feel like a douche for that time I played WarioWare Twisted using my GameBoy Player. This isn’t helping.

xboxboxartMultitasking was developed by yyrGames
Point of Sale: Xbox Live Indie Games

igc_approved1$1 jumped the gun so many times in the Wild Gunman minigame that she lost count in the making of this review. Though I do have to ask, when people had those duels in the old days, what happened if someone shot too soon and hit? Did the person shot get to come back from the dead so they could pace off again? If not, damn, I would have been the best gunfighter in the west! How come nobody else thought of the “just shoot first and say MY BAD” strategy before me? Someone get me a time machine, I need to try this shit out.

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

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.


Bad Bunny

Approximately nine hours ago, I started watching the new Hobbit movie with Brian. Weirdly enough, the counter on the television indicates that we only began watching it one and a half hours ago. I tried to alert scientists of the world of the bizarre vortex in space and time emanating from our living room, but they showed little interest. Probably because checking it out would require them to watch the Hobbit as well.

Thankfully, I was also playing an Easter-themed XBLIG called Bad Bunny. It was a bit disappointing in one regard: the cover art made it look like it would have a lot more personality than it did. Take a look.


Not bad-looking. I figured it would be like an XBLIG version of Naughty Bear. Which, granted, was one of the worst games of the last generation, but at least it had an interesting concept. So I ponied up a dollar and fired it up. Needless to say, it was not Naughty Bear.


Yeah. So instead it’s another fixed-position wave shooter, only this time the enemies are rabbits firing Easter eggs at you. Honestly though, Bad Bunny not bad at all. It’s not good or memorable either, but it didn’t feel like a complete waste of a dollar. There’s not a whole lot for me to comment on. The projectiles fired at your stationary turret could stand out a little more, so that you could better defend yourself. And they could have really used more power-ups to keep things interesting. And online leaderboards as opposed to just a local one. And it could have used more than one ordinary play mode. Bad Bunny isn’t remotely ambitious and you’ve played a million games like this before.

BUT, it is fun for an hour, and fun is all that has ever mattered in my books. Bad Bunny is a totally harmless, borderline charming arcadey throwback and yes, I do like it a little bit. Let people moan that I enjoyed this half-assed shooter and didn’t like something ambitious and thoughtful, like Deadlight. Am I saying Bad Bunny is better than Deadlight? I guess technically I am, though that seems somehow wrong. How about “I personally enjoyed the overall experience of one hour with Bad Bunny more than I did several hours with Deadlight.” Besides, it’s just one person’s opinion. It’s not like it’s notarized by the Pope or anything. I actually did try to get it notarized but he stopped taking my calls when I wouldn’t stop calling him “Super Mario.”

xboxboxartBad Bunny was developed by Game Play You

IGC_Approved$1 Has no clue how we got from Jesus being beaten, executed by crucifixion, then returning from the dead to bunnies and colored eggs in the making of this review.

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

Like my new logo? The gentleman who designed it, Kenneth Seward Jr., is for hire! Visit his site and check him out on Twitter. Reasonable rates, awesome work!

Footage via the unsung hero of the XBLIG scene, Splazer Productions

 Still here? Cool. I have a new blog that will contain my non-gaming related ravings. Header




Arcadecraft (Second Chance with the Chick)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xboxboxartArcadecraft was developed by Firebase Industries

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

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

Magicians & Looters

UPDATE: Magicians & Looters received a Second Chance with the Chick. To say it improved the game is an understatement. I now consider this to be the best Xbox Live Indie Game ever made. Click here for my updated thoughts.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Xbox Live Indie Games, where expectations are so low that there’s not sufficient clearance for microbes to hang themselves from it.  Because of this, sometimes games that are just not that good end up getting elevated beyond their actual value.  Take Magicians & Looters.  Here’s a really ambitious first effort by a group of developers with not a whole lot of experience, and it’s not terrible.  It also has, for my money, the best comedic writing ever seen on an XBLIG.

M&L is a Metroidvania.  I fucking love those, but XBLIG hasn’t been the best source for them.  LaserCat is my favorite.  It was the original #1 game on the old, ten-games-only Leaderboard.   But it’s a different breed of Metroidvania.  There’s no combat in it, only avoidance.  It’s also easier than boxing a newborn paraplegic orangutang .  But that was pretty much the cream of the crop.  Other attempts were nowhere near as successful.  There was Astroman, a Metroid-inspired adventure that came very close to hitting the mark, but wasn’t quite there.  Still, this is probably the genre that, if done right, I like the most.



I try not to get hyped for games, and I certainly try to avoid hearing what my fellow XBLIG critics think of a game that I intend to play.  Unfortunately, becoming good friends with them means sometimes you hear things.  Like, say, Tim Hurley putting Magicians & Looters at #5 on his Leaderboard.  Or Jed Presscott calling this game “better than Symphony of the Night.

Hahahahahaha…………. no.

To get the good out of the way first: Magicians & Looters isn’t broken or glitchy or likely to physically materialize like that spooky chick from The Ring and murder you after seven days.  In fact, all the ingredients seem to be here, fully functional, and primed to present one of the best values a game could have.  But, for me at least, it just never came together.  By far the best aspect of Magicians & Looters is the writing.  The story is a sort of spoof of Harry Potter.  You play as three teenagers enrolled in a wizard’s school.  It gets overrun by evildoers and you must band together and save the day.  They’re also all, to put it politely, type-A personalities.  They spew out non-stop sarcasm, have endless disdain for one-another, and almost seem to speak in the language of a sitcom.  I always hate games like that.  It’s one of the things that turned me off of musical RPG Sequence.  Here?  It works.  Even better, the jokes don’t rely on referential humor.  No callbacks to bad game dialog.  No “remember that movie you’ve seen?  We’ve seen it too, and we’ll demonstrate that by quoting it verbatim, but you should laugh because we’re going to do it in an unexpected way” type of stuff.  Hell, they don’t even directly reference Harry Potter, and the game is a send-up of it.  I mean, damn.  Standing ovation right here.

The sharp writing is the ONLY thing that kept me playing, though.  Mechanically speaking, I just found Magicians & Looters to be boring.  Mostly because of the combat.  I give them props for wanting to do something different.  Here, touching enemies doesn’t inflict damage on you.  Everything is handled by actual hand-to-hand fighting.  You attack a few times, then hold block, wait for them to miss, and then continue on.  That sounds great, but there’s a reason why 2D games typically don’t do that: because it’s slow and it makes combat a plodding chore.  Of course, there’s no real reason to fight enemies.  The leveling-up system is handled entirely by finding hidden trinkets, which was another dumb idea.  For almost any game, combat will stagnate after X amount of hours.  The grind of leveling up could very well be the only thing that keeps your average player from just running past enemies.  In M&L, they do drop money that you can use to buy better weapons, but progress on that is too slow as well.

The main hook is switching between three characters, each with their own unique abilities.  Unfortunately, this also is bungled, because two of the characters (the guy and one of the girls) are too slow.  For a game that already has severe pacing issues, this one really got to me.  Most of the time, I wanted to be playing as the near-naked chick, who was faster in movement and could jump significantly higher than the other two.  But she was especially crappy at combat.  So, you have to switch between the three to open up the map, but playing as the other chick, who was so slow that I was wondering if she had Lou Gehrig’s disease, was torturous.  Also, in order to switch characters, you need to go back to a save-station.  They’re liberally scattered throughout the world, but the needless backtracking when a Castlevania III like on-the-fly switcheroo would have been so much more preferable and obvious just adds to the dullness factor.

Again, the game has all the right parts of a good Metroidvania, such as a very well done map. Unfortunately, being fun just didn't make the cut.  I think this is mostly on the dull combat.  For everything it borrowed from Symphony of the Night, the thing it needed the most was pushed aside in favor of something slower and blander.  If it had been remotely close to Symphony of the Night's combat?  Probably a top-5 XBLIG game.

Again, the game has all the right parts of a good Metroidvania, such as a very well done map. Unfortunately, being fun just didn’t make the cut. I think this is mostly on the dull combat. For everything it borrowed from Symphony of the Night, the thing it needed the most was pushed aside in favor of something slower and blander. If it had been remotely close to Symphony of the Night’s combat? Probably a top-5 XBLIG game.

My dislike for M&L has nothing to do with the hype I got from my buddies.  If anything, I spent more time with it than I would done with any other game because I was trying to find the game they both loved so much.  If you hear something unequivocally called better than one of the best games ever made, it catches your attention.  I also wasn’t looking for reasons why it’s not.  That’s what lifeless fanboys do.  No, I wanted to see what they saw.  I looked hard for it.  Instead, I found dull combat, bland level layouts, and just an overall slowness that I couldn’t get into.  I tip my hat to the guys at Morgopolis Studios.  I typically discourage first efforts from being this ambitious.  Ambition wasn’t what went wrong with Magicians & Looters.  Truth be told, it’s a well designed game.  Results will not be typical, I guess, considering that my colleagues are shaking their fist in anger that it’s a digital-download game and not on disc, meaning there is no hole for (remaining review censored by Brian for the sake of Cathy’s parents.  I don’t want them to know I taught her what THAT is)

xboxboxartMagicians & Looters was developed by Morgopolis Studios

$1 (still censored.  Sorry folks.  Her filth bled into the money joke) in the making of this review. 

The Last Fortune

Lots of XBLIGs look like they’ll be fun.  Then you play them, and they make you actively question whether the concept of fun is something you’ve been hallucinating this whole time.  That’s what The Last Fortune made me ponder.  I took a peek at the screen shots of it and thought it looked kind of like Wonder Boy in Monster Land, a retro gem that I picked up for $1 on PSN that was just swell.  Then I picked up Dragons Curse (which I guess is Wonder Boy 3, or possibly 4.. then again, I’m not sure which one Monster Land is either) on Wii’s Virtual Console and thought that was even better, until I hit a brick wall about halfway through and gave up in shame.  Still, fun series  It’s about time someone tried to make a tribute for them on XBLIG.  It’s just too bad this one turned out a bit warped.

It really does have a bit of a Sega Master System look to it.  There was no problem with the graphics, besides item pick-ups being too small and samey.

It really does have a bit of a Sega Master System look to it. There was no problem with the graphics, besides item pick-ups being too small and samey.

The game starts with a village full of peaceable folks getting ransacked by evil doers that burn it to the ground.  Choosing to play as either a boy or a girl from the village, you seek out revenge.  Because the language of the option menu suggested that The Last Fortune might be, ahem, difficult, I decided to forgo the medium setting (my typical starting point for most reviews here) and play on casual.  But even on sissy mode, I still had a tough time with Last Fortune, because the mechanics of the game kind of suck.  Like the developers fundamentally had a good idea of what to do, but didn’t take the time to polish anything up.  The controls have issues with unresponsiveness, which makes movement a chore, especially when you get to sections of the game with long jumps and an emphasis on platforming.  I was practically praying that the game wouldn’t go nutso with jumping elements.  So naturally, there’s a boss fight that takes place during a vertical auto-scrolling section.  It’s like being on an airplane that just lost an engine, so you pray for safety and get rewarded by having a wing break off.

The Last Fortune simply doesn’t do a whole lot to entertain.  Progression is straight forward.  Get from point A to point B while stabbing everything in-between.  Combat is the focus of Last Fortune, which is unfortunate (pun fully intended) because the combat is shit.  The range of your attack is limited, and thus you’ll have to do most of your fighting up close.  You have no dodge, counterattack, or block.  Thus, most of the time you’ll be forced to trade damage with the enemy in a way that gets downright maddening later in the game.  I especially hated these giant red knights that looked more like a spartan from Halo brandishing a Halloween novelty sword.  You have to get too close to attack them, and they’re spongy enough and fast enough that you will take damage.  Well, unless you unload your special moves on them, assuming you have a good one.  For some reason, you can only have one type of spell at a time.  The item-picks for these are tough to distinguish from one-another, even if you’re on a TV big enough to double as an ark with two of every creature.  You can buy a charge attack that shoots a Zelda-ish beam across the room, but it’s as weak as a watered down Martini.  All the purchasable upgrades are overpriced and money is scarce even if you go out of your way to slay every enemy.  Plus, you can only access the store between levels, which are too long and boring for anyone to reasonably endure.

The Last Fortune was only one dodge or block move away from being a decent game. Alas, it was not to be.

The Last Fortune was only one dodge or block move away from being a decent game. Alas, it was not to be, making all combat an exercise in frustration and annoyance. The only way to safely fight these flying bastards is to hit once, run away, and wait for another opening. Also known as Zzzzzzword Play.

There’s just no hook to keep you going.  In fact, the game seems to go out of its way to make you want to quit.  The asinine continue system forces you to spend your coins (which again, you aren’t provided enough of to make shopping enjoyable) to continue from the beginning of whatever stage you’re on.  To salt the wounds, you have to pay extra to start midway through the stage.  Lives systems are obsolete anyway.  A continue system this punishing for a game that isn’t very fun to begin with will not add incentive or replay value to it.  It will just make people quit and find something better to play.

That’s what aggravated me the most about Last Fortune.  It looks good enough that obvious care was put into it.  The developers just forgot to bring the fun.  Gameplay is bare-bones.  Enemies are cheap.  Damage is often unavoidable.  The level design is basic and boring.  The dialog is soul-crushingly long and dull.  I truly believe the building blocks for a good game are somewhere in this mess, but Last Fortune never puts it together.  It’s like the developers were given multiple paths for each mechanic: the fun way and the boring way.  They fully intended to go down the fun way, but couldn’t read the map properly and ended up in the boring capital of the world.  And that’s a shame.  Bad game or not, nobody should be stuck in Sacramento.

xboxboxartThe Last Fortune was developed by Misty Day Games

80 Microsoft Points have friends that live in Roseville, which is right next to Sacramento and thus is a like a satellite of boredom in the making of this review. 

Gameplay footage courtesy of Splazer Productions

Avatar Physics: Running

If I pulled out a gun and shot myself right now, then reincarnated, I’m pretty sure I would be running in my new body faster than I would as my Xbox Avatar if I just stayed alive and kept trying at Avatar Physics: Running.  Based on the popular (and free, and slightly less impossible) flash-based game QWOP, Running is a simple 100 meter dash, only you have to manually work the legs of your avatar to get there.  Of course, doing so is complicated in a way that makes the Impossible Game look like a preschool admission test.  After over thirty minutes of playing, the furthest I had made it was a little over two meters past the starting line.  Mostly, my character just stiffened up and fell down, like she had simultaneously suffered a stroke while catching a glimpse of Medusa.  Take a look at this video from my amigo Splazer Productions.

Splazer did better than I did.  Hell, I typically ran further backwards than I did forwards.  The only value Avatar Physics: Running has is bemusement at your own failures.  This is obviously meant to be the primary draw of the game, as evidenced by the one and only marketplace picture featuring an avatar that has cocked things up about as bad as you can.  The problem is, laughing at how hard this game is only lasts about, oh, two minutes.  After that, it’s just frustration and tedium.  I’m certain someone out there can finish the full 100 meters.  I’m also certain someone out there knows where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.  It doesn’t make him any less dead.

xboxboxartAvatar Physics: Running was developed by Bwoot Games (blog hasn’t been updated in over a year, always a good sign)

80 Microsoft Points could have used some performance-enhancing drugs in the making of this review.

Man, I Hate That Indie Game!

I get Man, I Hate That Indie Game.

I don’t like it, but I get it.

I think.

Hate That Indie comes from the developers of Don’t Die Dateless Dummy!, which is far and away the most popular review I’ve ever done here at Indie Gamer Chick.  It has more total views from search engines than the next thirteen highest games do combined.  This statistic has led to various developers threatening to jump out of windows.  And yet, that review is also responsible for me converting many Looky Loos into long-term readers.  Incidentally, that’s also why I won’t be shaking any of my fans’ hands at game conventions.  I know where those hands have been, and it ain’t pretty.

This follow-up to Don’t Die Dateless Dummy comes at a time when the views for it were finally dropping off.  The cynic crowd is decrying it as another soulless boob game designed to attract the genital tug-of-war crowd and make a quick buck.  But actually, Hate That Indie is more of an indictment against various gaming factions.  The anti-feminist crowd, cynical indie developers, and boob games (I shit you not) are all satirized in an insanely over-the-top fashion here.  The basic idea is a group of girls that are part of an indie development club recruit you to help them with their projects, and you’re put in the middle of a power struggle between them.  Your.. girlfriend I guess?.. wants to make a game just for the fun of it.  The other two are looking for profits.  And this is where the game gets touchy for some folks.

For you pocket miners out there, the title screen is pretty much as erotic as this game gets. Sorry to disappoint you.  You know, they have this thing called "Google" now that you can use to look for boobs that don't cost Microsoft Points.  Some of them come from actual human females and not from drawings made by guys who will never actually see a female naked.

For you pocket miners out there, the title screen is pretty much as erotic as this game gets. Sorry to disappoint you. You know, they have this thing called “Google” now that you can use to look for boobs that don’t cost Microsoft Points. Some of them come from actual human females and not from drawings made by guys who will never actually see a female naked.

There’s the Ex-Indie Developing Cynic who hates indie games because nobody tries to make good games and developers are all geeks who speak in techno-babble and make games with animated boobs.  His girlfriend is the optimistic go-getter who has no actual game design talent, and he calls her out on it.  Her two friends either want to make games for money by copying existing games or cloning stuff based on what’s trendy, or simply to build their computer science portfolio.  Dialog trees only have two options, a good one and a bad one.  If you choose the bad one, you verbally tear into the girl in just about the most mean-spirited, online-bully speak possible.  This is rubbing people the wrong way.

Guys, come on.  This is clearly a satire.  And I’m not joking about that either.  I’m not playing the sarcastically oblivious game reviewer here.  This was obviously a joke.  And, in a way, it might be brilliant.  I’ve probably talked with close to five-hundred different developers or would-be developers in the two years I’ve done Indie Gamer Chick.  Trust me, there are a LOT of people like the main character.  Jaded.  Bitter.  Fed up with the culture and ready to pack up their shit and quit.  The main lead, when you pick the “good” answers, is a near-perfect caricature of dozens of guys I’ve talked with.  It’s so spot-on that it’s spooky.

As for the “evil” dialog, again, come on guys.  You can’t be that thick.  It’s the type of over-the-top sexism that is all over the gaming community.  The kind that nobody really should take seriously.  I went two years without it, and now I’ve been getting it by the boatload ever since I announced that I was working with Indie Royale on an XBLIG-themed bundle with my name on it.  The evil options in Man, I Hate That Indie Game! sound just like the stuff I’ve been getting.  It’s uncanny.  And it’s also clearly parody.  The guys take swipes at themselves frequently in the dialog.  They make fun of boob games, when in fact this game is itself a boob game.  Get it?  This was spot on.  Perhaps too deadpan though.  There’s Leslie Nielsen deadpan and Sean Penn reading the local obituaries deadpan where anyone listening wants to crawl into a hole and die.  They did the Sean Penn thing, and it makes the game kind of depressing.

Don’t worry though, you won’t have to do too much of it.  I followed the “good” dialog and finished the game in under ten minutes.  No, really.  There are multiple endings of course.  I played a few times and got one where I died alone, one where I stole a girl’s game engine and used it for myself, and finally one where I shacked up one of the girls.  This ending even made a joke about doing a time-jump, which seemingly skipped entire chapters of the game.  Since I played Don’t Die Dateless Dummy several times and never once got an ending that didn’t die with me becoming an all-powerful virginal wizard (which is the bad ending for some reason), getting laid after approximately six minutes seemed like the total victory of Mount Midoriyama to me.  Yea, go figure.  I finally play one of these fucking games where I might give two squirts about the story and where they’re going with it and it turns out they don’t really have all that far to go with it.  My theory is they needed to make sure the game ended before the blistered hand brigade climaxed.

After I saw this picture on the marketplace, I named my character "John Conner" and pretended that one of the girls was secretly building Skynet instead of an indie game. It was almost fun.

After I saw this picture on the marketplace, I named my character “John Conner” and pretended that one of the girls was secretly building Skynet instead of an indie game. It was almost fun.

The biggest problem is that everything wrong with Don’t Die Dateless Dummy from a purely mechanic point of view is still present.  When the game ends, you can’t go back to just try the other parts of dialog.  You have to start from the beginning.  Unless you save, which is a very slow, clunky process that is also quite unresponsive to the controller for some reason.  The main draw is still clearly presented as still images of school-aged anime girls.  Combine that with the satirical take on indie gaming culture being too short and unrealized (plus an absolutely asinine $3 price tag) and there is simply no reason to get Man, I Hate This Indie Game!  You know what?  I do hate this fucking game, but not for the reasons people would have thought.  I hate it because they actually had a good idea here and didn’t take it as far as it seems they could have.  It felt like I was being pitched on this hilarious idea for a game, then the person cut themselves off after a minute by pulling out some piano wire and garroting themselves.

xboxboxartMan, I Hate That Indie Game! was developed by cupholder

240 Microsoft Points.. seriously, that’s too fucking much.. will be playing the first game by the guys behind this and Don’t Die Dateless Dummy sometime soon in the making of this review.  You know what?  It’s an RPG that actually looks good!

Aqua Kitty

It’s strange how Defender, one of gaming’s iconic titles of the Golden Age of arcades, hasn’t been cloned to death by modern indie developers. I’m cool with that. Having played an endless supply of uninspired-inspired neo-retro games, I’m not keen on seeing Defender done wrong. Still, how did Defender fall through the cracks? Here’s a game that was predicted to be a huge bust, but went on to become the seventh-best selling coin-operated game ever. Maybe it’s because it was eclipsed by Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Or maybe because Defender’s track record since its original release has been mediocre at best. It got one of the laziest sequels of all time (which was called “Stargate” because of some legal posturing by Williams. James Spader was unavailable for comment). There was an unofficial sequel by Midway that nobody I’ve spoken with has ever played. There was an all-but-forgotten update to the format on Atari Jaguar of all systems, which means it probably sold like six copies. And finally, there was a 2002 3D remake for sixth-generation consoles that quickly found its way into clearance bins. Your average child actor has a more graceful flame-out than Defender has had as a franchise.

You know, for a spry young whippersnapper with a reputation for hating classic games, I sure do seem to have a love for Defender. I even have a Defender homage in my top 25. Then again, Orbitron: Revolution only mimics the flight and shooting mechanics of the arcade classic. You’re actually not defending anything  So I guess it’s not really Defender  More like Aggressor. Was there a game called Aggressor? No? Well, there ought to have been.

Aqua Kitty on Xbox Live Indie Games.  AKA the really good version.

Aqua Kitty on Xbox Live Indie Games. AKA the really good version.

If you’re looking for a modern Defender-based indie, Aqua Kitty is probably a closer knock-off. I still prefer Orbitron’s faster pace and modern graphics.  But let it be said, Aqua Kitty is a damn fine game. You’re a cat in a submarine that must defend little aquanauts while shooting wave after wave of enemy. And the cat smokes a pipe, which means he’s one cultured pussy. But, other than the setting and a couple of power-ups, this really is Defender.

Despite being a bit on the bare-bones side, Aqua Kitty is really well produced. I played both the XBLIG and PlayStation Mobile versions. I prefer the XBLIG port, which plays faster. The Vita version has the advantage of being mobile, but it seems clunkier in both framerate and controls. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still a pretty good game. But I would go with the XBLIG port.

It’s not perfect by any stretch. What really bugs me about Aqua Kitty is the total lack of ambition. Defender is an old formula in need of renovation.  Aqua Kitty does some things to smooth that over, but it’s just not enough. Turbo shots? Good idea. But only have one type of turbo shot? Not so ambitious. Power-ups? Good idea. But having only three power-ups, one of which is a bomb, one of which is a health-up, and one of which adds flankers to your ship? Not so ambitious. Plus, the flankers are time-limited. This was presumably done to preserve the difficulty. Given that the screen gets utterly spammed with enemies and projectiles in later levels, this was unnecessary, as those guys really aren’t that effective at combating it. So where’s the wild, more modern weapons and items? Nowhere to be found, and that’s a shame.

The PlayStation Mobile version.  Which, as it turns out, I could have got for free a few weeks ago but I mistook it for another, less epilepsy-friendly title.  Instead, I ended up paying more for this version than I did for the superior XBLIG port.  Smooth, Cathy.

The PlayStation Mobile version. Which, as it turns out, I could have got for free a few weeks ago but I mistook it for another, less epilepsy-friendly title. Instead, I ended up paying more for this version than I did for the superior XBLIG port. Smooth, Cathy.

Don’t let that all discourage you. Aqua Kitty is probably the best pure Defender clone in years and a genuinely good game. Near-perfect difficulty curve. Distinctive enemies. Cutesy themes. Solid play-control. What’s not to love here?  I’m not sure why the inferior PlayStation Mobile is priced $0.50 higher than the XBLIG version. Some kind of temporary insanity brought on by the awesomeness of a pipe-smoking kitten perhaps. Happens to the best of us. I saw the pipe-smoking kitten and totally blacked out. The next thing I know, I’ve got a tattoo and I attempted to marry my Wii U.

xboxboxartAqua Kitty was developed by Tikipod

IGC_Approved240 Microsoft Points (XBLIG) and $3.49 (PlayStation Mobile) were unaware of the existence of a Defender song until some bastard sent it to me. It shall never leave my head now in the making of this review.

Both versions of Aqua Kitty are Chick-Approved, and the XBLIG version is ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. Even the developers admitted to me that they prefer the XBLIG port. Go with that one.


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