Wow, this was a rather ho-hum week. It wasn’t even until the last few games that I found a Must Play. Then Another one. Then crap. Still, I suppose a balance of two great and two awful games, along with a host of decent ones, isn’t all that bad. This week’s special mention goes to Topochopper, a game that aims to make geography fun again. Whether or not it succeeds depends on how much a player is opposed to learning things, but it’s very enjoyable in a Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? sort of way. And everyone who matters loves Carmen Sandiego.
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(Developer: Aetherbyte – 80 points)
Uh-huh… According to the description, Insanity X takes inspiration from some classic retro title, but I can’t figure out which one. Whichever one involves moving from random room to random room, clearing out enemies and not touching the electrified Walls ‘O Death. That was a real game at some point, right?
Even if it wasn’t, Insanity X is a real game now. A fairly simple and challenging game. It’s certainly not bad and it’s bound to tickle anyone’s nostalgia muscle, assuming they’re old enough to have played its precursor in an arcade somewhere, but aside from the retro visuals and admittedly sweet soundtrack there’s not a whole lot to it. Again, it’s not bad. It’s just sort of a one-trick pony. Which most “classic” arcade games were, I know.
(Developer: studio1012 – 80 points)
Remember Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine on the Sega Genesis? How about now? Well Dr Li’s Extreme Beam Machine is the exact same game, only with different graphics and an incredibly obnoxious voice-over.
Were it not for the fact that the voice can be turned off (seriously, thank you for that), I’d be tempted to give this one a Poop Stamp. It really is that bad. Thankfully the horrendous voice of Dr Li can be muted, which just leaves the unofficial replica homage of a classic 16-bit game. This is not a bad thing, and if it’s a game you have nothing but fond memories of you should probably check it out. Just remember to stop by the options menu first.
(Developer: GouldComputing – 80 points)
Avatar Word Wave is one of the weirder concepts I’ve seen since starting the Indie-Dome (57 Domes and counting!): mixing hockey and a spelling bee. Unfortunately, the creativity behind the concept doesn’t mean much when the implementation is so counter-intuitive.
The tutorials interrupt the action at the worst times. The tutorial messages themselves are difficult to read, due to a very bad choice in font and splitting one’s focus between the action on the rink and the Scrabble-like build up of letters is more irritating than it should be. The list goes on. There are so many different rules, controls, and guidelines to follow that I can’t imagine anyone except the most spell-happy gamers bothering to spend much time with this. It feels way too complicated for its own good.
(Developer: LAWill Games – 80 points)
I… But… I… It… I… Okay, admittedly there are a lot of Pong clones in the world. There are also plenty of 4-way Pong clones. Even so, I’m not entirely sure that there’s ever been one like Bamdizzle.
There are multiple modes, some with up to four players/AIs, but what really makes it unique and obnoxiously charming is the audio. There’s no music and no traditional sound effects to speak of. Instead it’s just voices. Specifically it’s a few different people making “bleep” and “blop” noises for the ball-launching countdown timer, and one guy yelling “Bam!” and “Dizzle!” every time the ball connects with a paddle. It’s a little irritating at first, but it’s actually cute and kind of funny after a while. Then again, maybe I’m just weird for liking it.
(Developer: 21 Street Games LLC – 240 points)
So a while back I covered the original Techno Kitten Adventure, and found it awesome in a terrifying sort of way. Now it’s back with an exclamation point and a bucket-load of new features, but it’s still the same game at its core.
That is to say, it still looks like The ’80s ate too much of The ’80s, then drank a bunch of The ’80s. and ran around in the sun for a few hours. Then got sick. The difference here is that the graphics have been tweaked slightly (mostly a slightly more detailed kitteh and backgrounds), more levels have been added and there are a couple of new kittens to choose from. So basically it’s more of the same, but if you enjoyed the first rendition there’s no reason you won’t play this one to death as well.
(Developer: Creative Patterns – 400 points)
Were it not for the rather lofty expectations a 400 point price brings, I think I might have forgiven QuadSmash most of its shortcomings. This doesn’t mean I found it to be crap, but I do think $5 is a bit much. Okay, in the grand scheme of things $5 isn’t actually all that much money, but compared to other indies and the general pricing structure that’s become the norm… Let’s just say it feels like more of a 240 point game and leave it at that.
There are lots of game types and a good selection of maps, many of which seem pretty entertaining but they’re also meant for multiple players. And as with a shockingly large number of Live indie games these days there don’t seem to be any settings for opponent AI, which means anyone looking for a single player game will have to make due with the campaign mode. Unfortunately, it’s also the mode that seems to be QuadSmash‘s weakest offering. There are plenty of levels and lots of hazards to avoid and such, but the overly-sensitive “whatever they are” always seem to want to accelerate in exactly the wrong way. They’ll get hung up on physics and move too slow to make a jump or climb a wall one second, then overshoot their intended target by a rather large margin. Thankfully there’s a decent checkpoint system in place, or this would have been the most frustrating game of the week.
Still, I encourage anyone who’s curious to at least give the trial a shot. QuadSmash may feel a little iffy in places, but it’s still a well-made game; one that’s bound to find its niche.
(Developer: Maximinus – 80 points)
9 Ball Pool Champion is a great little game of 9 Ball for a buck. The ball physics are solid, the AI (with 3 settings) is challenging without being cheap, and there are three levels of aim-assistance that make it about as accessible as a digital game of pool is ever going to get. It doesn’t offer anything other than 9 Ball, though, so pool fans looking for a catch-all kind of game might be disappointed. Still, it’s only a dollar and it’s a good pool game. Plus, everyone loves 9 Ball. Seriously, I think it’s written into our DNA or something.
(Developer: Golconda – 80 points)
It may be a little lacking in polish and presentation, but Xtremes vs Zombies is a zombie game that doesn’t make me hate that it’s a zombie game.
If you can imagine taking one of those remote control robot fighting TV shows and tossing it into a zombie apocalypse, then you should be able to figure out what this game is like. There’s some vague backstory about trying to preserve human DNA for the future and protecting gene banks from the zombie horde, but really it’s just an excuse to fuck up some living dead. Then upgrade your death machine between rounds in order to increase its effectiveness so that it can fuck up some more living dead. It’s rough, but I’ve played far worse zombie games.
(Developer: Valryon – 240 points)
It’s weird; for a game that seems to be rather paper-centric, it doesn’t really utilize the theme like you’d expect. Sure, the visuals look hand drawn, but nothing looks all that papery. I suppose “The Great Doodle Adventure” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Aesthetic semantics aside, The Great Paper Adventure is a decent side-scrolling shmup. It keeps the controls simple by using the left stick to move, right trigger to shoot, and left trigger to toss a bomb, but a handful of power-ups help to keep things from getting too repetitive.
(Developer: dreamboy8701 – 80 points)
I’m not one to scoff at card games, even the digital ones, but Egyptian Rat Smash just doesn’t sit right with me. It looks kind of blah, but that’s not really a problem since the important thing with games like this is the cards and those look fine. It features Avatars with canned animations, seemingly for no reason at all, but that’s also not a problem because the cards are the big focus. The controls are simple and responsive as well, so no complaint there. So why am I kind of on the fence about this game? Because you don’t really do anything when you play it.
The core rules are sort of like Uno in reverse: instead of being the first one to get rid of all your cards, the goal is to acquire all of the cards for yourself. I’m still a little iffy about the rules, but it doesn’t actually matter because the game plays itself. Seriously. With the exception of pressing a random face button in the even of a pair showing up (first to press it gets the pile), the only thing players do is sit there and wait for the A prompt to come up on their deck so that they can play a card. That’s it. No strategic card selection, no planning, no bluffing or calling. Just pressing A and occasionally pressing another random button as quickly and accurately as possible. Sometimes that button is also A.
It’s not bad, it’s just very difficult to get excited about.
(Developer: TheJKer – 80 points)
I seem to recall having a particular fondness for the original Ricochet Assassin. Well, Ricochet Assassin Lost Levels is more of the same. Kind of obvious, really. Aside from these new levels nothing has really changed, but that’s sort of the point with level packs and such. Well okay, the arrows explode now, so scoring a direct hit will result in an eruption of stick figure internal organs, but aside from that it’s the same bank-shot violence we’ve come to expect.
It’s still enjoyable and all, but I feel the need to point out that, like another indie game that came out about a month or so ago, the “Buy It or Don’t Buy It” screen has a glitch. The “Don’t Buy It” button doesn’t work. As with the other title I’m sure this wasn’t intentional, but it’s still a thing and could come off as shady, depending on the player’s level of paranoia. Just something to be aware of.
(Developer: Broke Down Games – 80 points)
Crude and ugly are probably the best words to use here. Both for the hobo and Crazy Hobo.
This is essentially a 3D wave-survival shooter. The hobo walks around a crudely-modeled town and shoots at “demons” (a.k.a red zombies) until each wave is complete. Every new wave yields a new weapon or ability, such as a shotgun or toxic fart, but it’s still just a bunch of “walk in a circle and pull the right trigger until the level ends.” Despite the name, there’s also very little evidence of “crazy” here. Sure, the demons float up into the sky once dispatched and the hobo has a sanity meter as opposed to a health bar, but nothing all that crazy ever happens. When the hobo gets injured enough the screen gets a film grain over it, but that’s about as far as it goes.
I wouldn’t call it bad, but Crazy Hobo can easily get lost in the glut of similar games that are available on Live already.
(Developer: SoftwareByEugene – 80 points)
Okay, aside from the eye-rolling brought about by all the girls in short skirts, Righteous Axe is actually pretty righteous.
It’s a kind of guitar-centric 2D side-scrolling shooter, where an enemy’s color determines what shots (i.e. face buttons) will work on it. I was honestly very impressed when I first started playing because I was expecting choppy animations and awkward character models but instead found very smooth animations and character models that don’t look like orangutans.
The game itself can also be a lot of fun, as with most shooters. There’s an interesting mechanic at play here that has the character drift up and down depending on the direction she’s shooting, so shooting up will push her down and so on. When faced with a screen full of various geometric baddies it can be a little troublesome, since I often ended up pushing myself unwittingly into the path of something not nice, but during the levels that involve something akin to corridor flying it’s actually pretty nifty.
This was played on a regular controller, by the way. It’s important to note that Righteous Axe can also be played with a guitar controller. The devs actually recommend using a newer model that has full tilt recognition because you can actually aim by, well, aiming. It seems like it’s the ideal way to play, but since I haven’t had a plastic axe in my home for several years I couldn’t exactly test it out.
(Developer: E-Bouma – 80 points)
Once I figured out what the name meant, I had a feeling I was going to find Topochopper to be just “okay.” Then I played it. Now it’s a Must Play. Funny how that works.
I knew topography was going to come into play somewhere. Topochopper, get it? Anyway, the game is about flying around the world and finding the randomly assigned city. Knowing the general whereabouts helps because the target will show up as a red dot when the chopper gets close, but it’s a big map and there are a lot of cities in the world that I’ve never heard of. Thankfully, there are power-ups designed to help out in such situations. Power-ups such as a speed boost (very important when it comes to crossing the Pacific) and a City Finder which will point you in the right direction. They’re limited though, so it’s important to ration their use. Of course, each level is also timed, so if you take too long the careful rationing won’t matter.
It’s a fairly simplistic arcade game, but it also evokes a similar feeling of educational fun as the Carmen Sandiego games. Which is awesome.
(Developer: Uplion – 80 points)
There are games that try to be awful for the sake of satire, games that look awful but aren’t actually bad, and games that are just plain awful. Call Me Skyfish is a combination of the second and third categories. Specifically it looks and is awful.
My initial impressions after looking at some screen shots was that it was made as a joke. After playing it, I’m almost convinced it was. The visuals speak for themselves, but the controls are also rather awkward. A jumps, X grapples with a tongue, the right stick aims and the right trigger shoots bubbles. Not exactly intuitive. Especially when having to quickly snap between grappling and aiming with your right thumb.
And yet, as much as I don’t personally care for anything and everything involving Call Me Skyfish, I also think there’s bound to be a group of people out there who will eat this up. I’d imagine they’d be the same kind of people who still watch the obnoxiously surreal and nonsensical shit-fest that Adult Swim has become.
- Righteous Axe (80 points)
- Topochopper (80 points)
- Avatar Word Wave (80 points)
- Call Me Skyfish (80 points)