Shipwreck

If you’ve been browsing the Xbox Live Indie Game marketplace, there’s a chance you might have noticed a fairly convincing Zelda clone pop-up over the last month. That is, if you can see past the dozen or so Flappy Bird clones littering the new releases. Then again, you might have missed it. After all, it has box art that looks like this:

Insert Tom Hanks and/or Gilligan's Island joke here.

Insert Tom Hanks and/or Gilligan’s Island joke here.

And it has a name that isn’t likely to inspire thoughts of the game whose legacy it tries so very hard to invoke. Shipwreck? Seriously? Still, it caught my attention, even though I’m not all teary-eyed nostalgic over Zelda. Chances are, it meant more to your childhood than it did mine. Don’t get me wrong. I love the series. Link Between Worlds was my favorite game of 2013, which I’m just as shocked by as anyone else. And I admit, the thought of a really good Zelda clone had me a bit excited. But it was all for not. My rule is, if I like a game 50.1% more than I dislike it, it gets my seal of approval. Shipwreck hovers around 40%. Maybe 45%. Close, but no cigar.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The idea is, you’re a chick whose ship crashes and you have to gather four magical elements and defeat a ghost inside a lighthouse so that you can get a new ship and return home. The graphical style, sword-swinging animation, and castaway theme of the game is clearly aimed after Link’s Awakening, which I’ve always felt was one of the more overrated Zeldas. Still a solid game, mind you, but just not all that. Shipwreck still does a good job of emulating the feel of it. But then some glaring flaws pop up.

Credit where it's due: it looks the part.

Credit where it’s due: it looks the part.

For starters, the overworld has no enemies in it. For real. You just wander from place to place, looking for the next dungeon. There’s also no hidden caves, secret passageways, or surprises of any sorts. It’s an empty, sprawling, lifeless world. That worked in a game like Shadow of the Colossus (which mind you, still had SOME collectables, like the fruit or lizard tails), but in a 2D Zelda style game? It’s just so boring. Given the fact that Zeldas have been based around secret doors from the very start of the franchise, neglecting to include them in a Zelda tribute seems to miss the point of the series entirely.

There’s also not many items to collect. I got a shield (which you have to equip and activate, just like in Link’s Awakening), a crossbow, a lantern, and a pick-axe. That’s it. The game’s dungeons (one starter, four “gather the holy trinkets”, and one finale) don’t contain special items that you need to solve puzzles or advance further. Really, the more you play Shipwreck, the less tributey this Zelda tribute feels. It’s missing so many key elements of the formula, with only the boring stuff that anyone can do left in. It would be like if at Shaquille O’Neal’s hall of fame induction, they left out his four championships and focused on Kazaam and his free-throw shooting. Why would you even do that? And why would you leave the best parts of Zelda out of a Zelda tribute?

It does a lot of other fundamental stuff wrong. There’s no overworld map. The enemies “blink” when they take damage and don’t recoil enough. They also all seem to take two shots to kill. Except the boring bosses, which are spongy as hell. Oh, and you know how in some Zelda games, in order to get to where you’re supposed to go in a dungeon, you have to fall through the floor? Yea, Shipwreck does that too. Only in Shipwreck, you take damage for it. What a horrible idea! And why the FUCK does it only use two equip buttons when there are four face buttons on an Xbox controller? No, it doesn’t matter if you’re paying tribute to a two-button game. Not using all the resources at your disposal is just obnoxious.

The first boss is a giant crab monster. Of course it is.

The first boss is a giant crab monster. Of course it is.

Yes, Shipwreck does a lot of things right. I like how, instead of enemies dropping hearts (even when you have full health), they drop apples that you can save and use later. Now that’s a good idea. I liked the desert dungeon. And…….. well actually that’s the only stuff that really stood out to me. Everything else never got brutally awful or anything, but Shipwreck was bland and boring from the start and never really picks up steam. It will find an audience because it looks Zeldaish enough to warrant a purchase. I’m also not this game’s target audience, and I’m sure children of the 80s will probably enjoy this a lot more than I did. But, taken on its own merit, Shipwreck is just a dull video game experience. And taken as a Zelda clone? No secrets. No clever puzzles oriented around items found in dungeons. All that’s really left is the combat and some aspects of dungeon exploration, and even those are quite a bit off. Let Shipwreck be a lesson to everyone: when paying tribute to your favorite childhood classic, looking the part should take a back seat to feeling the part. Shipwreck is to Zelda what Lucky Charms would be without the marshmallows.

xboxboxartShipwreck was developed by Brushfire Games

$2.99 really did enjoy the desert dungeon quite a bit in the making of this review.

My amigo Tim Hurley really disagrees with me on this one. Read his review.

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It’s the Age Thing

Some people chalk up my site’s growth to what is called “The Girl Thing.”  I don’t agree with that, because I don’t really play the gender card too often.  And when I do, it’s usually self-deprecating and done for laughs.  I’ve had a couple of people tell me my site’s name is cringe-worthy, or “atrocious” as one fan described it.  Yikes.  Look, it’s really simple.  We came up with a list of names, and Indie Gamer Chick seemed like the most memorable.  That’s all.  It was almost Indie Game Stuff.  That would have sucked.  So would have Random Game Crap.  Indie Gamer Chick was catchy.  That’s why we chose it.

I’ll admit, people might be more likely to give my writing a look over because of The Girl Thing.  But landing a long-term reader requires more than that.  It takes a unique point of view, and I’m not really interested in looking at gaming from the point of view of a female.  But gaming from the point of view of someone from my generation?  Now that is something I want to communicate.  I turned 23-years-old today.  On average, that’s eight to ten years younger than my typical reader.  That doesn’t sound big, but in terms of how far games had progressed from their childhoods to mine, it’s humongous.  My average reader grew up in the era of Atari or the NES.  I grew up with PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Sega Dreamcast.  While your teen years were spent with Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo, I spent my teens on PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox.  Needless to say, I think that gives me a different perspective.

Memory is a funny thing. I honestly don’t remember my childhood looking this bland.

My older readers had it easier than me, because gaming evolved with them.  They were there as games transitioned from large sprites to complex open 3D worlds.  On the other hand, I have to look back on gaming’s history without the benefit of nostalgia.  Thankfully I did have a Game Boy Advance, and as everyone knows, 90% of the really good games on there were just ports of SNES games.  So I don’t go into shock every time I play something from gaming’s past.  In fact, I’m quite fond of several Golden Age coin-ops.  But, I do have to admit that I can be mortified by some of the games you guys consider classics.  I also can’t put myself in your shoes and try to picture a game like, say, Manic Miner, at a time when it was considered good.

People get weirdly over-protective about nostalgia.  Some people have told me that when they have kids, they won’t be allowed to play modern stuff until they learn to have an appreciation of their classic games.  Scary.  Do you know what a normal person would call that?  Brainwashing.  And the whole concept is fucking absurd as hell.  It would be like saying your kid can’t watch 30 Rock until he sits through the entire series of Mork & Mindy whether he likes it or not, but he damn well better like it.  What that attitude does is turn gaming from a pastime into a cult.  If the child catches a whiff of what modern games are like from one of his friends (assuming he has any friends left after his father is done fucking him up), he’s not going to have an appreciation for his daddy’s era of games.  He’s going to think his dad is off his fucking nut.  Every form of entertainment his father pitches to him from that point forward will carry the taint of that time daddy sat him down and forced him to play Golden Axe.

The thing about nostalgia is it’s always in the eye of the beholder.  The childhood favorites I have played as an adult, even HD ports of them, haven’t aged well.  Xbox Live Arcade has brought me re-releases of Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark.  These were two of the defining games of my childhood, and yet after an hour spent with each of them today, I would rather be dead.  Games have come so far, and I can’t pretend they haven’t for the sake of feeling like a child again.  I don’t even like Modern Warfare 3, but I would rather play that today over Perfect Dark, which was probably the definitive game of my childhood.  Despite that, saying that I have no interest in playing it anymore in no way tarnishes my memories of Perfect Dark.

Portal 2 is amazing to you and I, but our children could very well prefer cutting their own fingers off to playing it. Only time will tell.

Which is not to say nostalgia is wrong.  You should feel proud of your gaming heritage, and there is nothing wrong with replaying your childhood favorites and not cringing at them like I have mine.  Perhaps your classics have aged better than mine.  What I’m saying is don’t try to convince people of my generation that those games are relevant to us.  They’re not.  Most of the games that were legendary at the time of your childhood are probably going to be torture to people my age.  Very few games are truly capable of withstanding the test of time and becoming masterpieces.  And really, shouldn’t it be that way?  There’s no 30-something trying to convince me of the greatness of Pauly Shore’s filmography, yet plenty are trying to tell me that I have it all wrong about Manic Miner.  Here’s the thing though: Pauly Shore was HUGE for a time, a tremendous box-office draw.  Nobody would dare call In The Army Now or Bio Dome timeless masterpieces.  That would be silly.

Yet, every rinky-dinky game from the 80s that wasn’t a total abomination is somehow just as good today as it was when you were a kid.  And it might be, but for you.  For me?  Not so much.  I think the original Legend of Zelda is lame.  I can’t honestly believe anyone would still want to play that over almost any triple-A game released over the last five years.  I certainly can’t believe anyone would say it’s still the best Zelda ever!  To me, guys who say that sound like fucking raving lunatics.  Then again, when I say I don’t think it’s any good, people say I’m the raving lunatic.  Which side is right?  Both.  Or neither.  I guess.

On the other hand, I think Link to the Past holds up almost flawlessly, and that’s a game that I didn’t play until it had been out for over a decade.  I think it’s fitting that the first game in the series doesn’t hold up as well.  It demonstrates progress.  Why do we have to pretend that people my age will find the original Metroid good?  Super Metroid is right there, and there is a chance they will find that good, on account of it actually holding up.  Don’t get me wrong, a game doesn’t have to be an absolutely flawless diamond to still be good today.  I played the Adventures of Lolo since starting this site, and I thought it was perfectly swell.  Is it an all-time classic?  No.  And neither was Boulder Dash, a game I tried after reviewing an XBLIG clone of it, just to see if I was missing some perspective.  I wasn’t.  Judging a game’s merits by today’s standards in no way takes away from its accomplishments at the time it came out.  Would anyone want to play Space Invaders today?  Of course not, unless you’re really desperate to be bored.  Does that take away from what it has meant to gaming history?  No way.  Would I like to play Pac-Man today?  No.  Would I like to play Pac-Man Championship Edition DX?  Fuck yea.  Does that mean Pac-Man Championship Edition is more important to the history of gaming than the original?  Of course not.  Having an appreciation of history and wanting to experience history are two very different things.  I don’t need to infect myself with the black plaque to grasp how bad things were in 14th century Europe.

I’m not a big fan of Frogger, but I really want to try Frogger: Hyper Arcade Edition. By the way, it is my birthday, Konami. Hint, hint.

It’s this perspective that makes me unique.  Gamers of past generations need people my age to tell them where gaming is now.  Just like my generation needs yours to give us a sense of where gaming has come from.  Somewhere between the two, we might get a sense of where gaming is going.  Here’s a preview: your kids are going to be even more mortified by your stuff than I was.  And their kids?  They’ll end up passing laws saying that anyone with a Pac-Man tattoo or a Donkey Kong cabinet in their garage just opted out of Social Security.  It will make you long for the days when that miserable Indie Gamer Chick was simply saying “you know, I do believe The Simpsons Arcade Game was kind of shit.”

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