YOU HEARTLESS BASTARDS: Bad Caterpillar

YOU HEARTLESS BASTARDS is a special award I present to good indie games that never found their audience. We all want an industry where the cream rises to the top, but in vast wilderness of indie gaming, sometimes quality titles never catch-on. You Heartless Bastards is a distinction no game wants, but sadly, many games will earn.

YOU HEARTLESS BASTARDS! You say you want indies to remake the classics, but when a really good one pops-up, you completely ignore it!

Now granted, Bad Caterpillar’s console lifecycle began and ended with XBLIG, and that’s on Kris Steele, the game’s developer. In the interest of full disclosure, Kris is my friend. In fact, he was one of those guys who endorsed my presence to the XNA development community. Xbox Live Indie Game developers weren’t used to critics who actually put their games through the wringer. Then I show up, my reviews are brutal, positive evaluations are rare, and I’m telling unfunny jokes the entire time. Hell, I’d of thought I might a troll, too. But, Kris was in the group that said “she’s exactly the kick in the butt this community has needed.” I’ll never forget that. Even when I gave his Volchaos a really negative review, he took it on the chin and has always been a great friend. He even made me proud when he landed a top 50 game that had a LOT of staying power: Hypership Still Out of Control. When we met, he was a relatively new father of a precious little girl. Today, that kid is in high school and serves as a constant reminder that, holy shit, I’ve been doing this a long time now. How long? I reviewed Bad Caterpillar eight years ago.

I’m not sure the exact font, but Bad Caterpillar uses the same font that many XNA-developed used. Despite being nostalgic for those old days, I sure don’t miss that ugly-ass font.

It’s not the same game it was eight-years-ago. In my original review, I noted that I wanted a lot less scoring bonuses and a lot more power-ups. Kris listened. He’s been updating it a lot over the last eight years, but the biggest update amped-up the weapon drops, added a few guns, and basically turned Bad Caterpillar into Centipede after smoking crystal meth. It’s an insanely fast-paced release that puts an emphasis on just having fun. It’s fun-infused, if you will. It’s not a glamorous, prestige type of game. It’s just Centipede, completely unhinged, that focuses on balls-to-the-wall shooting action. And I really liked it. This week, I’ll be posting a review of Atari’s recent indie-filtered Centipede remake, Centipede Recharged. They’re both pretty good, but Bad Caterpillar would be the one I’d rather play.

Hey look! There’s even shmup-type character selection, so players can tailor the game to their own play style! I preferred Kabuki, even though my high score was with Champ. There’s online leaderboards, but the boards don’t say which character the best players use. I’m kind of curious about that stuff.

Back in 2013, Kris’ take on the pastel-colored classic handily defeated all official versions of Centipede I tried out alongside it. But, in the case of choosing between Centipede Recharged and Bad Caterpillar, I can actually say “get both!” without being wishy-washy. The beauty is, they’re both completely different takes on Centipede. Yes, they’re based around power-ups and modern conventions, but the similarities end there. Centipede Recharged is a slower, deliberate game with an emphasis on survival (you only get one life). Bad Caterpillar is twitchy and quick and reactionary and designed to get your heart pumping right away. Well, I like my arcade gallery shooters to be quick and twitchy and reactionary. I’m not particularly a fan of Centipede, so that I like both games is pretty remarkable. I just like Caterpillar more. It’s just plain stupid fun. A huge improvement over the original formula.

MAD TIME is Bad Caterpillar’s ticking clock element. If you take too long defeating any level, the game unleashes the furies of hell upon you. Bugs launch from the sides and the Caterpillar will drop in and out of your shooting range. You really don’t want it to come to this. I only survived it once.

It’s not perfect. Bad Caterpillar takes longer for the odds against you to feel intense. It lacks that sense of being slowly overwhelmed that the truly great golden age games pull off (the only aspect Centipede Recharged easily bests Bad Caterpillar). Not all the guns are fun-fun, especially the homing gun that I found actually could hurt you more than help you if you get it too early in a level. But, those minor issues aside, the superior Centipede tribute still remains this little unsung 2013 XBLIG that’s now only $1.99 on Steam. Compare that to the $9.99 base price of Recharged. Neither game is going to have staying power in anyone’s game lineup, but I was surprised by how I couldn’t put Bad Caterpillar down. I hadn’t played it once in eight years. I figured I’d put in about an hour for this review, but instead, I almost put in two. You’ll get about the same amount of playtime out of Centipede Recharged, but you’re paying five-times the price. $2 for an hour or two of decent, if unmemorable, arcade action is fine with me. It certainly deserved to sell a lot more than it did, so you heartless bastards swooning over the Recharged series need to fire up your PCs and take a look. Bad Caterpillar is a lie. It’s actually a pretty good caterpillar.

Bad Caterpillar is Chick-Approved
IGC Leaderboard Ranking: #146 of 296*
Top 77 Percentile of All 626 IGC Reviews
Top 51 Percentile of All 296 IGC-Approved Indies
*Rankings based on time of publication. Check the Leaderboard for updated standings.

Bad Caterpillar was developed Fun Infused Games
Point of Sale: Steam

$1.99 said it looks more like a Bad Tardigrade in the making of this review.

Seriously, Kris, port this fucking thing to Switch already.

You Heartless Bastards: OMG Zombies

YOU HEARTLESS BASTARDS!

How can you call yourself a gamer while forsaking any genre of games?

It’s something everyone encounters in their gaming life: elitists who claim that certain games aren’t real games. If it’s by Popcap, it’s not a real game. If it’s something your Mom plays on a phone, it’s not a real game. Personally, I think it reeks of snobbery, but what do I know? Especially when the line is so blurry these days. Can someone explain to me why Bejeweled is not a real game while Tetris is? Is it because you first played Tetris on your NES and not your phone or Facebook? I’m trying to figure out where the line that separates a casual game from a non-casual game is, but it’s a bit fuzzy.

The thing is, does it even matter? Isn’t a game a game?

I look at a title like OMG Zombies and I wonder why so many gamers shun it. Despite its ultra-simple premise and relatively short play-time (at least to beat it once, I put 180+ hours into it on Steam when it became my veg-out, relax game), it’s just so god-damned fun. Watching a single shot cause a chain-reaction that spreads across the screen is akin to the excitement of lighting a fuse for the most expensive, over-bloated firework you can legally purchase. It’s a spectacle. OMG Zombies isn’t really challenging or “puzzling” in the traditional gaming sense. If you sensibly buy upgrades, levels should be insanely easy. I can honestly say I’ve had more difficulty opening blister-packaging than I’ve ever had with any level in OMG Zombies.

A never before seen picture from the legendary “Malice at the Palace” brawl between the Pacers and Pistons.

But it’s not supposed to be challenging. This is a time waster. It’s a tarted-up toy. The game mechanics are just there because they had to be there. Because of the medium. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a video game, or even a great video game. Because OMG Zombies is great. Make no mistake about it. You’re not going to experience a more cathartic, satisfying casual game that asks for so little time investment anytime soon on your Switch or Vita or PC.

And yet, it hasn’t sold well. My previous reviews of it aren’t among the most popular 250 reviews I’ve done. It’s a complete non-entity. I’ve handed out probably around two-hundred free copies over the last four years on Twitter through my #IndieSelect program, yet every single time I re-introduce it, people are like “oh, hey, hello, what’s this?” There’s no awareness or recognition for it anywhere. And it’s so damn fun. Everyone who plays it seems to like it. And developer Laughing Jackal has hardly just sat on the game. In my last review, I noted that the one major knock I had on it was the painful waiting period for the zombies to shamble into position for an optimal chain-reaction. Guess what? They added a fast-forward feature! AND IT WORKS! The version out now for Switch is essentially the perfect version of a ninety-minute game that I voluntarily sank over 180 hours into once before. Jeez.

How could you heartless bastards let OMG Zombies bomb? Surely you could have spared five bucks somewhere along the line for the ultimate pick-up-and-play game. It’s gory. It makes icky, borderline nauseating noises as the zombies start to explode in unison. It seems like the type of game that would be popular these days. But, OMG Zombies isn’t a game to a large population of gamers. And I’m guessing it has nothing to do with being an indie game. Yes, there’s some people who piss and moan about indies and throw a bitch-fit every time Games with Gold or PlayStation Plus announces their monthly freebie lineup includes a couple indies. Fuck them. But, those that shun indies can’t be swayed anyway. This is directed at those who think casual games are just for Moms or elderly people or kids wasting time on cell phones: you’re wrong. Casual games can be fun. They are worth your time.

I totally forgot that if you touch the screen, you can zoom in.

Yes, OMG is a casual game. Anyone could play it. It takes zero skill. You’ll clear levels by dumb, stupid luck. I’ve gotten 100% on levels were I was certain my first shot was wasted, only to see the disgusting domino effect begin to take hold. It’s not going to validate your existence by proving you have mad skills, thus making up for all your inadequacies in life. If you play and enjoy OMG Zombies, you’ll still have a shitty job and be on the bottom of your totem pole of friends and your dick will still be pathetically small. But, you’ll have fun, so cares? That’s why we play games, right? Not every game has to somehow leave you feeling accomplished. Besides, with as much rancid, horrible shit we as gamers buy and play, I think just knowing that I found a fun game is accomplishment enough, casual or otherwise.

OMG Zombies was developed by Laughing Jackal
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch, Vita (as OMG HD Zombies), Steam

$1.24 (normally $4.99) said the game would have sold better with a name like “The Popping Dead” in the making of this review.

OMG Zombies is Chick-Approved and just jumped a few spots up the IGC Leaderboard from its previous ranking. What can I say? That fast-forward function was sweet.

%d bloggers like this: