REVIEW: Game of Horror

Love it or hate it, plenty of indie titles have gone after the ‘jump scare’ market on console and / or PC, to varying degrees of success. XBLIG has been no stranger to the craze, but, when done right, it provides plenty of legitimate terrors… at a legitimately cheap price point. You can go ahead and add NeuronVexx‘s Game of Horror ($1.00) to that ‘done right’ list, if only for its gleeful willingness to quicken your pulse with each passing second spent in its pitch-black mansion.

Game of Horror - Screen Confirmed: not a nice guy.

While the game is less a machine for easy jump scares1 than it is a slow-burning sense of dread at what waits for you on the other side of the door, Game of Horror does a great (albeit familiar) job of ratcheting up the tension without making things too complicated. Your objective is straightforward; some serial killer nicknamed ‘The Eviscerator’2 is tossing people into a maze-like mansion and throwing away the proverbial keys, then hunting them down for sport. Should you find said keys (think Slender-like collectathon) to unlock a series of doors and survive, you’ll be granted your freedom.

Oh, but did I mention your search and the path you take is randomized on every attempt? Starting in a very Resident Evil-ish main hall, the game closes off each portion of the mansion behind a themed door (Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds, etc.). Each area contains a handful of rooms, offices, and storage closets, with you searching all the drawers and cabinets3 along the way. Exploring one section for a key grants you access to the next, etc. etc., all while ‘The Eviscerator’ silently— and continuously— stalks you.

There’s very little music in the game, which makes the idea of that relentless pursuit and its scares that much more terrifying, hearing the approaching killer’s breath through its mask, say, or the jiggle of a door’s handle being turned. You don’t have any real means of fighting back, either. Your only options are to duck behind furniture, shut off your flashlight and pray it doesn’t see you, or try to ‘block’ the door from being opened4. You can be ‘caught’ twice, with the third time being fatal and resetting your progress.

And so it goes, until you either escape or chicken out and curl up into the fetal position in the corner (…I chose the latter). Granted it’s nothing original, but it’s unnerving and not for the faint of heart, as the description states. And that’s really the only endorsement this game’s prospective audience needs. I still can’t understand why anybody would readily commit to scaring themselves for entertainment, but Game of Horror is absolutely up to the challenge.


  1. Don’t worry; you’ll still get plenty of those. 
  2. It’s… cute, right? Yeah, you don’t earn that title by being the affable sort. 
  3. The game helpfully ‘fills in’ objects you’ve searched already, ensuring you won’t easily backtrack or waste precious time second-guessing your work. 
  4. Word to the wise, this option isn’t very reliable. Mash on the button prompt all you want, the killer getting in seems like a 50 / 50 chance either way. 

REVIEW: The Sexy Exorcist

Everyone needs a profession. If only for that fact that everyone has bills, and those bills need to be paid, one way or the other. Options for legitimate employment abound. Some work in construction or law enforcement, others are doctors or nurses, some peddle penis pills on the internet1, while still others take up being an amateur exorcist that meets strange women in public bathrooms and pulls the lever of a slot machine over and over (…and over, and over, and over, and even over-er, again). That last profession winds up to be the unhappy sum of The Sexy Exorcist‘s ($1.00) parts.

The Sexy Exorcist - Screen

Does that ‘slot machine’ bit sound familiar to you? It might. Though The Sexy Exorcist is its own game (well, being ‘new’ only by its date of release, I assure you), it’s really just Date The Boss with some additional artwork and a different story. Which isn’t a vote of confidence. Both games share a developer (DUALHAZE) and an island inhabited by one-dimensional characters and gameplay, and both suffer the crushing fate of being nigh unplayable and nauseating if playing it in anything more than five minute increments2.

You see, just like that game, The Sexy Exorcist is a series of ‘buy / trade for items’ quests, with said items being required to progress. You accomplish this by befriending the local populace (i.e., girls) and finding out what their interests are via the game’s built-in social site, Douchebook3. The hook is that you’re perpetually broke and uncool, requiring you to constantly earn more cash to impress your new lady friends and meet inane mission objectives.

The Sexy Exorcist - Screen2

This is where that infernal slot machine comes in, as gambling and leaving it all to chance is your best bet4 for making money to buy those increasingly-expensive gifts (oh, you can also ‘guess’ which card a fortune teller is holding up, which is equally ‘bleh’). If continuously mashing a button sounds fun to you, trust me, it’s not. From there, it’s basically on repeat, with only a few diversions along the way, each section culminating in an interrogation / questionnaire by a possessed girl, one which happens to be your only client. Fail to answer her correctly three times (only the very last question is timed, so feel free to cheat), and you’ll have to start the whole thing over again. Oh, cruel fate, what have I done to deserve this?

Unfortunately (and not at all surprising), the entirety of The Sexy Exorcist is a monotonous waste of time, a lever-pulling nightmare that you should most definitely miss out on. Bad gameplay ideas are easy enough to come by, but reusing those bad ideas and dressing them up in a different outfit? That’s just unforgivable.


  1. And I swear it’s not me! The very first email you receive in-game is from a guy named ‘Tim’, a poor soul suffering from ‘size’ issues. Could be coincidence, or it could be the developer’s subtle way of paying me back for slamming his previous games. Can’t say I don’t deserve it. Karma is a bitch. 
  2. Sadly (in this case), XBLIG trial demos last for eight minutes. 
  3. Okay, not gonna lie; that one’s kinda funny. 
  4. Forgive the pun. It was too easy. 

Year Three of theXBLIG

Whoa… Three years online for theXBLIG… I mean, that’s…

Oh, right. It’s been awhile since I’ve written something down here. Excuse me for a moment while I dust off the articles and clear out the cobwebs from the corners of this site.

(clears throat) Ahem. Okay, that’s better.

Wow, three years of reviewing XBLIGs on this very page. Er… pages. I never thought I’d get this far. I know it’s not an eternity by any means, but it’s still a good chunk of time, particularly in internet-time, where sites rise and fall on a daily basis. Over that span, the site has amassed over 315,000+ views and published almost 400 reviews and articles, spawning 5,100+ comments and countless discussions that were only slightly-related to videogames.

To me, that’s an incredible thing. Not because I sometimes have a short attention span and a tendency to move onto different things before I finish the first, or because I feel like congratulating myself1, but rather because in those three years, the service known as ‘Xbox Live Indie Games’ (or as ‘XBLIG’ to its close friends) has provided us with so many great games2 and proved to be such an amazing experience for myself and plenty of others.

That experience hasn’t come without its share of downsides, of course. There’s been no shortage of duds to suffer through, and it’s no secret and no mystery that XBLIG isn’t what it once was. At this point, new releases of any quality are a luxury, and the future of the service (and this site) is anything but guaranteed. I can’t make any promises either, but I know I’ll be around until the very end.

That said, there’s always the very real chance I won’t get another online ‘birthday’ to celebrate, so I might as well offer up a huge ‘thank you’ to all my fellow indie journalistic types, to the great indie developers I’ve been privileged to meet and chat with, and, last and certainly not least, all of YOU guys for stopping by and willingly subjecting yourselves to my brand of rambling. Keep playing games, everyone, and thanks again for three fantastic years!

With much love and appreciation,

Tim

.

 


  1. Well, maybe a little. Yay! 
  2. There’s occasionally-updated leaderboards for that. 

REVIEW: More Fun With Twins

Hmm, More Fun With Twins ($1.00), you say? I mean, it sounds like a challenge, so let’s go ahead and dissect that affirmative statement posing as a game title that’s posing as a game, the reality of it being a lazy match-2 card thing with tits, a blatant cash grab of the worst sort. I’d rather re-play Date The Boss, another of developer DUALHAZE’s projects that seems to defy the odds (and good taste) and continues to be a popular read here at this site1, but I digress.

More Fun With Twins - Screen

Sure, there’s plenty of things in life that are improved by twins. Gum commercials from the 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, Crayon Pop, cute pet viral videos, proponents of large families, kids shows (with each twin playing the polar opposite of the other; ha, so easy to mine for comedy gold!2); the list goes on and on. More Fun With Twins does not belong on that list, or in anyone’s game library.

Here’s the setup: a woman named ‘Illiana’ tasks you with matching sets of ‘twins’ cards (i.e. ladies in lingerie) over the course of twenty stages3, supposedly to learn her ‘deepest secrets’. Basically, you flip over cards ad nauseam. Every few rounds, the timer speeds up and another set of cards (and twins, natch!) is added, conceivably to increase the challenge and longevity of this tired exercise. It doesn’t. Even more baffling, the game keeps score, and gives you bonus points for tapping on ‘bonus cards’, which serve zero function and actually cost you the time you waste clicking on them. Baffling.

More Fun With Twins - Screen2

Reach the end, and you get to see Illiana’s milky jugs! That’s not hyperbole or sexual slang of any kind. Suffer through More Fun With Twins and you simply earn an image of two jugs of milk. Seriously. Once again, no joke, no trick. Two jugs of milk. I would have put ‘spoiler alert’ before that big reveal, but the only thing potentially being spoiled here is that digital milk, and your good name. I’ve now saved you from that tragedy and this travesty. You’re welcome.


  1. Which, yes, is a continued contradiction. I absolutely abhor these games and everything they stand for, yet I cover them here, giving them exposure (…hehe, exposure) and me page clicks. So, in actuality, am I just as guilty as these developers? Am I this terrible person lamenting the fall of XBLIG while simultaneously dragging it down further!? Am I the Trojan Horse parked inside my own house!?! Of course… of course… of course… 
  2.  Sarcasm 
  3. Yes, I really played through the entirely of this drivel for you guys. The things I do for the sake of thorough indie journalism! 

REVIEW: Loot or Die

I may get some hate mail / bewildered comments for this, but what the hell; in a lot of ways (and certainly in the spots where it really counts), Loot or Die ($1.00) could be considered a 2D Destiny. Yes, that Destiny. Granted, that’s not an absolute, end-all comparison1, and no one’s going to mistake the art styles from one game or the other, content, etc., but the idea of collecting better armor and weapons to take on tougher challenges is as important (and fun) here as it is in Bungie’s brilliant but flawed magnum opus.

Loot or Die - Screen

Chris Antoni’s newest (and certainly his most complete) game isn’t quite on that same level, but a similar logic— and gameplay mechanic— applies; you explore a series of planets / locations, defeating increasingly-tough enemies and bosses, with the hope that they will drop rewards, your only currency and means of countering later worlds and foes. It’s that simple. The game’s title says so, and makes it abundantly clear what its— and your— repeated objective is; you sir, must loot, or die trying. And oftentimes, that latter option is your only option, until the RNG Gods smile upon you and bless you with better gear and stronger weapons.

Thankfully, you won’t necessarily be going alone. Loot or Die allows you to form a fireteam of up to four, using a drop-in drop-out multiplayer in any of the game’s modes. Rolling with friends to tackle the game in co-op increases the challenge (enemies have their own attacks / patterns), but also your enjoyment. Even playing with randoms on earlier planets can test seasoned players, as your gear and items will smartly adjust to that planet’s difficulty.

Speaking of that gear, each item and weapon in the game carries stats that affect things like your total health, overall damage dealt, etc. Equipment ranges from helmets and chest pieces, to pistols, rifles, and machine guns, while special ‘rings’ will grant you perks when equipped, both offensive (doom blades!) and defensive (healing). There’s also a chance to find ‘epic’ versions of the armor and guns, imbued with an additional status bonus that can transform an otherwise regular item into a vital piece of armament.

It’s a nuanced leveling process, enabling those who take the time to study each item. On the flipside, those same items can lull you into a false sense of superiority. You can leave one planet / boss encounter feeling like a veritable badass, only to be immediately and decisively humbled on the next. Part of the fun is in dying though, and learning new tricks or testing out new combinations. Just be sure to leave extra room in your inventory at all times2, as each boss is guaranteed to drop an epic item of some sort.

Loot or Die - Screen2

Should you tire of the main game and have a competitive side, you can always take things to the PvP arena to settle any doubts about who has the best loadout / humblebrag3. Your stat bonuses attached to your armor and guns really come into play here, as you trade off between things like ring cooldowns, healing, or stealing life from your opponents as you deal damage. Regardless of loadout, it’s a chaotic battle royale for up to eight players.

Beyond that, there’s still plenty to do if you so desire. Much like Destiny, it’s arguable that Loot or Die is even better in its ‘end game’ than it is in its traditional ‘campaign’ mode. A sixth ‘planet’ is unlocked when you complete the game, putting you up against all of the bosses you’ve fought previously, in new, devious pairings, while ‘Defend The Flag’ functions as a sort-of ‘Horde’ setting with an emphasis on defense, having you outlast waves of enemies on a timer. Both modes offer up intense challenges, requiring effective teamwork but also rewarding you with some of the very best weapons and armor in the game should you succeed.

The good news is, you won’t mind the grind to earn any of those rewards or the grief from any of your potential failures. From start to finish, it’s all just… really satisfying. There’s very little to take issue with here, and the developer continues to tweak the game and add new content4 based on community feedback. Ultimately, you won’t play Loot or Die for its storyline (it’s nonexistent!) or its hyper-realistic visuals (or lack thereof); you’ll play Loot or Die because it’s a hell of a lot of fun. And fun beats out everything else.


  1. See that there? That could be taken as immediate backtracking, rendering your hate mail / bewildered comments invalid. I don’t take a concrete position, and I win no matter what! Man, I love being the boss of my own site. 
  2. Something I wasn’t too good at keeping in check. I screwed myself out of some potentially cool rewards more than a few times. 
  3. Like, say, having a kickass gun named after you, one that fires the logo of your site as bullets. Yeah, that actually happens. Thanks, Chris! :) 
  4. An upcoming update will add even more ‘end game’ rewards / drops, increasing variety, …and giving you even more reason to grind out a few more rounds, natch. Happy hunting, and good luck. 

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