Super Broken Games

REVIEW: Super Broken Games

Besides a casual glance at it on the marketplace, my first experience with Super Broken Games ($1.00) came with a tweet from the always-lovely Cathy at Indie Gamer Chick, who could not play the game due to epilepsy concerns with the pulsating menu and in-game effects. After booting up the game for myself, I could understand why, but thankfully developer Feel Good Seal included an option to turn off the effects and issued a patch to fix another potential issue.

With backstory out of the way, Super Broken Games is a series of deliberately-broken minigames, with each based around a particular failed idea or controller caveat. Using varying forms to go about this (sometimes you’re a snake in a maze, other times a bouncing ball, a seemingly-drunken flying ball, etc.), it all amounts to 37 ways to die and / or frustrate yourself.

Granted, a few take the legitimate approach, giving you somewhat normal controls and a straightforward objective (collect all the items, reach the exit), with numerous hazards in place. Challenging, but achievable once you’ve determined the correct path and gotten a handle on whatever controls you’ve been dealt. The vast majority, however, take a more dastardly route, flipping the schemes entirely, or adding a second snake to control, forcing you to watch two screens and babysit two characters, etc.

These minigames revel in playing the jerk, and seem to be there purely to set you off in a rage. So the obvious question would be: Why would anyone want to get pissed off playing a bunch of busted setups? I’m not sure. Maybe you’re a masochist. Or maybe your parents didn’t love you enough and you’re living a transient lifestyle, seeking out painful experiences as a way to feel alive and fill the hole in your heart that never quite healed (…that last bit may be a stretch).

 Super Broken Games - Screen

More than likely, you do it because you appreciate a good dare, which is what most of Super Broken Games feels like. Much as people choose to climb Mt. Everest because ‘it’s there’, so too will gamers play ridiculously-hard or unfair games to prove a point to themselves or others. ‘Others’ might end up being the key word, as the game allows for local multiplayer up to four. Turning ‘constant failure’ into a party game sure beats going solo.

Ultimately though, the novelty of being ‘broken’ may not be enoughSuper Broken Games opts for a playful sort of fun with its controls, but it lacks the artistry and addictive qualities of other masochist titles like Super Meat Boy or N+. Mean is always mean, but being mean on purpose? That’s just mean.

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Bitcoin Tycoon

REVIEW: Bitcoin Tycoon

Though popular culture (and the jokes it spawns) doesn’t always translate well to videogame form when it’s the ‘whole game’, Bitcoin Tycoon ($1.00) had me at ‘breeding alpacas’. That says more about me than it does in making it a thrilling feature in a videogame, but I digress. Yes, the screenshots are true. The game is a SimCity-lite, allowing you to build your own metropolis, to be financed entirely by using the trendy, scam-happy digital currency known as Bitcoin.

Bitcoin Tycoon - Screen

It all starts with a hot dog stand, but the building mechanics are incredibly-simple, letting you place (but not edit or remove, bizarrely) different structures wherever there is a open space. The map is decent-sized, and so long as you are not trying to lay down Alpaca farms directly on top of each other, you can cram quite a few buildings / objects in one area. From your humble beginnings, a town will slowly begin to emerge.

Pieces run the gamut of your typical city builder, including restaurants (people need to eat), hydroelectric dams (people need power), advertising billboards (people need to buy things), and sketchy government buildings (people need to be spied on). Of course, each piece comes with a custom description of its properties, often skewering the Bitcoin currency, pop culture icons (the Winklevoss twins?), and political realities for jokes, and it does a fine job at that.

Unfortunately, for a SimCity-type, there is dreadfully little in the way of strategy or challenge. Although structures rise in price and materials the more you place, you don’t have any of the everyday concerns that running a real city entails. No public opinion to bow down to, no traffic jams to unclog (although a Tesla dealership is available), no server issues and / or always-online requirements (my small jab at EA), and no natural disasters to rain on your Bitcoin parade.

Bitcoin Tycoon - Screen2

Bottom line, you simply build however you please, and then build some more. Even without paying attention to which structures do what and how they affect the economy (certain objects require a set amount of electricity or people), you’ll be reasonably on your way to building the more expensive pieces in under twenty minutes. Under an hour, and you’ll likely build the final piece, a monument to the founder of Bitcoin.

After that, well, you’ve got nothing. You could always continue construction, but with no progress being saved or extras to concern yourself with, Bitcoin Tycoon is a largely-empty experience. Once you’ve had a ‘lulz’ or two at the one-liners, and maybe surrounded the Winklevosses with ill-tempered alpacas (…I may have a problem), it’s purely superficial from then on. The game is totally worth its weight in fake currency, but real money? Maybe not so much.

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This review is also featured on Indiepitome

Mysterious Blue Valley

REVIEW: Mysterious Blue Valley

The aura around Mysterious Blue Valley ($1.00) seemed promising at first. A trip to an unknown destination, the allure of a potential job, being taken under the wing of the equally-mysterious ‘Mr. Money’, a rotund fellow who doesn’t believe in wearing shirts to cover his sizable man breasts? Sure, I’ll bite. You should never turn down someone who wishes to be your wealthy benefactor. Sounds vaguely Great Expectations-ish, minus a teasing Gwyneth Paltrow but with a Japanese twist.

Mysterious Blue Valley - Screen

Clearly a metaphor for something.

Of course once we actually get there, it’s an entirely different story. Turns out it’s not really a mysterious valley I find myself in; more an ‘Amphitheater of the Weird’. This isn’t some vacation or job offer, either, it’s just slave labor. ‘Mr. Money’ isn’t paying me squat, can’t afford personal clothing, and orders me around in broken English from his private tent. It’s apparently so terrible, I’m being totally sarcastic with my replies and whispering mean comments behind his back.

I can’t say I blame my in-game self; his instructions sound like the sort of ‘busy work’ no one wants to hear. I’m to walk extremely slow around the stage / amphitheater, turning like a tank, picking up these blue blocks— in specific order— and return to the stage to place them. Without ever letting go, I might add. If I do, or choose the wrong piece, the blocks go flying off into space. Because reasons.

I’m not a quitter, though. Well, not quick to quit. More than a half-hour later, I’ve stacked the fifteen(!) blocks that Mr. Money requested of me. He then tells me someone is watching us, and I set off to follow a shadowy man around the stage until he eventually stops behind the blocks I’ve already placed. It’s then that my not-benefactor assigns me a new mission; climb to the second floor of the stage and collect more blocks. Again, in a specific order. This involves a rope, and for me to be standing in a certain fashion in front of the wall to utilize it. Ditto for jumping back down, after I’ve wrangled the blocks. Four minutes later, I’ve succeeded in placing one of them, with at least a dozen more to go. … … (sigh)

Mysterious Blue Valley - Screen2

Nope. I know to hang myself with it.

This is the point in the program where those of us in the business like to say, ‘Fuck that’. There’s other interesting bits I gleaned from the screenshots, like a spider and a green garden hose, but I’ll never see it to its no doubt bizarre conclusion. I’m all for abstract gameplay, but nothing is worth the actual, mind-numbing labor this game puts you through. Not even Mr. Money’s ample breasts.

Mysterious Blue Valley is the kind of project that begs for oversight and playtesting. Anything to prevent it from what it currently is. A far-flung idea is one thing; it’s quite another to make the task so boring and exacting that you alienate whoever picks it up. You could do literally anything else, and it would be a more appropriate use of your time. As such, this is one valley that should remain unexplored.

‘Dead Kings’ is Sequel to ‘BloodyCheckers’; Coming Soon

BloodyCheckers and Blood & Bacon (Review) developer BigCorporation is putting the finishing touches on their next project, Dead Kings. The game is a sequel to the beloved castle-crawling, checkers-playing original, featuring a larger castle to explore (six floors), and full co-op support, allowing you to uncover and pillage the castle’s treasures with a friend.

The above trailer doesn’t show off any gameplay whatsoever, but it’s still worth a watch if you’re curious about the work (and some Easter Eggs) going into the game. Only a select few developers could make watching three minutes of menus interesting.

Dead Kings is coming soon. You can follow the Facebook page for the original BloodyCheckers for updates on the new game here.

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Dead Kings - Screen

Dead Kings - Screen2

Big Thanks to astute reader ‘Soosh’ for pointing out the info to me. I am a terrible journalist. 

Battle For Demon City

REVIEW: Battle For Demon City

Starring a PS1-era Lara Croft lookalike named Alice, Battle For Demon City ($1.00) is about as campy as you can get. Like ‘B Movie’ campy. It dresses up and sounds the part, and it probably doesn’t hurt that everyone in the game is very… chesty, shall we say. Well, except for the dudes, but it can be hard to determine which is which. Nor is its visage very ‘demonic’, as the enemies look more like humans cosplaying as cats than the hellspawn they’re supposed to be.

The tale it spins is equally cheesy, with a student demon named Thalia (playing like a petulant schoolgirl, of course) sending her minions to take over the city and turn it into a giant maze of same-y streets and buildings. Alice is left to fend for herself against the horny hordes that come in several waves per level, while simultaneously being forced to navigate the randomly-generated maze without a mapping function or a change of scenery, like, ever (…a true Hell on Earth indeed).

To make matters more compelling (i.e. worse), your progress is intermittently-blocked by gates that require keys, leading to some backtracking and fetching. Otherwise, it’s a straightforward shooter, with you moving from police station to police station, albeit one that functions as a marketplace instead of a bastion of law and order, selling you the occasional weapon upgrade and / or ammunition. Because Capitalism!

Stages end with a rush of enemies or a boss fight that introduces a new foot solider, and sometimes you’re treated with short cutscenes that do their exposition thing and / or briefly break the fourth wall. Oddly, these moments are the best part of Battle For Demon City, making it all the more painful once you return to the actual gameplay.

Battle For Demon City - Screen

Catfight!

Combat loses its zeal quickly, and mowing down the same enemies a hundred times over (there’s a joke for this) doesn’t help. Occasionally they will grapple Alice, leading to a button-mashing QTE that ends with her popping a round into her attacker’s dome (which is kinda neat), but fights can only really be lost when they gang up on you in numbers. Even then, it’s hard to take these threats seriously when they’re coming from demons named ‘Gregg’ and ‘Carl’, and their damage output is slightly above a slap. The game is generous with both health drops and continues, so there’s little chance of danger sidelining you.

Battle For Demon City walks the line between tedium and strangely-fascinating most of the way. In the end, tedium wins out. You could almost categorize it as one of those ‘So Bad it’s Good’ guilty pleasures, were it not for the repetitive cityscapes and mostly-soundless gunplay (I get music for the last thirty seconds of a level and that’s it?). It’s not without some merit. The game rests on an obligatory cliffhanger, and so help me, I’d actually play Round Two of wherever the hell this ‘Lara Croft vs. The Cat Demons’ thing is going. Is that bad?

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This review is also featured on Indiepitome

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