So, the Rundown has…well, run into a major backlog of titles. In the spirit of breaking that down into a form that is edible for the masses and moreover, comprehensible in size, we’ll be releasing these in three parts.
And then Nate solemnly vows never to let this happen again. Jesus. So many freaking games.
The good news is that this week’s crop (10/31 and onward) is pretty solid thusfar, the bad news is that posting the backlog means it’ll be a couple of days until we get to it. Escape Goat and DLC Quest are definitely the bright points and I look forward to covering those more in-depth.
In the meantime though: why in the seven hells are there FOUR (FIVE, if you count Ghost Mine: DFS) Avatar games out for this Rundown!? Not only that, but we have “Avatar Panic” and “Avatar Rail Panic” as riveting selections for you to play. Of course, nothing can compare to the pure incomprehensibility that is Avatar Planking.
Serious question time for XBLIG Devs: does putting avatars in a game really boost sales or is it just a lazy move to keep from having to create character models or sprites? Personally, I can’t think of anything that makes your game look more generic or forgettable than sticking “Avatar” in front of it. Do tell.
Thanks to Nate for the above intro, and his review work herein, and a thank you as well to Zak, who stepped up big with some reviews for this Rundown as well.
And now away we go…
CATCH OF THE WEEK_
Glowbz 80 (Hurley)
Wait a minute, we’re recommending a game for CotW without even bothering to give it a writeup? That’s brazen. That’s some nerve, Fish men! Yeah, yeah. Full review forthcoming from me. In the meantime, go ahead and click on that marketplace link above and give the demo a whirl. Suffice it to say you won’t regret this as a purchase, so drop that whole look of disbelief you got going on. It’s not flattering, and we both know you still love me regardless.
(EDIT: Fret no longer, for the review is now posted!)
Hell’s House 80 (Nate)
I’m no doctor, but I think that needs to be looked at…
This is one of those times when I’m going to say a game a worth playing even though it is essentially not a good game. Hell’s House is an FMV title, which means it’s essentially a movie with button inputs to determine…well, fuck all really. It’s a dollar for a highly compressed video of a pretty attractive girl roaming around a mansion, picking up dolls and drinking water. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a pitch, but seriously give it a shot.
The “hit the button at the right time to keep her alive” element would be a lot cooler if it felt like it was connected to anything in particular and not simply an arbitrary string of buttons though. A few of the “deaths” are just sort of stupid, but laughing helps to sort of break up the tension that can build up playing it.
The sequences do a genuinely good job of unnerving you and well…let’s face it, there’s not much out there like this. I’ll grant that’s the case in large part for a reason, but I’ve got a thing for quirky titles. Hell’s House has that sort of “it’s so bad it’s good” thing going for it, and it’s definitely timely.
Techno Chopper 80 (Zak)
I have a boner for games that visualize music in some way. Audiosurf, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Beat Hazard, Amplitude, and now this game. Interacting with a music visualizer is just so mesmerizing to me. The game is a 2D, ‘Survive all the shit that we throw at you’ game with fairly awkward, but workable controls. Tap ‘A’, and it sends you in the air, while gravity works it’s magic trying to bring you to the ground, all while dodging super trippy blocks and walls that move with the bass and treble of the techno sounds. I liked it. Enough to give it a buy with my monies.
Grand Class Melee 80 (Nate)
Never cross the streams! You said crossing the streams is bad!
I feel like this game has ideas in it that are worth liking. The branching character growth from stage to stage is cool and the randomized seasons and weather patterns make for an interesting backdrop, even if they’re still somewhat bland. The game as a whole is just functional but nothing stands out and wows me other than the number of potential class options.
Unfortunately, that just resets from battle to battle, so…there’s no real character permanence, no stat tracking that I saw and no online play, so there’s not a great deal of reason to pick this up unless your friends really want to come over and play a relatively flavorless game of poking each other to death with tiny sprites. They’ve made a game, and it works, sure…but it’s one without a point, a hook and there’s little reason to endure it beyond curiosity.
Lumberjack 80 (Hurley)
Not a PETA ad.
When a game advertises the wholesale slaughter of all of nature’s critters, features a crude drawing of rabbit copulation preceding the demo, and shows two guys chainsawing a deer to encourage co-op play, I get the feeling that PETA won’t be asking for a review code to try out Lumberjack any time soon. As for me, I kind of had fun with it.
It’s your basic top-down shooter, the new wrinkle being you’re a lumberjack on the hunt, taking down above-mentioned deer, squirrels, mini-boss bears, even trees that have gone rogue. You start with only an axe melee, but soon find powerups (shotgun, machine gun, throwing axes and Molotov cocktails) to support your dark deeds. I’m not sure how it’ll hold up over extended play, but it’s decent for what it offers (and yeah, this is all tongue-in-cheek; I’m not a monster).
Final Failure 80 (Hurley)
Final Failure plays like an alright Contra-esque shooter, with character classes and some upgrades / leveling added, yet it has some questionable design choices (can’t fire straight down, can’t aim when jumping, reloading, really?) that keep it from being something more.
Also the AI doesn’t have much ‘I’ to it. Enemies either run straight at you, or stand in place firing. The boss I encountered at the end of the second stage didn’t inhibit much beyond jumping and lumbering towards me. With friends, local co-op (to 4) could mean all the difference, and it’s amusing in spurts, but this needed more time in the development oven.
Platform Hack 80 (Hurley)
Platform Hack is a mash-up of Castlevania and your standard hack & slash, with some purchasable upgrades (health, double jump, grapple hook, etc.) via leveling up. The animations and graphics aren’t much to look at, and combat runs between decent to annoying (damn birds!) to somewhat overwhelming in the later stages.
It’s got some humorous back and forth with a mysterious old man that highlights some of videogame’s most clichéd storylines, but the chuckles are short-lived once you get back in-game. Since you’re free to upgrade as you choose, it’s possible to upgrade the wrong way, making the game much harder than it needs to be. Putting points into a double (or triple) jump would be a wise first step, as you’ll be doing a lot of hopping, obviously. Despite what it sounds like above, I actually had some fun with it, so it’s worth a try.
Avatar Panic 80 (Nate)
I honestly don’t know how to judge Avatar Panic. It’s a simplistic title that would have been right at home on the original NES, which is exactly what it feels like: a game given a fresh coat of paint after falling through a time portal from the 1980s. Of course, that coat of paint was a clear-coat so it could be brushed over with the utterly generic “Avatar” branding, stripping any sense of personality or charm it might have had otherwise.
It’s not like the potential isn’t there: the enemies are cute, the bubbles actually differ in movement and physical properties. Hell, there’s even power-ups and scoring to keep the retro sensibilities going. The presentation is actually well-done, but Milkstone has ‘polish’ down to an art when it comes to crafting everything around their titles. It’s sort of a recurring theme with their games that the groundwork is laid for something solid but it always ends up just shy of what it could be.
Then again, this is the XBLIG: the Dollar General of gaming. Sure, it’s all cheap and most of it is shoddily produced merchandise, bizarre educational/religious material or over-priced chapstick, but every now and then something shines. I digress though. AP is well-produced but ultimately I found it boring. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t. I find it almost impossible to feel anything at all for the game itself beyond the desire for Milkstone to put its considerable talent into making a real title (well…other than Raventhorne, although I’ll still probably end up playing the next chapter if/when they release it).
International Mooing Contest 80 (Zak)
I’m a huge fan of rhythm games, they allow you to experience music in a way you haven’t ever before. Wait… Why am I even trying to compare International Mooing Contest to rhythm games again? It tries to be funny and sarcastic, but fails horribly. Literally, the only sound that comes out of the game is MOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. There is no music, just cow sounds at different, out of key pitches.
Not everything is bad about the game though, the actual button recognition works. Every time you hit a button right, the play area gets faster and faster and faster. I ended up timing out the demo before I missed one, because I’m a god damn stud at rhythm games. It did keep my attention for the length of the demo, so I’d say if you like the challenge behind rhythm games, and you can bear the annoyance of the MOOOOOOing, go for it. Just know, it’s poorly put together and thinks it’s funny, when it absolutely is not.
RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!_
Ghost Mine: Dig for Survival 80 (Nate)
Dig forever downwards in your quest to…escape a mine? I don’t think that’s how it works, but considering there isn’t really any way to tunnel upwards, you’re not left with much of a choice. This game should’ve been called “I Hope You Like Moonlight Sonanta, Because It’s The Only God Damn Music Track We Have” Honestly, it’s more of a testament to how timeless and wonderful that piece of music is than anything else.
You can gather resources along the way to increase your defense against the mine’s unkillable “ghosts” (red particle effects), reduce the absolute bullshit fall damage the game forces upon you frequently or just shut it off and go play something worthwhile. Bare bones, lazy presentation, no variety in enemies or weaponry, avatars (again?!) and the basic game idea isn’t even that fun. Don’t bother.
Avatar Planking 80 (Hurley)
Rather than call this a game, I’ll say it’s a novelty app. If you haven’t heard of planking, I’ll reference you to its wikipedia page for your viewing pleasure. I’ll admit there’s a couple of laughs to be had from some of the locations (on a sleeping cat, on the Mars rover – both complete with sound effects), but really, are you going to spend a buck on this?
That being said, bonus points for uploading a picture of yourself planking in the comments below, as we run a real highbrow site here.
Milie & Telly 80 (Hurley)
M & T is a twin-stick-mascot-cutesy shooter with nice art design, but the shooting portion just plods along with little excitement or variety. Enemies require a specific bullet type to damage, which is neat (albeit already been done), but the fire rate is so obnoxiously slow, and your robotic assailants take so many hits, that you’ll begin to question whether you’re making any kind of headway at all. The core component to any game, fun, is sadly absent.
Bloody Mary 80 (Zak)
As if this week doesn’t have enough live-action attractive girl “Horror,” yet another game from the honorable Silver Dollar Games library shows up with just that formula. You play as a magnifying glass floating around this girl’s home, as she talks on the phone with her friend after saying “Bloody Mary” 3 times.
It’s not fun. At all. The whole game is spent trying to find increasingly faded blood stains that pop up randomly on her walls, in the same bathroom scene. The game was definitely a horror game, it gave me ‘SilverDollarGameobia.”
Remote Viewer 80 (Nate)
This is a game about testing your psychic abilities, but I assume you already knew that. Chances are you already know what I think about it, don’t you? Well, good, because I really don’t have anything to say about what amounts to a randomizer in the guise of something to “stimulate your consciousness.” I think it gets plenty stimulated as is, thank-you-very-much.
This is a basically one basic programming lesson removed from “Hello, World!” I like the music though.
Avatar Punch 80 (Hurley)
Great. Another avatar game. Even greater, another avatar fighting game (boxing) with basic controls / interactivity, the typical allotment of modes, and not nearly enough content or ideas to differentiate itself from the pack. In short, it’s not much of a threat to anyone‘s wallet.
SmartBomb 400 (Hurley)
Ignoring that unpleasant 400 for the moment, I tried to play the game for what it was, a twin-stick-ish space shooter (eh, not looking good already) that mixes up the control scheme in favor of using both thumbsticks as individual cells, steering your ship around the screen with one, moving the crosshairs with the other. In theory, this should give you more freedom to play, but it ends up being disorienting. I never quite got the hang of it. Gameplay consists of you fighting plenty of drones while simultaneously dealing with a shielded mothership, yet the whole thing just plays boringly.
I’m not one of those people that insists on darling graphics, but for $5, an Indie should shoot (pun!) for being a little more pretty or distinguishable. There’s nothing unique about SmartBomb’s look. It is flavorless and forgettable. Even the box art phones it in, using a screenshot of its menu to de-impress any would-be takers not already scared off by the price. Everything considered, I’d struggle to attribute a single dollar to this.
Avatar Rail Panic: Halloween Edition 80 (Hurley)
ARP:HE is another one in the ‘perpetual-runner’ lineup that has you dodging and leaping to avoid obstacles, collecting coins and jumping over colored barrels that correspond to the controller’s face buttons for score and to advance the level. This is actually an updated (enter the ‘Halloween Edition’) version of the original ARP. So really, there’s some seasonal paint applied, a pumpkin or two, but there’s nothing new to see, and what’s here already isn’t all that thrilling either. Pass.
And so concludes Part One of the much prophesized return of the XBLIG Rundown, the start of a trilogy even George Lucas could be proud of (consider this ‘The Indie Menace’, with part three tentatively titled ‘Revenge of the Fish’). Yeah, it’s old news for some, new insight for others, but we like to think our wit and charm make up for tardiness. Slow and steady wins the race. It’s not the timing of your Rundown, it’s how you use it… er… we’ll see you around.